Metzeschmelz: this is the name of the new quarter on the border of Esch-sur-Alzette and Schifflange on the site of the former steelworks. The name was thought up by a citizen after a competition open to all. A powerful symbol of the importance of citizen involvement in the development of the quarter.
From its infancy, the Metzeschmelz quarter has been designed in collaboration with committed citizens involved in a fruitful collaborative and participatory process, in dialogue with experts. And so it goes on!
Citizen participation is nowadays inseparable from urban development projects. Why and how is Metzeschmelz a powerful symbol of this?
François Dorland, Managing Director of AGORA: “It was important for us to involve all users and stakeholders in the thinking and development of the new Metzeschmelz quarter. This is an essential stage towards defining a socially cohesive quarter. In order to rehabilitate a wasteland from the industrial area into a sober and sustainable urban area, we believe it is necessary to co-build with all the actors concerned: this is an opportunity to shape a quarter that truly responds to today’s constraints. We aim to attract a mixed population. It will benefit from a residential space that both pays tribute to the industrial past of the site while promoting a quality of life enhanced by a renatured space and an ambitious approach to active mobility. Metzeschmelz is also a citizen participation project. This is one of the core conditions of the mandate given to AGORA by its shareholders, the Luxembourg Government and ArcelorMittal Luxembourg.
In 2019, AGORA organised a citizens’ urban design workshop as part of the feasibility study for the renewal of the Esch-Schifflange site. This process has led to the guidelines for the urban and landscape master plan. And so it goes on today, with the event of 8 October 2022: a convivial day of discussions on the future of the quarter.
This is just the beginning of a multi-year programme that puts citizens at the heart of the process. This way they will be involved with experts, municipalities, government agencies, the state and all stakeholders in the development of the new Metzeschmelz quarter.”
So are these the challenges and constraints of our time that make this participation more necessary than ever?
Marie-Josée Vidal, President of AGORA et senior government advisor “The challenges we face in terms of territorial development in Luxembourg are unprecedented in our history. The country is experiencing significant growth, both demographic and economic, with pressure on our resources, nature and the environment. This is leading us to imagine new ways of conceiving space, living in it, moving around it in order to encourage new ways of living. The Metzeschmelz quarter gives us an ideal opportunity to create a new planning culture, to test, experiment and build these new ways of living together. This is why we wanted to go further than just public consultation.”
“Since 2018 in Luxembourg, national town and country planning has been based on participatory processes of various forms: citizen committees, expert committees, regional and national workshops, conferences, online surveys… This is how we proceeded for the international consultation Luxembourg in Transition and for the development of the draft Master Plan for Town and Country Planning 2023, which is currently in the consultation procedure. This is also how AGORA proceeded at the various stages of the thinking on the subject of the Metzeschmelz quarter, for example during the urban design workshop.”
In your opinion, what are the expectations of the citizens for the future of the Metzeschmelz quarter?
Georges Mischo, Deputy Mayor of the town of Esch-sur-Alzette : “The Metzeschmelz is a part of our identity, not least because of its history, which has shaped the lives of its inhabitants for about 150 years. So many issues arise for citizens: what is happening on the site? Will I be able to live and build my future there? What about mobility? These are all issues that bring us to be involved in the project as part of its long-term development. The birth and development of the Metzeschmelz quarter represents an unique opportunity for the town of Esch and its inhabitants.”
Will this citizen involvement continue in the future? Beyond the development phase, do you dream of a quarter that is permanently invigorated by citizen involvement?
Paul Weimerskirch, Mayor of Schifflange : “It is indeed a continuous exchange of views and an interesting discussion, which should be kept alive in the long term. I like to talk about “sustainable democracy”. The way people live together in the new quarter will be coloured by it. The main thing is that participatory processes enable citizens to be motivated to actively follow policy decisions that affect them. I am particularly proud that we have asked the citizens, via a competition, to come up with the name of the future quarter. The winner, Ms Liliane Bimmermann, won us over with her proposal which evokes the geography and history of the site.”
In Metzeschmelz, what is the main focus of the conversation with the citizens?
Marie-Josée Vidal : “Almost all the aspects of urban life and town and country planning are on the agenda. But it’s clear that sustainability and mobility issues are crucial. Our experience shows that citizens are as keen as we are to achieve carbon neutrality and make the ecological transition a success. To achieve this, urban development must be designed to promote and encourage new ways of living. The fact that citizens are thinking about it themselves and participating in the process then makes the policy actions we take more specific and livelier. These citizens will commit to the lifestyles these actions require because they have defined them themselves.”
And what are the conditions for success in this conversation?
Marie-Josée Vidal: “In recent projects in Luxembourg, we have observed that the most fruitful forms of participation are clearly those that go beyond simple information and consultation, creating instead a real, sustained and sufficiently upstream conversation between citizens and experts. With a good moderator – we have now tried and tested moderation methods – the back and forth between phases of informal citizen conversation and stages of knowledge transmission by experts makes it possible to achieve truly qualitative, productive and highly inspiring citizen participation.”
These were the models for the workshops held on 8 October 2022 at the MOOD event, where the urban planning, mobility, industrial heritage and ecology issues were discussed. Citizens were invited to shape the future of Metzeschmelz in a big collective conversation.