Grand Paris: The President and the Architect

(2009) 50 mins, colour, Dutch. D: Bregtje van der Haak

Paris was the first truly modern large city. But it has remained largely unchanged since the 1860s. Now, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has a vision to turn Paris into a model super-metropolis for the 21st century – a post-Kyoto sustainable city of 12 million that will break down the distinction between downtown and suburb, and that will drive France’s economic growth. He calls it “Grand Paris” and he is determined that it will be the crown jewel of his legacy. To realize his vision, Sarkozy’s government engages 10 star architects, including France’s Djamel Klouche and Roland Castro, Mike Davies from the UK, and Winy Maas, from Holland. Their mission: to spend a year rethinking Paris. It takes us inside some of the world’s top architectural firms, as they compete for an opportunity to reshape one of the world’s greatest cities. Will Paris be a bold model for future urban development? Or will the problems of the last 150 years drag on for decades to come?