R-Urban in Colombes, Paris

Networks of resilience in suburban neighbourhoods

Neighbourhoods across Europe are becoming more resilient as a result of research which proposes new models of urban regeneration. Communities in France and London have set up a network of hubs which host and support a range of collective activities and this strategy is being adopted in other cities across Europe.

The R-Urban regeneration strategy was created by a team of international researchers and practitioners to provide the network of self-governed hubs, which are managed by the community, offering the land, buildings, tools and training to bring together individual initiatives. They provide citizens with the experience of making and doing collectively and offer the opportunity for wider impact by scaling up the activities.

Professor Doina Petrescu explains “Cities are facing increasing challenges to become more resilient. To enable more resilient practices, collective activities involving a range of stakeholders are vital. Our research has shown that these activities are more successful when they are collaborative in the way they are set up and managed – for example commonly owned spaces and services, or ‘Urban Commons’ aim to reclaim cities for local people and provide an alternative to exclusive urban development.”

After researching issues of co-production, resilience and urban commons, researchers implemented the model of R-Urban in Colombes, France and Hackney Wick in London. Researchers and architects worked with local partners to design and build an infrastructure to support resilient practices. In Colombes the network of three hubs offers a micro-farm, recycling plant and cooperative eco-housing. The project involved 400 citizens in co-managing 5000 square metres of land, producing food, energy and housing, while actively reducing waste and water usage.

The strategy and its implementation have received extensive international recognition from civic, professional sectors and policy makers. R-urban is considered as a model for bottom up resilient regeneration which uses architecture as a driver to engage residents in participatory processes.

Around 50 organisations from France and the UK have been involved in R-Urban activities and have further implemented R-Urban principles. R-Urban has been cited in policy recommendations, political programmes, development programmes and has been showcased at events worldwide including the COP21 Paris Summit.

Researchers working on Ecoda projectR-Urban is now expanding to more locations and is being adopted by different civic groups. In France, two other towns (Genneviliers and Bagneux) are currently planning to construct hubs, with a third commissioning a scoping exercise to implement the principles. In London, R-Urban are collaborating on a new development with Public Works and the Poplar Housing and Regeneration Community Association (HARCA), and in Senegal the Rufisque Department and the GRDS pan African development organisation aim to implement an agricultural hub following the R-Urban principles.

Further research focusses on scaling up this strategy and providing digital resources on the implementation of R-Urban hubs and the development of civic resilience practices. The EcoDA (Experimental Co-Design Approaches) project has developed digital tools that will enable local initiatives to become sustainable and allow new versions to generate elsewhere. The tools will connect initiatives across locations, allowing knowledge-sharing and the building of collective practices to generate larger scale urban transformations.

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