Historical Social Research

Susanne Rau: The Urbanization of the Periphery: A Spatio-Temporal History of Lyon since the Eighteenth Century[Abstract]

Suburbs have mostly received attention in recent years as social hot spots. An examination of the history of urban planning and expansion reveals a fundamental paradox, for it became apparent very early on that living space does not lend itself so readily to planning. Although the rise of suburbs is usually associated with the nineteenth century, a few "early bloomers" can be identified in urban history. Architects such as Antoine-Michel Perrache and Jean-Antoine Morand, who designed expansion projects in the south and in the east of the city of Lyon, became veritable city planners, if not choreographers, of the suburbs. However, the projects were not realized – at least partially – for nearly another 100 years (when the initiators were long dead). The history of planning and realizing the urban periphery thus resembles a dialectical movement of spatial visions and partial failure, entailing temporal setbacks which lead to a synthesis of the half-planned and half-unforeseen. Yet theories of the production of space offer insufficient explanations of the complex spatio-temporality of urbanization processes. Using the example of the Lyon projects, the essay argues that a description of processes of urban expansion must take into account such temporal phenomena as vision, retrospection, hope, and delay.

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