My heterogeneous studies have allowed me to be aware of the importance of multidisciplinary practice and the significant influence of sharing knowledge. I have had the chance to be surrounded by anthropologists, sociologists, historians, geographers, engineers, architects, urban planners and artists during my studies and work experience. I have always questioned my role as architect and designer.
I allocate a special attention to my position in the process of project and how us as designers can contribute to build sustainable and friendly cities. In the 60’s, Edmund Bacon ([i]) says “The building of cities is one of man’s greatest achievements”. I would say: Edifying ([ii]) the cities would be the man’s greatest challenge of this century.
Coordination and management constitute major parts of my mission as an architect. Every component and aspects of the site: social, economic, environmental, cultural has to be taken into consideration. In addition, my role is to communicate with other disciplines and reinforce partnership. What I consider essential for integrated approach is to take the risk to deconstruct all our conventional methods of our work practice.
Designers have to drop their traditional methods; instead to project a static and frozen image we have to support an on-going process which main purpose is to continue and to progress. The city is in perpetual change and we have to be sensitive to its complexity and multiple faces that shape our daily landscape. My profession, architect, has to be evolvable as well as the varied professions related to architecture, infrastructure design, urban and development planning.
Integrated planning approach is facing various problems related to uncertainty of the notion itself which the contours remain unclear. The fragmented responsibilities of key stakeholders leads to complete failure of the whole process, lack of institutional capacities and most of all the resistance to change.
Learning from examples:
From Olympic village to the Eco-district
New York, London, Madrid, Moscow, Paris, all candidate cities for the Olympic Games 2012; the city of Paris has decided to favour the odds to be chosen by initiating an ambitious project of an Olympic village. Politicians promoted the project as being an urban lever enhancing urban diversity and reinforcing sustainability.
The project is located in ‘Clichy Batignolles’ district, in the 17th arrondissement of Paris and holds a strategic situation being inside Paris and surrounded by Clichy and Levallois Perret Towns. Fifty hectare of railway infrastructure and associated activities mainly connected to Saint Lazare railway station. This site was under the spotlight, it has been the subject of workshops in schools of architecture and landscape planning, expositions et cetera. In 2001, an urban study was initiated by the city with the purpose of creating a “tremendous green space” as the percentage of green space in this district is lower than the state average.
Fortunately, on july 6th 2002, London was officially chosen to host the Olympic Games for 2012. This event has traced a new destiny for this area.The participation for Olympic Games enhanced the project by pointing it on sustainable development and accelerating the studies phase. The project is part of a huge ambitious environmental project of the capital.
The city government pushed and legislated far beyond the researches and studies: protection against pollution, mobility, accessibility, smooth and friendly ways of travel, conservation of natural resources, and security of equipment. It went far in creating legal framework, ZAC (zone d’aménagement concerté) special planning zone for the project site.
First initiator of the project, the municipality of Paris is conscious of the tremendous challenges to be faced. A standard and classic approach will threat the future of the project. The different responsible bodies from the governmental side and entities involved in the project were aware of the importance to adopt a new strategy for management and learning from experiences that have the same magnitude worldwide. They were attentive that “…diverse group of stakeholders comes together, shares information and perspectives, fosters mutual understanding, and develops a collaborative approach to managing an environmental system.” (D.MARGERUM, 1999)
The Emergence of sustainable ‘City
The government wanted to give to the project a holistic nature, which in definition means “characterized by the belief that the parts are intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole” (Oxford Dictionary, 2012). Every component has been linked to the other in harmonious way. This experimental project is tracing its path and part of the fundamental aspiration has been perceived already: First phase of the project has been achieved; the park named ‘Martin Luther king’ had been already finished in 2007. Inhabitants, visitors as well as different species of fauna and flora have appropriated it.
The main orientations of this sustainable city are based on environmental, human, social, economic, and cultural components:
-Sensitive implementation of housing around the park.
– The strong requirement of sustainable development in the design of all features.
-Priority to accessibility for people with reduced mobility, diversification of means of transportation and adapt them to the needs of local inhabitants.
-The implementation and the integration of crossing infrastructure aiming to cross existing railways and major high traffic roads.
-Preservation of architectural, historical heritage.
-Restructuring of railways’ functions related to Saint-Lazare railway station.
-The integration of logistic urban activities.
-Creating favorable milieu and designing biological corridors to create biodiversity.
-Sensitive water management and waste management.
-The design is flexible to integrate program development of the project and the contribution of different designers whose number is increasing overtime.
The exploitation and maintenance have been integrated to the design. While the designing and realisation phase of Martin Luther king park- considered as the backbone of the whole project -designers have worked closely with future operators: The gardeners of the park and the ones of the City of Paris. Exchange and feedback are the milestones for flexible and integrated design. All future managers are closely associated with the whole infrastructure design work in progress.
The site is located in the junction of several neighbourhoods sociologically contrasting. Disparities are particularly deep between east and west districts. To overcome this alarming situation, the project is based on ethical values to bring about social coherence such as affordability, equity in use and ownership, fixed rent, social housing and creating new job opportunities.
From the beginning, at Olympic Game candidature phase, the population have been involved in the process of the project by the city and mainly the local elected representatives. A ‘Consultation Plan’ was launched since 2009. This participatory approach is composed of various structures well articulated. It allows inhabitants to participate in defining the programs, interact with designers. Children and teenagers, thanks to educational workshops sessions, have influenced the selection of projects. The project structure is open to change, to new ideas and to brainstorming.
The good governance has played a key role in all stages. Coordination, control and sustainable management were essential. A very strict and assiduous work have been and still provided to maintain this balance. This example illustrate how the city government can influence the way things go and how important is its role to establish a sustainable integrated management.
The project ‘Clichy Batignolles’ has set as objective to meet, even exceed the sustainable development requirements fixed by the City of Paris and île de France Region, for the sake of exemplarity. The communities admit that this project has played the role of showcase and laboratory. It was essential for them to take this opportunity and build on its success.
Conclusion and outlook
I have had the chance to work on ‘Clichy-Batignolles’ project during my first year of master course in Paris La Villette, which motivates partially my choice. I have followed the progress of this ambitious project during the last five years and have been a frequent user of Martin Luther King Park to witness its aesthetical, environmental, social and cultural success. However, this public private partnership project or let’s say this experimental integrated approach represent billions of billion euro; the cost of only environmental study is around 1.879.000 €(net of tax), the city spend for only charges 739.934 K € (net of tax). This is tremendously expensive and unaffordable for the majority of countries in the world.
Innovative solutions, high investment for the sake of sustainability, tailored design solutions, sustainable management and most of all a political will associated to a large social consensus are the pillars on which stand the integrated planning approach.
How can we achieve this vision of a sustainable and integrated planning in a context of political, economic instability, in a context where the majority of ‘human resources’ are lucking the basics of a decent life?
D.Margerum, R. 1999. Integrated envrionmental management : The Foundations for successful Practice. Environmental Planning and Management review : 151.
Ignatieva, M. (2000). Research Archive. Retrieved 1 20, 2012, from Lincoln University: http://hdl.handle.net/10182/57 [accessed 19 January 2012]
Clichy Batignolles. Clichy Batignolles : www.clichy-batignolles
[i] Edmund Bacon was a noted American urban planner, architect, educator and author called the father of modern Philadelphia.
[ii] Providing moral or intellectual instruction(Oxford dictionary, 20012)