EAUH Conference 2018


Session SS45. Anticipation, Temporality, and Change in the Urban Periphery from 1960 to Present Day

Coordinators: Denis Bocquet (, Marius Grønning (

The basic hypothesis for this session is that the urban periphery might constitute an element of social and spatial resilience for metropolitan regions. Peri-urban space has played shifting roles in the emergence and evolution of the modern metropolis. For many decades the future was presented and theorised in the urban periphery, leaving the conditions of the urban core behind. In this frame, peri-urban space constituted a place of experimentation and retrospection at the same time; as self-realisation of emerging social groups of the city and as an expression of their nostalgia for the rural. The session addresses the position of peripheries as places of both innovation and differentiation, and reflects upon their capacity to adapt historically to new conditions and challenges.

Today we can observe reforms in many countries, like the Italian Piano di governo territoriale, the new metropolitan administrative collaborations in France, and recent municipal and regional reforms in Norway and Denmark. These changes signal, not only a fading will to secure the continuity of services for the whole population, but also a new focus on the city as a motor of the economy and as a an ecological device.

At the same time, the city has ceased to exist in its traditional and even modern form, with its uses and exchanges of all kinds. Under all these inherited definitions the city is gradually replaced by urban phenomena which might take place everywhere and nowhere in particular, articulated along technical networks or new opportunities of diverse natures. The future is presented in new places, through concepts like polycentricity, networks, nodes and compact urban development. These major changes are not independent of existing territorial assets. Yet, they are rarely studied in a truly historical perspective.

In this new configuration of urban space and territorial governance we want to question the role of inherited urban peripheries. Modern suburbs were always a question of positioning in relation to the opportunities of the city. They were innovative, but also vulnerable, in the sense that they could easily be marginalised, as a spatial effect of social stratification. In the historical construction of metropolitan regions, the periphery has been a spatial reserve, a necessary means for innovation and improvement, but also a space of exclusion or stigmatisation.

An historical approach allows the exploration of the conditions for visions and innovations, for ideological decisions and planning to take place. Papers submitted for the session are expected to address the following questionings: How and when was peri-urban space presented, theorised, and experimented as places embodying the urban solution to social problems at the scale of the metropolis? How did the conscience of the limits and failure of such visions and postures emerge? What were the specific moments of resilience? How do all these dimensions affect present-day challenges?
Keywords: urban periphery; suburbs; resilience