Dissertation
Exploring Urban Scale Models: The Projets Urbains and the Performance of the “Maquette”, 1960s – 1990s

Dissertation
Maxime Zaugg
 



Ph.D. project at the Chair of the History and Theory of Urban Design, gta, ETH Zurich under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Tom Avermaete, Prof Dr. Thea Brejzek and Prof. Dr. Janina Gosseye

Little research exists on urban scale models. In existing scholarship, they are often lumped together with architectural models. Although urban models certainly possess characteristics that are similar to those of architectural models, they also differ. The key difference, this research project hypothesizes, is that in urban scale models, the performative capacity of the model takes precedence over its semiotic and compositional functions. The research project furthermore posits that this performative capacity of urban scale models – i.e. its ability to negotiate between various actors, regulatory requirements, functional demands, political ambitions, etc. over longer periods of time – intensified from the 1960s on with the shift of paradigm in urban planning and during the 1980s, when the Projets Urbains grew in popularity. Derived from participative urban strategies and the structural changes in urban development, the Projets Urbains offered an alternative to top-down master-planning by favouring more punctual and strategic urban interventions. The strong cooperative character of this type of urban development heavily influenced contemporary planning and design methods and led to a ‘golden age’ for urban scale models – an age when their performative capacities were used to their full potential.