7 apartments against a garden?

POC Allée St Georges, Armentières

7 apartments against a garden?

The demolition of the old St Georges courtyard in Armentières, which became unsanitary, frees up land that, logically, is destined to accommodate new housing. But if you zoom out of St Georges alley in the heart of the city block, you will find on the edge a large project to build 700 homes! What do 7 additional homes represent against 700? 

Let the city breathe

This is the key issue raised by the requalification study conducted in 2019 by the architecture studio Blau, developed in consultation with the neighbourhood residents. This small neighbourhood of low, tight buildings and little green spaces would greatly benefit from a breathing space. The former proposal, which outlined the reconstruction of 7 housing units, is being called into question in a common agreement by all stakeholders of the city of Armentières and the European Metropolis of Lille.

The new proposal aims to maintain this open space and plans to define its final purpose with the citizens. Thus a three-step process takes place. Site preparation : cleaning-up, fencing off and ground frame construction. Citizen participation : thematic workshops and insight-gathering in order to decide upon different types of furniture and wall treatments for the garden proposed by the Blau team. And finally, project completion, following the specifications and drawings made together with the citizens. 

Question the question

As with many cases of citizen participation, Allée St Georges’ purpose raises questions about democracy. How can we take into account all stakeholders, the neighbourhood residents but also the people waiting to be relocated, which are difficult to reach as they are not stakeholders yet? How can we design the co-construction so that it defines the project’s purpose beyond a mere participatory approach of adjustment to the aimed level of citizen appropriation?

While all these are real issues raised and the approach can certainly be improved, Allée St Georges’ story is a beautiful one, and Blau’s action is emblematic of the questioning that any designer, architect, urban planner, etc. should arouse in a participative way before starting any project!

  • Project holders :Métropole Européenne de Lille
  • Designers :BLAU Architectes
  • Stakeholders : SLAP, city of Armentières
  • Photo credit : BLAU Architectes