A much needed expansion
Gare du Nord underwent its biggest renovation between 1861 and 1864, at a time when trains started becoming the main means of transport for the French population.
Works were carried out under the supervision of Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann, who was also responsible for the urban renewal programme which gave Paris the appearance that has remained almost completely unchanged to the present day.
However, legend has it that a dispute between Haussmann and the designated architect Jacques Ignace Hittorff led to parts of the operation to be called off. After the station’s iconic façade reached completion, Hittorff’s plan to build a large avenue linking the station to the city centre was cancelled, and Gare du Nord was left with the poor access and lack of space that linger to these days.
Over 150 years later, the station will undergo its much awaited expansion. The public walkways will more than double, with the floor area planned to increase from 15,000m2 to more than 37,000m2. The overall surface of the station will be expanded from 36,000m2 to 110,000m2.
The Eurostar terminal will be larger, as SNCF aims to improve how border controls are handled in the aftermath of Brexit. Major accessibility improvements will lead to a redesigned bus station and more parking for bicycles.
Paying tribute to 19th century Paris
Early designs by two different groups of architects, Valode et Pistre and Walmotte, show that the new Gare du Nord will be a tribute to Haussman’s era of urban redevelopment. This will be translated into a reinterpretation of the new departure terminal in 19th century style, featuring an 18m-wide gallery and a 300m-long passageway covered by a glazed roof.
The interior façade of the hall will also be restored to its original state, while the space inside the station will be destined for commercial, cultural and co-working activities.
This area will be called ‘Transilien’ as it provides access to the Transilien platform, as well as the Eurostar, TGV and RER.
Image courtesy of SNCF - Gares and connexions
Investing in the environment
The revamped Gare du Nord will bid to set new environmentally-friendly standards thanks to the introduction of 7,000m2 of public green areas, ecological energy production and 1,200 parking spaces for bikes.
SNCF is also planning to make space for solar panels spread over 3,200m2. The fourth and fifth floors of the station will be turned into a public garden offering spectacular views over Montmartre.
According to the operator, the entire renovation project will be carried out with particular attention to the neighbouring area. Within this framework, SNCF will put in place mechanisms to preserve air quality and install acoustic screens to keep noise pollution down to a minimum.
A sense of community for the neighbourhood
During a press conference held in July, rail bosses reiterated that the ultimate goal is to create a station inside the city and a city inside the station. In practical terms, this means that Gare du Nord will be used to create a sense of community for the neighbourhood, serving as a meeting point rather than a mere intersection between two destinations.
This concept will translate into building an area dedicated to sports, a move that will illustrate ‘the role of urban sports in people’s lives’ and promote social activities.
Possibly the most interesting part of this plan is a 1km-long trail track – the first of its kind in the world – that allows for jogging on the station roof next to the public gardens.
In addition, SNCF is planning to build a basketball court, a golfing ground, and areas to practice paddle tennis, while dedicated cloakrooms and changing rooms will enable passengers to safely put their belongings away and shower.
About 27% of the new space will be destined for restaurants and 37% for boutique shops, in keeping with the operator’s plan to integrate the station into the rest of the city. A theatre, a co-working space and a nursery will also be built in and around the station.