Saturday, 19 January 2008

le Métro aérien

Unlike London Underground, the Paris Métro has no inner circle line but it does operate two distinct lines (2 and 6) that between them form an outer circle. Line 2 (Nation – Porte Dauphine) and line 6 (Nation – Charles de Gaulle Étoile) create a loop around the city at the point where line 2 passes through Charles de Gaulle Étoile. Both lines have extensive sections where they run on elevated structures above the city streets giving rise to the designation, “métro aérien”.

The elevated sections offer spectacular views of the city below especially where they fly across complex road intersections revealing dramatic plunging perspectives. The other attraction is the opportunity to intrude into the privacy of Parisians as your train sails past at 2nd or 3rd floor level. This inspired Richard Cobb (in his book, The Streets of Paris) to write about the “suggestive, tempting, if fleeting views of third- and fourth-floor interiors: bedrooms, kitchens, figures silhouetted at night against drawn blinds...”

Bande Dessinée artist and author, André Juillard makes frequent references to the “métro aérien” in his book, “Le Cahier Bleu” (1994) which tells the story of Louise, resident of boulevard de Grenelle who becomes the object of obsessive interest on the part of the voyeuristic Victor, a regular traveller on line 6, who spies on her from his train. It develops into a narrative about points of view. Juillard returned to this area in 2001 when he included a view of the Eiffel Tower from Bir-Hakeim in his homage to Henri Rivière, “Trente-six vues de la tour Eiffel”.

The photographs here come from line 6 between La Motte-Picquet and Bir-Hakeim and from line 2 in the vicinity of Jaurès station where the rail tracks soar high above the Place de la Bataille de Stalingrad which itself is constructed above the Canal Saint-Martin. Both locations are dominated by the “métro aérien” which with its almost constant overhead movement greatly enhances the pulse of urban flux.

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