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Videostory : Ici-Bientôt, Hypermatière, Echelle de regards urbains

By Camille Vilain

3 Human Cities experimentations in Saint-Etienne – a 2017 feedback

 All along the year 2017,  Saint-Etienne has lived under the rhythm of Human Cities_Challenging the City Scale.

Saint-Étienne has got a distinctive feature of a creative laboratory, where hands-on stakeholders develop methodologies and actions with the communities to transform the city. That’s why the Cité du design, leader of the project Human Cities Challenging the City Scale in Saint-Etienne  has created C.H.O.S.E (Collective Humancitizens Office of St Étienne Experimentations), a tool to stimu­late and connect these local energies and creative forces.

Within this framework, 2 multidiscipli­nary groups and a Masterclass group of Saint-Etienne Higher School of Art and Design proposed initiatives .



Ici-Bientôt is a collective constituted for Human Cities experimentations in Saint-Etienne, to find solutions against the increase of vacant shops and breathe new life into the changing neighbourhood “Beaubrun Tarentaize” . Its main coordinators : CREFAD Loire, an association of long-life learning and capacity building, and Typotopy, a collective of graphic designers,  together with a working group of cultural, community associations and residents of the neighbourhood.

Ici-Bientôt is multifaceted: it’s a place, a project and a group population; it’s a synergy between actors (project leaders, owners, associations, institutions…) to find solutions create tomorrow’s urban lifestyles.

Its actions are complementary . Ici-bientôt worked on the history of the districts and its multicultural population ;  they opened a resource center, suppor­ting  people  with projects to set up in vacant premises ;  they transformed shop windows and signs  of closed or active shops, and they  invested the public spaces with artistic installations and performances. Their purpose:  to increase the knowledge about the resources of the district, the dialogue and autonomy amongst their stakeholders. For that, they used mapping, interviews, music events, thematic workshops, business support, and a daily presence in the resource center from June 2016.

Mathilde Besse, who works for the Crefad, the main coordinator of Ici-Bientôt,  explains one  tool used  to collect people feelings about a collective question : “the word holder”

During the Biennale Internationale Design Saint-Etienne 2017 ( 9th March-9th April 2017) , Ici-Bientôt  helped the set-up of 5 temporary boutiques to test a professional, commercial or non profit activity, involving  30 people : a bar, a collective shop for craft designers ; an associative tea-room animated by volunteer mums of the neighbourhood ; a place dedicated to activities on reading and writing ;  a visual and sound exhibition room. Restoration works with 30 volunteers from the neighbourhood helped to renovate the shops and injected a collective energy. Artistic interventions, performances and parties invited people to give a new life to the street.  150 people enjoyed the opening day in Rue de la Ville.  Roundtable and workshops allowed the exchanges about the issues of vacant shops and transformations of work paradigms (the theme of the 2017 Biennial). During the last week of the Biennial, pupils from a professional high school worked with Polish graphic designers to offer new signs to 3 active shops in the upper end of the street.

International guests gave new inspirations and ideas. The workshop with the partners from the European project Human Cities_Challenging the Ciy Scale confirmed some intuitions or enlarged the perspectives about the re-activation of vacant shops. A roundtable with designers and activists from Detroit, the UNESCO City of Design guest of Honour of this Bienniail, allowed a fruitful exchange about leisure, work, and community building with the members of the collective.

After this extremely rich period of events, the activities of Ici-Bientôt got back on  the support of  project holders, mainly  with the action of CREFAD Loire, which office is now in the resource centre. The 5 temporary boutiques closed, but 1 permanent opened in October 2017, with the help of Ici-Bientôt. Thanks to their support to build her business and renovate a vacant shop, Souad, a seamstress, opened a shop proposing sewing and embroidery works  and activities and her fashion creations.  A shared workshop space and craft lab will open for 6 months. 5 new shops will have new signs made by Typotopy.

Moreover, the Ici-Bientôt group is now associated to the working group of institutions ,  urban planners,  and developers working on the renovation projects of the neighbourhood. They have been hired for their expertise and daily observation of the dynamics at the micro-scale of the district. Amongst the coming  project they are contributing to a new center for music and dance amateur practices ; a urban projects center and an action to support new entrepreneurs.  Of course it will happen  Ici (here), bientôt (soon).


 Hypermatière is a multidisciplinary group set up for Saint-Etienne Human Cities  experimentations in 2016: a designer studio and an independent designer : Captain Ludd and Magalie Rastello  ;  1 ceramist :  Jay Accosta- Valois ; 2 community associations : Amicale Laïque du Crêt de Roch and Rues du Développement Durable  ; a gardener : Mathieu Benoit-Gonin.

