A plan to replace Parisâs iconic green-domed newspaper kiosks with modernist âsardine canâ mini-shops has sparked uproar, with more than 30,000 people signing a petition to save the ornate originals.
Heritage groups and architectural experts have reacted with fury to a move by the mayor, Anne Hidalgo, to do away with the historic design, a fixture on the streets of the French capital since the 1860s.
Hundreds have accused of her online of architectural vandalism, with some even claiming she was trying to make Paris as âugly as Londonâ.
Hidalgo wants to replace the kiosks with more âpractical and comfortableâ models, and many vendors struggling with fallings sales of newspapers and magazines support her.
But faced with such a hostile reaction, her deputy, Bruno Julliard, has been forced to backtrack, admitting that âthe visuals [for the new kiosks] are not definitiveâ.
The original design with its elegant iron balustrades dates from Baron Haussmannâs radical overhaul of Paris 150 years ago, and was made to match the dark green benches and drinking fountains on its wide tree-lined boulevards.
But the new design made the kiosks look like âphotocopiersâ, claimed Eric Aziere, head of the opposition centrist group on the city council.
The 37-year-old woman who launched the online petition, Justine L, said: âParis is the city of romance. I really canât image a film ever having these kiosks in it.â
The French national heritage group SPPEF also dismissed the new design as âpuerileâ, with its vice-president, Julien Lacaze, saying they would âmake Paris dullerâ.
Those who signed the Change.org petition against the makeover, which is set to cost â¬50m (Â£38.7m), were more scathing still.
Jean Manuel Guyader asked why the mayor didnât âdevelop these charming kiosks instead swapping them for impersonal sardine cansâ.
While Brigitte Reydel said Hidalgo was intent on making âParis an architectural mishmash like London. Surely there are more urgent things to do that make the city ugly?â
Others said the new design had all the aesthetic allure of âa recycling binâ.
But Hidalgo told reporters that despite the criticism, the cityâs 360 kiosks were going to have to be replaced, and the new designs were a basis for discussion. âSome people prefer the ones plagiarised from Haussmann,â she said, âbut I donât.â
Michel Carmona, a specialist on Haussmannian architecture, hit back that talk of âplagiarismâ and ersatz architecture was absurd.
âNearly 40 years ago Paris remade all these kiosks to the identical (historical) design,â he said.
âYou could say the same thing about Notre Dame [that it was not originalbecause 80% of the stone has been replaced [at some stage].â