Conference presentation

Shifting borders through words: the evolution of spatial planning in a transboundary agglomeration (1989 2023)

Presented atInternational Geographical Union (IGU) - Commission on Geography of Governance, TRACK 3. Governance of Spatial Planning Systems, Budapest, 04-06.09.2023, p. 14
Presentation date2023-09-04

The present article aims to study the evolution of spatial planning narratives and practices in Geneva over four decades (late 1980s - early 2020s). Geneva is of interest to our study because of its transboundary character. The central city and its closest suburbs are in Switzerland, but since the 1980s most of its urban development took place in neighbouring France (Departments of Ain and Haute-Savoie). Therefore, nowadays, up to 45% of Geneva's workers are daily commuters living outside of Geneva's cantonal territory, which has led to urban sprawl and cross-border spatial inequalities. In practice, the interdependence between the Swiss and the French parts of the metropolitan area has thus constantly grown over the last four decades.

However, with regards to narratives underlying spatial planning strategies, the picture is starkly different. Until the early 2000s, the cantonal authorities of Geneva did not consider neighbouring French territories in their spatial planning strategy. This started to change in the last decade because national governments in both Switzerland (Spatial planning act of 2014) and France (ZAN principle integrated in the climate legislation of 2021) adopted legislation aiming to curb urban sprawl. These legislative changes forced Geneva's cantonal authorities a) to foster transboundary cooperation in terms of spatial planning, and b) to densify the cantonal territory instead of increasing urban sprawl in neighbouring France. Nevertheless, relying on a documental analysis of the cantonal master plans since 1989, this article aims to show that enlarging master planning to integrate French territories is mostly a narrative strategy used by Geneva's cantonal authorities to hide the strong socio-territorial inequalities that mostly remain to the disadvantage of French territories.

  • Spatial planning
  • Cross-border governance
  • Urban narratives
  • Urban sprawl
  • Geneva
Citation (ISO format)
LAMBELET, Sébastien, PIDDIU, Luca. Shifting borders through words: the evolution of spatial planning in a transboundary agglomeration (1989 2023). In: International Geographical Union (IGU) - Commission on Geography of Governance. Budapest. 2023. 14 p.
Main files (1)
  • PID : unige:172190

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