Hypermatière decided  to offer mobile, evolutive, reversible and recyclable interventions in the neighbourhood “Cret de Roch”, which is living  various renovations in the longer term.  The spaces are changing, people uses too: how  to enable inhabitants to be creative actors of the transformations of their district, whether than worried spectators ? Through collabora­tive artistic projects and solidarity services, the Hypermatière project allows to highlight a “space in movement” on the scale of a neighbourhood, showing the process and the relevance of contri­buting practices .

In 2016-2017, the Hypermatière group organized several workshops to highlight the -sometimes- hidden resources of the district to its inhabitants , collect people needs and feelings about it, make them know that something collective was possible to do.

Marion Chaize, coordinator of Hypermatière group, explains the project

For the Biennale Internationale Design Saint-Etienne 2017, Hypermatière decided to set-up a temporary public – or rather collective – space on a demolition site. As they discovered a hen and rooster living there, the place became “the rooster square”, a place to play and meet during a bit more than one month.

Paul Buros, designer and member of the Captain Ludd studio explains how this public space took shape

The “rooster square” allowed to test the uses of a possible public space in this part of the neighbourhood. During the Biennial, it attracted more than 500 people for the various activities (from barbecues to conferences, including workshops, concerts, etc.).  A Brazilian designer, Fernando Mascaro, gave a Masterclass about the “design of feelings”.  A musician form Detroit, Ian Tran,  was so fond of the place that he decided to make an initiation to violin playing with the children frequenting the place. Taking care and responsibility of this place open to all, some parents proposed to organize an event where they could sell home-made production, other asked if they could organize a birthday afternoon with the children of the surroundings. The workshop with the European partners of the Human Cities project on 13th March  allow to test some activities proposed by Hypermatière (construction games ; Minecraft game of the neighbourhood ; botanical and social economy resources itineraries ) and to exchange ideas on how to facilitate  such urban experimentations in cities.

The rooster square demonstrated its capacity to mix populations, cultures, and generations. It proved its function of experimental place at the service of inhabitants. It can be a prototype, giving precious specifications for a potential future public space in the future development of the area.  welcoming international experts, it changed the image of this part of the district, generally barely known even by Saint-Etienne citizens. Now people are convinced that things can happen even there.

The Hypermatière proved its capacity to be a generator of initiatives for the neighbourhood, participating to a larger movement of alternative economy and development, that can be related to the concept of “contributive economy”.

Raymond Vasselon, member of Hypermatière collective, a former architect , explains this collective dynamics in the Cret de Roch neighbourhood :

After the Biennial, the rooster square remained some extra weeks to welcome the kids during the holidays, and then was dismantled. Thanks to the meetings with Detroit designers, Juliana Gotilla, one of the designer of Captain Ludd , participated to an international research-action project led by the Detroit University of Michigan about comparative urban experimentation in Detroit, Saint-Etienne, and Rio de Janeiro. The municipality showed its interest in using the ceramic tiles printed with the spontaneous plants of the neighbourhood in some micro public spaces under renovation. And the local policy makers in charge of the urban and social development of the neighbourhood are thinking about re-elaborating some practices using the experience and expertise of Hypermatière

Still a lot of (hyper)material to work in the coming months and years.



The Saint-Etienne Higher School of Art and Design (ESADSE) participated in Human Cities with a Masterclass organized by the Laboratory Images, Stories, Documents, under the direction of Kader Mokaddem,  professor of aesthetism and philosophy. The Masterclass invited 2 groups of international students to develop a sensitive approach of the city and its scales.

The image of urban scale has become confused : urban installations go over the traditional borders of the city. Students were invited to explore the city,  mea­sure the spaces and their transformations, and re-build a circuit of looks on the city in Saint-Étienne.

The productions of images from this Masterclass were presented in the exhibition-lab Human Cities Challenging the City Scale at the Human Citizen office, Rue e la République du Design , during the Biennale Internationale Design Saint-Etienne.

Kader Mokaddem, the professor,  presents this project :

The challenges of City Scales is a multiple issue , and the sensible approach is a fundamental question to deal with the city tranformations. That’s why these themes will continue to feed the works of the laboratory Images, Stories, Documents , with seminars with various city makers, observers, and practitioners, under the form of seminars, and , why not, the constitution of an “observatory of the sensible city”.