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LETTER FROM PARIS

François Roche

OF LATE PARISIANS have been forced to stand by as their most cherished collective memories turn to rubble. In 1993, the Piscine de Ligny, the height of chic in the ’20s, was allowed to sink into the Seine. The city’s most recent affront is its plan to tear down Paris’ only American-style diner/after-hours minimall, Le Drugstore, which has been a fixture on the Boulevard St. Germain for decades. It is against this civic amnesia that the young architect François Roche battles. The point man for a new urbanism, he rejects the French predilection for spectacular buildings—for the sort of high-style exercises that dominate the neighborhoods in which they are situated—advocating, instead, an architectural practice that takes into account the complex character and history of a given quarter. Over the last seven years, Roche has won a number of state-sponsored competitions, but in each instance

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