Heritage groups and architectural experts have reacted with fury to mayor Anne Hidalgo's push to do away with the historic design, a fixture on the streets of French capital since the 1860s.
Hundreds have accused of her online of architectural vandalism, with some even claiming she was trying to make Paris as “ugly as London”.
Hidalgo wants to replace the kiosks with more “practical and comfortable” models, and many vendors struggling with falling sales of newspapers and magazines support her. But faced with such a hostile reaction, her deputy Bruno Julliard has been forced to backtrack, admitting that “the visuals (for the new kiosks) are not definitive”.
The original design with its elegant iron balustrades dates from Baron Haussmann's radical overhaul of Paris 150 years ago, and were made to match the dark green benches and drinking fountains on its wide tree-lined boulevards. But the new design made the kiosks look like “photocopiers”, the head of the opposition centrist group on the city council Eric Aziere claimed.
The 37-year-old woman who launched the online petition, Justine L, told AFP, “Paris is the city of romance. I really can't image a film ever having these kiosks in it.”
— Françoise Blanchin (@Gigeoju) June 1, 2016
The French national heritage group SPPEF also dismissed the new design as “puerile”, with its vice-president Julien Lacaze saying they would “make Paris duller”.
Those who signed the Change.org petition against the makeover that is set to cost 50 million euros ($56 million) were more scathing still.
Jean Manuel Guyader asked why the mayor didn't “develop these charming kiosks instead swapping them for impersonal sardine cans.”
While Brigitte Reydel said Hidalgo was intend on making “Paris an architectural mish-mash like London. Surely there are more urgent things to do that make the city ugly?”
Others said new design had all the aesthetic allure of “a recycling bin”. But Hidalgo told reporters that despite the criticism, the city's 360 kiosks were going to have to be replaced, and the new designs were a basis for discussion. “Some people prefer the ones plagiarized from Haussmann,” she said, “but I don't.”
Work by Paris art students is displayed at one of the original kiosks. Photo: AFP
Michel Carmona, a specialist on Hausmannian architecture, hit back that talk of “plagiarism” and ersatz architecture was “absurd. Nearly 40 years ago Paris remade all these kiosks to the identical (historical) design.
“You could say the same thing about Notre Dame, (that it was not original), because 80 percent of the stone has been replaced” at some stage, he said.
Similar plans to overhaul much-loved street architecture has stirred passions in other European capitals, with London updating its double decker backloading buses and black taxi cabs after campaigns to save them.