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The “Grand Paris” Project in the 21st Century

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Note: This is an in-person course at the Friday Center. Our programming policies follow UNC-Chapel Hill Community Standards and are subject to change. In concordance with these standards, masks are required for all in-person courses, regardless of vaccination status. See the COVID-19 Community Standards for more information.

Like any metropolis, Paris has always been in the making, transforming itself to face different demands and constraints. However, urban planning in Paris has sometimes lacked political and spatial coherence, with resulting social inequalities and disconnected territories. The Grand Paris project emerged in the 2000s as a comprehensive development blueprint to solve these issues, also constituting an effort to position the city as a competitive “global city.” The idea of a Grand Paris is not new. Already in the 18th century, philosophers were concerned with the scope and quality of urbanization in Paris, and major transformations would follow in the 19th century. In the 21st century, globalization processes intensified exchanges, putting the urban at the heart of a new spatial organization as “world cities” emerged as key actors in the reorganization of an international economy based on innovation, communication, and mobility.

In this context, this course will explain the Grand Paris project to show how, at the intersection of urban planning, territorial and development politics, social justice concerns, and architectural innovation, it seeks to reinvent the city as a competitive metropolis, while retaining its sense of place and respecting social and environmental engagements. We will review the tensions around the development plan and what we can expect in the future. Among topics discussed will be a new role for the suburbs and historic center, the rehabilitation of peripheral and green spaces, how Parisians and visitors will experience the city, post-COVID adaptation, and the overall reconceptualization of the city’s borders and its relationship with a wider region, at the center of which the Seine River never ceases to play a guiding part.

About the Instructor:

Hélène Ducros (JD, PhD) is a human geographer focusing on cultural landscapes, place-making, and people’s relationship with place. Her work has been published in The Journal of Place Management and DevelopmentThe Journal of Sustainable TourismIsland Studies JournalGlobal Environmental PoliticsThe Routledge Handbook of PlaceThe Routledge International Handbook of Walking, and more. She co-edited Justice in Climate Action Planning (Springer, 2021) and is Editorial Chair of the Research Committee and Campus Committee at EuropeNow Journal (Council for European Studies at Columbia University), as well as Lead Editor and Academic Officer for the World Society Foundation Virtual Writing Lab.

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