The Genteel
November 28, 2020


Swimming in the metro. Photograph courtesy of Manal Rachdi oxo architects / Nicolas Laisne architecte.

Politics and art may seem an unlikely pair. In Paris' upcoming mayoral elections, however, UMP candidate Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, aided by local architects Manal Rachdi and Nicolas Laisné, has seen these two worlds collide with breathtaking results.

Adding colour to her campaign, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet (NKM) has published plans to dramatically renovate the capital's abandoned metro stations should she be named Paris' first female mayor in the elections later this month.   

An underground garden could be a place to enjoy calm
and quietness on a rainy day, in a completely new
Photograph courtesy of Manal Rachdi oxo architects /
Nicolas Laisne architecte.

Though prompting a number of political questions regarding the financial viability of NKM's proposal, the architectural designs of Rachdi and Laisné have received widespread applause.

Speaking with The Genteel, Manal Rachdi explains how, after listening to NKM talk about the culture in Paris and how she envisioned the reuse of Paris' stations, he was immediately drawn to the idea: "I [felt] very early [on] that...[my work] on the transformation of architecture by a new function could be the base of this project."

Faced with the potential conversion of 16 derelict metro stations - many of which have remained closed since 1939 following the start of the Second World War - Rachdi enlisted the help of Laisné and together they began generating numerous new ways to revive the abandoned sites.

"In [this] process we discussed several possibilities...that could really be feasible and very exciting," Manal explains. "We were inspired by our life in Paris [and]...the specific needs of each district where the station is located."

We don't think that the projects we are proposing are impossible... we are always optimistic in our architectural approach

In addition to Arsenal station, positioned near the Bastille and used as the backdrop for Rachdi and Laisné's imaginative designs, other stations ripe for reform include Champ de Mars, Porte Molitor, Haxo, Saint Martinet Martin Nadaudso and Croix Rouge.

Far from the previously fleeting use of a number of the stations as filming locations or homeless shelters, Manal and Laisné demonstrate how the sites could be permanently transformed into chic nightclubs, elegant theatres, tasteful restaurants or the most stylish swim of your life: "The [design] we find most the theatre, because...[the room length invents]...a new practice for actors, directors [and] choreographers and  a new approach to their art," Manal explains.

With NKM ambitiously proposing similar plans for the inner city railway, Manal and Laisné may be called to develop more of their musings which Rachni tells The Genteel include: "[a] capsule hotel for young travellers...[an] indoor football [pitch], a gym, [a] multi [purpose] sports hall...a catwalk, [a] space for artists and a museum [for] street art."

In regards to the practicalities of NKM's proposal, Manal explains: "We don't think that the projects we are proposing are impossible, there is [often] some technical solution to find... [and] we are always optimistic in our architectural approach." No doubt some of their designs demand more optimism than others: "the [craziest] idea [we have had] is to dive in the metro because [of] it's provocation - but oh so poetic," Manal enthuses.

A theatre on a disused platform could be an amazing venue
for artists, choreographers or dancers to perform in an
outstanding yet familiar setting.
Photograph courtesy of Manal Rachdi oxo architects /
Nicolas Laisne architecte.

Prepared to be "100% involved until the end of the building process," the dedication and creativity of the two Parisian architects is certainly vote worthy. However, unless NKM manages to beat her competitors to the post, their designs - like the metro stations themselves - could be left abandoned.

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