Today the world is facing severe problems such as global warming, depletion of fossil fuels or other natural resources. Additional to that economic recession, population changes, housing and employment crises and current and potential social divides and their geo-political conflicts.
All those issues are require a more active involvement of citizens to establish an alternative model of production and consumption based on a closed local cycle and being sustainable too. For showcasing that idea, new bottom-up initiatives are necessary to create new tools and knowledge and for presenting new ways how a city/urban area can benefit towards a resilient transformation.
A best practice example is coming from the city of Colombes (83.000 inhabitants), which is located in the metropolitan region of Paris. The project R-URBAN is demonstrating that an active network of citizens and associations is able to create an alternative model of production and consumption through an accelerated introduction of sustainable collective environmental practices. Those practices are reflecting the needs of a modern city toward different (social, cultural, economic, environmental) dimensions.
This project was started by Atelier d’Architecture Autogérée (AAA) which was initiated over a decade ago by architects Doina Petrescu and Constantin Petcou, who since 2008 have been deeply invested in their R-URBAN experiment.
For the project there are three pillows which are necessary for a successful transformation:- a Recycling and Eco-construction Unit
which consists of a number of facilities that will generate a series of changes in the daily habits of local residents and the urban administration in terms of recycling- an Ecological Cooperative Housing Unit
which consists of a number of experimental dwellings, partly self-built
- a Civic Agriculture Unit, which consist of a micro-farm aimed at collective and familial use
AAA’s idea is that not citizens are now forced to take everything into their hands that thing are going. Instead it is more an attempt to discuss again the relationship between the private citizen and the public authority. In the advent of the global financial crises and the widespread of neoliberal attitudes in the public space. Only to do everything “DIY” is not the solution. Therefore R-URBAN is working in a different way. It tries to show how political system can be adopted by private citiziens.
If there is a way to relocate agency within a community, it is not the way to simply support public space with private means, but more to renegotiate a symbiosis between financially stricken public systems and enterprising communities.
The ‘commons’ are traditionally defined as common pool resources – usually, forests, the atmosphere, rivers, pastures – of which the management and use was shared by members of a community. They were spaces that no one could own but everyone could use. The term has now been enlarged to include all resources (whether material or virtual) that are collectively shared by a population or a significant group. Today, the traditional commons have almost disappeared in Europe and little-by-little are also starting to disappear on all continents.
R-Urban is a strategy for enhancing the capacity of local resilience by introducing alternatives to the current models of living, producing and consuming in cities, suburbs and rural areas. It encourages dynamics and practices based on commons.
The ‘R‘ of R-Urban is the sign of a new condition. It relates directly to the three ecological objectives —Reduce, Reuse, Recycle—and suggests other iterations: Repair, Re-design, Re-think, Re-assemble. R-Urban reconnects the Urban with the Rural. R-Urban is a strategy of Resilience.
Resilience is a key term in the more nuanced discussion on sustainability, which takes place today in the context of economic crisis and resource scarcity. Resilience speaks about how systems can adapt and thrive in dramatically changing circumstances. A city will never be able to become resilient without the participation of its inhabitants.
It is a bottom-up approach to ecological regeneration, in which ecology extends beyond the environmental aspects to include social, cultural, and economic concerns. The strategy is conceptualised as a series of ecological, economic, cultural and social agencies, which are based on coordinated actions at different local scales (domestic, neighbourhood, city, region) and complementarities between key fields of urban activity (i.e., economy, habitat, mobility, urban agriculture, culture).
Today the world is facing severe problems such as global warming, depletion of fossil fuels or other natural resources.