Transforming our cities together, this is one of the missions of the project Human Cities_Challenging the City Scale.

Beyond the European area, this topic is concerning cities around the world. That’s why, since the creation of the project, the Cité du design Saint-Etienne, its leader,  has decided to use its rich international network of partners to share knowledge and experience.

During the Biennale Internationale Design Saint-Etienne 2017, the Cité du design decided to invite Detroit, USA, as its Guest of Honour. Both  UNESCO Cities of Design,  Detroit and Saint-Etienne have a lot of common as former industrial cities, using creativity to reinvent themselves. Detroit  shared its experience of a resilient city, placing art and design at the heart of its economic growth.

Detroiters, but also representatives of other UNESCO creative cities such as Dundee, Montreal, or Nagoya participated in the Human Cities activities programmed for the  Biennale, together with the European partners and Saint-Etienne local stakeholders.

Josyane Franc, the general coordinator of Human Cities_Challenging the City Scale project, explains how these local, European and global scales were crossing, creating intense exchange of ideas, perspectives and mutual understanding.

 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, Ici-Bientôt multidisciplinary group was launched to revitalize a commercial street in the old town.


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. Roundtables 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 projects 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).

Unlimited Cities DIY (UNLI DIY)

The association and its philosophy

Created in 2010, the start-up UFO tries to invent digital tools to help the development of cooperation and participation in urban processes. These digital tools are needed to create a dialogue between all the stakeholders of a definite project. The goal is also to connect stakeholders and citizens in order to collaborate and find solutions to environmental and societal issues of cities. These digital tools are used by municipalities and private companies in projects dealing with improvement of the quality of life, attractiveness of a city or sustainability.

The professional version

Before this free application, UFO has created Unlimited Cities PRO, a digital participatory urbanistic tool. The goal is to use this digital tool during the design process of a new urban project to collect wishes, ideas, even dreams of the civil society. The municipalities asked the start-up to create an application for their specific case which will be the support of the future consultation of the general audience. When the application is ready, the citizens are invited to use it during some meetings. They can create their own environment by changing 6 variables: digital space in the city, density, greeneries, mobility, neighbourhood life and creativity. By changing on variables from 0 to 5 one can obtain different images of the place. The possibilities and variables of each elements where designed thanks to collaborative drawing sessions with citizens and the municipality.

A tool for everyone to participate

Successful with their professional version, UFO decided to design a free application that everyone could use though a smartphone. In this application people will be able to:

  • take a picture of an urban space and add some urban furniture, greeneries or other elements to the picture to create their vision of this urban space in the future
  • to see the ideas of the others for the same urban space and to compare the elements used by other citizens to the one used by the user
  • to see the ideas of citizens from different cities in the world
  • to edit a report where all the ideas and comparative analysis for one place will be gather in order to give it to the municipality to tackle a redesign process of a specific place in the city.


Key actors

Main promoters

UFO: created in 2010 by a group of architects/urbanists as a start-up. It develops digital collaborative urbanistic tools to help municipalities, public and private institutions in the decision making process.

Secondary players


UrbaDiversity: NGO located in London, Mexico and Paris, developing the applications and creating new knowledge on different issues in urban territories and their uses.

R+P/Host Architecture Agency: works on digital cities and collaborative urbanistic projects. They believe that urban public spaces are a common good, everyone should participate in the public spaces improvements processes.


  • Institut Mines Télécom
  • FuturingCities
  • Futur en Seine
  • Cap Digital and Advancity, two competitive clusters of France
  • Ile de France region
  • Métropolis


The citizens who will be able to create new environment and to design new urban public spaces according to their wishes and aspirations for the future of a choosen place.

The public institutions and urban design agencies who will be provided with a database of different ideas for an urban public space in their cities. The ideas and projects made by the citizens will help them to integrate and understand what people really want/imagine for a specific spot in the city.


Role of design

Collaborative urban design: this application invite people to design public spaces by adding new items, by putting comments on their pictures. The goal is to make people more focus on solutions for their public spaces than issues. Make them understand than solutions existed and that they can be the initiator of such changes by creating reports to give to the municipality.


Digital design: in order to create such an application, web designers had to work a lot on web interactivity and accessibility. The goal here is to use competencies of the team in the matter of digital innovation to offer a nice and easy tool for people to express themselves in the field of urban design.


CONTACT (of the editor)

 Matej Nikšič, and Lucile FAUVIAUX,, UIRS, Slovenia



He’s the founder of People Olympics for Social Innovation but also a community man for Living Labs. Roberto Santoro always highlights the importance of both activities in Europe.

Human Cities has the privilege of hosting Mr. Santaro during the Crossroads 2015 Workshop in Saint-Etienne from 16 to 17 March 2015.

