Éric Rohmer in Cergy-Pontoise

Kenny Cupers, Charles Rice
AA Files , 2017

Student, artist, engineer, bureaucrat, scientist – these are the citizens of the ville nouvelle. In the opening sequence of his 1987 film, L’Ami de mon amie (My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend), Éric Rohmer introduces us to each of these characters in turn, consciously placing them within the architectural setting of Cergy-Pontoise, a new town constructed in the 1970s and 1980s northwest of Paris.

Heralded in that fateful year, 1968, Cergy-Pontoise marked a departure from the much-maligned barracks-like grands ensembles that had mushroomed on the outskirts of French cities after the Second World War. The planners of those large housing estates had thought to provide the inhabitants with modern kitchens and bathrooms, yet they had failed to supply other basic amenities, such as shops or schools, or transport connections to alleviate long, cumbersome commutes to the city centre. The villes nouvelles, by contrast, represented a radically new direction in state-sponsored planning. Much more than simply housing, they were to be cities in their own right, offering new urban lifestyles built around integrated and interconnected centres of living, work, commerce, culture and leisure. Cergy-Pontoise was the first of five villes nouvelles to be built in the Paris region. Located on a bend in the river Oise, it was easily reached from Paris with the recently constructed RER, the commuter railway network into which the new towns were plugged. (...)

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