IGU - Urban Geography Commission

Vila Vazquez


IGU Urban Commission, Tel Aviv, 2010


Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and Universidade de Santiago de Compostela


A critical analysis of urban flagship projects

This contribution aims to define the concept of urban flagship projects. It also seeks to present an initial analysis focused on the Grands Projets undertaken in Paris since the 1980’s. In the last few decades, these interventions in urban planning, which are linked to urban marketing, have been a general trend among cities of different ranks in the hierarchy of urban networks. This represents a continuation of the logic of urban competition. In addition to this, we assume that the main objective of this project is not to offer high quality cultural services but to generate capital accumulation. In fact, through monumentality, decision-makers try to attract and to create capital through tourism and new quaternary activities of transnational corporations. Urban flagship projects induce changes in urban morphology and images and in socio-economic structures. These consequences involve high social costs. Studies in urban themes conducted by specialists from different disciplines have focused either on the relationship between image and power, or on economic issues. But a comprehensive interdisciplinary analysis still remains necessary.

The first approach of this research was focused on interactions among representations, spatial practices and power games between the variety of actors implied in the project, as well as the re-creation of the place over time. We have tried to point towards new research paths in this field that could allow a critical analysis of the social and economic changes led by these projects. The comparison of case studies is necessary if we want to verify our initial hypothesis. The final objective of this research proposal would be to offer an evaluation of the consequences of this kind of projects and of their viability as an urban planning policy depending on the specific urban context.

Keywords: urban flagship project, interdisciplinary, image, place, monumentality, urban marketing, BNF, « Grand Projet », Paris

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