Paris is leading the world in progressive urbanism – here’s how

paris urbanismAt a time when cities are under pressure from growing populations, global warming and worsening inequality, we need to be making the most of our urban spaces. In the face of these challenges, Paris is leading the way toward a more transparent, democratic form of urbanism, to keep the city growing in a fair and sustainable way.

Last year, under the direction of mayor Anne Hidalgo, the city opened up 5% of its annual budget – worth €20m – to popular vote. Parisians were invited to select architectural and urban projects, to be funded by City Hall. The winning projects included public arts installations, co-working spaces, new pedestrian spaces, community gardens and vertical farms.

But local authorities across the world are facing tight budgets and decreased funding from central governments, which is limiting their capacity to improve our cities. So for now, the scope for publicly funded urban regeneration projects is limited.

An alternative solution is to lend or sell publicly-owned land and buildings to private investors, who have the capital to fund major urban developments and upgrade infrastructure. Yet privately-led regeneration comes with its own problems: private developers seek returns on these new developments, which means they often fail to address local needs and accelerate gentrification.

Yet it seems Paris has found a way to navigate this process in a more transparent and engaging way. In 2014, Mayor Hidalgo launched Reinventing Paris – an international competition inviting proposals for “innovative urban projects” to redevelop 23 sites across the French capital. Selected areas included old public baths, abandoned electricity substations, parking lots, disused hotels, empty plots of land and industrial brownfields.

Earlier this year, the 23 winning projects were announced. These are currently undergoing a final round of review and – pending final approval – construction should start in 2017.

For the competition, the City Hall relaxed its planning rules to encourage participation from smaller organisations, which are less familiar with the intricacies of Paris’ rigid planning system. In the first two stages, the only constraint for proposals was that an architect needed to be involved. To read more click here.

The 9th International Urban Design Conference will be held in Melbourne in November.  To express your interest in the 2016 Conference CLICK HERE.

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