The Urban eXperiment

Listen to this article:

Paris has an estimated 200 miles or more of underground tunnels. This network is not only the catacombs, but limestone mines. Many remain unmapped, so police do regular searches to map as well as look for illegal activity. On one search, they came across something different… a newly-built, secret clubhouse.

A photo of the clubhouse via Wired
A photo of the clubhouse
via Wired

Yes, hidden under the Palais de Chaillot, the police found: full electrical hookups, a stocked restaurant and bar, at least three phone lines, and full-sized movie screen! Everything there was still being actively used, so there was a chance the police could catch these trespassers. When they returned in three days, everything had been removed, and even the phone lines were cut. The only thing left was a note: “Ne cherchez pas” (translated: do not search).

Palais de Chaillot Photo by Patrick Berger
Palais de Chaillot
Photo by Patrick Berger

In later discoveries it was revealed that the project was a part of the group L’UX (the Urban eXperiment); whom the police have been chasing ever since the discovery in 2004. Starting with the theft of government tunnel maps in 1981, the group uses the Paris catacombs to “improve hidden corners of Paris”. They do that using teams of secret messengers, performers, artists, restoration specialists, photographers, and more.

A member of UX (Jean-Baptiste Viot) fixing the Pantheon clock Photo © UX
A member of UX (Jean-Baptiste Viot) fixing the Pantheon clock
Photo © UX

Another example of their work was seen when the Pantheon clock was functioning for the first time in 40 years! Untergunther, their restoration team, spent the year of 2005 working in secret to fix the clock. Using a little known side-entrance, the team worked nights to restore the cogs. Upon finishing they decided on something the group had never done before… reveal themselves.

The Pantheon of Paris Photo by Moonik
The Pantheon of Paris
Photo by Moonik

It was a difficult decision: leave the clock unwound and restored or let the administration know that it can function again. After much discussion, they decided to reveal the changes to the caretaker. Administration was shocked and immediately sued the two. Though they were arrested, the remaining members remain anonymous and the case itself was tossed out. The group remains dedicated to restoring whatever underground sites they can.

If you’d like to know more about the operations of L’UX, you can find more in a book published by their spokesman Lazar Kunstmann called: La culture en clandestins. L’UX.

Music: Nuages by Django Reinhardt covered by Reynold Philipsek

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *