en-es  Urban planning in France We’ll always have Val d’Europe
Urban planning in France - We’ll always have Val d’Europe.

The Economist, August 5, 2017.

VAL D’EUROPE - Outside Paris, a Disneyfied Paris.

ONE of the newer attractions at Disneyland Paris is “Ratatouille: The Adventure”, a ride through Paris as seen by Rémy, the movie’s rodent gastronome hero. Located in a twee movie-set version of the city, complete with a fountain, café and overpriced bistro, it could easily pass for the real thing, were it not for the diminutive scale and cheerful waiters. (Disneyland is a realm of fantasy after all.)

Disney has experience building replicas of Paris. At the EPCOT theme park in Florida, the “French pavilion” recreates a Parisian market, wine bar and a mini-Eiffel Tower. But the company’s most ambitious faux Paris is not in a theme park at all. A few kilometres down the road from Disneyland is the commercial heart of Val d’Europe, a cluster of imitation belle époque housing blocks with mansard roofs surrounding a giant shopping centre. All of it is built to design guidelines lifted from Baron Haussmann, the architect of Paris’s mid-19th-century reconstruction.

The development was part of the deal Disney made in 1987 to build its European theme park in Val d’Europe, a then empty part of Marne-la-Vallée, one of France’s “new towns” planned in the 1960s. Disney had learned the importance of controlling the land surrounding its parks from Anaheim, California, where a rash of cheap hotels and low-quality restaurants spread around the original Disneyland. In Florida, and then in France, Disney insisted on buying up huge chunks of land. It controls 2,230 hectares of Val d’Europe, or about two-thirds of the total area. About half of that has been developed into two theme parks (a third is in the works), a “nature village” resort set to open this summer, public services including a high school and a hospital, and some 12,000 new homes.

Val d’Europe is one of two full-fledged towns Disney built under Michael Eisner, the company’s boss from 1984 to 2005 and an urban-planning enthusiast. In Florida it was Celebration, an idealised community of picket fences and front porches that promised a return to 1950s America. Val d’Europe shares Celebration’s principle of “new urbanism”, which promotes mixed zoning, density and walkability. But the design decisions came from the French bureaucracy. “The last thing they wanted to see was a new idea,” says a former Disney executive involved in the negotiations.

This was, in part, a reaction against suburbanisation, says Brian Shea, an architect who worked on Val d’Europe’s master plan. But it was also a rejection of the high postmodernism of Ricardo Bofill’s housing estates in nearby Noisy-le-Grand. Though spectacular to look at—they formed the backdrop to such alarming movies as “Brazil” and “The Hunger Games”—they failed as experiments in urban housing. Nobody, it turned out, actually wanted to live on the set of a retro-futuristic dystopia.

Val d’Europe has been a commercial success. Under the terms of its agreement with the state, Disney retains the option to buy more land at 1987 prices—€1.69 ($2.00) per square metre—which it can then sell on at market price or develop. The region’s population grew from 5,000 in 1989 to 30,000 in 2016 (about a fifth of working-age adults are employed by Disney). That is expected to double by 2030. Arnaud de Belenet, the mayor of Bailly-Romainvilliers, a village south of the commercial centre, says taxes from Disney and the non-tourist economy have paid for schools and infrastructure. He hopes to attract more companies to the region. But not everyone is pleased. Hacène Belmessous, whose book “The New French Happiness, or The World According to Disney” is a study of Val d’Europe, criticises it as a privatised space run by a multinational corporation. It is, he says, “the death of the public city”.
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Urban planning in France - We’ll always have Val d’Europe.
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The Economist, August 5, 2017.
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VAL D’EUROPE - Outside Paris, a Disneyfied Paris.
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(Disneyland is a realm of fantasy after all.)
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Disney has experience building replicas of Paris.
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But the design decisions came from the French bureaucracy.
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Val d’Europe has been a commercial success.
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That is expected to double by 2030.
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He hopes to attract more companies to the region.
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But not everyone is pleased.
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It is, he says, “the death of the public city”.
0 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity None

Urban planning in France - We’ll always have Val d’Europe.

The Economist, August 5, 2017.

VAL D’EUROPE - Outside Paris, a Disneyfied Paris.

ONE of the newer attractions at Disneyland Paris is “Ratatouille: The Adventure”, a ride through Paris as seen by Rémy, the movie’s rodent gastronome hero. Located in a twee movie-set version of the city, complete with a fountain, café and overpriced bistro, it could easily pass for the real thing, were it not for the diminutive scale and cheerful waiters. (Disneyland is a realm of fantasy after all.)

Disney has experience building replicas of Paris. At the EPCOT theme park in Florida, the “French pavilion” recreates a Parisian market, wine bar and a mini-Eiffel Tower. But the company’s most ambitious faux Paris is not in a theme park at all. A few kilometres down the road from Disneyland is the commercial heart of Val d’Europe, a cluster of imitation belle époque housing blocks with mansard roofs surrounding a giant shopping centre. All of it is built to design guidelines lifted from Baron Haussmann, the architect of Paris’s mid-19th-century reconstruction.

The development was part of the deal Disney made in 1987 to build its European theme park in Val d’Europe, a then empty part of Marne-la-Vallée, one of France’s “new towns” planned in the 1960s. Disney had learned the importance of controlling the land surrounding its parks from Anaheim, California, where a rash of cheap hotels and low-quality restaurants spread around the original Disneyland. In Florida, and then in France, Disney insisted on buying up huge chunks of land. It controls 2,230 hectares of Val d’Europe, or about two-thirds of the total area. About half of that has been developed into two theme parks (a third is in the works), a “nature village” resort set to open this summer, public services including a high school and a hospital, and some 12,000 new homes.

Val d’Europe is one of two full-fledged towns Disney built under Michael Eisner, the company’s boss from 1984 to 2005 and an urban-planning enthusiast. In Florida it was Celebration, an idealised community of picket fences and front porches that promised a return to 1950s America. Val d’Europe shares Celebration’s principle of “new urbanism”, which promotes mixed zoning, density and walkability. But the design decisions came from the French bureaucracy. “The last thing they wanted to see was a new idea,” says a former Disney executive involved in the negotiations.

This was, in part, a reaction against suburbanisation, says Brian Shea, an architect who worked on Val d’Europe’s master plan. But it was also a rejection of the high postmodernism of Ricardo Bofill’s housing estates in nearby Noisy-le-Grand. Though spectacular to look at—they formed the backdrop to such alarming movies as “Brazil” and “The Hunger Games”—they failed as experiments in urban housing. Nobody, it turned out, actually wanted to live on the set of a retro-futuristic dystopia.

Val d’Europe has been a commercial success. Under the terms of its agreement with the state, Disney retains the option to buy more land at 1987 prices—€1.69 ($2.00) per square metre—which it can then sell on at market price or develop. The region’s population grew from 5,000 in 1989 to 30,000 in 2016 (about a fifth of working-age adults are employed by Disney). That is expected to double by 2030. Arnaud de Belenet, the mayor of Bailly-Romainvilliers, a village south of the commercial centre, says taxes from Disney and the non-tourist economy have paid for schools and infrastructure. He hopes to attract more companies to the region. But not everyone is pleased. Hacène Belmessous, whose book “The New French Happiness, or The World According to Disney” is a study of Val d’Europe, criticises it as a privatised space run by a multinational corporation. It is, he says, “the death of the public city”.