Faced with the paucity of free Wi-Fi, chances are you’ve had to fight the table hogs at Starbucks in order to email a time-sensitive attachment. Wouldn’t it be fab if cities provided wired outposts for the digital needy? That’s the idea behind Mathieu Lehanneur’s first urban development project in Paris dubbed Escale Numérique (“Digital Break” in French), a beautiful bus-stop-like shelter that provides a restive spot for connecting to the web or get city information via a large touch-screen display.
Realized with the support of the British outdoor advertising company JCDecaux, The proposal won the competition to design street furniture that links to the underground fiber-optic network that now services the city. Per Lehanneur’s studio: “Like the Wallace fountains, which since the end of the 19th century have offered Parisians the free drinking water which was circulating beneath their feet, Escale Numérique allows everyone to benefit, like a real public service, from a high-speed Wi-Fi connection by raising it from beneath the ground.”
Instead of using hi-tech visual language, Lehanneur opted for a soft, modern aesthetic: A cluster of wooden supports resembling tree trunks hold up a protective canopy, which hosts a green roof that residents can admire from their balconies above. Concrete swivel chairs, equipped with plugs and surfaces for computers, are comfortable while blending into the urban terrain. A touch screen also provides updated info to tourists about services around the city.
[Images by Felipe Ribon]