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A-a Historical context of Paris Ile-de-France

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Ile-de-France region was born at the tenth century by the Capetian dynasty (the oldest royal house of
Europe), which were a Frank dynasty. The historical growth of Paris can be measured by the growth
of the Paris’ confines. They have been fortified by Philippe Auguste at the 12th century, at the 14th
century by Charles V. The real urbanisation of Paris started with Louis XIV, and an administration
was established at the end of the 18th century (Fermiers Généraux). The borders of Paris have a strong
historical and social significance, as “la commune de Paris” in 1860 illustrates perfectly this point(2).

From an historical point of view, this history of Paris explains why the city had a concentric growth
over the years. Indeed, the borders of Paris have been designed in order to be able to defend the city by
including every part urbanized. The actual administrative borders of Paris have not changed since
1860 (year of the last enlargement of Paris, with the incorporation of town such as Montmartre)(3).

According to Pierre Pinon, the real engine which permits to Paris to grow has always been the same:

Paris is the capital. But since the beginning of the 20th century, a problem has raised. Indeed it is
noticed that the administrative limits of the capital do not fit with the real situation(4). The urbanisation
strongly grew around Paris, without being considered as part of the city, which creates a discrepancy
between the city and its administrative power.

Nevertheless, the legal power at this time created in 1910 a commission focused on the extension of
the city (“Commission d’Extension de Paris”). In 1919, a law concerning the urban redevelopment of
Paris was adopted. From this point many plans have been proposed to the authorities in order to
improve the situation of Paris(5). In 1919, Léon Jaussely won the first price on the development of the
region of Paris. Indeed this famous architect from Toulouse(6) proposed a plan which aimed to report
out of Paris, every building, institutions with a function not considered as primordial in the city centre.

Indeed, industrial equipments, housing areas, or universities would have to be sent in the periphery.
This is according to P. Pinon, a zone strategy rather than a mixed strategy (which can be compared to
the Taylorism practice by specialising every area to a simple function).

Because of this law of urban redevelopment, 81 cities were concerned (all cities from the old
department named “Seine”, which nowadays mainly represent “la petite couronne”). A departmental
office was in charge to manage the different plans which were going to be established in the towns(7).
But in 1928, Raymond Poincarré decided to bring up the development of Paris on a national stage. The
government at this time, through Mr Albert Sarrault (minister of the interior), created a comity for the
overall organisation of the Parisian region (“Comité supérieur de l’aménagement et de l’organisation
générale de la region Parisienne”).

The 14th of May 1932 has seen the promulgation of a new law for the redevelopment of the Region of
Paris. The break of this law was the legal establishment of the region, which was composed by three
departments: Seine, Seine-et-Oise and Seine-et-Marne. Geographically speaking, it does correspond to
a radius of 25 kilometres around the centre of Paris. The law gave the impulsion to embellish the
towns located in the area and an also stimulate an extension of them(8).

The plan of this urban redevelopment was concerning at this time 656 towns. In practical terms, the
plan was to improve (or creates) road to connect the towns, but also to be sure that all these towns
were provided in water, and would ensure the building of sewer, creation of schools, post offices,
police stations or even garbage collector services. These actions aimed to develop economically these
towns, and also to attract more people to release the city centre. The government scheduled this
development on a 15 years scale, thinking it would leave enough time to the different city councils to
create or improve all these services in order to meet with these imposed standards(9).

Nevertheless, as the author of “Les projets d’aménagement de la region Parisienne” wrote in 1940, the
plan of the government has not been implemented quickly in the region, and the constructions have
been delayed for different reasons (budget problems, but also the Second World War)(10).

Nevertheless, this project really implemented the impulsion to improve Paris. In 1956, new laws aim
to continue the urban redevelopment plans have been studied by the different institution still in this
goal to release the city centre and improve the organisation of the region. The new idea is to create
modern housing estate (“Grands ensembles”) in order to limit the extension of the suburbs, provide
more housing to the population, responding to some higher quality norms. Some cities such as La
Courneuve (Seine Saint-Denis department) or Sarcelles (Val d’Oise department) represent perfectly
this politic(11) followed at this period.

In 1960’s, President De Gaulle asked Paul Delouvrier (Director of the District of Paris), to organize
the region of Paris considered as real “mess” by the president. In 1965, Paul Delouvrier launched the
project of the new cities. Indeed, by developing cities relatively far away from the centre, it would
settle new urban centres (in term of animation, culture, economy). Nowadays, we can still contemplate
the results of this politic as the new cities Cergy-Pontoise, Marne-la-Vallée, Mélun-Sénart, Evry and
Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines(12) symbolize this stage of construction.

Indeed the creation of these new cities mainly changed the system of the region. Indeed, they lead to
the improvement of the RER (Réseau Express Régional) as it is mentioned in the Schema of the Ilede-
France region of 1994.(13)

Indeed the region focused on the improvement of the public transport in order to reduce the traffic
going into the city, to result a better impact on the environment.

When we look back on these different urban plans, we can consider them as having a really positive
influence on the region overall.

Indeed, the implementation of Disney Land Paris in Marne-la Valée, which attracted 14,5 millions of
visitors in 2007 (which makes this touristic site as the visitors’ main reason to go to Seine-et-Marne
department)(14) generates 49000 jobs(15).

On the other hand one of the new cities objectives was to constraint the extension the urban growth,
which actually did not work. Indeed as mentioned by Pierre Pinnon, the urban extension reached the
new cities, which means that the growth of the city kept coming from the centre(16), there is still a
densification of the entire region.

Moreover, we might notice many projects which have been delayed or give up by the region, and
would have been useful for the economical situation. By looking to the region development plans
archives of 1994, the creation of RER line F in the department of Val d’oise(17) was supposed to be built
two decades ago. Unfortunately, this project was abandoned because of budget restriction and the lack
of political implication in this project. Recently an eventual creation of a line F still creates a debate.

All this history permits to understand the actual situation of Paris. Indeed its economic and industrial
repartition shows the social inequality repartition within the region, and the creation of new city
centres which have obviously some benefits for the economy have also highlight the limits of massive
construction efficiency. As we can assume, the concentric problem of Paris is not a new issue, and
many plans have failed so far. Many observatories have claimed the use of space of the region as
totally inefficient.

2 P.Pinon, 2009, Le Grand Pari(s), Consultation internationale sur l’avenir de la métropole Parisienne, PP.15.
3 Ibid
4 Ibid, PP. 16
5 Ibid
6 Zieseniss Ch. O. Les projets d’aménagement de la région parisienne. In: Annales de Géographie. 1940, t. 49,
n°277. PP. 28-34.
7 Ibid PP.28
8 Ibid PP.29
9 Ibid PP.30
10 Zieseniss Ch. O. Les projets d’aménagement de la région parisienne. In: Annales de Géographie. 1940, t. 49,
nC277. PP.34.
11 National archives,
12 Loïc Vadelorge, Mémoire et histoire : Les villes nouvelles françaises, 2005, n°98, PP.6-13.
13 Direction génerale de l’équipement de l’Ile-de-France, 1994, http://www.ile-defrance.
14 L’observatoire départemental du tourisme de Seine-et-Marne, 2007, P.P.7
15 Ibid,P.P 15
16 P.Pinon, 2009, Le Grand Pari(s), Consultation internationale sur l’avenir de la métropole Parisienne, PP.17
17 Direction génerale de l’équipement de l’Ile-de-France, 1994, http://www.ile-defrance.

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