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May 28, 2012


La Campagne à Paris

by soundlandscapes

ON A HOT, SUNNY, SATURDAY afternoon I found myself in the east of Paris in the 20th arrondissement, in Charonne, which was incorporated into the city of Paris in 1860.

The historic centre of Charonne is located around the parish church of Saint-Germain-de-Charonne at the junction of Rue de Bagnolet and Rue Saint-Blaise. This church is a little unusual in that it is one of only two churches in Paris, the other being the Eglise Saint-Pierre-de-Montmartre, where the cemetery actually adjoins the church.

Interesting as it is, it wasn’t either the church or its cemetery that I’d come to visit. Instead, I was on my way to one of the most coveted areas of Paris, La Campagne à Paris – The Countryside in Paris – and two streets in particular, Rue Irénée-Blanc and Rue Jules-Siegfried.

Both of these streets lie at the heart of La Campagne à Paris and they are so picture perfect that they feel as though they are either in the depths of the French countryside or that they have come direct from a film set.

One has to pinch oneself to remember that this is neither the depths of the French countryside nor an elegant film set, this is Charonne, a working-class district of Paris with no pretentions to be anything else. Charonne has so far resisted the tide of gentrification that has engulfed some of the other extremities of the city.

La Campagne à Paris is built on a hill, a man-made hill, and every route to get to it requires effort.  There is no escaping the endless steps.

The hill was created from the rubble generated by the Haussmann reconstruction of Avenue de la République and Avenue Gambetta that was deposited in a former gypsum quarry.

The hill was bought in 1908 by a co-operative set up to create low cost housing called La Campagne à Paris. This co-operative undertook to build ninety-two houses each with a front yard and lots of and varied vegetation.

The houses were built between 1907 and 1928 and they were designed by several different architects which created interest because of the lack of uniformity.

The idea was to create affordable homes financed by loans paid off by monthly instalments for those with modest but steady incomes like bank clerks or low-level civil servants.

Sounds of La Campagne à Paris:

From what we see today, the idea was a great success. The homes still exist and they have all been exceptionally well maintained. I can’t help wondering how many bank clerks and low-level civil servants live here today … but if they do they are very lucky and I wish them well.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. May 28 2012

    wow, this is such a quaint village that is off the beaten path. ^0^
    i wish i could take a walk down the narrow streets and see these adorable houses.
    thanks for the tour.
    i;m not familiar either, but this place somehow reminds me of the movie Le petit Nicolas.

    • May 28 2012

      I’m pleased you enjoyed the tour … and the movie Le petit Nicolas was filmed here.

  2. Suzi Montgomery
    May 28 2012

    The photographs are so nice… what kind of camera are you using? Just curious

    • May 28 2012

      Hi Suzi, I’m pleased you like the photographs. I use a Leica D-Lux 4 camera which is small enough to fit into my jacket pocket. It’s very well-worn but it feels like an old friend. I hope you enjoy the sounds as well as the photographs though.

  3. May 29 2012

    It really looks and sounds like a utopian model village. Nice catch to have the cars approaching and bell ringing, adding a human dimension to this natural sounding space. Did you plan to record at the time of the bell, or was it a lucky accident? Time to start looking at some real estate!

    • May 29 2012

      The bell was a complete accident. After climbing all the steps I barely knew what day it was let alone what time it was!! The two streets were remarkably quiet but I was able to record this piece close to the top of some of the steps where I found the birds with the traffic and bells in the background. I must say, it really is a delicious place and LOOKING at the real estate is about as far as it will go I think!

  4. Linda Bottani
    Jun 9 2013

    Beautiful pics. We would love to visit the next time we’re in Paris, BUT how does one get there?

    • Jun 9 2013

      Thanks for your comment Linda. La Campagne à Paris is easy to find. The easiest way is to get Métro Line 3 to Porte de Bagnolet. When you come out of the Métro look for Place Edith Piaf, you can’t miss it. From there it’s just a short walk up rue Capitaine Ferber and La Campagne à Paris is on your right up lots of steps. It’s about 5 minutes walk from Place Edith Piaf. I hope this helps.


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