Who said the diagonal was the shortest route? Designing, letting design, co-designing and redesigning a city block in a central district of Lyon


  • Baptiste Colin EVS


town, planning , conflict, participation, temporary use, power




At the beginning, as in any development project, there are several stakeholders. Public and private stakeholders, visionary politicians, pragmatic planners, committed developers and social landlords. And then, of course, there are the inhabitants, the people living there and the users. Very quickly, several issues emerged and antagonisms were revealed: maintaining economic and commercial activity, densifying the area, conserving a social and cultural identity, modernizing the district. Such an urban project is clearly projected onto a pre-existing space, and the confrontation with deeper dynamics that affect the urban transformations of the neighborhood highlights the divergent aims of the stakeholders that are involved, particularly in the manner in which they 'design the city'. The purpose of this paper is to explore the margin for maneuver and the balance of power that determine the trade-offs involved in resolving a conflict over a development project for a city block in Lyon.

As a central district traversed by demographic and sociological dynamics that reflect the history of migration in the city, Guillotière is at the heart of highly media-reported conflicts of use, which serve as a reminder of the crucial role that social issues play in urban development projects. The plan to transform the block in this case arose in 1925, as part of an ambitious project to extend a wide avenue as a legacy of the model developed by Haussmann. To complete this project, the local authorities acquired land and demolished buildings, thus freeing up space and generating temporary uses. The renouncement of the project provided some hope for a preserved neighborhood. Now that the project has been abandoned, this diagonal (tangent to the river) remained part of the planning intentions for a long time, and is still expressed in the opinion of the 'Architecte des Bâtiments de France' (ABF), who was consulted about the plans for the project: its line is a constant in the design of the project currently being finalized.

This paper focuses more specifically on studying the consequences of major protests in opposition to the planning operation led by the Metropolitan Council on this block: several groups succeeded in getting the overall project redesigned as part of a concertation process. The mobilization of grassroots groups therefore had the effect of stretching out the urban production process. The concertation period appears to be a way of managing the uncertainty that surrounds both the political representation and the programmatic content of the planning. After a radical change in the political affiliation of the newly elected representatives, the concertation process was extended, followed by a long period of arbitration and rewriting of the project. Some of the grassroots groups gradually ran out of steam; local attention shifted to other problems in the neighborhood, and the latency led the local authorities to managing an intermediary spatial situation, a temporary space, while the opportunity for the diagonal still hangs in the air as part of the project's design.


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