up
RHONE DELTA
PRODUCTIVE URBAN GRID
Sven Fawer, Tobias Stich and Vincent Phoen
The agricultural plain and Rhone river delta is located between the slopes of the Massif du Chablais in the west and the Alpes Vaudoises on the east. This area is currently one of the most dynamic locations absorbing urban pressure from Lausanne and Montreux. The left bank of the plain belongs to Canton de Valais while the right side is part of Canton de Vaud, but both are part of the cross-border cooperation, the “Chablais region”. In terms of urban typology, the cross-section of the valley shows a similar structure along the entire stretch: a flat valley plain is covered with agriculture and scattered industry clusters, and flanked by hillsides with villages. The Rhone plain is an important agricultural cluster and is one of the most fertile soil patches one can find around the lake. Indeed, most of its surface is registered as Surface d’Assolement, and it is surveyed as a very productive zone on the soil suitability map of Switzerland.

Agriculture, here, is intensive, mechanized, linked to agro-industry, and organized within big farm units, mainly above 50 ha (as opposed to the upstream small crops patterns). Those lands mainly produce grain, potatoes, and vegetables. The plain houses an important industrial cluster (with chemistry, metallurgy, mechanics, biotechnology, oil refinery) but also a large number of agro-industries (meat processing, import-export, drinks fabrication, industrial cheese, etc)

In 2009 the most recent flooding event occurred. This event made it urgent and crucial to take actions and envision a correction of the Rhone river-bed. This correction, in project since 2009, will be the third of its kind. The valley, once an unpredictable, ever-changing and hostile swamp (as depicted on a map from the period of Napoleon’s Rule) became dry and started to be inhabited, intensely cultivated and industrialized. The natural movements of the Rhone and the previous correction projects induced major changes in the land use and the landscape of the valley. It is to be expected that the third correction project might be decisive for the future of the valley. This is an opportunity to rethink and work-out the negotiation line between the forces of urban expansion, agriculture and water management, in a way that they do not oppose but coproduce the urban territory.