Friday, August 22, 2008

Lyon (Lugdunum) and its rivers - Urban Planning


Between 1985 and 1988, the Agence d'Urbanisme de Lyon reviewed Lyon's strategic development plan from 1978. New urban areas were identified for improvement and redevelopment. In 1989, Henry Chabert, the Deputy Mayor of Lyon in charge of Urban Planning at that time, embraced the idea to revert the deteriorization process of Lyon's public realm and to provide a new vision for the city. The city should be "humanized". The increasing number of cars and the growing rift between the city centre and the suburbs should be discussed.

In 1991, with the goal to rearrange and redesign the waterbanks of the Saône and the Rhône rivers, the Plan Bleu was adopted. The initial objectives of the plan were:
- the development of nautical activities - which was achieved through the construction and plan of river stops and ramps to the water;
- the redesign of the riverbanks, with the host of recreational activities (bike paths, recreational areas);
- the preservation and restoration of the natural character of the riverbanks, through partnerships such as the SMIRIL on the Rhône and the SYMALIM on Park Miribel Jonage.

The second version of the plan was expanded and envisions to integrate the urban rivers in the Greater Lyon, promoting a townscape enhancement strategy focused in the way the city meets its rivers. The process of recovery and improvement of Lyon's rivers contains three main aspects:
- Ecology, landscape protection and enhancement of natural heritage.
- The interaction of the citizens with the rivers: urban uses - recreation, tourism, etc.
- The 'economy of the river ": the transport of goods, river tourism, etc.

The main idea of the Plan Bleu is to bring together local initiatives and associations, while respecting the municipalities' choices. Under the influence of the Blue Plan, several large projects were launched: the refurbishment of the Rhone's banks, Blue Ring, Lyon-Confluence, etc.

Two other plans had an impact in the improvement of the city's structure:
- the green plan, focusing on public spaces and
reducing the domination of the automobile - which helps strenghtening the local urban identity;
- the yellow plan, a lighting plan for monuments, buildings, streets, squares, promenades and parks.

Lyon counts today with several car-free status areas. An example is Vieux Lyon, west of the Saône River. In order to increase the pedestrian's orientation and spatial legibility, the planners stick to certain guidelines which define the type of materials, plants and urban furniture to be used throughout the city.

_________The Lyon Confluence

A major urban development project known as "Lyon confluence" was launched in the strategic zone at the far end of the "Presqu’île". The sector, which was long dedicated to industry and transport, shall be used for a major extension of the metropolitan area by freeing up large tracts of land. Plans for improved access and high-quality landscaping are an integral part of the project.

Le Rhône and the promenade

The city's geography influences the character of the neighbourhoods. The rivers divide Lyon's arrondissements in 9:

- The centre of Lyon is the Presqu'île , or "peninsula", a tongue of land just north of the confluence of the two rivers. Most of it lies within the 2nd arrondissement including Bellecour and the Perrache railway station.
- At the top end of the Presqu'île, as the Saône veers west, is the 1st arrondissement , known as Terreaux , centred on place des Terreaux and the Hôtel de Ville. This covers part of the city centre and the slopes (pentes) of the Croix-Rousse.
- The 4th arrondissement covers the Plateau of the Croix-Rousse, up to its boundary with the neighbour commune of Caluire-et-Cuire.
- On the west bank of the Saône is the old town, Vieux Lyon , at the foot of Fourvière, on which the Romans built their capital of Gaul, Lugdunum. Vieux Lyon is made up of three villages: St-Paul, St-Jean and St-Georges, and forms the eastern end of the 5e arrondissement.
-To the east of the Rhône there is Modern Lyon, formed by the 7th(with Parc de Gerland) and 8th arrondissements to the south, the 3rd arrondissement in the middle (with La Part-Dieu TGV station) and the 6th to the north, known as Brotteaux. North of Brotteaux is Lyon's main open space, the Parc de la Tête d'Or . The district of Villeurbanne , home to the university and the Théâtre National Populaire, lies east of the 6e and the park.
- The 9th arrondissement is immediately to the north.


Lyon (Lugdunum) and its rivers - Geography


The Lyon metropolitan area is the largest in the Rhône-Alpes region and lies in the natural plain of the Rhone Valley. In terms of waterways, the Rhône-Alpes region is among the best served in France. An abundant water supply has made the Alpine valleys and rivers the major vectors for the development of energy production for the area.

The Rhone valley has always been a major axis for road and river traffic and it can be considered one of France's most vital hubs of international connections - with many Alpine passages, navigable waterways, highways, tunnels and airports. Lyon has taken full advantage of the Rhone Valley's developed network of infrastructures: Lyon Saint-Exupéry international airport, the highly developed TGV network and a freeway system. The local authorities are further developing the urban public transportation system.

The city's geography is dominated by two large hills, one to the West (Fourvière, known as "the hill that prays") and one to the North (Croix Rousse, "the hill that works"); two rivers with very different characters, Rhône and Saône, that join at the southern part of the historic city core to flow down to the Mediterranean Sea; and a large plain which stretches to the East.

