Futuribles Journal n° 354

Institutions - Société, modes de vie - Territoires, réseaux

The "Cloud City". Twenty-first Century Urban Style


Jean Viard is a specialist in time-usage and the way it has evolved historically and also an expert on the regions of France and the mobility of individuals across those regions. In this issue of Futuribles, devoted, as it is, in very large measure to European cities, he makes a detailed analysis of the social developments that have been ongoing for several decades and their consequences for the relationship to space in general and to cities in particular.
In his view, 21st-century urban style will be that of the "cloud city". To put it another way, the urban style historically based on place is now no longer the monopoly of cities; it has gradually been "virtualized", becoming a "multi-site" phenomenon. Moreover, the increase in healthy-life expectancy in a context of shorter working hours has produced a veritable time revolution, and the impact of that revolution on social relations and the use of time (free time, working time, time for romance etc.) also has effects on urban organization. In this way, Jean Viard shows that, despite its no longer being the principal activity in French people's time, work is still too often the key element in the way housing, urban districts and entire cities are structured, whereas social demand is increasingly oriented towards leisure and focuses on places where people can meet, walk etc. He also shows the degree to which the culture of mobility influences the organization of urban space today, enabling this to extend far beyond the historic boundaries of towns and cities. And in this mobile society, new polarities of development and attractiveness are emerging, alongside new dangers of (spatial and generational) segregation. These are the major future challenges cities are going to have to face up to: they will have take on board the fact that employment is no longer their prime determinant; they will need to grow, to smarten themselves up and to advertise their attractiveness - to become "sustainable" so as to win the loyalty of today's residents and attract people in the future, whether it be tourists, entrepreneurs or ordinary citizens.

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