Contributor: CELESTE Patrick, Architecte Conseil de l'Etat

Housing estate issue

Tarn can easily be seen as a mostly rural region. Located on the East of Toulouse agglomeration it is subject to its gravity. Many villages, towns and cities not only see their outskirts being covered by housing estates in order to provide people with dwellings but also live where they can afford; moreover those who have their job not so far leave city centre for suburban and rural areas to have their houses constructed. This leads to banalization of the territory according to the population “tertiarization” which slowly “suburbanize” rural environment.

What one should understand by “rural region” or “rural town” when at most three to five percent of the population live directly from soil? Yet this rural “landscape” both constitutes our geography and structures our imagination.

The phenomena seems to inevitable, one should face up to the harsh reality. What matters is not to prevent it from happening as it is already there but we should find a way to slow it down by thinking and making differently. As we still have to fix the damages of the rough urbanization of the “Thirty Glorious Years”, we’ll need to fix and integrate the housing estates of the suburban areas.

But neither the architectes nor the landscape designers are the ones who come up with the housing estates and the suburban houses. Land surveyors, design offices and “pavillonneurs” have the stranglehold on this domain because “it is like this” and “this is what people want”.

Aware of this lack of creative spirit, the government proposes to make rules and impose the architect to design the housing estates. This law is most useful as it coincides with the territory reorganization and the towns being obliged to have a common project.

Enrichened by experiences and knowledge, especially with our neighbours’ feedback, architects counsellors know it is possible to act differently, to be contemporary and to think about the future. This work that one can see as activist is likely to come down to one sentence that we ask to the policy makers: “how do you see your town in a twenty or thirty year time and what do you want to pass down to your grand-children?”. These questions allow us to put in perspective the usual answers we got: “the town needs to exist” or “Mrs X, widow and with a very low pension, needs to sell her fields and divide them into plots”. Then a dialogue can be engaged.

Housing estates surrounding are not often the object of studies and care, generating “in-between areas” suffering from a lack of definition and left out in the middle of shredded countryside surfaces.

A paradox? Little by little farmlands hem in building plots and artificialized lands by the proliferation or roads, roundabouts, shopping areas more or less competitive from a town to another.

- Addressing urban sprawl