The air is full of bird song and the pond is full of wriggling tadpoles so this city green space is certainly fulfilling some of its objectives. Does it work as a habitat for humans too? Yes, at least at this season when there’s been lots of rain and the park’s not too busy. Maybe not so well on a high summer Saturday.
Opened in 2009, the Jardins des Grand Moulins is a series of three linked green spaces in the Quartier de la Gare, not far from the River Seine. ‘Resolutely ecological’ (according to the city council web site) the gardens are designed to provide welcoming spaces for all ages and their management is intended to be an exemplar of good practise. In one section there’s a basketball court and ping pong tables, in another a play area designed for younger children. The main, central garden (crossed by a footbridge that remains open when the gardens close for the night) is terraced to provide sheltered sitting areas at different levels and a variety of different wildlife habitats. Water from surrounding buildings is channeled to ponds and wetland areas as well as to an underground storage tank.
Creating urban green space that welcomes both wildlife and human visitors isn’t a simple proposition. A bold design with interesting details shows that this is not just a garden that the gardeners forgot. Although weeding and watering is kept to an absolute minimum, the gardens are clearly well maintained. There’s no litter, paths are free of overhanging branches, bins are emptied and the boardwalk is in good condition.
The massive mill building of the Grand Moulins de Paris now houses part of Paris VII University. When flour milling moved out of town in the 1990s many warehouses and grain silos were demolished before the area was comprehensively redeveloped, principally for housing. Together the Jardins des Grands Moulins form an import green breathing space in a now densely populated area. The gardens may look tired and worn by the end of the summer but for now they’re fresh and inviting, for humans and and for wildlife.