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New breath for old buildings in France - cultural events not to be missed this spring

New breath for old buildings in France - cultural events not to be missed this spring

All over the French capital, old stations, factories and a university campus are being transformed into artists' studios, theatres and some of the city's most popular clubs. That's because the French had the wonderful idea of breathing new life into old, abandoned buildings.

An enormous art nouveau-style conservatory rises out of the Meudon forest, its façade built entirely of glass. Inside, suspended from the ceiling, is a gleaming, 21-metre-long inflatable zeppelin that looks as if it could launch itself through the façade's central circular window at any moment.

The Diriabil is a permanent, site-specific artwork created by Korean artist Lee Bul and designed to draw attention and define the huge space. This is Hangar Y, the world's first airship production hangar, built in 1878. Located less than 10 miles southwest of Paris, it produced airships and hot-air balloons until the end of World War I. After a brief period as an aeronautics museum, it was abandoned and left empty for 40 years.

Hangar Y is one of many empty or disused buildings in the Paris region that are being dusted down, renovated and given a new lease of life.

"Hangar Y is a remarkable and famous site in the world of aeronautics", said CEO Aideen Hallleman. "The idea is to create a site with a dual purpose of events and culture - and with such a massive space, we can do really large-scale events."

The opening date has been set for March 21, and exhibitions will take place on an extended mezzanine area, with the rest of the space used for concerts, lectures and a virtual reality experience that tells the story of the building. The first exhibition will cover the history of aeronautics, with artworks on loan from the Tate and private collectors such as Henri Seydoux (father of actor Léa Seydoux, who is a connoisseur of aviation memorabilia). A large sculpture park that wraps around the lake outside will include site-specific installations and immersive sound experiences, with works by international artists such as Subodh Gupta, Olafur Eliasson and Kiki Smith.

Renovating and reusing existing buildings is nothing new, but in recent years, restored spaces have become popular meeting places for Parisians: established party spots Le Hasard Ludique and Ground Control have both opened in former railway locations; le 6b, an old office block in the northern suburb of Saint-Denis, houses artists' studios as well as entertainment space.

Un friche din vecinătatea Épinay-sur-Seine pare să devină noua destinație pentru petreceri din această vară: Éclair este condusă de organizatorul de evenimente Soukmachines, cunoscut pentru petrecerile sale la scară largă și pentru transformarea friches-urilor din Paris. Acesta a transformat incinta abandonată a veteranei companii franceze de film Éclair în ceea ce fondatorul Soukmachines, Yoann-Till Dimet, numește un „spațiu hibrid pentru evenimente grozave”, care se va deschide în iunie 2023. „I think many tourists would like to see a different side of the city, more unconventional places. When we go to Paris, we see the Eiffel Tower, Nôtre-Dame, the Louvre. But it's also good to leave historic Paris and go where Parisians go."

In a crowded capital, the authorities have offered their support behind projects to revive derelict spaces. The national town planning agency, Cerema, has even started monitoring empty plots with a crowded map, Cartofriches, to encourage communities to seize vacant properties.

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In a former classroom, a student association has set up a food bank for students. Nearby, an echoing room that used to be a library could be used as a food market, a showroom for resident artists or even become a weekend disco. The Plateau Urbain cooperative, which recently took over the former Censier campus of the Sorbonne in central Paris with its new Césure project, is now renting space to student societies, local charities and artists at prices 60% lower than market rates and will renovate the run-down building for social projects.

"Tourists will find a creative programme here that is different from what you will find in other major cultural venues", said Angèle de Lamberterie, development director of Plateau Urbain.

"It is important to have spaces in city centres that are not exclusively commercial"added Jeanne Yanopoulos, representative of the urban planning company Yes We Camp, working with Plateau Urbain"We are trying to promote a less passive tourism, less focused on consumption. We want visitors to see that Paris is managing climate issues."

The old university halls already have a new atmosphere, with artists and workers arriving on site every day. It will officially open to the public in late spring and will be a great example - in a densely populated city - of how unused urban areas can be transformed into spaces that serve the community.

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