The public places around the metro stations of Greater Paris refer to the vague notion of metropolitan public place. To remedy this vagueness, I suggest that we look at the more precise issue of the metropolitan place. The public places around stations in fact represent the contact point between the metropolitan dimension (the network of mobility) and the place (the local territory).
By definition, what is metropolitan is extra local (metropolis means “mother-city”, a city which has colonies, and links with territories outside its own territory), while a place, on the contrary, is a delimited portion of space, within a defined space, capable of living by and for itself. If these two terms are apparently contradictory, when a place becomes metropolitan it should not, of course, lose its identity as a place, but must forge this identity in its relation to other metropolitan places. The notion of metropolitan place in reality presupposes de facto that a network of places exists.
The network of metro stations in Greater Paris should make it possible to construct much more than high-quality public places: its aim must be to bring into being nothing less than a network of metropolitan places. For in a metropolis, such public places are quintessential, if not vital, as expressions and receptacles of life and the collective memory. For these places to be up to this challenge, they must become places with their own existence, independent of the metropolitan and local relations which they connect. In becoming places, they will no longer be able to remain mere places of passage, voids that are traversed, absences where the step quickens to save time. They will thus be places in which people can also spend time, where they can simply be, places that are destinations, where people can do things, or do nothing.
One last thing: to bring a place into being, a project is needed. The station project is not enough. What is more, it sidesteps the real and collective goal, and gives the station a responsibility which it cannot take on. So it is important to construct a line of thinking which can give a unity and a coherence to elements which might otherwise remain juxtaposed, and which can regard the public place and the station as forming a whole, and constructing together, and not one against the other, this paradox and at the same time this stimulant that a metropolitan place is.
« Un lieu métropolitain », article by Pierre Alain Trévelo, published in Les Places du Grand Paris, Société du Grand Paris, 2015.