Thought Pieces on the Limits of Design: #14

The current processes of financialisation and privatisation of spaces, in particular urban spaces, are being denounced by many researchers and experts. In tense spatial contexts, in the case of metropolitan areas for example, every piece of land must be associated with a precise use, function, status, and owner. Despite the repeated announcements of urban planners and public authorities, zoning is still a common practice. By consequence, there is no more ‘free’ space for experimentation and “spontaneous expression”. Even public spaces, which are shared, governed, bounded and controlled.

However, there is a dimension, extremely complex, which urban planners and public policies have to deal with: time. Urban design, and more precisely planning, tries to anticipate the evolutions of land uses and they are in crisis. Reality shows that both are faced with uncertainty. For instance, some real estate operations do not find buyers and economic activities can perish and/or disappear. Even the so called functionally mixed urban projects do not escape the risk of completely missing the population’s expectations and needs.

Here is where associations like Plateau Urbain enter into action.[1]

Created in July 2013, Plateau Urbain was born from a simple finding: the surprising and large real estate vacancy in the service sector in the Ile-de-France region. At the same time, the number of entrepreneurs supporting new associative, cultural or artistic projects keeps increasing and they still encounter huge difficulties to find affordable rentals and spaces.

Plateau Urbain proposes to be the interface between owners of empty spaces and project holders. By ensuring the tenants pay only taxes and charges, the association aims to support and promote creation in its largest sense and develops spaces for experimentation and re-appropriation.

By multiplying the uses of spaces, most importantly ephemeral ones, for example before a building demolition, the initiative allows neighbourhoods to gain long term attractiveness. It creates a totally new mix of activities and functions, foster new habits, manners and ways of living. The will of Plateau Urbain is to participate strongly in this movement.

Today with energy prices skyrocketing and resources becoming scarce, enterprises and public authorities are obliged to minimize their expenses. This is why Plateau Urbain develops recycling initiatives and industry partnerships in a virtuous circle of use and re-use of materials, and adaptation and rehabilitation of buildings.

For more than a year and a half, Plateau Urbain has been involved in Les Grands Voisins project in collaboration with the associations Aurore and Yes We Camp. This project shows the advantages of mixing and combining the uses of land in order to build commons and social tissues, and create the city of the future.