“Like the Wallace fountains, which since the end of the 19th century have offered Parisians the free drinking water circulating beneath their feet,” said designer Mathieu Lehanneur, “Escale Numérique allows everyone to benefit from a high-speed wi-fi connection by raising it from beneath the ground.” The project of which he speaks is a cantilevered platform green roof that serves as a protected shelter for gizmo-toting Parisians passing through the busy Rond Point des Champs-Elysées.
The Escale Numérique prototype is the result of a collaboration between Lahanneur and JCDecaux, the outdoor advertisers last seen planting bus stops throughout the United Kingdom with electronically warming, scented fiberglass baked potatoes. This time, the street furniture is subsidized not by a microwaveable food manufacturer but by the city of Paris, a city that is already home to a host of charming urban oases. What Lahanneur and JCDecaux offer is a sheltered retreat made of timber, concrete, and flora, outfitted with wi-fi capabilities, outlets, and a touchscreen that displays maps and other city service information. Evidently, if the 19th century flâneur needed drinking water to fuel his meandering journey, the flâneur of the 21st century needs a means to check Facebook and to figure out where exactly he is.
[All photos via Urban Gardens]