Can you introduce yourself ? How old are you ? What have you been studying ?
My name is Emilie, I’m 25.
I got an high school degree in economics and social science specializing in German. Then I obtained a degree in architecture at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Versailles (Superior National School of Architecture of Versailles). And I finally graduated a master in urbanism at the university of Paris IV Sorbonne in october 2014. I realized quite soon that architecture wasn’t for me, but this degree provided me knowledges in graphic design, as well as some discipline and creativity. My master and my many internships improved my skills in project management and coordination. The sustainability and the human being conditions have always been my greatest concerns. This way, one of my internship was dedicated to the improvement of the quality of life in Kenya.
Why did you apply to this civic service ?I was looking for a job for more than a year, and I really wanted to work in this field of activity. Apollonia was inviting youngsters to think about the role of the human being and of art in our cities. Those are, for me, top of mind concerns for the upcoming urban projects. The civic service offers the possibility to get more experience, and to expand your professional network. Also, Apollonia appeared as the perfect organization to get back to city planning and explore new perspectives in arts as well as in the associative sector.
What’s your reflexion process regarding the importance of art and human being in our cities ?
I think that urbanistic projects, even though they are led with the best intentions, oftenly forget to take into consideration the needs and wishes of the inhabitants, particularly when they take place in a changing suburb. The consultative meetings are smokescreens to me. They intend to make the citizens accept a project while they have no control on it. As a future urbanist, it seems essential to me that city and urbanism should be the matter of the inhabitants and that they should take part in their conception. The projects that have been previously approved by the citizens might be best received and less destroyed. In addition to that, the city might be a place for people to meet and create strong social links again.
Also, many projects are very similar. If their location make them unique, the materials chosen are often the same. Dreams and utopia for our cities have turned into very automated processes. To work with artists seems to be the solution to get away from restrictive norms. We shouldn’t only offer the possibility to put some art on a roundabout, but art should be included while designing the roundabout.
How did you get involved in the Citizen-Lab project ?
I don’t want to let down any aspect of Apollonia’s Citizen-Lab project, but I feel more involved in the participative garden. Indeed, the wish of our director Dimitri Konstantinidis was that we, the civic services, would take control of some projects. This way, in a near future, it might result in new jobs for youngsters. In addition to the purely administrative aspects of such a project, we had the possibility to suggest our own vision for the site development plan. My skills in graphic design and my knowledges in urbanism allowed us to make these ideas both effective and credible. Moreover, we established a plan for the future of this garden, including many partners.
Which were the steps for the project and what was your role in its development ?
There was already a clear and global vision for the garden at Apollonia. The place itself wasn’t allocated to the organization yet when we arrived. This has been a wonderful opportunity for us to learn. We could behave like prime contractors, offering many options for the development of the garden. But we also had to face the issues met by the prime contractors. Indeed, we had to think about a new business model. When public subsidies are getting lower and lower for urban projects, it’s important to find a new way to fund them.
Thus, we found many partners, and we are creating new tools, such as the fond urbain mutualisé (shared urban funding). Furthermore the ground of the garden can’t be dogged, so we had to find some topsoil to start sowing. Our biggest part of the job has been to think about solutions to bring more than 500 cubic meter, for free !