Tag Archives: community

Basel, Gundeldinger Feld

Today, I’ll take you to Basel, at Dornacherstrasse 192,where an old factory has been transformed into a neighborhood center, Gundeldinger Feld.

The history of this place could be the same as many other places around the world: a 19th century factory in the inner city suddenly moving to the suburbs in order to look for more space, an urban void opening up in the neighborhood, maybe some developer buying the buildings in order to turn them into  expensive lofts… But here the story takes a different path. The architectural firm INSITU, composed mainly of people living in the area, develops a project willing to promote local, indipendent business and improve the cultural offer of the neighborhood. They submit their proposal to the factory’s administrators: a Limited Company, composed of the architects themself will buy the buildings, renew and rent them to the different businesses.

Most of the architects from INSITU have previously worked in Africa, and thus they apply here most of the principles developped in their African experiences:

  • reuse of buildings in a way that minimizes the changes in the structure;
  • use of massive materials (concreetes, bricks, wood), easy to repare and with a long lifespan;
  • possibility, for a large and diverse population, to come and enjoy the area.

Today, Gundeldinger Feld includes a mixture of activities and business, including:

The central alley. The restaurant Eo Ipso on the left, offices on the right.

Details of the central alley. Here, all the works have been a new pavement for the alley, some flower pots and some bike racks. Thanks to laws in Basel encouraging car-free projects, no parking space is provided within the area.

Flower pots are not fixed. Customers can move pots as they like, and give their own touch to the alley.

Blinde Kuh restaurant, and its Braille-labeled bottles. In this restaurant, all waiters are blind, and people eat in complete darkness. Definitely worth trying!

A hall waiting to be renewed.

Another hall, turned into a public library. Lots of the factory equipement (cranes) are still on place.

The Rock-climbing training hall. Here too, cranes and other industrial equipements are still visible.

What lessons could be learnt from this project? Here are mine:

  • sustainable development won’t be made of futuristic materials (for example, we can compare Gundeldinger Feld with this project still in Basel) or over-determined, Le Corbusier-style projects, but of simple, reproducibile solutions. (more readings on this subject are on the website “emergent urbanism“)
  • In order to be accepted from the main audience, sustainable development has to be fun: somebody will adopt it because of their environmental committment, some others just because it’s fun or convenient. And all together, all these people will make the business thrive.
  • Small business need small rents, but not too small rents. Too expensive rents will make the area accessible only to the most luxurious brands, while too cheap rents will let small business survive without caring too much of their customers. And projects like this need business who take care of their customers!

Did you like this place? Vote for it on Cooltownplaces.com!

retrofitting suburbia in 3 steps

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(photo: flickr)

This month, everybody talks about suburbs (and about the prominent feature of suburbs, cars): some posts on RSR website (here, here and here), the last edition of the forum Ecoparc: So, it’s the right moment to talk about this subject, and to propose a strategy to align autorities and developers’ interests.

1 – Complete the streets

First step, completely in the hands of public powers, is completing the streets. In many cases, people drive instead of walking because roads are designed for cars rather than for people. Let’s see some examples:

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Aigle. Sidewalks are too small. Pedestrians are not protected from traffic

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Aigle. Vehicles-only road

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Aigle. Crossing forbidden (but people cross here anyway)

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Aigle. Pedestrian underpass, not very appealing.

And here, some good examples:

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Aigle. Trees, sidewalks and outdoor cafés.

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Aigle. side street.

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Aigle. Landscaped entrance to the shopping center (with bus shelter included)

2 – Allow and promote mixed-use developments

In this case too, public powers have the choice. A good zoning code should allow suburbs to be reconverted into  mixed-use districts, in order to reduce distances between houses, shops and workplaces.

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Aigle: houses on this side street could be easily turned into shops.

