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November 1, 2017

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Métro Station Liège and its Sounds

by soundlandscapes

YOU CAN SEE THEM clearly from the train but since the automatic platform doors have been installed it’s now more difficult to view them from the platform, which is a shame because the decorative ceramic panels on the walls add a touch of class to Liège métro station.

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Created by two Liège artists, Marie-Claire Van Vuchelen and Daniel Hicter, and installed in 1982, the ceramic panels depict some of the landscapes and monuments of the Province of Liège giving a very Belgian feel to this Paris métro station.

What is now métro station Liège was opened originally as métro station Berlin on 26th February 1911 as part of the Nord-Sud Company’s Line B from Saint-Lazare to Porte de Saint-Ouen.

Paris métro stations are usually named after people, places or events so the station took its original name from the rue de Berlin, one of the streets radiating out from the nearby Place de Europe in the 8th arrondissement. When the First World War broke out in 1914 and anti-German sentiment was particularly strong, the name of the street and consequently the name of the station was changed from Berlin, the capital of France’s enemy, to Liège, a city in the friendly neighbouring country of Belgium.

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The ceramic panels are not the only unusual feature of this station.

As part of today’s Métro Line 13, the métro station Liège is located at the junction of the 8th and 9th arrondissements, about three hundred metres north of the mainline railway station, Gare Saint-Lazare. At this point, Line 13 runs directly under the rather narrow rue d’Amsterdam where it bisects rue de Liège.

This part of Line 13 was built using the ‘cut-and-cover’ method of construction. ‘Cut-and-cover’ is a simple method of construction for shallow tunnels where a trench is excavated and roofed over with an overhead support system strong enough to carry the load of what is to be built above the tunnel. The trench for this section of Line 13 was cut down from rue d’Amsterdam and because the street above was narrow so was trench forming the tunnel below. This meant that there was not enough room in the station to accommodate the usual two lines and two platforms opposite each other as is common in most Paris métro stations. Consequently, Liège is only one of two Paris métro stations to have offset platforms.

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This rather poor picture culled from Wikipedia shows the offset platforms before the automatic platform doors were installed and it was still possible to see them.

The platform heading south (towards Châtillon – Montrouge) is located north of the junction of rue de Liège and rue d’Amsterdam above while the northbound platform (towards Asnières and Saint-Denis) is to the south of the junction. In each direction of travel, the trains stop at the first platform encountered.

This offset platform arrangement gives rise to a sonic curiosity. You can see from the picture that while the platforms are offset, both the northbound and the southbound tracks pass each platform. This means that this is the only station on the Paris Métro network where it is possible to hear trains regularly passing the platform without stopping. For example, if one is waiting at the northbound platform, the southbound train will pass without stopping and vice versa.

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Stopping and passing trains in métro station Liège:

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Another interesting sonic feature inside this station is the effect of the relatively narrow tunnel and its curved wall. The wall seems to both amplify the sounds of the trains while attenuating the ambient sounds between trains.

Note: I took these two pictures of the ceramic panels with my iPhone pressed against the glass of the closed automatic platform doors fully aware that at any moment what might seem like my suspicious behaviour could result in unpleasant consequences!

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At the outbreak of World War Two, métro station Liège, like several other Paris métro stations, was closed for economy reasons. After the conflict, most of the stations reopened but some of them, including Liège, didn’t and they became known as the stations fantômes, or ghost stations. Liège station eventually reopened in 1968 but only with a limited service and it wasn’t until as late as December 2006 that the station began to operate a full service.

One of the features of Liège métro station is the platform office to be found on each platform. I have visions of them once being occupied by an authoritarian early twentieth-century stationmaster or maybe an equally authoritarian ticket collector. In fact, they date from the twenty-first century renovation of the station.

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Of all the features of this station though it is the decorative ceramic panels made up of 6,576 ceramic tiles that dominate. There are eighteen panels altogether, nine on each platform.

On one platform are those designed by Daniel Hicter, each of which has a blue tone:

Coo, dans la vallée de l’Amblève

Les premières neiges en Fagnes

Le barrage de La Gileppe

L’Eglise romane de Momalle

Le village de Limbourg

Le château de Jehay-Bodegnée

Le circuit automobile de Spa-Francorchamps

Le château de Chokier-sur-Meuse

Le Palais des Princes-Evêques de Liège

And on the other platform are those by Marie-Claire Van Vuchelen, each with a brown-ochre tone:

La vallée du Hoyoux à Modave

La vallée de la Vesdre à Nessonvaux

Le Château de Wégimont à Soumagne

Le Perron de Liège

L’Hôtel de Ville de Verviers

Le pont, la collégiale et la citadelle de Huy

La maison Curtius à Liège

Le Château de Colonster dans la Vallée de l’Ourthe

L’Hôtel de Ville de Visé

If you’re travelling on Line 13 of the Paris Métro, it’s well worth getting off at Liège to have a look at these ceramic panels – even if you do now have to peer through the glass panels of the automatic platform doors.

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Miriam Fenster
    Nov 1 2017

    I came across this website while searching for the history of 24, rue Charlemagne where my ancestors lived at the end of the nineteenth century. You have put so much work into this — it’s fantastic. Felicitations!

    Reply
    • Nov 1 2017

      Thank you, Miriam, I really appreciate your comment. It makes all the hard work worthwhile!
      You mention rue Charlemagne. I featured that street in a piece some time ago. You can see it here: https://soundlandscapes.wordpress.com/category/paris-streets/rue-charlemagne/ Hope it helps with your research.

      Reply
      • Miriam Fenster
        Nov 2 2017

        Thank you. I did look at that piece. I visited the street in 2014 and suspect that the building had been demolished and replaced with a small garden. I especially enjoyed your music pieces. On that same visit in 2014 I listened to a small group playing jazz on a street corner. Heaven!

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