The river is poised to act as an urban image. In two decades, its banks have become an essential part of the urban setting. The forms and issues related to the current construction of this landscape are the object of Fanny Romain’s thesis, which will be presented in a Geo-carrefour article. Through the example of Perpignan and Montpellier, two cities in the south of France, through which the Tet and the Lez respectively pass, the analysis explores the pivotal role of the river in the urban project. It follows from this analysis, that the river is called upon as a public policy argument of the city, softening the current urban reorganization and introducing a new sense of public space.
♦ The fluvial landscape is now a widely disseminated theme: the principal indication of this is the systematic development of urban streams. From “the commodities of production,” used to supply industries and to support diverse infrastructures, they have become the “goods of entertainment,” recreational objects and symbols of nature. In “the current race to the identity and image of the city” (Roncayolo, 1990, p.257), many urban integration strategies of these elements now valuable have already been developed. This is the case, most notably, in several villages in the northern Mediterranean region: the torrential system of the river has for a long time imposed a physical distance between them, the magnitude of current changes there are still much larger than those in the cities with rivers on a regular system. The physiognomy of these urban rivers, but also of certain parts of these river towns, is still under construction.
The image of the river today is of the river as a symbol of the perceived nature and/or the authentic depiction of the recently converted banks. For if the social representations of the urban landscape are reorganized around a new image of the river, this does not establish a greater consideration of natural phenomena in the city, including events that mainly require urbanization down the river and different logical developments. The concept of nature is a major argument of discourse on the “return of the river” but it is still a symbol of urban scenography. Alternative approaches exist, such as the “depolderization” in the Netherlands (Van Kote, 2007) but they are far from affecting the practices observed in the thesis.
Source: The River Carries Urban Images: Forms and Issues, Fanny Romain, Geocarrefour 95- 3/2010. geocarrefour.revues.org
Contact: Fanny Romain, email@example.com
(translated from French by Hadia Hakim)