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Garages: this space could be easily be turned into shops or ateliers

(image: flickr)

3 – Crowdsourcing

The first two steps were were dedicated to public powers, the third one is dedicated to developers. Single-family houses and cars are, above all, industrial products, sold with a well-established marketing policy. So, mixed-use development should be marketed focusing on things that single-family houses couldn’t offer: common spaces, a vibrant community, walkable neighborhoods. At the same time, mixed-use development should keep the image of a customized house in a natural environment, image that made the single-family house so popular.

A good way to achieve this goal could be crowdsourcing: build a Cohousing or Coworking community, organize events in order to make future cohousers/coworker meet (i.e. a few-days trip) then go on all together to a developer  in order to build our dream’s  home. And the community could create new synergies and promote new features, like co-buying and mobility plans.

Crowdsourcing the eco-district of Lausanne Blécherette: consuming

On september 10, another crowdsourcing session has taken place in Lausanne. This time, the theme was “consuming”: shops, energy, water, wastes. Here is a list of the wishes that came out during the session:

- Small independent shops rather than big chain suburban supermarkets (Most of people had few hopes that this would have been possible, the suburban model being seen as unavoidable).

- A farmers market and a flea market.

- Late-evening open shops.

- Finding a way to give a second life to used products still in good state (cradle-to-cradle).

- Encouraging (or even imposing) energy savings:
- bonus-malus policies
- laws forbidding unnecessary wastes
- make energy and wastes lifecycles visible

The whole session report (in French) is available here.

——–

Little by little, from these sessions (here is the previous one), something is emerging: there is a class of people which feels neglected by the actual market. They want a small-scale walkable city, with:

-urban, small houses, located in a vibrant, pedestrian oriented space,

-small, independent (but open 24/7) shops which can serve different needs (vegetarian, organic, local) and work as real third places,

-less energy wastes and more community.

——-

Next crowdsourcing session (“Moving”) on September 25, 20h00, espace Riponne, Rue du Valentin 4, Lausanne.

Crowdsourcing the eco-district of Lausanne Blécherette: growing up

(source video: OLA Métamorphose)

The city of Lausanne is promoting a serie of crowdsourcing sessions for the new eco-district of Pontaise-Blecherette. Last Tuesday I was in the first of them, called “Grow Up”, and heard lots of interesting ideas.

First of all, people wanted a small-scale district: small roads that will help random meetings, small houses that will help people go out…exactly the opposite of modern day suburbs.

Then, another wish was for different areas for different people, but still in the same district: vibrant places for the youngest, quieter places for the elders, a common place where people of different ages could meet, some appartments specially designed for old people within the district.

Another idea was about finding a way in which people could add a personal touch to their district: some unfinished spaces, some house decoration programs…

Meeting in two weeks (september 10, 20h00, espace Riponne – rue du Valentin 4, Lausanne) for the next crowdsourcing session!

in the meantime, French-speaking people can find all the ideas that came in Tuesday session here.

Free hugs campaign: the best example of the Flash Mob test

This video shows a classic of flash mobs, the Free Hugs Campaign, and shows us how the flash mob test reveals the different visions of public space carried by different actors: police officers viewed it just as a circulation space, while users viewed it as a place to meet and as an informal stage. It’s interesting to see how people were likely to defend  meeting space status when it was questioned by police officers.

(source: free hugs campaign)

dancing flash mob

Here is another example of flash mob, from various locations around the world.

(source: where the hell is matt?, urban prankster)

white nights

A lively community must show itself from time to time, in order to catch the attention of people from the outside world. A good way to fill this purpose can be the organization of a “white night”, a night in which the city becomes a big stage for actors, musicians, dancers, sportsmen…

In the organization of the white night, an important point, though often forgotten, is the choice of artist. In order to maximize the benefices for the city, the artists performing in the white night should be local, emerging artists. With local emerging artists, both the city and the community living in it are on stage and show themselves to the outside world. On the other side, if the performers of the white night are non-local artists or are too famous, only the city comes on stage, while the community remains a mere spectator.