“Everything that is most eccentric in man, the gypsy in him, can surely be summed up in these two syllables: garden.”
Louis Aragon, Le paysan de Paris
Here, not far from Paris, were marshes, which became a vegetable plain of one of the largest agricultural territories in Europe.
Between 1952 and 1972, gypsies from Andalusia settled here, as well as Roma from Eastern Europe, Portuguese, Algerians, Moroccans, Tunisians, Yugoslavians, and a few French families, in insalubrious conditions, in what was known as the Campa slum.
Now, one seems to feel there this « feeling of nature » dear to the surrealists, and that the peasant of Aragon experienced when he walked through the park of Buttes-Chaumont, north of the concomitant capital.
Just like the latter, the park of La Courneuve was invented, built from scratch.
Lakes, hills and valleys have been shaped on a dull plain, where the relief has long been only historical.
A manufactured green lung, it can be defined as a park as well as a huge garden. The garden of the large surrounding complexes, concrete enclosures composing one of the most urbanized territories of the country.
Spread over five communes, the Georges-Valbon Park imposes its opulent landscape on the rough and dry one of the Parisian periphery, the poorest in metropolitan France.
In its very conception, one finds this desire to develop free spaces that are lacking around it: vast plains, belvederes, mounts and pyramids; everything is done to re-appropriate a perspective free from the housing bars that streak the viewer’s eyes a few steps away, and that one can only discern here from above, made tiny by the strength of the mineral viewpoints.
If there is NATURE, it is in a double language game: first, the one fenced, arranged, structured, by the landscapers and then reinterpreted by the occupants. Here, dense vegetation and stone sculptures, dark woods and clear lines, modern practices and the primitive power of trees are confronted and mixed.
Through the constitutive duality of the park, the inner strength of the beings who cross it is revealed, their nature in a second sense. An enclosed space, but a space of freedom, it creates its autonomy and its aesthetic independence at the same time by its porosity – the entrance is free – and its opacity.
In the silence of the place, contemporaneity sinks into this hybrid space as into an original reverse, creating an asynchronous picture where reality becomes fable. And then, as in the words of Aragon, “reflect faithfully the vast sentimental regions where the city dwellers wild dreams stir”.