A continental climate marks the Rhone corridor with hot summers and hard winters. The Alps to the east, the Massif Central to the west and the Jura's Mountain Range to the south are subject to the climatic variations.

The confluence of the two rivers (Saône on the left and Rhône on the right). Source:

The alpine Rhône is fast with a light blue color. Its once tumultuous waters were tamed by hydroeletric plants. The Saône, a tributary of the Rhône with many meanders and a darker water color, has a placid character embedded with history.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Lyon (Lugdunum) and its rivers - History

Lyon, France's second largest metropolitan area with 1.2 million inhabitants, was founded in 43 BC on the Fourvière hill as a Roman colony. The strategic position of the site on the natural highway from northern to south-eastern France, half way between the sea and the mountains, made it the starting point for regional Roman roads. The numerous connections, which served the transit of armies and trade of goods, together with the convergence of two navigable rivers made of Lugdunum (Latin name of Lyon) the capital of Gaul.

Sorce: Ben Martinez at

For 300 years after its foundation, Lugdunum was the most important city in north-western Europe. Apparently Lugdunum had a population of several thousand at the time of its founding. The earliest Roman buildings were located on the Fourvière heights above the Saône river: a Forum, a theater, the Odeum, the sanctuary of Cybele and public baths. Lugdunum's territory extended to Croix-Rousse Hill, where there was an amphitheater. The Cannabae island, that later on became part of the peninsula, had its southern part occupied by luxury homes, while the north was reserved for pottery workshops, warehouses and commercial buildings. The city's water supply arrived via four aqueducts, ruins of which can still be seen in the region.

The city of Lugdunum. Own sketch.

Lugdunum did not survive the downfall of the Roman Empire. A long period of upheaval possessed the city until the church, in the 11th century, gave it new impetus by declaring Lyon the seat of the Primate of Gaul.

Early Ludgunum and Lyon. Parts of an old Amphitheater. Source:

By the 15th century, Lyon had entered its golden age, benefiting from the attention and favours of successive French kings. From that time, prosperity grew, reaching its peak in the Renaissance. Lyon became a center of trade which attracted commerciants from all over Europe. In the 17th and 18th centuries the prosperity of the silk industry generated wealth and the city grew, which was reflected in the construction of hospitals, public squares and impressive edifices. Today Lyon's silk trade is still the greatest in Europe.

Old Lyon became the seat of the economic, intellectual and artistic elite. Rich notables such as the Gadagnes and the Médicis built fashionable and luxury buildings upon the foundations of Old Lyon (Lyon Vieux). Lyon was the gateway to Renascent Italy. A southern pace of life can be felt there through the italian influence in style and architecture.

Narrow passageways, the traboules are an exceptional feature of the local urban architectural heritage. The first traboules of Vieux Lyon date back to the 4th century, when the inhabitants of Lugdunum, in search of easier access to water, moved down Fourvière hill, settling alongside the Saône river. In the Croix-Rousse neighborhood, the traboules were integrated in the construction of buildings. Silk workers used them as short cuts to transport their goods. These streets served later as the backbone to the French resistance movement during the Second World War. Untill today, from Croix Rousse it is possible to reach the Presqu'île peninsula in a straight path through these passages.

The place Bellecour turned out to be the center of the city's Renaissance.

Place Bellecour with the statue of Louis XIV (1702). Source: Delfante, C., Pelletier, J. 1350-2015 Plans de Lyon, Portraits d'une Ville. Lyon, 2006.

Lyon in the 18th century with the Fourvière Hill . Source:

In 1789 the French Revolution resulted in a brutal interruption of Lyon's development. Under Napoleon's Empire the city started growing again and became an industrial center. The Haussmann principles were predominantly pursued at the time.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the livelihood of half of the city's population was dependent on the silk weaving industry. The value of silk, as of any luxury product, was highly dependent on the economic climate. In 1831, the economic outlook was grim and drastically reduced the demand for silk goods. The silk workers (canuts) that already lived and worked in infamous conditions had their salaries continually reduced. This culminated in two revolts of the Canuts in 1831 and 1834, that were severely repressed.

The industrial revolution of the 19th century brought about huge advances not only in the silk trade but in the garment industry. Lyon became a base for the pharmaceutical and chemical industries. The economic situation got better and Lyon enjoyed undeniable power that was carried into the 20th century.

Urban development continued to take place and the face of the city was changed. The city was the center of the French Resistance during the World War II. Although it was bombed in 1944, much of the old city escaped the destruction. In the post-war years, like all other French cities, Lyon boomed and ensured an important position due to its transportation system, hotels, cultural establishments and tourist facilities.

In the 1980's there were many efforts to improve the city's infrastructure. Significant town planning projects have been launched in strategic locations. Recognizing the potential of Old Lyon, this part of the city that suggested a slum in the 1970's has been completely transformed and was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

These different phases of Lyon's history are engraved in the urban landscape. Today, the city continues to dominate the banking and chemical sectors. Though, in recent years the service sector has been playing an equally important role.

The colors of Vieux Lyon.

Em Lyon

Em Lyon. Foto no final da tarde, indo para o Parque Gerland.
Sem Photoshop.