France Architecture and Urban Planning

France Architecture and Urban Planning

The territorial planning policy, which officially began in the 1960s, is based on new criteria and institutions at the level of inter-ministerial coordination and regional decentralization.

According to Dentistrymyth, the DATAR (Délégation à l’Aménagement du Territoire et à l’Action Régionale), created in 1963, has the task of coordinating government decisions and the action of technical administrations in view of the achievement of the objectives defined by the general Commissariat of the plan. The Ministry of Equipment and Housing (Ministère de l’Equipement et du Logement), created in 1966 in the footsteps of the previous Ministries of Construction and Public Works, brings together the activities of the state in the field of construction, land and urban planning and has the task to implement the envisaged policies.

The regional planning policy is coordinated by a body closely linked to the central government: the prefect of the region, who has the task of implementing the government policy concerning economic development and the planning of the territory of its constituency. The Commission de Développement Economique (CODER) collaborates with him, a regional body, essentially consultative, in which the representatives elected by the local communities work alongside the representatives of economic activities and government experts. Since 1972 the regions have been set up as public bodies and are administered by a regional council.

The strategy officially adopted in the territorial policy is that of “equilibrium metropolises”, the aim of which is to provide large provincial cities with a network of services such as to allow the surrounding regions not to depend entirely on the capital. systems of St. Nazaire-Nantes, Lille-Tourcoing-Roubaix, Metz-Nancy, Strasbourg, Lyon-St. Etienne-Grenoble, Marseille. This involves the transfer by Paris of some services (banks, international exchange centers, universities) , a transport policy independent of the hub of the capital – such as the one indicated in the master plan for major road connections (1971) – an effective urban infrastructure policy.

A singular example of concentrated territorial development is the equipment of the Languedoc coast, for a length of 180 km east of the Spanish border. Intended to counter the current distribution of tourist flows in the Mediterranean, the operation, which is already in an advanced stage of completion, is destined to create, by the 1970s, as many as 400,000 beds and 20 tourist ports. The initiative is controlled by the state, which retains ownership of the land, and has radically transformed – albeit widely discussed – an already depressed territory. Initiatives of this type are also planned for Corsica and Aquitaine.

The regional policy of territorial rebalancing, albeit slowly, seems to obtain some interesting results: the pace of growth of the Paris region has slowed down, a constant migratory flow from the capital towards the province has established itself of dimensions not very dissimilar to those of the opposite flow, the equilibrium metropolises – with the exception of Lille – show a growth rate higher than that of Paris.

The Rhone and Provence regions are developing intensively, thanks to industrial growth in the former and tourist growth in the latter. The same regions of the West and South-West show a promising turnaround in terms of emigration and job creation. If these indices, of too recent origin to be taken as definitive, were firmly established, the entire territorial structure of the country would be profoundly modified – for the first time since the industrial revolution – demonstrating that an advanced capitalist society finds the more correct spatial expression in a tendentially decentralized structure.

The commitment of the public administration in the urban equipment and housing sectors and, more generally, the concentration of real estate initiatives, have resulted in important opportunities for intervention for French architecture.

In operations such as urban renewal in Paris, the realization of gigantic tourist programs (Languedoc-Roussillon, Avoriaz) the construction of the villes nouvelles (Cergy-Pontoise, Vallée de la Marne) we find the most interesting and significant experiences of recent years.

The architectural panorama of the 1960s is characterized by the affirmation of the great agences d’architecture (Zehrfuss, Lopez), closely linked to large public and private clients. These, by imposing on the market a reductive version of the Corbusierian and functionalist theories of the 1930s, have effectively prevented the development of an original critical research.

The teaching of Le Corbusier, who died in full activity in 1965, is rigorously taken up only by his former collaborator A. Wogenski (House of culture, Grenoble 1966), while it is grossly betrayed in the speculative monumentalism of the Parisian renovations (Défense, Maine- Montparnasse) or some tourist settlements (La Grande Motte).

Much more vital and rich in positive results appears the search for flexible typologies that aggregate according to continuous patterns, as in the work of G. Candilis, a Greek architect who successfully transplanted to Paris (Toulouse Le Mirail, 1961; Freie Universität di Berlin, 1963- 73; Barcarès-Leucate, 1967, one of the few architecturally valid interventions of the Languedoc operation).

The AUA group also moves along an advanced design line, one of the most interesting among those recently established, whose most famous realization, the Arlequin district in Grenoble (1973), underlines, also through an accurate use of graphics and design of street furniture, the values ​​of an environment characterized by the continuity and articulation of public spaces rather than by the monumentality of architecture.

Aillaud in the Grande Borne district in Grigny also appeals to a use rich in imagination and significance of graphics and decoration, where the elementary simplicity of the building units contrasts singularly with the sinuous design of the buildings.

France Architecture and Urban Planning