AGORA – The impact of transitional urban planning
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The impact of transitional urban planning

It takes several years for major urban projects to become a reality. And all this time the sites to be transformed remain unoccupied... A gap that can be filled by temporary occupation to be used for projects that may be short-lived but with seriously positive effects!

It takes decades for a large-scale urban projects to become a reality. Years during which the site is dormant, biding its time wisely before its finest hour. A period of temporary lethargy when it needs regain some of its enchantment, in order to encourage occupation, which, though temporary, could be seriously enriching!

The episodic city

First premises, study, planning, design, implementation... The urban project sees a succession of phases. Many actors gravitate around the construction work, each with their own role to play: elected officials, architects, urban planners, developers, etc. The result of this organisation results is a long project time, inherent in any consistent, sustainable approach.

Why create temporary uses?

Keeping enthusiasm alive.

One of the main objectives is not to let “emptiness" set in. For residents, it is synonymous with being forgotten and abandoned. For elected officials, it evokes inaction and for investors, it leads to a loss of income. All these actors could then become disenchanted and turn away from the site instead of investing and seeing themselves involved in its future. However, the energy of elected officials, the commitment of residents, the creativity of businesses and the willingness of investors play an important role in urban construction.

Monetising and driving forward

As cities become denser and denser, every square metre counts. What a waste not to use, invest and monetise hectares in coveted urban areas. Temporary occupation is also a catalyst for development, a vector for projects, social, culture and work links and community initiatives! It is also a good way to publicise a site often ignored by the general public, to make it attractive and to communicate its identity, even if it is still under construction.

Cities in perpetual evolution

Paris: a temporary occupation charter

Urban areas are in constant evolution and are the source of many overlapping projects. With temporary occupation, the cities become experimental laboratories. In Paris, the densest capital in Europe, urban projects abound and the demand for open spaces is very strong. The city has largely adopted transitory urban planning... to the point that it has even been the subject of a charter! This new, flexible and adaptable urban planning offers real breathing space in a city where there is little room left for public debate and social innovation. Some places are devoted to emergency accommodation, others to pioneering artistic work. Entrepreneurship, festive events and community approaches also have a part to play there.

Brussels: when the ephemeral becomes permanent...

In Brussels, an urban space on a break in the city welcomed a nine-metre building, called the 'Tour Limite Limite'. It served as a collective space for neighbourhood life for a year, leaving a lasting mark on the local landscape and the identity of the neighbourhood. Thus, a consultation platform of the same name was set up to ride on the momentum and bring the project to life after the destruction of the temporary installation.

Belval: 20 years of projects

In the case of Belval, the most emblematic urban project for the redevelopment of an industrial wasteland in Luxembourg, the first reflections began in 1997 before becoming reality in 2000 with the creation of the development company AGORA, which would become the great conductor of the Belval project. The objective is then to plan and carry out the rehabilitation of this complex. From there, the study phase begins, closely followed by the planning phase. During these first steps, nothing happens on the actual site. A few years later, the first infrastructures appear and in 2006 the site is opened to the public. A few years passed before the opening of the site and everyone knows that from 2006 it will take another 20 years to complete the project. 20 years... A normal period of time for an urban project, an eternity for citizens! To avoid this feeling of abandonment and to bring the site to life, AGORA has turned to a variety of temporary uses.

An industrial wasteland in transition

Temporary facilities

Depending on the place, culture and issues, transitional spaces take different forms. Within the Belval quarter, AGORA has developed several useful and functional structures. One example is the Square Mile temporary car park with a capacity of 900 spaces, reserved for the first residents. As for the "Belval Bridge Building”, this is a modular building to accommodate companies awaiting transfer. Other facilities: "Beate's Garden". Premised on the large urban park, this temporary micro green space was intended to structure and give coherence to the neighbourhood under construction. Finally, visitors could go to the "Belval Infopoint" to learn more about the urban concepts of the project through exhibitions.

Physical markings

While waiting for the neighbourhood to take shape and reveal its identity, physical markings were put on Belval as soon as it opened. Information boards, directional elements, location identification... AGORA commissioned Polaris Architects to create a specific layout. Highly colourful, these various signboards welcomed visitors to this young neighbourhood. They helped with finding the way, but also conveyed optimistic messages.

Pop-up events

Leaving space available for artists is a common form of temporary urban occupation. This makes it possible to create spontaneous, original and daring spaces, while at the same time highlighting artists. During the latency period of the Belval project, the public space was made available to local artists, creating temporary works. As part of the European Year of Culture in 2007, Belval hosted a flagship exhibition in the Soufflantes building: "All we need”. This show reflected needs and human resources, a subject of choice at the heart of the rehabilitation of a sustainable neighbourhood.

Local, national and international events

Large open spaces offer real opportunities in terms of cultural events. In 2002, AGORA organised a major concert: "Steelworx", a great way to discover the identity of the changing neighbourhood. The guitar chords of Indochina and Nina Hagen resounded at the foot of the chimneys and blast furnaces, before a captivated crowd. Every year, thanks to the Rockhal, the site hosts the festival-conference "Sound Vision", a musical laboratory combining discussions, workshops, production and brand building for the new generation of artists. AGORA also gave impetus to the project through two sporting events. The Escher Kulturlaf trail and the AGORA Red Rock Challenge mountain bike events. This community of sportsmen could then discover the industrial heritage of the place and read about its future evolution.

More than simply occupying vacant space, temporary urban planning is an opportunity to experience and think about the city differently. It invites its (future) inhabitants to take part in the urban planning debate through different approaches and expressions.

Urban gardens, smart cities, eco-neighbourhoods or temporary occupation of urban space, Through the voice of experts, "Tell me more! " is a series that explores new trends.

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