16 Aug 2010

In Concrete Terms (Part 2)

Corsica's most populated/ popular areas are in danger of becoming an extension to the Provence-Côte d'Azur sprawl: South Bastia (Furiani, Biguglia, Borgo, Lucciana), Costa Verde-Porto Vecchio, Calvi-Lumio, Ajaccio-Propriano, with the frenzy now reaching inland (Corte, Vescovato) and the more exclusive places of interest (Palombaggia, Rondinaria, Sperone).

Les Rivages de Calvi, advertised in local newspaper Corse-Matin (31/08/2010)
And with it, the sprawl mentality: a little slice of suburb in the sun, with or without a view, offering the trappings of urban comforts, plastic fantastic at heart, with no regard for/ no integration into the countryside or the countryside way of life. Instead those recent builds keep nature at arms length, concreted, fenced in, uninspiringly hedged with laburnum, privit or leylandi, or hastily walled by rows of breeze blocks. All alone in the world yet surrounded by it, individualists in search of the crowds who are the indirect accomplices of those greedy promoters and developers... For that little slice of suburb in the sun!

North of Bastia, property fever is also creeping in, along the Eastern Coast of the Cape, although the area has resisted pretty well compared to other parts of Corsica. Here and there we can't help but notice the residential carbuncle that, instead of morphing into the maquis, shows off its massive supporting walls and garrish/ flamboyant footballers' wives architecture from its unmissable vantage point (a parallel to those garrish Californian mountain-top villas that spoil the view and brag the brash!).

I also believe that some hillside apartment schemes (ex: in Santa Severa, pictured below) are equally at odds with the surrounding environment, while others (Les Jardins d'Erbalunga) have been keener to compromise by adhering to a more classic architectural style, using stone building materials, keeping to a low-rise format and tucking most of the development out of sight. Of course these little added luxuries come at a price for the buyer.

I am aware that there is a tangible need for housing, that tourism plays a crucial part in the island's economy (and necessitates adequate hotel, rental, leisure and transport infrastructures) and that we cannot turn back the clock (by pretending we are living in some museum!). However real estate must get real and make it more sustainable, by avoiding human concentration and sprawl polarisation. Members from regional and local governments must remain impartial and resist loopholes, abuse of power and personal gratifications that allow for illegal construction schemes to be erected with impunity. Also they must be provided with enough back-up from the State to help inland villages revitalise and fight desertification and for old/ derelict properties to benefit from incentivised subsidies towards renovation and modernisation.

By the way, Corsica has a fabulous built patrimoine (heritage) that is in acute need of a cash injection in order to preserve it and save it from that landslide slip into public oblivion. Heritage is not solely limited to housing, I am thinking about public, historical and religious buildings too. Within a 5-mile radius from where I live, I can easily think of at least 10 of such infrastructures in urgent need of a concerted intervention...

Source: Prints & Fine Arts (Roger Broders poster print)
You see, everyone seems to want the bright lights and the sea view yet not everyone is going to get them! The future of the island, the region, and the South of France as a whole is not going to be in the spreading sprawl. It is going to be in diversity of choice and offering. And in personal goodwill in favour of nature and future generations, i.e. without a selfish urge for that little slice of suburb in the sun!

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