An excessively Parisian picture

Side by side with the rediscovered quality and diversity displayed along the length of the Périphérique, there exist certain weaknesses in French architecture which must not be allowed to pass unnoticed. On the conceptual level, the fascination with the theme of transparency which has led all the major public commissions to be clothed in glass, mainly to 'integrate' them with their towns, sometimes produces architecture of a simplicity so naive as to end up in uniformity. On a more general level, the creation of new schools of architecture in the great provincial towns and the appearance of the decentralized commission, reinforced by the laws on administrative decentralization passed in 1983, have yet to deal with the fundamental problem of the imbalance between the architectural centre -which is still Paris- sucking in the elite, and the regional metropolises. Apart from the public buildings by Françoise-Hélène Jourda and Gilles Perraudin in Lyon, the Architecture School at Vaulx-en-Vélin (1989), or Laurent Beaudoin's blocks of flats at Nancy, the new identity of French cities is slow to reveal itself and remains culturally over-dependent on a centre that still overshadows the periphery.

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