This was no ordinary junk heap, but 165 parcels of “love locks” that the City of Love stripped from the Pont des Arts in 2015. (See the video here.)
The heavy metal, some 50 tons of it, threatened to ruin the Arts Bridge, a Unesco World Heritage site. City officials worried that lock-laden sheets of the bridge would fall onto the heads of tourists below on the bateaux mouches. That would have been a new kind of guillotine, for which France is also famous.
|The love lock auction in Paris|
The love-lock trend started about a decade ago, but has become a global phenomenon and metallurgical dilemma. Locks are found on the Brooklyn Bridge, the Great Wall of China, near the Millennium Bridge in London and on bridges in Stockholm.
Love locks have even made it to my hometown of Pittsburgh. The city takes a no-nonsense approach, routinely chopping off the locks as it carries out work on its bridges (see a story here).
How did it start? No one knows for sure. But in fact throughout history, it was common for travelers who visited ancient sites—like the Pyramids--to leave their mark. With graffiti.
More often than not today, tourists want to take something, which has led to the whole souvenir industry—itself a French word for memory or remembrance.
No Love Locks.
OK, I get it. Hanging tons of locks from historic sites isn’t exactly sustainable tourism. But, City of Paris, why not channel this romantic energy in the City of Locks by building a monument where tourists are officially encouraged to attest to their love?
Turn Love Litter into Love Art.
Who knows, if locks are recyclable, and recycled once a year through an auction, the whole project could even pay for itself (and then some). Love Locks Forever!
The annual take-down of the locks isn’t so very romantic, but as we know the bits of metal do tend to get rusty if exposed to harsh conditions for too long. A lot like love.