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Author(s): Collectif ICI !

“Co-construct” they said!

Giving news from the front is often just another means of answering to “how are you?”.

For us, the answer is here!, and we are officially the co-builders of the urban renovation of the Île Saint-Denis southern neighborhood. With this, we’ve explained nothing and everything. To understand what lies beneath the slick of sweet words, we ask ourselves stupid questions. The sort of questions you don’t ask in public meetings for fear of being seen as an idiot… To understand such notions as participation, crisis, democracy, we asks ourselves: creating vegetable gardens and chicken coops, is that really for Bobos? Do we reuse by conviction or because we’re broke? Can we carry out a research by pottering about?

We were a group of mates who all got really anxious whenever we heard the question “what do you do in life?”. After endless debates, we agreed on the basic: being happy. To do that, we wanted to make our personal lifestyles compatible with our need of being useful to society. The main difficulties: the prejudices on architects and architecture. So we realized that we had to explain what we did, not in the aim of showing off, but explaining to exchange. This required accessibility. But it’s not because you decide to become interested in people that they’ll find your little lives interesting. We even think sometimes that participation doesn’t exist. But it’s only because that word has been used so often that it disappoints us so much.

To establish the trust allowing us to ask these stupid questions, we invented two roles. First the local architect that becomes available through an on-site permanence. But since everybody didn’t spontaneously come to visit us, there’s also a street architect to blocks passages in stairwells, to drink some tea, speak with a scale model or build something.

To give a form to all that, we works with the “forsaken” of the territory: know-how, rubbish, leftovers, spaces… this is a means of doing with people, with the resources of every individual to tie them to the built projects. Putting these resources into a network means encouraging the project culture, that which forces everyone to re-open their eyes on their environment and imagine the possible, once again.

The southern neighborhood of the Ile-Saint-Denis fell into the scope of the New national Programme for Urban Renovation and we heard about co-construction, although no one was quite sure what it implied. We saw an opportunity, that of defining it progressively, from the neighborhood.

Now when people ask us “what do you do in life?” we have tons of things to tell. So they ask us: “but is that architecture?”… Perhaps. But for the time being we are focused on making sure that everyone knows that life is truly worth living.

And how are you?

Programme : Rénovation urbaine