The historic Champs-Élysées to undergo stunning transformation
Sometimes referred to as ‘the world’s most beautiful avenue,’ the historic Champs-Élysées stretch in Paris is set to under an incredible transformation.
The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, has agreed to €250m makeover, set to commence after Paris hosts the 2024 Summer Olympic Games.
The project was first unveiled in 2019 by local leaders including The Champs-Élysées committee which has been campaigning for a major redesign of the avenue since 2018. The designs have been completed by architect Philippe Chiambaretta and his firm PCA-Stream which will lead the project.
The historic Champs-Élysées extends in full for more than 8km: from the Louvre to the Grande Arche of La Défense. It retraces 350 years of French history and is dotted with significant monuments.
Research into the project revealed that of the 100,000 pedestrians who visit the avenue daily, 72 per cent were tourists and 22 per work there. Local Parisians only account for five per cent of the pedestrians. The eight-lane highway is used by an average of 3,000 vehicles per hour. Architect Chiambaretta said the problems of pollution, traffic, tourism and consumerism were common issues faced by many cities around the world – the redevelopment would be “ecological, desirable and inclusive”. Works are expected to be completed by 2030.
The history of the Champs-Élysées
With origins that date back to King Louis XIV in the 17th century, the Champs-Élysées was at one time a place of pride for Paris and France. The Champs-Élysées’ is French for the mythical Greek paradise, the Elysian Fields.
Louis XIV in 1666 ordered André Le Nôtre, gardener of the King, to transform the Tuileries garden. He created the Grand Cours (renamed the Champs-Élysées in 1709) – a wide promenade that was lined with a double row of elm trees on either side. In 1710, it was extended to where the Arc de Triomphe now stands. The avenue was extended in the 18th century to create new avenues such as Montaigne, Matignon and de Martigny.
In was not initially popular as it was located alongside the former ‘grand sewer’ of Paris and was known for certain seedy elements. The sewer was covered and a Swiss guard post installed in 1777. By 1828, sidewalks were introduced as well as lighting, thanks to the installation of 1200 gas-filled candelabra. Cafes, restaurants, concert halls and theatres all soon began to emerge and flourish. During the 19th century, well known brands established their shops along the Champs-Élysées. In 1902, in an era when the automobile was beginning to emerge as a replacement to horse-drawn carts, Mercedes Benz and Peugeot opened, followed by Renault in 1908.
During WWII and the Nazi occupation of France, German troops entered Paris in June 1940, marching down the Champs-Élysées. In 1944, Paris celebrated its liberation with a parade on the Champs-Élysées; and the annual Bastille Day military parade takes place along the famous avenue. The Arc de Triomphe structure at the western end of the Champs-Élysées is France’s monument to its war history, finished in 1836 and dedicated to those who died in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. Beneath its arch an eternal flame burns near the tomb of an unknown soldier from World War I.
Vintage Travel Kat: postcards from the Champs-Élysées
Just like millions of travellers around the world, the allure of Paris was calling from a young age! My fascination percolated during my studies of history at school and university; from admiring the black and white photos of my mother in the City of Lights in the 1950s – and, not to mention Paris being considered the fashion capital of the world and epicentre of style. It’s no surprise that on my first ever trip abroad in 1997, Paris was firmly on the itinerary. I certainly remember, as a young backpacker in my early 20s, the prices of the eateries on the famous Champs-Élysées were unattainable. It was enough then to purely wander the streets and surrounding avenues and soak up the Parisian history and ambiance.
In 2005, I returned to Paris after a visit to Reims and the Champagne region. My budget was somewhat improved thankfully! I do vividly remember, however, that the traffic around the Arc de Triomphe and how touristed the avenue was. I’m thrilled to see that these incredible designs by PCA-Steam will hopefully restore the Champs-Élysées to an avenue of greenery and style for both visitors and Parisians alike.