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Urban Living Lab for Local Regeneration

Beyond Participation in Large-scale Social Housing Estates

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About this book

This open access book provides an integrated overview of the challenges and resources of large-scale social housing estates in Europe and outlines possible interdisciplinary approaches and tools to promote their regeneration. It especially focuses on the tool of urban living labs, as promising in promoting new and more effective local governance and in including the different actors into the planning process. The book combines theory and practice, since it is the result of action-research conducted in different social housing estates all over Europe.
Building on the results of the SoHoLab project (2017–2020), the book benefits from a multidisciplinary perspective, since the researchers involved belong to the fields of anthropology, urban planning, architecture, urban sociology. The project combined theoretical reflections with the installation and/or the consolidation of Urban Living Labs, run by universities, in large social housing estates in three European cities: Brussels, Milan and Paris.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

Open Access

Chapter 1. Introduction: Framing Living Labs in Large-Scale Social Housing Estates in Europe
Abstract
Today, Living Labs are increasingly promoted as innovative tools to deal with urban regeneration in Europe. In this contribution, we look at their potential in the context of the regeneration of large-scale social housing estates. Starting from the results of the research project SoHoLab (2017–2020) and building on the contributions of this book, we identify Living Labs as practices that are at the margin of key regeneration processes and actors but that nonetheless play an important, enabling role in triggering a more broadly supported approach to regeneration. We use the metaphor of the ‘interstice’ to identify Living Labs’ role of mediating across different social, institutional, disciplinary, departmental, and policy realms. Nevertheless, caution is warranted. Living Labs should not be considered the approach towards the urban regeneration of marginalized areas; their potential lies precisely in their hybrid and constantly transforming character. In order to steer regeneration practices and policies that are actually more inclusive, they should be accompanied by a critical and self-reflexive research attitude.
Nele Aernouts, Francesca Cognetti, Elena Maranghi

A Critical Overview on Urban Living Labs in Large-Scale Social Housing Estates

Frontmatter

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Chapter 2. Beyond a Buzzword: Situated Participation Through Socially Oriented Urban Living Labs
Abstract
In the broader framework of Living Labs and participatory planning, the essay proposes socially-oriented Urban Living Labs (ULLs) as a possible way of understanding and experimenting with participation in marginalized contexts. It does so by applying a focus on individual/collective capacities and enabling processes to support them. Drawing on the literature and the observation and implementation of concrete cases, the essay proposes a reflection on ULLs as situated environments in which “everyone’s” capacities are formed and tested, thus challenging the functioning of local democracy. This implies a focus as much on residents and local agents as on institutions. The essay proposes a shift from Living Labs to socially oriented Urban Living Labs, in order to foster the social dimension of planning, questioning the mechanisms of involvement and support of the most fragile profiles, often excluded from the political process. The perspective is the implementation of an enabling and mutual learning process through devices to reinforce organizations and people’s ability to reflect on, aspire to, and take action for the transformation of their life context, becoming real agents of change.
Francesca Cognetti

Open Access

Chapter 3. Governing with Urban Living Labs
Abstract
Within the European Union, Urban Living Labs now figure prominently in the urban governance toolbox. On the local stage, they are seen as auxiliaries that encourage citizen participation with a view to co-constructing policies designed to improve the quality of housing and the built environment. Their versatility is remarkable, and they are used both to boost new approaches to planning, such as tactical urbanism, and to renew the regeneration policies of large social housing areas. This text is the result of the SoHoLab research project and aims to provide a critical analysis of the roles and functions of Urban Living Labs as support tools for planning policies. Based on a review of the specialized literature and the work and experiments carried out within the framework of SoHoLab, it proposes an approach that strives to analyse ULLs as components of a new model of urban governance. From a critical perspective, it formulates the hypothesis that ULLs are not only tools of power aimed at promoting the empowerment of residents but also seeking to improve the legitimacy of planning policies and to impose a model of domination and forms of social control in accordance with the requirements of neoliberal city regulation.
Serge Wachter

