Take a bit of sustainable transportation, a dash of accessible pedestrian walkways, green energy, developed waste management, not to mention eco-neighborhoods managed by participatory policies, and you will have a sustainable city. Too simple? Of course, a perfect recipe does not exist, all the more considering that the field is constantly changing. Cities are therefore on the brink of becoming real-life, open-air laboratories. How can we engage the entirety of stakeholders in these projects that have no definite result? How can we increase action so that we can move towards provoking a complete change in the behavior of all participants in the city? There are several examples of experiments that are inspirational, while also demonstrating that what counts is not necessarily the final result, but the process itself.
Ecopôle, a citizen’s laboratory at the heart of a sustainable city
The organization Ecopôle, from Nantes, is a local network of associations called the CPIE, or Permanent Center for Initiatives for the Environment. Ecopôle is a space for information, mediation, and exchange among local participants involved in sustainable development. The main actions of the organization include raising awareness, especially among young people. Ecopôle understands very well that it is through instructing tomorrow’s citizens that behaviors will change. That is the case for the project Mobilus, which draws upon about fifty schools from the greater Nantes area. The project invites students, families, and teachers to create a project centered around the theme of eco-mobility. The project’s lofty goals are to create an active citizen body, to raise awareness about various modes of transportation and their impact, and to ensure that future citizens develop an understanding of the local area.
Bellastock is an organization founded by architects that engages the public. Its members are convinced that artistic works are useful for stimulating citizens and eliciting reactions, eventually leading towards changes in behavior. Such works also bring people together and help to foster a sense of unity. Creativity is therefore a key element in gathering people and forging ties. After the success of the Bellastock festival, the organization wanted to take things further. In 2013, at the same time as their riverside eco-neighborhood project located on the Saint-Denis island, the organization opened an architectural display laboratory: the ACTLAB. Thanks to the reuse of materials from the eco-neighborhood’s construction site, participants are encouraged to design mini architectural creations. This place for experimentation aims to highlight the possibilities offered by reusing and recycling. It also provides a chance for the organization to assert that we are all creative and that we can all change our communities, it is just necessary to stimulate our creativity.
Raising awareness creates a sense of ownership
If you feel that something belongs to you then you will have the desire to develop it and make improvements. This is the fundamental idea behind sustainable development and the cornerstone for the success of these projects. Co-creating and co-constructing both involve the citizen, and that is the idea that must govern the construction of the sustainable cities of the future. In placing the individual at the heart of the discussion and inviting citizens to interact with their environments, this design approach seems to be perfectly suited to this undertaking. It also supports the slogan of the Nantes Atlantique School of Design’s Sustainable City Design Lab: “no sustainable city without designers!”
Can a sense of pride and involvement in one's city affect residents' attitudes towards sustainability efforts and initiatives?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.
Original article, originally published in French, here.