LIFESTYLE NEWS - The city of Paris has chosen an American landscape architect to re-design a huge area surrounding the Eiffel Tower, a project that will banish almost all vehicle traffic near the immensely popular monument.
"We can create the biggest garden in Paris... with much more biodiversity, much more ecology," Kathryn Gustafson said after Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo presented the plan late Tuesday.
Gustafson has studied in France, where she has designed several parks and squares, but is best well known internationally for her memorial fountain for Britain's Princess Diana in Hyde Park, London.
A total of 54 hectares (133 acres), currently crisscrossed by several roads including two major thoroughfares on each side of the Seine river, will be largely turned over to pedestrians and "low-impact transportation" such as bus and bike lanes.
In particular, the heavily used car lanes on the Iena bridge which spans the Right and Left Banks underneath the Eiffel Tower will also be given over to lawns and rows of trees, according to a video rendering of the project.
"We're going to have an extraordinary garden where we'll hear birds singing once again," Hidalgo said.
That will be music to the ears of the estimated 150,000 people who visit the site every day during the summer high season, including the 20,000 to 30,000 who climb the tower itself.
Overall, seven million people visit the tower each year.
The expansive garden will stretch from the Ecole Militaire, a military academy dating from the 18th century, to the modernist Trocadero esplanade and its Chaillot Palace, built for the 1937 International Expo.
The project also calls for an overhaul of the vast lawns on the Champ de Mars, the site of dozens of major public events each year, such as concerts or mass viewings of sporting events like the World Cup.
The bulk of the work, expected to cost 72 million euros ($80 million), is scheduled to be finished before the start of the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris.
"The Tower will find itself at the centre of a vast park that will make Parisians want to come and visit," said Jean-Louis Missika, the city's deputy mayor in charge of urbanism.
Currently there are "too many cars, too much mass tourism, too many coaches," he said.