Place Annihilation and Urban Reconstruction: The Experience of Four Towns in Brittany, 1940 to 1960
Devastation, revival and reconstruction form guiding themes in this discussion of annihilated settlements in north-west France. For reasons of deep-water access and strategic location, the German occupiers decided to construct massive submarine bases at Brest, Lorient and Saint-Nazaire. Allied bombardment devastated the towns that surrounded them during the Second World War, while the heavily defended walled port of Saint-Malo was annihilated in 1944. With peace restored, prisoners of war and local labourers cleared mines, removed debris and installed large quantities of temporary housing. Development plans, drawn up in the interwar years, provided an important starting point for subsequent master plans which shaped postwar reconstruction. Working under the guidance of the Ministry of Reconstruction and Urbanism, chief planners, architects and reconstruction cooperatives refashioned property units and engineered the rebuilding of Brest, Lorient and Saint-Nazaire along thoroughly modern lines; by contrast, Saint-Malo was rebuilt much as it had been before the war. Many of the buildings of the 1950s now require refurbishment, and urgent initiatives need to be taken to revitalise the local economies of these reconstructed towns, whose role as naval bases, military arsenals and shipbuilding centres has contracted in the wake of political détente and deindustrialisation.
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