walls, ossuaries & winters
Troy, Paris and Montreal have a lot in common, but everyone cannot experience it. Cities below street level may either conceal or profit from their fantastic realities.
In Secret Tunneling [dpr-barcelona], Paris Catacombs and their 155 miles of linking passages are one version of underground leisure for adventurous urban explorers. Paris lies over the result of a peculiar topography, excavated both by natural caves and artificial quarries. After centuries of usage, either as a mineral source or as a public ossuary, the city forbids any functional use of them.
Troy, as many antique cities, enjoyed reusing its street layout. This settlement’s organic process of expansion throughout the centuries made buildings disappear and reappear when reusing their stones, bricks, walls or partial structures. But this overlapping urban growth, like in Paris, is not readable for city-users any more.
Montreal’s tough winters made the city expand in the vertical dimension, but towards the centre of the Earth. A 30 km network of underground leisure passages, protected from freezing winds, created a new layer of retail pedestrianism underneath conventional skyscrapers. However, the underground city, much more than the surface, is a controlled space, just like any other enclosed public space. Thus, the subterranean still resists the appropriations that people are able to make of city spaces outdoors. [Emily Raine]
Invisible Troy, Paris and Montreal originated their underground complexity in teleported walls, recycled ossuaries and harsh winters. But today controlled environments simplify them to the maximum.