Saturday, 6 February 2010
Can a road define a city?
Paris is notoriously squeezed within the confines of its peripherique. Thirty four kilometres of six to ten lane motorway. Thirty six years old. Hidden in a tunnel in the wealthy west. Its red and white stripes of traffic exposed for all to enjoy in the poorer east. Twin towers, shiny towers, towers with names, the Eiffel tower seen from all sides, all sizes. Approximately 2 million people live within the peripherique. Beyond it lie the banlieues - the suburbs. Are they not Paris too? No. They are the banlieues. They are separate.
London is also circled by a motorway, but it is way out beyond the edge of the suburbs, a tarmac ring running through the 'green belt', the zone of golf courses, farmland, stately homes, go-karting tracks, glittering shopping centres, Victorian asylums, woodland, industrial estates, and airports (see London Orbital by Iain Sinclair, Granta 2002, for a detailed exploration, on foot, of the M25 environs). The green of the green belt merges into suburb, densifies to grey, it is all London. London is a collection, an association, a series of towns and in between places.