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Shaping the image of a city : Nantes (Fr) a case study.

Abstract : Nowhere in Europe, have we experimented such growing urban scales that we see in China. However, violent economic shifting pushed decision-makers to rethink cities with a new aim of development. Several strong topics are mobilized such as employment, housing, transportation, hospitals, schools, parks and sports fields, with the focusing on themes like new technologies, health, ecology, harbours. Cities are also looking for a branding, an identity, that could be used as a commercial advantage to attract business, but also help inhabitants to share something in common. If city-branding has been generally based on the presence of a huge company such as Mercedes in Stuttgart, Peugeot in Sochaux, Ferrari in Maranello, this concept moves to culture and heritage. For cities with a strong historical background, it has never been a matter of discussion: Paris, Rome, Athens is clearly identified, but for cities with less famous or abundant heritage, this question may be an issue. Moreover, the definition of heritage has moved. Places, monuments, buildings to protect are not the only way to conceive monumental and cultural heritage. We now work on everyday life consideration, local history, craftsmanship, and habits. Everyone should have the feeling to be part of the process of becoming part of it. Consequently, heritage is not only buildings, but more and more what is called Intangible Heritage: that means people, craftsmen, artists, and workers of many kinds, peasants, musicians, and teachers. Their knowledge should be transmitted, but also should adapt to new needs, to new projects, be seeds of new developments. In Nantes, the last shipyard closed in 1986 leaving the city in a desperate situation. The cranes, symbolizing the industrial activity, one by one stopped. Unemployment stroked. The question was between turning the page, tearing down the workshops and reinventing a new story or trying to preserve would appear to most of the population, a kind of modern bulky legacy. In the early 2000’s, the revitalization of Nantes’ former industrial area, led to developing a new way thinking. Instead of designing an urban map with major spots and rows of housing, Alexander Chemetoff, winner of the competition, thought better to draw an urban landscape where the past could mix with the future. Industrial heritage has been then preserved in two different ways. Construction halls have been reshaped preserving the original structure, everything should be reversed. The intangible heritage, meaning worker’s knowledge has been reinvested in the cultural industry. This way, the image of the city, its brand, moved from industrial to cultural, attracting a new kind of business, mainly high-tech, students, in a new, what we call in French: “art de Vivre” (Art of living). It also moves from metropole to village by the subdivision of huge entities.
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Laurent Lescop. Shaping the image of a city : Nantes (Fr) a case study.. International Architecture Forum: the preservation of monumental heritage, Dec 2015, Hangzhou, China. ⟨hal-01508976v2⟩

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