Proposals for Rationally Improving the City of Paris (from 1955)

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Nothing like a light, humorous reading at the end of the semester when the summer still seems a distant dream (although the last day of class is April 23rd–not too shabby–and I’m heading to a conference next week the KFLC–not that many urban sessions but there seem to be more every year-check the program).

Luckily, the Proposals for Rationally Improving the City of Paris hits the spot (available in the Situationist International Anthology and also online here). Not light humorous reading necessarily, maybe serious, humorous reading… made me laugh anyway–the images of churches as houses of horror got me, as did the section on train stations reconfigured to facilitate dérives (both below).

Introductory details include:

The subways should be opened at night after the trains have stopped running. The corridors and platforms should be poorly lit, with dim lights flickering on and off intermittently.

The rooftops of Paris should be opened to pedestrian traffic by modifying fire-escape ladders and by constructing bridges where necessary. Public gardens should remain open at night, unlit. (In a few cases, a steady dim illumination might be justified on psychogeographical grounds.)

Street lamps should all be equipped with switches so that people can adjust the lighting as they wish.

Thoughts on churches hit the spot:

ith regard to churches, four different solutions were proposed, all of which were considered defensible until appropriate experimentation can be undertaken, which should quickly demonstrate which is the best.

G.-E. Debord argued for the total destruction of religious buildings of all denominations, leaving no trace and using the sites for other purposes.

Gil J Wolman proposed that churches be left standing but stripped of all religious content. They should be treated as ordinary buildings, and children should be allowed to play in them.

Michèle Bernstein suggested that churches be partially demolished, so that the remaining ruins give no hint of their original function (the Tour Jacques on Boulevard de Sébastopol being an unintentional example). The ideal solution would be to raze churches to the ground and then build ruins in their place. The first method was proposed purely for reasons of economy.

Lastly, Jacques Fillon favored the idea of transforming churches into houses of horror (maintaining their current ambience while accentuating their terrifying effects).

Train stations:

Train stations should be left as they are. Their rather poignant ugliness contributes to the feeling of transience that makes these buildings mildly attractive. Gil J Wolman proposed removing or scrambling all information regarding departures (destinations, timetables, etc.) in order to facilitate dérives. After a lively debate, those opposing this motion retracted their objections and it was wholeheartedly approved. It was also agreed that background noise in the stations should be intensified by broadcasting recordings from many other stations, as well as from certain harbors.

And last but not least, cemeteries:

Cemeteries should be eliminated. All corpses and related memorials should be totally destroyed, leaving no ashes and no remains. (It should be noted that these hideous remnants of an alienated past constitute a subliminal reactionary propaganda.

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One thought on “Proposals for Rationally Improving the City of Paris (from 1955)

  1. Pingback: Proposals for Rationally Improving the City of Paris (from 1955) | concerturbain

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