Open Access

Chapter 4. Urban Living Labs: Insights for Institutionally Promoted Urban Policies
Abstract
This chapter presents the results of a study that analyzed the conditions in which it is possible to scale-up to the Urban Living Lab (ULL) approach, which was developed in large-scale social housing neighbourhoods, characterized by phenomena of social and spatial marginalization. Specifically, the aim of the study is to provide indications and tools, but also indicate challenges and critical issues to those public institutions interested in promoting and adopting, in such contexts, the ULL approach for programmes of social and/or urban regeneration. The study is based on a comparative analysis of local experimentations produced both by launching or consolidating the ULL, promoted by universities within the SoHoLab project in three European cities and by a public programme developed in the Lombardy region from 2014, which has features in common with the ULL. The study analyzed the documentation produced and thirty interviews with different stakeholders (public institutions, NGOs, social housing companies). Considering some specific topics and the important lessons learned from the local projects, the chapter deals with the theme of the transferability of labs, from a local level to a regional or national level, by an institutional lever.
Alice Selene Boni

Open Access

Chapter 5. Adapting the Living Lab Methodology: The Prefix ‘Co’ as an Empowerment Tool for Urban Regeneration in Large-Scale Social-Housing Estates
Abstract
In recent years, Urban Living Labs (ULLs) have acquired an ever greater resonance in the field of spatial and urban regeneration. Indeed, the promotion of a collaborative approach turns out to be decisive if one wishes to include a multiplicity of social actors in these processes, an indispensable aspect today of promoting effective physical and social transformations of the urban environment. However, which specific adjustments must a ULL make in order to be configured as a truly inclusive tool within marginalized urban areas, such as public-housing neighbourhoods, where access to decision-making processes is structurally limited? Departing from a European perspective, reinterpreted through the specific Milanese context of the San Siro district, the paper reflects on the approach of ULLs in marginalized areas: material and immaterial work platforms where different languages, knowledge, values, and visions meet through an active—even conflictual—encounter which is crucial for the promotion of local regeneration processes.
Francesca Cognetti, Elena Maranghi

Positioning Research(ers) in Large-Scale Social Housing Estates

Frontmatter

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Chapter 6. Beyond the Presence: Dwelling with People and with Their Places
Abstract
The author intends to indicate some epistemological and political nodes of ‘being there’ at the centre of ULLs, in different forms as implied by the SoHoLab project. At the root of the idea that urban sites can provide an arena of learning within which the co-creation of innovation can be pursued among research organisations, public institutions, the private sector and community actors, lies the possibility of establishing meaningful relationships as a medium to know these sites, construct social design, implement and govern local and national housing policies. In the light of the modus operandi of anthropological field research, on another way to ‘being there’, the author shows how ‘these meaningful social bonds’ to be epistemologically and politically relevant need to be coupled with a strong critical reflexivity able to deconstruct continuously the discursivities (of policies, of disciplinary as common and mainstreaming narratives) and practices of the ULL itself. A cognitive strabismus has to be developed to catch these place-based laboratories and contexts dependents, to make them ‘up close’, apprehend ‘from inside’ and ‘from below’. Analysis situ and analysis in situ are not disjointed: the third space of knowledge construction allows to join them and recognise the logics that govern these social bonds.
Ferdinando Fava

Open Access

Chapter 7. 1,460 Days of Love and Hate: An Ethnographic Account of a Layered Job
Abstract
Building on four years of ethnographic fieldwork carried out in the office of the Mapping San Siro action-research group (Department of Architecture and Urban Studies, Polytechnic University of Milan) in one of the main social housing neighbourhoods of Milan, in this contribution I will investigate the role and meaning of the Urban Living Labs (ULL) from an ‘internal’ perspective. An ongoing process of building relationships and caring for a space has allowed me to develop a reflection on multifaceted dimensions of daily life in the neighbourhood. Moreover, through anthropological literature, I will critically analyse the frustrations often experienced by researchers involved in fieldwork and planning. These frustrations highlight issues that go beyond the neighbourhood, showing the territorial dimension of the space. I will then highlight some ethical implications as clues that offer a more grounded understanding of daily life, rather than solving those implications with ready-made answers.
Paolo Grassi

