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A Four-pages Saga

An Attempt at Graphical Analysis of the Transformation of les Halles in the Late 20th Century, with Some Implications
Daniele Campobenedetto
p. 81-86

Editor's notes

DOI: 10.17454/ARDETH01.06

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1Is it possible to represent exhaustively the design scales (Revel, 2006) of a thirty-years long urban transformation in just one scheme? Is it possible to consider such a thick description (Geertz, 1973) as autonomous and analytically useful?

2The following scheme is an attempt to explore the answers at these questions through an overview of the Paris’s les Halles saga during the Seventies and the Eighties, as a result of a three-year research

3Even if the scheme may appear obscure to those who are not familiar with the les Halles saga it is meant to give an idea of the path traced by documents and material effects among different social entities, as policies, projects, conflicts and physical transformations. The arrows show the cause-effect relationship between events and mirror the continuous redefinition of strategic decisions, and the superposition of material effects. Almost every event has effects, which can shape the physical space (through building sites), the socio-technical space (through projects) and the social space (through negotiations and policies).

4Exploring this path, is at least possible to highlight two elements:

Overview of the Paris’s les Halles saga

Overview of the Paris’s les Halles saga

5One is that les Halles saga is an over-stratified process, in which different urban paradigms overlap and superpose themselves going up and down between policies and material effects.

6Another is the role of intermediate entities, as public bureaucracies (Myses 1944) – namely The Atelier Parisien d’Urbanisme (APUR) – which appears to be the translator of policies in plans and projects, through conflicts and negotiations.

7The question if such a tool can be used not just to build up a rough “urban history” (Roncayolo 1976), but rather to picture an ongoing project, remains an open issue: the same energy which is more conventionally spent to communicate a design could, perhaps, be redeployed to design a process.

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Armando, A. (2015), Four diagrams and the architecture of the effects, in A. Armando, M. Bonino, F. Frassoldati, A Narrative of Urban Recycle. Watershed, ed. V. Federighi, Hong Kong, Sandu, pp. 128-140.

Campobenedetto, D. (forthcoming), Paris Les Halles. Storie di un future conteso, Milano, Franco Angeli.

Claude, V. (2005), Faire la ville, Paris, Parenthèses.

Geertz, C. (1973), Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture, in C. Geertz, The interpretation of cultures, New York, Basic Book.

Revel, J. (2006), Giochi di scala. La microstoria alla prova dell’esperienza, Roma, Viella.

Roncayolo, M. (1976), Conjuncture de l’histoire urbaine en France, in R. Martinelli, L. Nuti, La storiografia urbanistica, Lucca, Cicu-Marsilio, pp. 57-73.

Von Mises, L. (1944), The Bureaucracy, New Haven, Yale University Press.

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List of illustrations

Title Overview of the Paris’s les Halles saga
File image/jpeg, 1.4M
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Bibliographical reference

Daniele Campobenedetto, “A Four-pages Saga”Ardeth, 1 | 2017, 81-86.

Electronic reference

Daniele Campobenedetto, “A Four-pages Saga”Ardeth [Online], 1 | 2017, Online since 01 October 2017, connection on 05 March 2024. URL:

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About the author

Daniele Campobenedetto

Politecnico di Torino –

By this author

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The text only may be used under licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. All other elements (illustrations, imported files) are “All rights reserved”, unless otherwise stated.

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