In London, they’re turning unused subterranean tunnels into bustling hydroponic farms. In Paris, long-neglected spaces located deep beneath the city streets — specifically, the Métro’s network of mysterious “fantôme stations” — may possibly be renovated and reused for decidedly more sybaritic pursuits.

Proposed by former Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development, Transport and Housing and current Paris mayoral hopeful Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet of the center-right Union for a Popular Movement (UPM) party, the rather quixotic scheme would find several neglected Métro ghost stations sprinkled across the City of Lights — most of the stations were permanently closed either at the beginning of the Nazi occupation or never opened to the public at all — treated to extensive overhauls and reborn as discotheques, art galleries, wine bars and performance venues. And in a most dramatic example of adaptive reuse, one rendering depicts a cavernous swim club complete with a lap pool spanning the length of the station where the tracks would otherwise be.

Working with architect Manal Rachdi of OXO Architecture and urban planner Nicolas Laisné, Kosciusko-Morizet (or NKM, as she’s popularly known) has applied her vision, for now, to one long-shuttered station: the fourth arrondissement’s Arsenal station on Métro Line 5 near the Bastille. The station was closed for good in 1939. However, the initiative would potentially extend to other ghost stations including Porte Molitor in the 16th arrondissement and Haxo in the 19th arrondissement, both of which have never been operational and are currently inaccessible from the street.

Saint-Martin, another ghost station mentioned in the proposal, was closed at the start of WWII but was later reopened as a Salvation Army-operated day shelter for the homeless and has also been used as a filming location (it was done-up nicely as an alien cave in Ridley Scott’s 2012 sci-fi thriller, “Prometheus.”

Paris ghost station Arsenal Station as swimming pool
Paris ghost station Arsenal Station as discotechque

Reads a rough translation of a section of NKM’s proposal for these “stations that sleep under our feet:”

It won't matter to erase the identity of these stations, which are the story of the Paris Métro and the heritage of the capital. On the contrary, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet wishes to magnify them and allow them to regain new forms, these unusual places of Paris.
In addition to the initial reuse ideas published by notedly green-minded NKM and her design team, ordinary Parisians could also “choose the use they want to give these abandoned places, while enhancing the historic heritage of the Paris metro” by voting on their favorite designer-submitted proposals. That is, of course, if NKM is elected to office this March and, at this point, it’s not looking good despite her enticing, attention-grabbing promises of subterranean swimming pools. As reported by The Guardian, Anne Hidalgo, Spanish-born Socialist party contender and protégé of current mayor Bertrand Delanoë, is widely considered the early frontrunner in Paris' mayoral race.

But really, quelle dommage.

Speaking to Smithsonian.com, architect Rachdi notes that “this project aims to bring back to life these ghost stations by giving them a new purpose. To swim in the metro seems like a crazy dream, but it could soon come true! Why can't Paris take advantage of its underground potential and invent new functions for these abandoned places?"

Maybe because no one wants to foot the bill for it?

Paris ghost station Arsenal Station as music venue
Paris ghost station Arsenal Station as art space

If you could transform a long-neglected Paris Métro station (or any unused subway station in the city of your choice) into something, what would it be? 

Via [The Guardian], [Smithsonian.com]

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