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Karine Dupré: Caribbean urban modernization. A Typomorphological Study on Two Towns in Guadeloupe.


The interrelations between space and society have been studied by many scholars, some of them concluding, that "space is a social product", and some have tried to find out how society can be defined or interpreted when seen through the lens of the spatial urban setting. In parallel, modernity is often attributed to the contemporary societies, particularly in the context of building and urban construction.

Although history reveals its ongoing character, some crucial questions can be raised: why to modernize, how to modernize, should modernization in one town even be a model for other towns? These questions relate not only to a society's self-image, but also to its worldview. This work is a typomorphological study of the real development of some urban structures in Guadeloupe, a former French colony. It focuses on the dialectic between urban tissue in its human context and built environment.

Guadeloupe is a French Overseas Department situated in the Caribbean. The direct heritage of its specific history as a tropical colony with an economy based on slavery and on large-scale export crops, is perceptible in the way urban forms have been created and developed. The contemporary urban growth is a more recent issue and significant debate, not only touching the main cities of the island but also its smaller towns. The aim of this work was to describe and to analyze the urban modernization processes of two town centers (Gosier & Trois-Rivières) in light of their historical context.

The changes of urban forms and building types from 1928 to 2003 were here considered against the emergence of modernism. Using one of the major concepts developed by Conzen for the general morphological analysis (burgage-cycle concept), and using the concept of typological process from Caniggia, this study assumes that spatial and social entities are nourished by a back-and-forth relationship.

After a presentation of the theoretical approach and of the empirical object, the work is divided into three parts. In the first part, a historical background provides a glimpse of the social context in Guadeloupe shortly before its devastation by the 1928 hurricane. The impact of the hurricane and the assessment of the reconstruction in 1935 are also discussed. In Part II, the two case studies are presented in their local context and then analyzed as morphological case studies. Finally, Part III presents the analysis of the understanding of modernization by colonial and post-colonial authorities prior to the analysis of the modernization process in the two towns from the typological viewpoint.

French version.

La Guadeloupe est un Département Français d’Outre Mer, île située dans la Caraïbe. Ses formes urbaines ont été fortement modelées par un passé colonial reposant sur le système esclavagiste et l’exportation de monocultures.

Aujourd’hui, la croissance urbaine est à la source d’un débat crucial qui touche non seulement les villes principales de l’île mais aussi ses plus petites unités urbaines. L’objectif de ce travail était de décrire et d’analyser les processus de modernisation urbaine de deux bourgs (Gosier et Trois-Rivières) à la lumière de leur contexte historique.

Les transformations des formes urbaines et des types urbains entre 1928 et 2003 sont appréhendées ici en parallèle de l’émergence du modernisme. Basée sur l’un des concepts majeurs développés par Conzen dans ses études morphologiques, celui de « burgage-cycle », et sur la méthodologie du processus typologique développée par Caniggia, cette étude suppose qu’entités sociales et spatiales se nourrissent mutuellement d’une relation continue.

Après une présentation de l’approche théorique et de l’objet empirique, l’étude est divisée en trois parties. La première décrit la Guadeloupe juste avant son ravage par le cyclone de 1928. L’impact de ce cyclone et un bilan de la reconstruction en 1935 y sont aussi exposés. La seconde partie présente les deux cas d’études dans leur contexte local et propose leur analyse en tant qu’objets morphologiques.

Enfin, la troisième partie commence par un examen du discours colonial et post-colonial concernant les principes de modernisation à appliquer en Guadeloupe, pour finir sur une analyse des processus de modernisation urbaine relatifs aux deux bourgs d’un point de vue typologique.

Auteur: Karine Dupré, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia


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