Visit almost any major city in the world and you can be sure that the sleaziest part of town will be the streets around the train station. When two train stations are situated in close proximity, this twilight zone becomes almost a minor city by itself. This is the case in the grisly arteries between the Gare de l’Est and Gare du Nord.
The situationist Guy Debord once spoke of undertaking “a static-dérive of an entire day within the Saint-Lazare train station”, but it is murky zone outside the station perimeters that offers greater potential for a drift. Debord was interested in the exploration of a fixed spatial field, but the world of the train station bleeds out beyond its physical boundaries, having a profound influence on the architecture and activity of its surroundings.
To this end, it can be observed that station environments the world over are much the same. Step outside the entrance and you will see cheap hotels and fast food outlets, sex shops and taxi ranks. There will generally be no sign of any indigenous culture, and rarely will you see anything to lift the heart. Indeed, a friend’s first experience when arriving in the Italian city of Naples was treading on a dead dog.