Minister of Culture
In La Forme d’une ville, Julien Gracq described with infinite subtlety the many sensations he experienced while strolling through the city of yesterday and of today and the promise of the future it represented to his eyes: “If there are sometimes areas of a more somber nuance, they are due to the height of the buildings, to the encasement of streets, which surprised me; overall, what lingers from this first fleeting contact is—rising from these echoing, shadowed and watered streets, from their buoyant agitation, from the crowded terrace cafés in summer, cooled as if refreshed by a mist fragrant with lemon, strawberry and grenadine, inhaled in passing, in this city where the tone of life was no longer the same, and since, unforgotten—a strange, unfamiliar scent of modernity.”
Who wouldn’t experience similar feelings today when imagining what will be the city of tomorrow. This challenge is one of those rare yet crucial questions that, at particular moments, humanity is called upon to resolve,
and thus write the next chapter of its history. Beyond the city of the past, the global phenomenon of giant metropolises, or so-called “mega-cities”, invites us to assess the responsibilities incumbent upon us in our task. This phenomenon is already making its mark on what we must acknowledge is no longer new. It is an integral part of the great challenges the peoples of the world will face in the future: ecological threats, the spread of mass violence, extreme forms of social segregation, etc.
With Paris, with what tomorrow will be “the conurbation of Greater Paris”, France possesses one of these metropolises where the prospects that are outlined will leave a lasting mark upon the future of our society, and perhaps of humanity. It is both an opportunity and a major responsibility whose scale we must properly assess. In order to master these challenges, it is only logical to place them in a fully international perspective. In this way we can bring weaknesses to light, more accurately assess difficulties,
identify strengths and finally turn the approach we are able to build together into a model.
The breadth of the problems, the urgency of threats looming on the horizon might leave one thinking it is too late for theoretical speculations. That would be short-term thinking. Our awareness and analysis of history shows us the way towards tomorrow. The political will is there. Major investments will be made to fashion our shared destiny. But facing urban development on an unprecedented scale, supported by an approach without precedent as well, and which must serve as an example, we must develop the intellectual skills that will enhance its power and better ensure its effectiveness. This is the aim of the international colloquium that I requested the Centre National d’Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou organize in the context of the “Rendez-Vous du Grand Paris”; these Encounters,
a series of national and international events, initiated by the President of the Republic and held throughout 2009 and 2010, are designed to enrich our thinking about the future of 21st century cities.
Minister of Culture and Communication