Yonah Freemark

Metropolis on the water: Varieties of development logics along the Seine

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Yonah Freemark (2019). “Metropolis on the water: Varieties of development logics along the Seine.” Projections 14.


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Journal websitehttps://projections.pubpub.org/pub/3kq6u3x4


New development in southeast Paris along the Seine.

Scholars writing about the influence of the “neoliberal turn” suggest that, in response to global competition and a declining welfare state, cities have committed to using urban development projects for the purpose of investment attraction through spatially isolated interventions, particularly on key sites such as riverfronts. But is that really the case, or do project programming and design offer opportunities to combat inequality and increase links to the surrounding city? I explore this question through a study of postwar waterside development in Paris, examining planning documents and statements by government representatives. While officials have promoted their city’s global status, I show that they have also increasingly emphasized the provision of affordable housing; meanwhile, they have encouraged new approaches to urban design that prioritize local needs over those of tourists and create new links between existing neighborhoods. This suggests that Paris’ projects reflect a diversity of development logics—that is, goals with respect to certain planning policies—including some conducive to promoting social equity and community cohesion. This finding challenges expectations about project creation as commonly understood through the lens of the neoliberal turn. It suggests that contemporary urbanism is not converging to a uniform, regressive outcome. I identify institutional and political changes—respectively, the devolution of power to the local government in 1977 and the election of left-wing councils beginning in 2001—as the primary explanations for Paris’ history.