Portal in the Parc André Citroën

What does a city do when a major manufacturer moves to a new location and their old factories become derelict?

If that city is , , and that manufacturer is Citroën, well, you turn it into a park of course – the Parc André Citroën.

For the two years I lived in Paris, the Parc André Citroën was my back yard. In the winter I could see the park from my kitchen and living room windows. In the summer, the foliage in our courtyard garden obscured the view.

Citroën built his factory here in 1915. Today we associate Citroën with cars but then he was making armaments for France during World War I. The region of Paris known as the 15th Arrondissement was only incorporated into the city in the 1860s so this would still have been on the outskirts of the city back then.

The factory site was built on the banks of the river Seine at the Quai de Javel, renamed the Quai André Citroën in 1958. Prior to being a factory, the site was a collection of market gardens growing produce for the people of Paris.

After the war, Citroën moved on to building cars with the Henry Ford ethos of affordable but quality cars. Citroën went on to be the first manufacturer to introduce front-wheel drive, four-wheel independent suspension and the unitary body found in most cars today.

The factory, the first mass-production car plant in Europe, was the birthplace of the legendary 2CV and the DS.

But hard times were ahead, Citroën went bankrupt, merged with Peugeot and the last DS rolled off Paris factory line in 1975. The plant closed and was demolished between 1976 and 1984.

The park was designed in the early 1990s and opened in September 1992. What really struck me about the park was the absence of “Keep off the Grass” signs. A modern park with a large expanse of flat grass in the center, in the summer the park would fill with families having picnics. On weekdays you’d find toddlers running around, enjoying the wide open space.

On the southwest side of the park, there is a shallow canal and a walkway that passes through a series of seven granite towers. Between the towers, stairs rise up to a higher level where you find an elevated reflecting pool. Ramps are situated at either end for wheelchairs and strollers, but Paris isn’t the most wheelchair or stroller friendly city in the world.

This photo is a view southeast along the walkway that passes through the granite towers. I had waited a long time to get a view without people in it and I almost made it, but not quite. You might not see the person in this photo, but I can’t stop seeing him. I didn’t take this while I lived in Paris – my photos from then are on film. This was taken on a day when my wife and I took our kids to show them where we used to live.

The treatment here is a simple conversion to black and white using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 with a mask in Photoshop to allow the green bush to show through.

A portal formed by the granite towers on the south-western edge of the Parc André Citroën

A portal formed by the granite towers on the south-western edge of the Parc André Citroën

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