Greater Paris becomes even greater
The centrepiece at Electric, a new rooftop club and cultural venue in Paris, is a large fibreglass tree. (Felipe Ribon)
Parisians are notoriously snobby about the areas they will frequent, and each postcode is secret shorthand for a different style (the 1st arrondissement is luxurious, the 6th arrondissement is chic, the 20th is bohemian). The areas beyond the city centre are generally seen as no-go areas – but the opening of a new venue in the 15th arrondissement looks set to change this.
In order to encourage growth and development in greater Paris, former president Nicolas Sarkozy launched an initiative in 2007 called Grand Paris, with plans for architectural and urban development. However, some independent initiatives have set the ball rolling on their own, even before the government project has begun to fully take shape, slowed by budget issues.
Leading the charge in June 2012 was the opening of Wanderlust, a venue that hosts concerts, club nights and yoga sessions along the Seine in the hitherto cultural wasteland of the southern 13th arrondissement. And now another new multi-discipline venue, Electric, has opened in the depths of the far-flung 15th arrondissement, just steps away from the famous Parisian ring road, Le Périphérique, which separates central Paris from the suburbs.
Situated on the top floor of an exhibition hall that hosts trade fairs in the city’s Porte de Versailles area, Electric’s outlying position affords it more space than its centrally-located equivalents: an impressive 1,000sqm indoors and a mammoth 20,000sqm of outdoor space, all with spectacular panoramic views over Paris. Conceived by French designer Mathieu Lehanneur, the light and airy interior with high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows is the antithesis of most subterranean, windowless clubs and concert venues. Here, a natural feel pervades: light woods, pale furniture and even a pillar that has been converted into a large fibreglass tree – the branches of which support lights and projectors, and the shape of which finds a visual echo with the Eiffel Tower seen on the horizon.
Pitching itself as an “alternative cultural venue”, Electric hosts both diurnal and nocturnal events, spanning the disciplines of music, art, sport, fashion and more. The venue has already seen crowds brave the journey for such events as a concert by French electro music star Kavinsky (of Drive soundtrack fame) and a club night put on by Parisian party-makers We Love Art.
Kim Laidlaw is the Paris Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes www.unlockparis.com.