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Excursion to New Town Cergy Pontoise
16-19 April 2011

INTI has just returned from a study trip to Paris that took place between April 16-19, 2011. Together with a group of 20 masters students from UvA and TU Delft, INTI toured the Parisian Banlieus and Cergy Pontoise, one of the five Villes Nouvelles of Paris.

Cergy Pontoise is considered to be one of the most successful French new towns, admired by many – professionals as well as inhabitants – because of the excellent implementation within the regional transport network, the presence of important facilities including employment, education, leisure, and the scenic beauty of the site. The town was planned from 1964 at a distance of circa 25 kilometers from the centre of Paris and played an important role in the national Villes Nouvelles program.

During this excursion the students explored the town by analyzing the urban setup, architecture, history, public life and (touristic) attractions. A delegation of local officials, researchers and designers contributed to a better understanding of how the city was designed, built and thought out, and how it has evolved over time. One of the presentations was given by Bertrand Warnier, former head of the town planning department EPA of Cergy Pontoise, in which he explained the underlying planning concepts for this new town. He especially underlined the use of landmarks to exacerbate the relief in the landscape, of which the ‘Axe Majeur’ by Dani Karavan a well known example is. In another presentation Ms. Aude Talon, head of the planning department that prepares the new master plan for Cergy Pontoise, elaborated on the current state of the city and the future planning program. Under the lead of anthropologist and lecturer Caroline de Saint Pierre and sociologist Ivan Nio, the students learned more about the sometimes surprisingly vibrant city of Cergy Pontoise.

The product of this collective effort will be an Alternative Travel Guide to Cergy Pontoise. The Alternative Guide will show that Cergy Pontoise is worth a visit during a stay in Paris, because of the interesting planning history, the 70’s architecture experiments like the multi-layered centre of Cergy Prefecture and the proto-postmodern centre of Cergy Saint Christophe, and the attractive natural environment.

The excursion is part of the lecture series ‘New Towns on the Frontier of Geopolitics’, an initiative by INTI in close collaboration with both universities. A crucial element in this course is its interdisciplinary approach, with lecturers and students having backgrounds as diverse as urbanism, architecture, social geography, planning / metropolitan studies, architectural history and sociology.