Urban study for the enhancement and preservation of the identity of ancient town centres and hamlets

Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (SQY), which has been an urban community since 2004, comprises 12 municipalities (Coignières, Élancourt, Guyancourt, La Verrière, Les Clayes-sous-Bois, Magny-les-Hameaux, Maurepas, Montigny-le-Bretonneux, Trappes, Plaisir, Villepreux and Voisins-le-Bretonneux) in western Paris and has a population of 230,000.

It is an integral part of the Paris-Saclay and Greater Paris Operation of National Interest.

Mission Objectives

Created in 2016, Saint Quentin en Yvelines (SQY) started, the same year, a thinking process for a sustainable territory project. The aim is to create a strategic vision at the scale of the conurbation which will allow synergy and complementarity between the entities of the territory.

The territorial project also consists in proposing a clear legibility of intermunicipal and local actions. This objective is part of the articulation of the various prescriptive and programmatic documents that are imposed on the territory, its sectoral policies and its concrete projects.

Thus, the study for the enhancement and preservation of the identity of the old town centres and hamlets of the agglomeration perfectly fits into this territorial project.

Nevertheless, these prescriptions for the preservation of the remarkable heritage do not in themselves succeed in framing the evolution and preserving the identity of the ancient town centres and hamlets of the territory. At a time when major developments are becoming rarer and when the districts of the newer urban areas are difficult to develop, new pressures are weighing on these sectors whose characteristics and land organisation facilitate evolution.

In the communication note to the elected representatives, the Vice-President in charge of land use planning and housing, Alexandra Rossetti, had noted:

“These ancient centres and hamlets are now under threat. The land pressure they are subject to accentuates the risk of degradation of their specific characteristics, and the living environment that these exceptional places offer to the inhabitants and working population of the territory”.

The mission entrusted to Altereo therefore aims to create a coherent and operational framework for the evolution of the ancient town centres and hamlets of the territory. This study is in line with both the territory’s project and the Sustainable Development Goals. It must develop innovative, sustainable proposals that respect the identity of the territories and thus meet the following objectives:

  • To identify the hamlets and ancient town centres characteristic of the territory whose evolution is to be framed;
  • To define their urban, landscape and functional qualities and their role in territorial architecture;
  • To analyse the capacity of each sector to evolve according to the urban planning documents in force and the risks of degradation;
  • To produce development scenarios and recommendations to enhance the built, landscape and peri-urban quality of these areas.

Local context

The agglomeration is particularly characterised by the cohesion between its ancient urban organisation and its physical morphology.

Indeed, if Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines seems to present a little marked topography, the spatial organisation of the old built-up areas was based on strong geographical elements: the valleys dug by different rivers such as the Bièvre or the Ru d’Elancourt, the pond of Saint-Quentin, or the hill of Elancourt.

These different hamlets and ancient centres, set in the heart of the “topological accidents” of the territory, offer a multiplicity of micro-landscapes, witnesses of the richness of the identity of the SQY territory.

The creation of the new urban areas has reduced the open spaces that punctuated the initial urban entities and gives way to vast built-up areas in which the old cores are sometimes drowned.

The open spaces of the territory, long seen as land reserves for the agglomeration, today participate in the peri-urban character of the territory and offer country landscapes to some hamlets.

Supplementary benefit

A public consultation component is planned within the framework of the diagnostic phase of the study for the preservation and enhancement of old centres and hamlets.. This component has a particular educational objective towards the inhabitants: it is a question of making the history of their territory known to the local residents for a better appropriation of their heritage.

To accompany the exhibition panels presenting the study, a short video has been produced by Altereo explaining the urban formation of the agglomeration.

A la découverte de notre patrimoine territorial

Video SQY
Discover our territorial heritage

Video animation broadcast on Heritage Days on September 21 and 22, 2019

The video is composed of a cartographic part that presents the territory and then a presentation by diagrams that explain urban planning terms. It explains the location of the hamlets and helps to understand the reasons behind them.

In this video, the explanatory factors are then numerous.

First of all from a geographical point of view. The SQY plateau is marked by irrigated river valleys. The local topography therefore marks the territory. The historic hamlets were then established on the plateaus or on the edge of the valleys.

The second factor of implantation of the hamlets of the territory is of historical nature. Since Roman antiquity, major traffic routes have linked Paris to the surrounding towns. This network was completed in the 19th century by the railway network, in particular the Chartres line, parallel to the national highway 10.

The old centres and hamlets were then established in several ways:

  • At the crossroads of the main roads
  • In the hollow of the valleys
  • On the overhanging geographical spurs

Today, the hamlets and old centres, some of which have retained their historical organisation or are integrated into the functioning of the new districts. There are also highly structured suburban neighborhoods, more or less dense in buildings and green spaces, all of which have a vernacular heritage that bears witness to their history. This heritage is the foundation of their identity and reveals the genius of the place that makes it special. These spaces are those that have remained the most stable over the last 40 years.