Pont des Arts to be rebuilt with eco-friendly oak

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The Independent Online

One of the most romantic bridges in Paris – the pedestrianised walkway called the Pont des Arts – is to be rebuilt with new materials to bring it into line with current environmental concerns.

One of the most romantic bridges in Paris – the pedestrianised walkway called the Pont des Arts – is to be rebuilt with new materials to bring it into line with current environmental concerns.

The bridge, which crosses the Seine between the Académie Française and the Louvre, will be given a new walkway made from European oak rather than the present azobe wood from the tropical rainforests of central Africa. This wood is water- resistant and popular for garden furniture and decking.

Building will start next year and is in line with a pledge by the city of Paris to use only certified hardwoods for future public building projects.

The Pont des Arts was thus named because, when it was built, the Louvre museum was known as the Palais des Arts. The bridge has had a turbulent history: it was inaugurated in 1804 then repeatedly destroyed – by careless barge captains and wartime bombers. It collapsed in 1979 and the present bridge with its tropical hardwood floor was opened in 1984.

Yesterday the environmental group Greenpeace, which campaigns against the uncontrolled use of tropical hardwoods, welcomed the move. Ludovic Frere, Greenpeace's specialist on forests, said: "The bridge was built using wood from the Congo basin, which covers Cameroon, Gabon and the two Congos.

"The wood was brought here by one of the most unscrupulous Lebanese timber companies. It is a disgrace. The pledge by Paris to use certified hardwoods is a step in the right direction but 90 per cent of the Congo basin is currently being, or has already been, stripped.

"There is an urgent need to protect the remaining 10 per cent. Otherwise, within a decade, it will have gone.''

Mr Frere said the most blatant and shocking use of tropical hardwoods was in the mid-1990s, during the construction of France's national library, the Bibliothèque Fran-çois Mitterrand in Paris. Its four glass towers are surrounded by hardwood steps. Shutters within the building – added to protect old books from the damaging effects of light – are made from tropical wood from the Amazon.

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