In old Paris side streets, it’s common to find the building line stepping in and out, leaving blank-walled alcoves around wide parts of the pavement. These odd spaces are sometimes large enough for a tree, sometimes they are ‘greened’ by a sorry looking shrub in a box, sometimes the blank walls are brightened by street art.
This alcove in rue Chapon is the entrance to the studio of Radio Marais, an independent, community radio station which actively promotes local street art. In the spring and early summer, the mural on this wall changed each week, as guest artists were invited to talk on the Urban Safari programme and then to demonstrate their style in action.
After a summer break, the programme came back on air in September, when Un Gars dans la Rue and Daria Aleks were the guest artists. You can see them at work here. The mural hasn’t changed since. Perhaps Urban Safari only runs in fine weather.
The alcoves that provide handy blank walls for street art are a side effect of changing building codes over the centuries. From the late eighteenth century, the city authorities tried to modernise the medieval pattern of narrow, winding streets, by drawing up plans showing the approved building line, often a metre or two back from the actual line of the buildings. Owners weren’t obliged to rebuild to fit the new plan but any new buildings had to do so. Those streets which escaped the redevelopment of the Haussmann era still follow the medieval lines, with later variations.
This post is linked to Thursday Doors, a weekly collection of doors around the world.