“Paris no longer is Paris. The real Paris is a different Paris than the City of Light that you read about,” said Donald Trump in a recent TV show. “They have areas in Paris where it is so radicalized and so vicious that the police refuse to go there. They will not go there.”
Fortunately, no such thing is true. But indeed, some twenty miles West of Paris, the city of Les Mureaux is often referred to as a sensitive neighborhood (un quartier sensible). In Les Mureaux, the police headquarters had been stacked for decades in some old bouregoise house, not really fitted for security missions. Although the situation was quite far from the nightmare depicted by President Trump, the lack of comfort and security for the police forces in this suburban town was such and so consistant that the construction of a new police station in Les Mureaux was declared by the French parliament « a national priority ».
Architects Philippe Ameller and Jacques Dubois, of Ameller, Dubois & Associés, won the architecture competition for Les Mureaux with a project recognized by the jury as best apt to herald a positive image of the relationships between the population and the national police forces. The construction started in 2014, and was completed two years later.
The three-storey building displays a two-part design. At street level, a surrounding wall wraps the site, and hosts every interface between the police and the public. It is topped with a two-storeys, very protective-looking box, slightly offset from its base, and entirely adorned with an abstract decorative pattern, laser carved in the iron skin and stamped into the concrete cladding. The access to these two upper levels and the rooftop is as strictly restricted as it seems to be.
The police station stands by a roundabout, at at the heart of an heterogeneous and constantly evolving urban fabric, including small houses, housing projects, office buildings, a couple of schools and a mosquee. The new muslim church was built right next to the police station, almost simultaneously. As a matter of fact, a few weeks after its inauguration, the new police headquarters too became a site for prayers and mourning, regardless of one’s religion or beliefs, as a silent crowd of locals and officials gathered on its premises for a national tribute to its commanding officer Jean-Baptiste Salvaing, stabbed to death at his nearby home with his young wife, in a single terrorist attack.
For obvious security reasons, the French government demands that we publish very few details about the plans and avoid any information apt to jeopardize the safety of the public and the police.