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Bringing Participatory Urbanism to Bordeaux, Aquitaine, ...

Bringing Participatory Urbanism to Bordeaux, Aquitaine, France

“It is our first public action for the Grand Rue,” explains Gwenaëlle Larvol, who is in charge of Bruit du Frigo’s project, along with Anne-Cécile Paredes. Events on May 31 in the Ferdinand-Buisson Square brought a week-long residence of artists in the neighborhood to a close. The day was also an opportunity to unveil yet-to-be

The Ferdinand-Buisson Square. Bordeaux, Aquitaine, France Credit: Bruit du Frigo. “It is our first public action for the Grand Rue,” explains Gwenaëlle Larvol, who is in charge of Bruit du Frigo’s project, along with Anne-Cécile Paredes. Events on May 31 in the Ferdinand-Buisson Square brought a week-long residence of artists in the neighborhood to a close. The day was also an opportunity to unveil yet-to-be developed projects belonging to the “Un Lieu Possible” (A Possible Place) initiative. It was described as “a party, an urban stroll, dance, open-air café, and a chance to see the area in an unexpected light.”

Cooperation For a Living Environment

Bruit du Frigo is a collective based in Bordeaux that gathers architects, urban planners, and artists for a cooperative approach towards transforming living environments, while including the users of these environments. Active since 1997, it is devoted to acting on and studying cities through participatory, artistic, and cultural approaches. The group was started by Yvan Detraz and Gabi Farage, who passed away in 2012. Farage said that “the making of cities remains a concern for specialists and professionals. They take it upon themselves to imagine it for others. However, every person, whether a passer-by or a resident, also has his or her own vision of the development and evolution of the places they frequent.” The collective has applied plans of action that mix temporary installments with art and collective, citizen action. They have been active in different locations in French cities in order to set up temporary buildings born from exchanges between the local population and artists or architects. The results were visible in Lyon, Marseille, and the Parisian region. In Bordeaux, they are responsible for traffic islands in urban fringes, as well as excursions in the outskirts of the city. This approach challenges the notion of mastery over the city by implementing new modes of discovery.

Conquering the Street

The Belcier and Carle-Vernet neighborhoods form the block found behind the Saint-Jean train station. In a neighborhood that lives one way during the day, and another at night, the street can only be an inexhaustible source of encounters. These meetings form the approach’s basis for making members of the public mix with individuals with whom they would otherwise not have the opportunity to come across such as post workers, sanitation workers, local residents, architects, and artists. “Belcier and Carle-Vernet are neighborhoods that lend themselves to our activity. The streets' activity changes during the course of the day. During the day the activity there is classic, with busy residents and businesses. At night, the neighborhood changes due to its proximity to night clubs. The street belongs to a different demographic, and life goes on as usual. We wanted to take a distinctive look, to explore, and initiate a collaborative, human, philosophical, and political work,” adds Gwenaëlle Larvol. In this up and coming neighborhood experiencing changes announced by the Euratlantique project, Bruit du Frigo approached associations already established in the neighborhood, namely “Associations inclined to speak for residents.” One of these groups, active since 2006, identifies with the project and is the force behind “Un quartier qui bouge.” The Gare Saint-Jean in Bordeaux, France

Un quartier qui bouge with the Bordeaux Sud Center

Un quartier qui bouge,” or “a neighborhood on the move” is an event created in 2006 to accompany the changes to this part of the city. It is interested in promoting meetings between new and old residents. This event allows people to express ideas and it gathers the public together through sporting activities, and a stage for rapping, slam poetry, dancing, and singing. Gwenaëlle Larvol and Anne-Cécile Paredes launched the project “Grand Rue” at the end of 2013 and they had a space at the “Un quartier qui bouge” event. They chose the theme, location, and also set out to form a commission for selecting artists with the goal of putting them in contact with a local organization: “And so, the artists worked all week in pairs with neighborhood businesses, Geneviève Rando with the city’s sanitary service, Anne de Sterk with the SNCF (French National Railway Company), and Marie Bouts with the post office. Three other artists worked on personal projects on-site: Bruce Bégout, philosopher and writer, Diane Berg, illustrator and architect, and Samuel Boche, photography and video maker. Lastly, a mobile kitchen was led by the group Nous Sommes avec le Centre d’animation Bordeaux Sud.” Other groups and businesses mobilized to become involved and bring in collaborations that encourage reflection about urbanism on a human-scale, something that is often neglected by works from large development sites.

Investing in a Grand Rue

On May 31 all proposed projects by these artists were visible. But, they also require the involvement of residents who will be responsible for “writing a list of specifications.” This list will be established on September 16 and will define the project’s second step, which is the creation of La Grande Rue on a “realistic scale” with the concept of a “possible place” for the festival planned for June, 2015. To finish this project, a budget of 60,000 euro is necessary for the first year. Like the majority of initiatives supported by the public, funding tends to be low, when it is not cut completely. Bruit du Frigo continues to operate despite these restrictions, armed with the conviction that cities belong to their residents. What kinds of projects and activities can inspire residents to feel more involved and invested in their neighborhoods? Original article, originally published in French, here. Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

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Marcus Khoury is a recent graduate of the University of California Los Angeles, where he obtained a B.A. in French & Francophone Studies. Aside from his native Michigan, Marcus has lived in several states, in addition to France and Chile. Owing...

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