While the padlocks are weighing heavy on the bridge, their removal is weighing heavy on lovers hearts.
Pont des Arts and other bridges throughout Paris have become a focal point of culture in Paris. For nearly a decade now, lovers have come to the bridge, initialed a simple metal padlock, attached it to the framework of the bridge and threw away the key.
City officials have tried deterring people from doing this in the past by asking that they express their love with a selfie and tag it with #lovewithoutlocks…however the time honored tradition lived on.
Workers were seen today using a crane and dollies to dismantle and remove sections of the iron grill work. There were roughly a million locks on the bridge which equates to nearly forty-five tonnes. The weight of the locks has caused problems before on the bridge. Last year tourists had to be ushered off the one hundred and fifty-five meter long bridge as a portion of it collapsed under the weight.
Deputy mayor, Bruno Julliard, supervised the removal of the locks and tried to acknowledge the sensitivity of the loss while still being a firm believer that Paris will continue to be “the capital of love, the capital of romance”. He said even though removing the locks seems like a heartless act, it’s necessary for security and aesthetic reasons. Sections of the bridge are being hauled away in garbage trucks to be melted down and recycled.
Perhaps Julliard didn’t see the beauty in this physical expression of love, but many tourists and locals alike definitely did. Julliard said that years ago the locks “could be seen as rather pleasant, but as years passed they took on such proportions that they were no longer acceptable for the cultural heritage”. That’s the thing about culture though…it’s constructed by the people. And if the people have been contributing to this part of their heritage then what’s to say that it equates to unacceptable garbage to be recycled?
Fifty two year old tourist, Anthony Boccanfuso from Washington looked upon the bridge as it was being dismantled and said:
“From a distance, you don’t know that they are locks. Close up, they may be visually ugly, but they tell stories. It’s like carving your names on a tree or putting your names in wet concrete. I understand the reasons for removing them, but I’m glad I saw it.”
The bridge was built in the early 1800s and then reconstructed in the 1980s. The grills that are being removed will be replaced with art painted on panels and then those will be replaced at a later date with plexiglass. The notion behind the glass is that the Seine river will then be visible from the bridge where it was otherwise blocked by the locks.
City Hall spokeswoman Barbara Atlan speaks to this unfortunate yet necessary removal.
“It is a catastrophe for the bridge. We need to preserve the heritage”.
While it’s understandable that the city needs to protect the bridge for safety reasons, to simply recycle the locks doesn’t seem like an appropriate action. Perhaps a better response would have been to preserve the sections of ironwork in a museum. That way the love of hundreds of thousands of couples could be conserved and admired alongside the beautiful hundred plus year old bridge
As someone who has always wanted to visit the city of love, I can honestly say that this feels like a huge loss for Paris. My bucket list got a little bit shorter today…R.I.P. Locks of Love.