A wildlife friendly garden that is not by the water but floating on it. As Paris parks go, this garden on the Seine must have one of the most unmanageable names, and the most ingenious engineering. Created in 2013, the Jardins de l’Archipel des Berges de Seine Niki-de-Saint-Phalle occupies five, linked, floating ‘islands’. Here you can stretch out on chaise longue by the waterside, lounge on a rope hammock over a miniature flowery meadow or sit in the shade of an apple tree, rocking gently on the wake of passing boats. The garden stays level and firmly anchored as it rises and falls, thanks to the sliding connections around its twenty large mooring posts. The short bridges connecting the islands to the shore and to each other are hinged to allow them to accommodate the changing levels and are wheelchair accessible.
The specially designed barges or pontoons which form the ‘land’ of the archipelago were constructed at three different shipyards – at Le Havre, Dieppe and St. Nazaire. Together they stretch for 180m and cover an area of 1725 m2. More than half the surface area is végétalisée, including emergent waterside plants, thickets of berry-bearing shrubs for the birds and rustling reed beds. Each island has its own character and together they offer a variety of habitat niches, to both humans and wildlife. Seats are tucked away in quiet corners and alcoves of wooden decking between the shrub beds offer quiet places for picnicking. Two thirds of the ‘island of birds’ is densely planted and out of bounds to human visitors, offering quiet roosts and nesting places. The backwaters between the islands and the bank of the river include artificial spawning grounds for fish.
Even on a sunny Sunday afternoon, when the Berges promenade is thronged with people on foot, bikes, scooters and skate boards, the islands, anchored a few metres off shore, are remarkably peaceful. This is a place to pause and refresh for a while, a taste of wildness in the heart of the city.