ESSAY: The term Greater Paris is getting used more and more in the media and around certain conversations... But what do we really mean when we talk about the Greater Paris? Eugenie Lefebvre, Director of the Magasins Généraux - Greater Parisian creation center created by BETC - shares her vision of the Greater Paris.

Is Greater Paris the future of Paris ?

Not really a neologism or a trendy concept, the Greater Paris might just turn out to be a codename or a transition name. Maybe the indication that something is brewing up and that Paris is no longer as it used to be.

In his 2018 report to the French President, architect and town planner Roland Castro suggested that we instead use "Paris in large." A new formula to express the future borders of the French capital. But aren't these terms simply epheremela formulas, that we only need during the transition period ?

Because, the same way that no one would say that they are going to the Greater New York or that they have visited the Greater London when talking about the extended New York and London areas, maybe tomorrow, we will refer to the Paris extended area just by calling it Paris.

Paris, Greater Paris, Paris in large ... What's at stake here ?

Beyond the political, geopolitical, economics and major influence issues, it boils down to what the essence of Paris really is. It's an invitation to change scale and perceptions. To push further away the horizon lines of our mental image of the territory, not limited to the geographical lines but also the mental ones that we impose on the city.

Moving from picture-postcard Paris - the Eiffel Tower, the Café de Flore, the Latin Corner book stands, the Sacré-Coeur and the Louvre Museum - to a "new Paris", that will carefully encapsulate all the treasures of the first one while also reaching new dimensions, new neighborhoods, inhabitants, landscapes, parks, culture and creation landmarks, innovation and experimentation centers...

For the Greater Paris Guide, that we (the Magasins Généraux) have created with the journalists of our media partner Enlarge Your Paris, we chose to represent the Greater Paris through ten large areas that free themselves from the "périphérique" and also all the administrative or geographical limitations. That was our way of showing the many faces and identities of this metropolis, and to tell the story of how they create, together, a large territory of great richness, both dynamic and incredibly diverse.

Better than a puzzle juxtaposing pieces with no link between them, or even better than a cake made of multiple ingredients that would get mixed into an homogeneous concoction, the Greater Paris could be experienced as a melting pot of places, stories, identities, lives, to create an even larger project that doesn't take anything away from the differences and specificities of its smaller parts.

Discover all the identities of this territory

We can start to imagine what this new Paris would look like using different parts that complete each other, mix and merge without contradicting each other. Thus a mental image of this territory will gradually emerge, one that will become aspirational and attractive.

And in this large composite a whole lot of different realities can be added: the City of Lights, the Greater Paris Express, the Olympic Games, forests, stand-up paddle, bateaux-mouches, treks, renovated industrial wastelands, museums, experimentations, department stores, church towers, small and medium enterprises, arts and craft, urban culture, large companies, sport, shared garden, houses and housing projects, Haussman and Bofill, opera and French rap, concrete and national parks, bicycles, subway, boat rides ...

This new plural representation is what will be slowly adopted by Greater Parisians, from all horizons, all ages. It will allow them to feel involved and enthusiastic in this change of scale that aims to turn into mobility, inclusivity, discoveries, solidarity, innovation, eco-responsibility, etc ... 

That’s the image they, in turn, will be able to show the world. Reintroducing Paris under a new profile, a metropolis that shines and beams with inspirations, envy, small and large-scale projects.

In France or abroad, the image of picture-postcard Paris will evolve. New totems will appear and new landscapes will be revealed.

It's time to guess: what will postcards of the new Paris will look like in 10, 20 or 30 years?


Eugénie Lefebvre, Director of les Magasins généraux, a cultural centre based in Pantin and founded in 2017 by BETC - © Vincent Migrenne

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