What could be more hostile to flaneuring than a highway? And yet we have walked. Together with four curating editors and contributors of many disciplines we tried to grasp this ring road marking the city limits of Paris, layer by layer – and we found a road where much is at stake and a road of many voices.
We release this issue on the Boulevard Périphérique’s 50th anniversary. The ring road is a boomer. It’s a bit passé, but it doesn’t care because it has it all; it’s too big to fail. It thinks it’s essential and that they won’t find anything to replace it. But the ring road is on its last pillars, slowly fading out, replaced by the sounds of parties and shouts of protests.
This street not only takes us to the border of the inner city of Paris and to the question of what the relation of its centralist power with its neighbouring cities is, but to a hidden meaning of the word boulevard beyond its bourgeois glamour: a frontier, a device of control and fortification. Given the huge impact Parisian city planning and storytelling had on other cities, it’s a street that leads us to what is at stake locally while also highlighting urgencies transcending this road:
From the effects of the fast gentrification of the Grand Paris plan and the upcoming Olympic Games, to the violent colonial history that remains present in public spaces, from the museal imagery often associated with Paris, to the concrete realities of its fringes, from the pollution and noise to the potential of listening from below, from the hidden geometry of centralist power to the imagination of archipelagic thinking.
A lot is at stake. And it’s that dynamic, that past, these futures, that you’re about to find in this issue.
The issue is bilingual, English and French.