Rural areas keep losing demographic weight around the “civilized world”. Here is a vision of the current condition in three French-speaking countries, with a special attention to urban planning issues.
Here is a problem common to many areas (sure, China probably sees it from a distance…). This text looks at how things go in France. With no clear answer, as anywhere else.
The Waag Society, a Dutch institute for the arts, sciences and technologies, has developed with designer and software engineer Bert Spaan a map of all the buildings in the country. The maps represents the age of the buildings with a colour code and displays some data about each element.
We Europeans tend to think that the US have no history. Incidentally, this happens to be true from an European viewpoint, as their written records are quite recent (a different perspective would give a more complex vision). Recent history shows some curious features. The Genealogical Map of Pennsylvania, compiled in 1933 by the State Government and already in its tenth edition in 1985, shows the complex journey of the subdivision of the state during the XIXth century, and even the XVIIIth century purchases. New York and Pennsylvania where part of the same country, but even so Erie county was ceded by NY to PA to ensure an access to the great lakes…. The map is useful not by locating the main family names, but the administrative divisions that allow you to go to the proper county office. In most of Europe the reference would be the parishes, as they were long the ones having the baptism registration books…
The ability to consult the urban planning documents that are legally binding is recognized as a citizen’s right by most national laws, but up to the advent of the internet the real application of that rule was tricky. Even today, standards are still not clear. In the Madrid Region the Regional and Urban Planning portal lets you see maps, and, through the “planeamiento” link, the current planning documents for each municipality. Even if some layers are already a bit ancient seem at first sight quite old (the maps on the non-developed land and the built-up areas is from 2005-2006), in fact the real estate crisis has made these plans overall still correct in the broad lines, at least when it comes to urban growth. The time sequence of land occupation maps is specially interesting.
Here is an article (published in 2008 on Cybergeo) by César Ducruet on the links between specific port dynamics and wider urban dynamics, as seen from a sample of 330 cities encompassing all the oceans. One of the conclusions of this work is the singularity of Europe, a continent in which the port cities are relevant, but depend in the hierarchical scale on inland cities (and specifically those of the “blue banana” between London and Milano).
The Swiss Federal Office for Spatial Development, in coordination with the Federal Offices for Environment, Agriculture and Economy, has developed between 2007 and 2011 thirteen innovative projects to boost the dynamism of rural territories, using synergies to that end. The projects addressed the following topics:
– Regional centers and their role in the close rural space
– Territorial control coordination: land use management
– Sustainable rural tourism
– Landscape and nature stewardship
– Renewable energies
– Compensation of benefits and disadvantages.
Many interesting subjects are in the projects, as the coordination between voluntary farmland rearrangement and landscape, the improvement in the landscape integration of buildings, energy development throught biogas and sustainable wood harvesting, and the coordination between local authorities to avoid a competition for investments that in the end can be harmful for the land.
The Swiss national mapping office celebrates its 175 aniversary proposing a time travel with its maps from 1938 to our days, on an interactive map of the whole country. A treat for those loving maps.
Castles are often seen in a romantic mode ; picturesque landscapes with a good landscape integration coming from a vegetation that has grown over time… once the fortress is obsolete. Understanding their context and the impact of their building period on the life of common people is not an easy task: St Nazaire can be seen as a cautionary tale.
A medium sized French city whose growth began during the XIXth century with the industrial development, when France fell in 1940 it was already a sizeable Atlantic harbor. The German occupation and the extension of the war to the naval theatre led to its designation as a base for the submarine fleet of the Kriegsmarine. This condition was also shared by other harbors from Brest to Bordeaux, but in St Malo the harbor consists of a tidal basin with locks to help operations with wide tides, so the base is located by the city center. So the urban core loses its relation to the sea, due to a gigantic bunker accompanied by a smaller one to protect the lock used by submarines.
Allied bombers trying to destroy the base have a limited effect on it, but a devastating one on the urban center; at the end of the war the base is one of the last german strongholds, but it is surrounded by a field of ruins that has substituted the former city.
After the war, the base is used by the French Navy, but later abandoned and use for some industrial uses. Its demolition is studied, but estimated as way to expensive. The city is rebuilt around, but the old core remains a lost space.
During the 1990s a renewal operation is launched according to a Plan by, among others, Barcelona planner Manuel de Sola Morales. A super-block of mixed uses (including the open commercial mall “ruban bleu”) located as to reduce, the visual impact of the base due to a street at a higher level. But the sea is still at the other side, invisible from the new tentative core… I don’t know if the base will still be there in 100 years, but perhaps someone will have found its urban role…
Anyway, I’m not saying the city has no interest if you dislike bunkers: the coastal strip has one of the best seaside promenades in France (Jacques Tati filmed in one of the beaches “Mr Hulot’s holidays”), and the landscape of the Loire estuary Is really interesting.