Paris goes green

The trees that line the Champs-Elysees normally stand in glorious isolation against a landscape of cobblestones and cars. But this weekend, Parisians who frequent the city's most famous street will find them restored to their natural habitat - as an explosion of greenery takes over the promenade to turn it into a giant garden.

Instead of the cobblestones, there will be grass. Instead of the usual cars and mopeds, there will be wandering cows and sheep. And as well as the clipped horse-chestnut trees on both sides of the road, there will be olive trees, flowers, and vegetables. The two-day metamorphosis will start at 8pm tomorrow, the international day of Biodiversity, when the traffic running towards the Arc de Triomphe will be stopped and 800 young farmers will help to lay some 152,009 plants.

The installation is the idea of street artist Gad Weil, who has worked with landscaper Laurence Médioni to create the event. M Weil told The Independent: "I had the idea for this work of street art in 2007, and more than 1,500 volunteers have helped to bring it to life this weekend. I want to tell the landscapes of France in a poetic form. The street installation is to question and reflect on mankind's relationship with nature and ecology, upon the place of nature in cities and towns. Bringing people together for two days of celebration is a different way to address these questions."

Called Nature Capitale, it has been organised with the help of the Young Farmers Association and Forestry Association of France. There will be over 150 species of plants and animals over a 1km sweep from the rond-point to the Arc de Triomphe, representing 87% of the forestry and agriculture species grown in France, including rare Limousin pigs, goats, miscanthus, mustard and magnolia. Visitors will be able to buy plants, and food from a huge farmers market. On Sunday, Paris's butchers are holding a free barbeque to promote their work.

The installation has cost €4.2m in total, and more than two million people are expected to visit the Champs-Elysees on Sunday and Monday.

The Champs-Elysees has been closed to traffic for M Weil's art installations a total of six times. Twenty years ago, the avenue was transformed into a giant wheat field for the Grande Moisson, or Great Harvest. M Weil said: "This was to mark the bicentenary of the French Revolution, where there was such a shortage of bread. On another occasion, in 2003, I rolled a train down the Champs-Elysees, while in 1998 the avenue was closed as 40 aeroplanes were installed along it."

His next project is to turn a road in Istanbul green. "I would be delighted if Boris Johnson approached me to work with British farmers to similarly transform Oxford Street into a green space," he said.

A spokesperson for the mayor's office said: "Paris is proud to offer the 'Nature Capitale' event its most prestigious avenue and, thus, contribute to make the whole world aware of the major challenge of preserving and developing biodiversity."

The Champs-Elysees, meaning Elysian Fields, was an area of vegetable gardens and fields until the 17th Century. Then, in 1628 Marie de Medici created the Cours de la Reine, a tree-lined, mile long promenade along the bank of the Seine river. This was extended over the next century, and by 1724 had become a fashionable promenade of 2.2km, the length it is today.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore