With a riot of pink, purple and yellow paint, geometric shapes, and video game symbols, Pigalle Duperré in Paris is certainly the city’s most eye-catching basketball court! This public sports area, created by Nike, local design studios and artists is also known for its amazing location, occupying a weird space between Haussmannian buildings in the city’s 9th arrondissement.
But why does it look like this? Is it available for people to play on? And how can such valuable real estate be a basketball court and not an apartment block?
Origins of the Pigalle Duperré Basketball Court
The architect of the Pigalle Duperré basketball court is Stèphane Ashpool, a French designer. Working for brands such as Christian Dior, Rick Owens and Nike, Ashpool was also a former semi-professional basketball player. He began working with Nike to open Pigalle, a sports store named after the neighbourhood.
As the shop prepared to open, a demonstration also began to take place at the nearby mairie (town hall) to oppose the construction of a parking lot in a vacant lot in Rue Duperré. Locals preferred the space to be turned into something kids could enjoy. Seeing an opportunity, Ashpool turned to Nike and proposed a collaboration to build a basketball court.
The First Pigalle Duperré Basketball Court – Famous Figures
The basketball court is 600 square metres, made with recycled materials equivalent to 45,000 recycled sports shoes. The original design was painted in soft pastel colours of pink, peach and yellow, with dark red and blue markings. The design was completed by Paris-based artist Yué ‘Nyno’ Wu, who painted figures of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Spike Lee, Grace Jones and LeBron James. LeBrown James attended the inauguration himself when it opened in 2009 (he also returned to visit the court in 2018).
The Second Version – Purple and White Pigalle Duperré
In 2012, the basketball court was repainted to celebrate the new clothing collection at Pigalle. Ashpool began working with design studio Ill Studios for the design, which had previously worked with Louis Vuitton, Converse, and Supreme.
The result was a mind-bending geometric design of white and purple shapes which turned the court into an Instagram success. The stunning design was also replicated on an indoor basketball court. In this design, Ill Studios created the Pigalle Duperré logo, which would also feature on future designs.
The Third Version – Inspired by Kazimir Malevitch
The next redesign of the court came in 2015, again helmed by Ill Studios. The look was another geometric marvel, with blocks of primary colours red, blue and yellow matched with white. The inspiration was Kazimir Malevitch’s 1931 painting Sportsmen.
The Fourth Version – Electric Purple
In 2017, the most striking design yet was painted into the Pigalle Duperré basketball court, gradients of electric purples, blues, oranges and yellows. The design was completed with pink plastic backboards and white playing zones. The outside wall was also lowered and replaced with blue mesh, so pedestrians could see inside. The design remains one of the court’s most recognisable, and put Pigalle Duperré on the map.
The Fifth Version – Video Game Inspired
The repaint done in 2020 is inspired by video games, with numbers and symbols decorating the court. Plus symbols and arrows feel like powerups, with numbers to designate zones. As always, the colours are incredibly eye-popping, with blue, purple and yellow forming colourful areas reminiscent of targets on an arcade game.
The Impact on the Community
Since the Pigalle Duperré basketball court opened in 2009, it has become a favourite feature for locals and visitors. The cultural impact has been a place to foster the love for basketball in the community, as well as an artistic outlet for local designers. As Ashpool quotes on the Nike website, “Our court in Paris birthed a community. We transformed a parking lot into a place that has fostered a family and inspired people. All the subtle details that can make this magic happen were united. It was the best learning for me, and now it’s the right time to work in expanding this scheme, staying organic, authentic and focused.”
The project has led to the creation of sportswear apparel in the style of the courts themselves, and even led to the opening of Pigalle courts in China, and two in Mexico City.