“Room for Change” – Open Worksites as the Key to Collectively Constructed Public Spaces

Place au changement - Chantier ouvert pour un espace public collectivement construit

Colloque Quel Chantier! - CHIAPPERO: chantier ouvert pour un espace public collectivement construit

At the symposium Unsitely! – Leveraging Design to Improve Urban Construction Sites, Florent Chiappero, Architect, INSA (Institut National des Sciences Appliquées), spokesperson for the general-interest association Collectif Etc. and PhD student at ENSA-Marseille, Saint-Étienne, France, gave a lecture entitled “Open Worksites as the Key to Collectively Constructed Public Spaces.”

The time it takes to complete urban projects is punctuated by voids: temporal ones, because the project duration seems long compared with the everyday goings-on around it; and spatial ones, because many spaces are in transition from the unbuilt to the built environment. These interstices can become assets within a given territory and enable the sharing of local dynamics, encounters and creativity. As part of an urban renewal project in Saint-Étienne, France, the public works authority in charge (EPASE) organized a competition for the temporary repurposing of a vacant lot on the city’s outskirts.

The project, titled Place au Changement (“Room for Change”), is one among many recent attempts to experiment with new ways of thinking and conceiving of the urban fabric, with the aim of being more open and inclusive. The objective was to occupy a space left vacant during a hiatus in the urban renewal project so as to afford a new perspective of it that reflected the changes underway in the surrounding neighborhood. The project was meant to be a preliminary step in the process of creating a new building, with a fictional floor plan of the future dwellings drawn on the ground, accompanied by a cross-sectional view.

The Collectif Etc. collaborated with residents to create the public space, using the worksite downtime to exchange ideas and build citizen engagement for the long term.