Visiting Paris recently I was fortunate to stay with a friend of mine who lives very close to an iconic square that has recently undergone a major redesign and renovation, the Place de la République. The Place de la République is located on the border between the 3rd, 10th and 11th arrondissements. [For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, major French cities such as Paris, Marseilles, and Lyon are divided into administrative districts, called arrondissements, of which Paris has 20. It is common to hear the locals say [in French of course] “I live in the 11th” or “I live in the 15th,” referring to the arrondisement.]
The Place de la République is approximately 8.4 acres [3.4 ha] and is above the Métro station of République. The location that is now the Place de la République corresponds to the fortification or rampart of the gate of the Temple in the wall of Charles V, which was destroyed in the late fourteenth century. By the early nineteenth century, the square, which was then called the Place du Château-d’Eau, not surprisingly had as its centerpiece the Château-d’Eau fountain. This name was changed in the late nineteenth century, when a design competition led to the design of a new monument that would sit at the center of the square. The purpose of this new monument was to commemorate the French Third Republic [La Troisième République]. This Third Republic of France began in 1870 when the Second French Empire collapsed, through to 1940 when France’s Vichy government replaced it as a result of France’s defeat by Nazi Germany. Nine years after the start of the Third Republic, the square had its current name.
Over the years, the square fell into a bit of disrepair/disfunction and in 2008 The Mayor of Paris launched a redevelopment project based on three objectives: to reaffirm the Republican symbol and revitalize the historical heritage of the location, to update and integrate the square with an eye towards a better sharing of the public space, and to enhance the usability of the square as a meeting place for individuals and events. Particular attention was paid to the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists in the redesign.
Today the square feels open, ergonomic, clean and alive – a fitting and historical heart that connects the 3rd, 10th and 11th.