Even its public transport has a different name. To visit the other Paris, you take not the metro but a regional express train. You cross underneath the péripherique, the circular highway that has replaced Paris’s 19th-century city wall but that has the same effect of demarcating the center from the rest. After this threshold, still the official limit of Paris, the familiar historic city quickly disappears in the view from the train window, and suddenly, the other Paris — perhaps the truly modern one — materializes.
Housing slabs and tower blocks in bright white, daring pink, drab gray. Palaces for the people, gigantic in scale but mostly less than glamorous. Ten-story pyramids imitating Mediterranean hilltop villages. Expansive multilevel plazas and exuberantly designed playgrounds. Graffiti-covered concrete and postmodernist cladding. Well-meaning community centers and monstrous shopping-mall megastructures. Highways, parking lots, and patches of green space, large and small.