An elevated park à la française

An illustration by designer and author Vahram Muratyan comparing the Promenade Plantée, or Coulée Verte, and the High Line. The illustration is part of his new book, Paris vs. New York: A Tally of Two Cities. Image courtesy of the author and Penguin Books.

Paris and New York — two cultural centers an ocean apart have a friendly rivalry that’s older than time. Whether you prefer shopping the Champs Elysées or 5th Avenue, spending a rainy day reading Le Temps Retrouvé or The Catcher in the Rye, or snacking on a macaron or a cupcake — you will appreciate designer Vahram Muratyan’s witty side-by-sides of these two iconic cities.

Vahram’s comparisons of Paris and New York, and the Promenade Plantée and the High Line, give us yet another reason to celebrate the Parisian park for its inspiration. Here we take a closer look of at the High Line’s predecessor.


The Promenade Plantée has a similar history as the High Line, but its transformation into public space pre-dates the High Line by more than 15 years.

The original railway, which opened in 1859, was part of a greater rail network meant to connect the Bastille section of the city to the eastern suburbs. When the railway fell out of use in the late 1960s, it lay dormant for 20 years before the Council of Paris approved the transformation of the abandoned railway into a public greenway.


Beginning in the 1980s the area surrounding the abandoned railway was revitalized and the unique idea of turning the crumbling railway into an elevated park gained traction. Landscape architect Jacques Vergely and architect Philippe Mathieux were brought on to design the parkway on the elevated viaduct, which runs 2.9 miles from the then under construction Opéra Bastille, in the Place de la Bastille, to the eastern edge of the city. The inauguration of the elevated park took place in 1993.

Six years later, Joshua David and Robert Hammond met at a community board meeting in Manhattan, where the topic of discussion was the demolition of the High Line. Josh and Robert founded Friends of the High Line to save the historic freight rail line structure, and the Promenade Plantée played a critical role in helping them convince people that the abandoned railway could be transformed into something extraordinary.

Today, the High Line is playing a similar role, inspiring designers, policy makers, and urban planners around the world to transform out-of-use industrial infrastructure into public open space. As Friends of the High Line Co-Founder Joshua David told The New York Times in 2010, “When we were beginning to take the High Line around, being able to point to the Promenade Plantée was huge to us. It’s exciting that the High Line can act in the same way — be something that other projects can point to and say, ‘This may sound unusual, but look, they’ve done it here, and look how successful it is.’”

Celebrate the Big Apple and the City of Light at The Standard Shop at The Standard, New York on Thursday, February 2, 6:00 - 8:00 PM, where Vahram Muratyan will be signing copies of his new book, Paris vs. New York: A Tally of Two Cities.

Visit The Standard Culture for more details.

See more Paris and New York comparisons on 'Paris versus New York, a tally of two cities,' the blog.

Promenade Plantée photos by La-Citta-Vita.

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