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  • The Village (ongoing)

    A city of 30’000 inhabitants, with an average age of thirty-seven, the highest birth rate in France and a mortality rate of a mere 2%. A place inspired by architectural styles from before the Second World War, where advertisement is forbidden and every house is protected by alarms or connected to a video surveillance system. This is Val d’Europe, an urban community 35km from the French capital. Unique in its kind, it consists of six communes gathered around the premiere tourist destination in Europe: Disneyland Paris. The development of Val d’Europe begins to take place thanks to the building of Disneyland Park. In 1987 the French government decides to sell part of its land to the Walt Disney Company, through a public and private partnership between the state, the territorial communities and the world’s largest media and entertainment company. The Disney Company is appointed with the task of developing a new city on land up until then rural: 20’000 hectares of French terrain for which Disney will choose the construction companies, determine the urban structure of the six communes and establish the design of the houses and roads. For the first time in France, a private corporation is directly involved in an urban organisation on such a large scale. Through the Euro Disney SCA, the Walt Disney Company builds residential areas, offices, schools and sport centres on the land surrounding the theme park – the supporting foundation of the newborn community’s economy. Hence, Val D’Europe became the most significant example of New Urbanism in Europe, a movement developed starting from the 1980s in the United States and in Europe with the aim to profoundly renew the dominant models of urban planning, and which today represents one of the most important movements of reformation within architecture. According to the New Urbanism movement, the urban model for traditional villages and cities constitutes the most efficient way for the development of a community. The cardinal points around which the renovation proposals are defined include: population density, the integration of different transport systems and the continuity with the traditions of national architecture. The architectural styles of Val d’Europe are of Neotraditional inspiration, the principal models are those of the typical farms in the Brie region and of Haussmann’s Parisian buildings. According to Valérie Vautier and Véronique Wild, authors of an important ethnological study on Val d’Europe, “The ‘neo’ style favours the image, giving it more importance than the function of an architectural construction, thus creating an urban scene without real content.”

    Twenty-five years from its creation, Val d’Europe is still a place in search of an identity of its own. For some people who have chosen to live there it represents a dream, a synthesis of tranquillity, security and well-being. For others, it has become a nightmare, made of alienation and solitude, where the only place in which real encounters can take place is in the immense shopping centre which bears the same name as the urban community. Walking through Val d’Europe, the question arises: What does the mise-en-scene created by the Disney empire imply in the construction of a real city?