Strasbourg, July 2016

Citizen-lab, a garden project in Neuhof (Strasbourg)

Meeting people in the street

To design a garden in the Neuhof suburb

How to design a better living place ?

The Neuhof, an historic and important district of Strasbourg is central to the Renewal Plan led by the city. Apollonia will lead an action in Marshallhof, a place located close to an aerodrome in the south-west part of the city. It’s a land of earth close to the socio-cultural center.

Even though the Neuhof district is really heterogeneous, it’s one of the most unpriviledged area of the city. Many things are representative of the issues met by the people living there. The lack of social diversity. The state of desolation of the buildings. Or the lack of green areas. This territory is part of the social housing built in the 60’s, it’s an ideal ground for Apollonia.

Indeed, our work makes complete sense in this project. Our goal is to create new green spaces where kids and grown-ups will find an outdoor multisport area accessible to all. It will also be made of many gardens. If the Marshallhof area is already mutating, especially due to the destruction of many buildings, the project of the city aims to offer a new quality of life. At its core, a concept that is now essential to Apollonia : the creation of a togetherness. It could be achieved with a private or individual garden, but even more with a shared one. Those represent real living and meeting spaces.

The Maschallhof area

As an extension of this evolving neighborhood is found the Socio-Cultural Center of Neuhof. It’s installed in new premises and is directly concerned by this new urban mutation. It’s a partner of Apollonia for this project. It helps us to understand and raise awareness in the suburb. It is also linked to a fenced green space. For the moment, this location as no specific function. The SCC would like to make an educational vegetable garden for kids between 4 and 8 years old. Nevertheless, it is exposed to a major issue. People from the building nearby throw their trashes from their window in this geen area.

We, at Apollonia, have to deal with two main issues : the cleanliness and the educational garden. If those are complementary for the project, they require a very different approach. Regarding the Marshallhof area, Apollonia has to collaborate with the city to deal with the issues that matter to us. These issues are the central role of the human being and of art in a urbanistic projects. We want to suggest a type of street furnitures that would offer more functionalities than simply sitting on it. Indeed, after many talks with the SCC, we realised that the people in this area are expecting street performances to get a real neighborhood life.

In this way, Apollonia has the deep wish to suggest urban structures for the garden. Those structures should be easy to move to host events, such as circus. Les migrateurs is a non-profit organization that organize circus performances (with no animals). Our partnership with them will allow many transformations of this public space. It will also offer us the possibility to get closer to our audience expectations. Furthermore, those structures would be designed thanks to the launch of a public tender, answered by artists, designers and architects.

The SCC

Contrarily to the big urban projects, the development of this green space can start soon.  The first step will be to get rid of the trashes at the SCC. Apollonia has asked Bellastock (an architectural organization), our parisian partner, to lead a debate during a week. The civic services, both from Apollonia or from the SCC, met the population of the suburb. They learned their motivation to see or not see transformations of their environment. They also tried to understand their practices and wishes. It appears essential to communicate in order to get a better view of the situation. It’s also important to solve the problems with no frustration.

If the SCC building reopens after two years of rehabilitation, outside spaces still need to be adapted. Nevertheless, the many trashes spoiling the space are inconsistent with the future structures, especially the one designed for kids. The issue comes from the proximity between one of the buildings and the SCC. People from the Cultural Center awared us that the problem comes from a few people living in this building. That habit, which seems deeply rooted for more than 15 years made us think about the question of the social barrier. Indeed, could this building be the symbol of a social gap inside the suburb itself ? Some work needs to be done to define the responsability of each person.

If the cleanliness of this place doesn’t preocupate some of its inhabitants, then who should take care of it ? The city of Strasbourg ? The SCC ? The citizens ?

Two workshops took place in order to meet the inhabitants of the district. They are the first garden users. Perspectives and garden planning were the main topics of discussion during the event.

This way, different guidelines came out. The garden aspire to become a place where people could forgather and take up the issues they are concerned about. Therefore, some changes have to be done before enjoying the beauty of the place.

meeting with people from neuhof
Meeting with people from the Neuhof suburb.

The waste management is nonexistent. A real policy has to be implemented with the cooperation of the people living there. This issue could become a common challenge. On  one hand, prevention should be put in place in this area. It would make people, and especially young people, aware about environmental issues. On the other hand, concrete actions (garbage collection for example) should be put in place, involving all the inhabitants. Such experiences enforce social integration and cohesion : two ingredients that are important when it comes to community lives.

Many solutions appeared during those workshops. The inhabitants always had a significant role to play in those solutions. The possibility to set up a tool for the inhabitants to protest against the situation of their neighbourhood has been evocated. It would allow people to discuss about their living conditions in the suburb. Throwing their trashes in front of their window can be seen as an act of protest against the politics. Moreover, it seems that raising awareness of the people is the most important thing to do. It can be done by launching specific operations as « decorate your balcony ». We coulde also organizing events to push neighbours to live together. The togetherness appears as a priority.