“Inventing Grand Paris/Entangled History of Metropolitan Areas” is a research project that aims to investigate the history of Grand Paris – the Greater Paris region – as a metropolitan concept over the long term, using a comparative international perspective. This initiative took shape in 2012, in the run-up to the 100th anniversary of the Poëte/Bonnier Report (1913-2013), and was driven by a group of professors and researchers from architecture, engineering, landscaping, and urbanism/town planning schools and from research laboratories specialised in the social and human sciences.
Reinterpreting the history of Grand Paris
An initial international symposium, held in December 2013, used the Poëte/Bonnier Report centenary as an opportunity to look at the origins of Greater Paris and to compare them to other international experiences. The goal, in light of contemporary debates, was to provide a context for discussions under way notably since the Grand Pari(s) international consultation for the Paris region in 2008.
During this stage, the foundations were laid and the need was established for other encounters and reinterpretations. Mobilising an interdisciplinary collective of researchers which grew larger over time (26 members from five different countries as of 2016), it referred to the anniversaries of important dates (1934/2014, 1965/2015, 1976/2016) to organise a series of three additional international symposia whose purpose was to investigate how Grand Paris was built, compared to other metropolitan areas, and to better understand which territorial trends were enduring and which ones were changing over the long term.
Faced with the currently fragmented nature of historiographic publications on Grand Paris and the low level of consideration for history in current projects for the metropolitan area, the launch of the Inventing Grand Paris website in spring 2017 was a sign of determination for the efforts under way for several years to be continued, shared, extended and enriched.
The objectives of an open scientific approach
By investigating the place of history and its current ramifications, the four events held in 2013/2014/2015/2016 responded initially to researchers’ preoccupations with combining existing knowledge and comparing international experiences in order to expand the field for scientific reflection. Nevertheless, from the outset, the ambition was also to include the contributions of experts and elected officials for Grand Paris who are involved in current debates, all in a spirit of open scientific discussion. The website now builds on this approach with the aim of broadly disseminating research and results. With this in mind, the collective’s purpose is to extend its research to a national and international scientific community that is interested in the history of the major metropolitan areas and concerned with explaining the prevailing challenges and constraints with historical references.
Thus, the research programme of the “Inventing Grand Paris” transversal group has a threefold objective:
- Draft a panorama of research about the history of Greater Paris and the cross-perspectives with other metropolitan areas
- Foster a renewal of scientific lines of investigation about urban and metropolitan history via various initiatives (including Inventing Grand Paris seminars and conferences)
- Compile an inventory and showcase the major urban development plans and thematic studies that became milestones in the XXth century, based on a study of a wide variety of collections on the history of Grand Paris (collections at the XXth Century Archive Centre, the Historical Library of the City of Paris, Administrative Library of the City of Paris, the Paris Archives, APUR, IAU, DRIEA, etc.).
The website does not aim to be encyclopaedic or to build an exhaustive database on Grand Paris along a big data model. Nor is its purpose to establish an official, definitive history of the metropolitan project. Originating in the work of a collective of researchers, it intends to provide in-depth, problem-oriented approaches, following a scientific process, in order to participate in building the history of Grand Paris. The method is progressive and cumulative.