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Author(s): Jean-Christophe Tougeron, architecte conseil de l'état

Allotments: architecture and site matter

200 km long area in the south of Lille, the coal basin has been chosen as UNESCO legacy. Multiple urban fragments are scattered according to mine shafts historical repartition, where an unique architectural habitat – the former miners house – is now in conflict with soil conquest for density.

Nevertheless those workers’ housing developments are precisely interesting because they combined every apartment individuality with a strong feeling of social cohesion, the urban territory being deeply bound to the economic activity.

Urbanism stands in the crossing of those three realms: spatial, territorial, human.

References to hygienist movement of late nineteenth century as well as garden cities theories are here uncountable. They vary according to the multiplicity of situations: housing typologies, public spaces configurations, types of housing clustering.

Along all historical changes, a common project have remained: the constitution of city rely on the industrial activity and on a social coherence. During more than one and a half century, this was a laboratory for housing: low rents eventually even improved by perks substracted the worker’s housing market from merchandization and speculation processes that now holds all popular allotment phenomenons.

Contemporary family houses development clusters housing units along dead-ends roads, as to escape from any common vision. In urban situations, it extends the villages, nibbling fertile soils with its intrusive road networks.

This is a neverending trial, perhaps not the purpose of this message in the bottle thrown in the Venitian laguna.

This former coalmine workers’ garden city agglomerations may become, thanks to the UNESCO recognition, a new inspiration, a new laboratory both for urban and architectural fields.

What are the challenges for this new architectural approaches: reinsert those cities in the urban structure – from which they’ve never really split, but have been symbolically detached…-, adapt the housing units to environmental standards and lifestyles potentials while respecting their historical values.