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Numéro 82 Mars 1999

Les échelles de la ville

Philippe Boudon
Scales in architecture and beyond

Measuring space, reproducing or designing ?
How can the architect measure the space
he designs without misjudging what
determines its dimensions irrespective of
his project ? Architecturology will therefore
give preference to notions of surface
and proportion rather than length
and width for evaluating the scale of a
public place. The diversity of physical
and symbolical perceptions of a place
shows that it is not possible to measure
a space without first examining its multiple

Xavier Malverti
The large scale of Rem Koolhas

From New York to Lille : delirium city
Many urban planning projects are today
adopting the concept of « bigness » forged
by the architect Rem Koolhas, which
consists in integrating scattered urban
elements into a single vast operation. At
Euralille, the testing ground for this
concept, the limits of this concept are
revealed by its practical dysfunctions for
the end user. Luckily, the quality of the
design and the exceptionally favourable
economic conditions compensate for
the shortfalls of the project.

Donatien Senly
Paris, Left Bank

Images, networks and development funding
In the east of Paris, in a vast obsolete
industrial zone, the improvement programme
around the Very Big Library
aims to rapidly create a portion of city
with its multiple functions. However,
the development of technical infrastructures
is leaving its mark on this
work, which is also subjected to the
vagaries of trade. Integrating the multiple
planning temporalities may be a
way to overcome practical dysfunctioning
and errors of overexpansion on a
gigantic scale.

Florent Champy
Contemporary architecture and the heritage

From construction to renovation work
on a site

The classical opposition between architectural
creation and protection of the
heritage could be overcome by encouraging
innovation in protected areas and
preserving the sites outside these areas.
But as shown by the example of the
Hôpitaux de Paris health authority, one
of the region’s major landowners, the
bureaucratic public procurement system
exacerbates the scale disparity between
the architectural process and the
long time span of the sites in question.
Being responsive to ordinary architecture
opens the way towards matching
the work to its situation-based use.

Gilles Novarina
Territorial architecture

From measuring to planning
Urban planning in the Thirty Glorious
Years of the postwar period covered the
territory with hierarchically organized,
interlocking spaces, from the neighbourhood
unit to the urban region with
its districts, communes and agglomerations.
Since the decline of industrial
organization, the reticulate space model
freed of geographical adjacency dominates
planning work. Today’s urban
development aims less to make space
homogeneous than to link up spatial
and temporal scales by optimizing interscale

Anne Grillet-Aubert
What scales for territorial planning ?

Crisis of the hierarchical model in Italy
The territorial development model hierarchically
organized from the national
to the local level does not equate well
with the Italian context because of its
regional diversity. The metropolitan
dependencies of the industrial age are
now giving way to urban fringe dynamics.
An approach to the territory responsive
to the diversity of local microsystems
linked to world value flows characterizes
the new pragmatic development
of urban projects.

Jean-Samuel Bordreuil
Change in urban scale and/or change in forms?

Contemporary urban change is challenging
the imaginary hierarchy of
urban development plans. The urbanization
of areas at a distance from the
centres, under the effect of daily mobility,
is thus invalidating earlier adjacency
schemes. Addressing interaction between
non-contiguous « platforms »
rather than criticizing the way urban
fabrics are knitted together has become
a major conceptual challenge for
contemporary urban planning. And triangulating
the way people view full and
empty spaces and their subtending
forces may be a means to come to terms
with reality.

Daniel Béhar, Philippe Estèbe
Can the State have a territory-wide project

De Gaulle’s political project made the
national territory the focus of its
modernizing action. With the decentralization
and Europeanization of institutions,
new management scales are
required. The territory is becoming
fragmented, transnational cooperation
is developing, the metropolises are
catalyzing international competition.
The State, which is neither the central
motivator nor the head of delegations,
has nonetheless a part to play to regulate
territories which are more than
ever central to the tension between
economic development and social solidarity.

Michel Savy
Freight scales

Place geography, flow geography
Observing flows of goods is a way to
understand the economic organization
of the territory. In a context of developing
flows and the expansion of their
distribution areas, handling methods
are becoming diversified according to
territorial scales from the most general
to the most particular. Logistical requirements,
which grow in proportion to
transport costs, redefine flow geography
on the basis of urban nodes with
extensive spatial outreach. This presents
a challenge to traditional territorial

Claude Prélorenzo
Port areas and large-scale planning

In the XVIIIth century, the first military
arsenals introduced industrial development
on a gigantic scale into large ports
and rationalized the functional spaces of
the city. In the XIXth century, major
engineering structures provided linkage
between the land and the sea. With
today’s decline in industrial port activities,
vast wastelands have reverted to
their natural state. But the great saga of
the cruise liners haunts the imagination
in port areas in search of a new size scale.

Patrick Dieudonné
Reconstructing the limits

Ramparts, fringes and extension
to rebuilt cities

The rebuilding of cities ruined during
the second world war accelerated the
execution of pre-existing major urban
development projects. With the passing
years, these projects have come to be
out of step with urban change. Economic
reconversion in Lorient, urban
sprawl in Saint Nazaire or the extent of
port wastelands in Brest have given rise
to different projects. More pragmatic
than their predecessors, these projects
seek to bridge the gap between the existing
city and the multiple scales of its

Christophe Bétin, Laurence Cottet-Dumoulin
Fluvial memory and strategic planning

The case of Oullins in the greater Lyons area
Formerly a working-class enclave on
the bank of the Rhone River, the district
of Saulaie in Oullins is today
making an impact as an economic
reconversion site. In this new urban
momentum, the river plays a major
symbolical role by federating the communes
around a project, the Southern
Gateway of the city. It catalyses the
many riverside initiatives by offering
them the prospect of a future able to
cope with the world’s economic forces.

Gilles Pinson
The political scales of a project

The political approaches to a metropolitan
project run from a new political
engineering instrument to the creation
of new urban identities. Major transport
projects such as tramways and
underground railways can thus establish
urban inter-commune structures as
major organs of urban development.
However, the metropolitan area of Marseilles shows that the traditional electoral
districts are holding out against this
trend. No community project worthy of
the name can elude the historical forms
of local democracy.

Philippe Genestier
The magic spell of a neighbourhood

When a place is required to act as a link
The doctrine of individualism and pragmatism
is currently based on suburban
unrest and how to put it right, just as
holism and Marxism once explained and
denounced the social division of space.
In this new course of ideas, the neighbourhood
forms the main operator of
social policies by hosting interactions
which sustain an ideal vision of the community.
Through the neighbourhood,
the inhabitant of not very liveable cities
is no longer a prisoner through belonging
to a community group, nor deluded by
any abstract citizenship, nor the atom
of the liberal order. The theme of the
force of weak links associated with that
of the mechanisms of social interaction
guides public action towards peacemaking