Build The Imaginary: Urban Futures and New Towns in Post-war French Spatial Planning

Edward Welch* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Post-war France was reshaped by a sustained period of spatial planning and modernization. This was particularly so during the presidency of Charles de Gaulle (1958-1969), as the country positioned itself as a modern European nation after decolonization. In its approach and execution, French spatial planning represented the sort of imperious state intervention critiqued by radical spatial theorists such as Henri Lefebvre. Yet it remained the case that the planners articulated a rich vision of France’s future, filled with space and light. Not only that, but they had the means to bring their vision into being. During the mid-1960s, the building of New Towns became central to their thinking. This article revisits spatial planning as a realm of the imagination, and considers how the nation’s future was portrayed in textual and visual forms. It explores how the translation of dreams into built realities became a source of political tension, and how those tensions found public expression in the visual media.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-186
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Urban Cultural Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 30 Apr 2021


  • State planning
  • France
  • Cergy-Pontoise
  • Paul Delouvrier
  • Bernard Hirsch
  • Henri Lefebvre
  • Éric Rohmer
  • discourse
  • representations


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