January 05, 2011
Zonage à l’Américaine
From Luc Sante's review of The Invention of Paris, in the New York Review of Books:
A less visible, more insidious form of social control practiced in the 1960s was the elimination of the ancient practice of mixité: “The same building would house shops on the ground floor — the shopkeeper living on the mezzanine — apartments for the aristocracy on the second storey (the ‘noble’ floor before the invention of the lift), and workers in the attics” — the theme of Zola’s novel Pot-Bouille. Under Malraux, Pompidou, and their minions, zonage à l’américaine — zoning by income — was ruinously introduced to the oldest parts of the city. The results of all these social-engineering strategies include high prices, a fetishistic but skin-deep style of historical preservation, an antiseptic street culture, the further polarization of classes, and the gradual strangling of vertical mobility. But contrary to the crêpe-hangers, Hazan knows that even the ensemble of these factors cannot kill a city that is open to change, and that Paris can be redeemed by expansion, both cultural and geographic:(In French cuisine, à l’Américaine refers to cooking with a spicy tomato sauce. The phrase is also used in cinema criticism, meaning what you'd expect, and apparently was also a term of art in French brothels, though for what I'm not entirely keen to check.)
The tacit understanding with past generations is beginning to be renewed, and another “new Paris” is taking shape…. It is leaving the west of the city to advertising executives and oil tycoons, and pressing as always towards the north and east…. It is spilling over the line of hills from Montmartre to Charonne, crossing the terrible barrier of the Boulevard Périphérique…and stretching towards what is already de facto the twenty-first arrondissement, towards Pantin, Le Pré-Saint-Gervais, Bagnolet, Montreuil….In order for its vitality to endure, that is, Paris must incorporate the banlieues and their inhabitants, just as in previous centuries it had knocked down its walls and taken in the masses crowded outside them.