New London Architecture

The Roads of the Future Grand Paris

Tuesday 22 November 2022

Stephen Barrett


Commissioned by: Forum Métropolitain du Grand Paris, with funds from the Île de France region and the City of Paris

Project Period:  2018-2019

On 11th November, Stephen Barrett, Sophie Thompson, Bav Bansal, Cllr Clyde Loakes and Alexander Longdon joined a breakfast talk chaired by Nicola Sheppey and hosted at RSHP’s studio in the Leadenhall building. The panel explored the possibilities and opportunities of a city without cars by looking at projects in London, Birmingham and Paris, and debating the infrastructure and investment needed. 

One of the case studies that were highlighted, The Roads of the Future Grand Paris, explores how major road infrastructure could be transformed into a network of linear, multifunctional parks that complete and expand the existing public transport systems with new forms of intelligent mobility to deliver shared transport systems, walking and cycling.

Commissioned by the Forum Métropolitain du Grand Paris (with funds from the Île de France region and the City of Paris), this study had two principal timelines, 2030 and 2050. It examines the possible transformation of primary road network into connected corridors of public infrastructure, exploring the capacity this transformation might contribute to delivering more sustainable, accessible, and resilient transportation in the age of ‘Intelligent Cities’. It develops the opportunities offered by electric, autonomous and shared mobility to create linear parks that not only support transport needs but also serve as productive metropolitan “armatures” that incorporate renewable energy, biodiversity and water harvesting for the common good.

The scenarios developed for 2030 extrapolate on the basis of present trends in transport and urbanism with proposals for a series of interventions that re-examine the role of the car in the city and draws on a number of projects in Paris that seek to transform key segments of roadway, increase the role of cycling and walking as well as proposing the greening the city through a policy of extensive tree planting. The more radical transformations imagined for 2050 take two forms: one, a high-tech ‘smart’ system driven by advances in technology and artificial intelligence to create adaptable mobility “platforms”; the other, based on low-cost/low-tech public space networks that prioritise walking and cycling and are predicated on the development of the compact, 15-minute city. These two systems are not mutually exclusive and may in fact be complementary.

In both cases, the motorway is transformed into what the team has called a Shared Utility Network (SUN), with the road network evolving into a positive contributor to the quality, sustainability, and health of urban life. These adaptable systems aim to provide a mechanism that helps address the challenges of climate change, resource, and energy scarcity. In prioritising mobility for citizens currently deprived of a practical public transport service within walking distance, these systems also aim to redress the inequalities in transport provision that characterise large cities, particularly on their less dense peripheries, and thereby perpetuating the use of private vehicles.

This study that looks at the motorway network at a metropolitan scale is nonetheless founded on the belief that the human scale is not only a fundamental measure of physical space, and by extension accessibility and inclusivity, but it is also a gauge of the experiential. City planning should enable the best of what we can be, privileging exchange, social contact and personal interaction. 

The presentation also covered some of the contrasts between London and Paris, their respective strengths and weaknesses in relation to the status and function of the car in these cities of comparable size but very different forms of organisation and governance: differences in modal split, the presence and absence of congestion zones, the density and distribution of public transport systems. The talk ended with a presentation of one of RSHP’s current projects at Montparnasse, a major station in central Paris, where the existing road access is being re-thought to create public space, reduce traffic, encourage walking and cycling as well as enabling the planting of over 1500 trees.

Stephen Barrett


Transport & Infrastructure



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