As cities expand and the flow of pedestrians changes its course, the urban landscape is transformed. As a result, some of the most crowded metropolitan spaces fall into disuse, becoming untouchable ghosts that only serve as a reminder of times that deviate from the present at great speed.
That is the case of the old subway stations. From New York to London, periodically, some proposals emerge with the aim of reclaiming obsolete spaces and transform them into tourist attractions, even museums. These abandoned underground stations appear to be a great favorite of space interventionists, and although there are some success stories – like the Transit Museum in Brooklyn or the Museum stations of the Madrid Metro, it is difficult to comply with the requirements imposed by each city.
The Transit Museum of Brooklyn is headquartered in a historic subway station dating from 1936, in Brooklyn Heights, New York. It is the largest in the United States in its category, and through exhibits and presentations it explores the cultural, social and technological developments of public transport. Meanwhile, through its Museum of the Caños del Peral in the Opera station and the paleontological site in the Carpetana station, Madrid’s Metro displays some treasures that offer a glimpse of the history of the Spanish capital. The remodeling of both stations was the gateway to the discovery of important archaeological findings, now converted into Museums and opened to the public.
On this occasion, the rescue attempt comes from the depths of Paris and its charming abandoned subway stations, whose unique architectural design and inherent underground quality makes perfect venues for alternative urban projects.
The French politician Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet is well aware of the great curiosity that these ghost city dwellings seem to awake, and has resorted to international headlines to present peculiar proposals to convert the empty and ruinous spaces into lively places, potential icons of the City of Lights.
Working together with the OXO Architectural Studio, Kosciusko-Morizet has launched a campaign to transform Parisian metro stations—such as the Arsenal station— into varied facilities, ranging from an underground swimming pool to a nightclub.
The architectural firm interested in the project asks, “Why can´t Paris take advantage of its underground potential and invent new uses for these abandoned places? More than 100 years after the opening of the Paris subway transport system, these sites are still capable of offering new urban experiences”.
Each one of the proposals presented by Kosciusko-Morizet seems to be based on logic and on the basic needs of various sectors. “Swimming underground may seem like a crazy dream, but it could become a reality very soon. Transforming an abandoned metro station into a pool or a gym could be a way to compensate for the lack of sports facilities in some areas of the city,” she explains.
Similarly, “a theater mounted on an obsolete platform could be an excellent setting for artists, choreographers and dancers. Why not open a bar in the Arsenal station?”, Kosciusko-Morizet continues. “Being close to the lively area of La Bastille, it is the ideal location to party in the heart of the city without running the risk of disturbing the neighbors.”
Kosciusko-Morizet´s vision, which began to take shape during a first exploration that took place two decades ago, is to transform at least seven of Paris’ 16 ghost stations into iconic meeting points in the French capital. The other proposals include restaurants and movie theaters. However, Kosciusko-Morizet said that she will also request new ideas from Parisians. We´ll just have to wait to see what the future brings. ■