Paris to use schoolyards as ‘new’ public spaces

22nd October 2017 Barbara Szewcow, Jonathan Andrews

Paris has joined 32 cities from the 100 Resilience Cities Network to release its first resilience strategy, part of which will incorporate public schoolyards as ‘new’ public spaces. Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris, along with 100 Resilient Cities, presented the 35 actions plan which aims to prepare the French capital for the risks of the 21st century.

“We need to transform the city,” was the phrase, the Paris Chief Resilience Officer Sebastien Maire, recalled from his conversations with Hidalgo, “and transforming Paris is a huge challenge because it’s a heritage city, historical and old.”

The unique position of Chief Resilience Officer was created to face such challenges and combine the work of various departments and collaborators into one strategy.

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Sebastien Maire, Chief Resilience Officer, Paris

“We consulted with more than 800 different stakeholders,” Maire told Cities Today. “My schedule is totally booked until the end of the year because so many new stakeholders contacted me to be part of the process, even internal stakeholders from city hall, so the dynamic is really strong.”

The main goals of the strategy are to turn Paris into a citizen driven, inclusive city which mobilises collective intelligence and takes full advantage of existing but underutilised spaces.

“What makes Paris unique are two things,” said Andrew Brenner, Associate Director of 100 Resilient Cities. “One, the city has expanded their focus on climate change to also tackle issues of social equity and capital. Two, the strategy places an emphasis on piloting projects to demonstrate impact over the short-term, while helping to build long-term efforts.”

Maire explained that no Parisian is living further than 200 metres from a school, and instead of creating new places the city is investing in existing ones.

“It means less money and more efficiency, it is the way we are thinking of resilience,” he added. “We are ready to transform the school yards: take out the concrete and the asphalt, use other types of materials, put greenery and water in the schoolyards; and use that as an educational programme for children about climate change. The second part of this project is to open these 600,000 square metres of schoolyards to the public.”

The strategy focuses on three pillars:

  • An inclusive and cohesive city–to be better prepared for unexpected future challenges, support its diverse communities, and build initiatives that are citizen-driven.
  • A 21st century city–to adapt current programmes and approaches for multiple benefits and explore ways to change the urban footprint of Paris by utilising vacant and underutilised spaces.
  • A region in transition–to foster formal collaborations with the regions around Paris, recognising that resilience challenges Paris faces don’t stop at the Boulevard Perepherique.

The 100 Resilient Cities initiative, powered by the Rockefeller Foundation, supports cities through funding for a Chief Resilience Officer and support in developing a resilience strategy.

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