There is something so cinematic about the Parisian Métro. Something that has been captured in movies and songs, from the New Wave to recent releases, something that everyday users sense when going down the stairs of the station.
The Parisian subway system is not always grand and is a network that celebrates the crowd. It is the perfect place for love stories, detective film noirs, even stories told of surrealist urban wanderings. Take Les Amants du Pont-Neuf, a 1991 Léo Carax movie which pays a tribute to life and love in transit stations. Or for children, “Zazie in the Metro.”
In its early years, most of the stations were designed with a uniform Art Nouveau architecture. Of these stations, 83 have survived today.
Yet, one should not be mistaken: today, the Parisian transit network has nothing to do with uniformity. A very bold and innovative cultural management project set the tone and initiated a series of stations that would celebrate art and culture through three different themes:
1. The museum stations: these contain works that reproduce, at a smaller scale, nearby monuments or art galleries (Louvre-Rivoli, Varenne)
In effect, the uniqueness of Paris lies in the will of city planners and cultural institutions to create something iconic.
The Parisian metro reflects the neighborhoods and cultural institutions that structure the city. While one station highlights signatures of French poets, artists, or politicians, another station celebrates the modern art movement in France. The underlying theme of the stations, told through different artistic forms, celebrates the love story between the urban and the art.
And in that way, San Francisco, with its acute cinematic potential, could write the next sequel of that love story.