Open Access

Chapter 8. The Inside and Outside of High-Rise Social Housing: The Broken Institution
Abstract
This article is based on an ethnographic report of a long-term artistic workplace in the inside world of a social high-rise ensemble. The communal ‘atelier’ functioned as a repair workshop (Allemeersch et al. 2014) concerned with re-negotiating the relation and knowledge between the inside and outside world. Through a synchronic ethnographic report on the inside world of the housing ensemble, this article aims to characterize the lived citizenship (Warming and Fahnøe 2017) of residents, formal and informal, based upon the opposition between formal and informal order (Goffman 1966; Scott 1998), the notion of ‘underlife’ (Goffman 1963/1996) and hidden and public transcripts (Scott 1990). As the deserted stronghold of a previously ‘pillarized’ welfare state, this article pictures an inside world that is unbalanced between formal and informal order, and lacking the latter (Scott 1998). This results in a social closure between the inside and outside world, and the loss of self of residents. Essentially, residents are caught in the double bind between isolation and social closure (Wacquant 2008) on the one hand, and the loss of façade (Goffman 1959/2019) on the other. Without a qualitative understanding of the inside world of high-rise social housing the outside world institutions act without any knowledge of ‘the community that many residents were able to create in such adverse conditions’ (Goetz 2011, p. 270), and the difficult relation these residents have developed towards their own environment and housing, state intervention and the public services (Wacquant 2008).
Simon Allemeersch

Open Access

Chapter 9. From a Community of Practice to a Community of Planning: The Case of the Sansheroes Network in the San Siro Neighbourhood in Milan
Abstract
In the current framework of welfare shrinking, it is highly necessary to transform citizens and local organizations from targets into co-producers of urban policies. Moreover, even though large-scale social housing estates are often characterized by social exclusion and high levels of socio-economic vulnerabilities, they at the same time represent ‘local tanks’ of competencies and social resources. In these regards, the ‘empowering planning’ approach—referring to the valourization of local competences and expertise within urban regeneration processes—has positive impacts, both in terms of socio-economic inclusion and the ‘expansion’ of active citizenship among local actors and in terms of designing more effective policies, enriched by local perspectives and know-how. Based on the analysis of a pilot action developed within the SoHoLab project in the San Siro neighbourhood that fostered the empowerment of a local grassroots network, the chapter examines processes of recognition and reinforcement and the promotion of local competencies, outlining their different phases and the characteristics of the groups involved. It will highlight the transition from a community of practice to a community of planning that is able to develop visions and actions aimed at a shared regeneration of a certain area.
Elena Maranghi

Approaching Space in Large–Scale Social Housing Estates

Frontmatter

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Chapter 10. Marginalization Through Mobility and Porosity: How Social Housing Dwellers See and Live the City
Abstract
Urban mobility in its broader meaning has become fundamental in neoliberal times, for it determines who gets what, how often, and at what cost. While motility is a component of mobility—together with connectivity and reversibility—defined by Kaufmann (2014) as a quality of the actor and/or of the dialectical relation between the self and the field of the possible, and accessibility concerns the structures necessary to take part in this possible, porosity is a quality of the territory and/or of the dialectical relation between space and society. The three of them inseparably carry the city dwellers’ possibilities of fulfilling their projects and wishes in the city territory. In order to start picturing how the society–space dialectic based on motility, accessibility, and porosity shapes daily social relations, especially where spatial justice is at stake, this study—part of the all-encompassing Action Research Project Mapping San Siro—surveyed 100 inhabitants of the Milanese neighbourhood. The resulting picture is a snapshot, a working scenario which helps bottom-up initiatives understand and focus on the most problematic, sometimes underlying aspects of marginality. While the quantitative results point to low-income inhabitants who work hard, use public transportation on an everyday basis, have few, if any, professional dreams, and feel reasonably welcome in a city they did not choose to live in, a number of qualitative results show that mobility (as a whole social phenomenon) problems can be deeper, not yet surfaced or voiced.
Lucia Capanema-Alvares

