Nîmes and Montpelier lie 25 miles apart near the south coast of France and are the administrative and tourist capitals of Languedoc-Roussillon. Nîmes (130,000 inhabitants) owes its Roman and eigtheenth century splendour to a natural water source. Montpelier (212,000 inhabitants) is an old university town and erstwhile port. Both owe their recent renaissance to the energy and ambition of their respective mayors, Jean Bousquet of Nîmes and Georges Frêche of Montpelier.
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A major axis of development was designated north-south right through the city and into the countryside (planned by Norman Foster in association with the local Agence d'Urbanisme), and star architects were invited to design various buildings.
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Since the 1980s, like Nîmes, Montpelier has been inviting signature architects to work in the city. The first was the Catalan Ricardo Bofil Taller de Arquitectura who completed a whole area, Antigone, and has a further project in hand, Port Marianne further south, for 20,000 inhabitants, in which Christian de Portzamparc and Rob Krier are to participate. Claude Vasconi's Le Corum, a bunker of a building, terminates the vista at the end of the Esplanade park leading from the vast pedestrianised Place de la Comédie. And Richard Meier is building near the Place Royale du Peyrou.
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