The Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Research on Cities, Spaces and Society (Recherches Interdisciplinaires Ville, Espace, Société - R.I.V.E.S.) was born in 1994 when the CEOPS laboratory, specialized in the evaluation of public organizations and policies, merged with the ASTER laboratory, dedicated to urban planning challenges. Since 1995, it has been part of the “Environment, City, Society” Joint Research Unit (UMR CNRS 5600 EVS).

RIVES brings together researchers concerned with the city and the urban world and, more specifically, with the political, economic and social issues surrounding urban planning. Cities and territories are understood as objects of action (private or public action, collective and organized), and as frameworks or supports for action (the framework of land and buildings, but also the institutional and legal framework). The laboratory's purpose is to analyze the way in which social actors appropriate spatial constraints and opportunities to organize their practices and regulate their interactions. In short, the research orientations of the RIVES laboratory correspond to the urban studies programmes that have been developed within the English-speaking research community, in which the urban as an object of study is addressed by all the social sciences.

United by the same research subjects, the RIVES researchers, a significant number of whom have an engineering or architecture degree, come from diverse disciplinary backgrounds: from urban planning to political science, including social geography, history, ethnology and sociology. The different research questions are thus studied through quantitative surveys as much as through discourse analysis, the constitution of archival records, and spatial analysis.

These subjects and approaches echo both the institutional and the geographic position of the RIVES laboratory. As part of the social sciences joint research unit, situated in an engineering grande école close to an architecture school at which it is one of the hosting teams, RIVES occupies a unique position for combining disciplines, bodies of knowledge and expertise at the heart of work on space.

This position is also a reflection of the laboratory's special relationship with the professional world of urban planning. The ENTPE trains engineers, many of whom work within the public urban planning services. RIVES researchers are actively involved in their training, namely through the “Urban Planning and Policy” consolidation course. This course opens up to many research fields concerned with urban planning policy, but also more sporadically allows for participation in expertise or evaluation activities. This gives the RIVES an edge that highlights the connection between the research carried out by the laboratory and the planning programmes developed in English-speaking countries.

Finally, because of its choices of research subjects and approaches, the research carried out at the RIVES requires “constant debate” over the often misleading evidence provided by common sense. Specific long-term reflection is therefore dedicated to this questioning, in liaison with the CNRS joint research unit 5600 (cross-disciplinary approach “Epistemology and Heuristics”).