Open Access

Chapter 11. Peterbos: Living in the Park, Inhabiting the City
Abstract
This paper explores the urban issues underlying the design experience in the Peterbos neighbourhood, Anderlecht, Brussels-Capital Region. It presents four themes, based on the living experiment of this urban project, which consists of a master plan for the renovation of public spaces (Studio Paola Viganò and vvv architecture urbanisme 2020). It starts with the critical perspective of a ‘project for the ground’. As an embodiment of modernity, collective living in high-rise buildings has made it possible to free up a large area of ground for use as a shared landscape. In Peterbos, this large ground has aged, deteriorated, and become disconnected from the city. Up until now, these characteristics have made Peterbos a place where all the ‘misery in the world’ (Bourdieu, La misère du Monde. Seuil, 1993) has been concentrated. A long transformation process is now underway: the renovation of housing and public spaces proposes new living conditions and a new image for the district. However, there are still questions about the appropriateness of such an investment in the absence of a radical rediscussing of what makes Peterbos an enclave for the poorest. Our analysis starts with the ground of Peterbos and its relationship with water flows, biodiversity, and the rest of the city. The modern project focuses on the liberation of the public ground. We see the Peterbos project as an opportunity for critical reinterpretation. Second, we reconsider the district’s position in the city and the need to reverse feelings inside and outside, aiming to renew relations with the metropolis. Third, a broader understanding of the environment is necessary in order to take part in an ecological transition. The notion of diversity and mixed-use as a fertile framework for emancipation and individual initiative is then discussed. Finally, in the conclusions, having explored the progetto di suolo as a manifold agent and pushed it to its limits, we conclude by examining the ‘stone guest’. Indeed, urbanism and investment in urban renewal do not represent an autonomous and self-responsible solution to the social and urban challenges society is currently facing. The design of public space represents a wide, but also a narrow, space for manoeuvre. When structural changes are implied, they do not tackle the basis of inequality concentrated at this site, linked to decisions made in the past that do not show the expected results. Interaction with economic policies is still too weak. We choose to use clear but sometimes burdensome vocabulary to discuss these spatial and social matters, not escaping the difficulty of the topic. All the same, urban and landscape designers have a responsibility and the possibility to assert the original meaning of politics as the organization of public life in the city, more broadly addressing actions in space and measures to reduce inequality and restore the dignity of the people who live there.
Paola Viganò, Bertrand Plewinski, Guillaume Vanneste, Nicolas Willemet

Open Access

Chapter 12. Participation and the Architect: Creative Partnership or Communication Breakdown?
Abstract
Studies on participation tend to focus on describing the process. The exact form of their involvement, along with its effects on architecture and the lived environment, is rarely discussed. The aim of this article is to better understand the effects of participation in the long run after the initial involvement. This will be done by studying three rehabilitation projects in the Paris region. Our aim was to gather the opinions of those who had not made their voices heard through the official channels of consultation. Above all, it was to give visibility to, and understand the meanings of, the appropriation of spaces which have become invisible simply because they are used in ways which seem to go against the norm.
Dominique Lefrançois

Open Access

Chapter 13. Confusing the Spatial with the Social: Can Ethnography Offer a Way Out?
Abstract
Urban renewal policies applied over Europe since the 1990s have been characterized by an integrated approach towards neighbourhood regeneration, combining an interplay of social and spatial intentions and strategies. In this contribution, we develop an ethnographic account of the occupation of the ground floors in the social high-rise estate of Peterbos, Brussels, in order to show the necessity for studying and translating such interplay locally. While over time, urban designers and spatial planners developed several proposals to include facilities in the plinths of the buildings in order to ‘activate’ the neighbourhood and make it livelier and more vibrant, we highlight such ‘activation’ by shopkeepers, social and community workers is less straightforward. The current occupancy of these spaces is characterized by the embodiment of the spaces by facility managers; their strategies, and those of their clients within and outside the spaces; and different forms of in- and exclusion. As such, the contribution highlights how an ethnographic approach could contribute to making more informed decisions on the design of such spaces.
Jeanne Mosseray, Nele Aernouts
Metadata
Title
Urban Living Lab for Local Regeneration
Editors
Nele Aernouts
Francesca Cognetti
Elena Maranghi
Copyright Year
2023
Electronic ISBN
978-3-031-19748-2
Print ISBN
978-3-031-19747-5
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-19748-2