A social campaign for the return of empty buildings in Katowice city centre to urban life in Katowice, Poland

Fundacja Napraw Sobie Miasto (“Fix Your City” Foundation) addressed the issue of empty buildings in 2013, during the realisation of the project Vacant Central Europe: Mapping and recycling empty urban properties. This is when we mapped the empty properties from the social point of view and searched for ideas how to utilise them temporarily and permanently. In 2014, we took special interest in a particular object: the seat of Pracownia Projektów Budownictwa Ogólnego (General Construction Projects Studio) in the district of Koszutka, which used to be run by Henryk Buszko and Aleksander Franta, the authors of the legendary icons of modernism: Osiedle Gwiazdy (“Stars” housing estate) and Osiedle Tysiąclecia (“A 1000 years anniversary” housing estate) in Katowice as well as the health resort in the town of Ustroń. Moreover, we asked various people whether they knew any abandoned places in the city which could be used as interesting exhibition or theatre spaces. While seeking inspiration for a way to regulate the use of such places in the future, we came across a similar programme working in Warsaw. We started monitoring and assessing its effects.

Working on the Rent the Place DIY project we prepared the second edition of a spatial database and maps based on the detailed information obtained from Katowice City Hall. At the same time, we realised that the issue, however important, was barely present in the public debate, which was why we launched the social campaign. Therefore, the goal of our action is to draw the attention of the residents and users of Katowice urban space to the problem of vacant buildings, to promote the idea of the temporary use of uninhabited properties, and to generate and test the ideas for their reuse. This is the reason why we are running the informational campaign, building social support for the proposed legal solutions, collecting signatures under a petition, networking potential renters of the empty buildings, and organising workshops to demonstrate the possibilities of their adaptation.




  1. Fundacja Napraw Sobie Miasto (“Fix Your City” Foundation) – the preparation and realisation of the project, especially studying good practices (inspirations), conducting urbanism research as well as informational and promotional campaigns, networking of people and institutions involved in particular stages of the project, co-creating a legal document regulating the norms of renting empty buildings with Katowice City Hall.
  2. Addressees of the informational and promotional campaigns – students of Silesian universities, members and volunteers of local NGOs, informal groups, social economy entities, artists, PR agencies, participants of conferences concerning urban issues – people and institutions invited to support new legal solutions.
  3.  The intended beneficiaries of the short-term rental – local NGOs, local entrepreneurs, artists, architects, grassroots initiatives, informal groups of city residents – people and institutions who will be involved in testing the mechanism in the first stage of its working.

Role of design 

The whole project was run iteratively, and the idea emerged in the course of consecutive stages of development. After the completion of each stage, we organised retrospective workshops at which we verified and reformulated the adopted solutions and developed the rules for the invitation of new partners. This was why changed our initial idea.

The concept of the legal regulations was prepared according the service design method during a meeting of the project team. The social campaign and the action promoting the short-term rental of empty premises were developed in a workshop manner (co-design).




Organization: Fundacja Napraw Sobie Miasto

 Email :  –

wep page:



Since 2014, the Human Cities network has been working on Challenging the City Scale to question the urban scale and investigate cocreation in cities. The Human Cities partners have carried out urban experimentations in 11 European cities empowering citizens to rethink the spaces in which they live, work and spend their leisure time.

Challenging the City Scale, journeys  in People-Centred Design is the final book of the project. Through conversations with people involved, the book examines how bottom-up processes and their design, tools and instruments generate new ideas to reinvent the city. It offers inspiration and insights to everyone, from practitioners and politicians to designers and active citizens, eager to try out new ways to produce more human cities together.

Title : Challenging the City Scale, Journeys in People-Centred Design

Collective book co-edited by: Olivier Peyricot, Josyane Franc, Frank Van Hasselt
Authors: Josyane Franc, Olivier Peyricot, John Thackara, Alice Holmberg, Côme Bastin, Fleur Weinberg, Anya Sirota,  Frank Van Hasselt, Robin Houterman
Graphic design: Audrey Templier, Isabelle Daëron Language: English Publisher and distributor: Birkhäuser, Basel
Co editors : Cité du design (Saint-Etienne) et Clear Village (Londres) ISBN: 978-3-0356-1796-2 Format : 21,5 x 26 cm (vertical)– 176 p Price: 39.95 € Available in partner’s  bookshops and bookshop distributed by Birkhäuser Open access digital version:

As cities organizations are facing major urban and technological transformations, European citizens are taking possession of their cities, collaborating or acting for its renewal. Which kind of tools are set up to think and produce the public space together? How to make these bottom-up initiatives sustainable?

Challenging the City scale 2014-2018 / Investigation is a collaborative research work of Human Cities project, made from more than 80 case studies collected by the partners in Europe. They tell about actions led by creative citizens to transform their urban environment. Researchers from Cité du design Saint-Étienne, the Department of Design of Politecnico di Milano and Urban Planning Institute of The Republic of Slovenia Ljubljana provide a state of the art of these initiatives. Analysing these multiple examples, they investigate how urban dwellers participate, get organized and collaborate with creative professionals to prototype more liveable cities.

This scientific work published by Cité du design Saint-Étienne is addressed to researchers, practitioners, but also developers or creative citizens.

Title: Human Cities / Challenging the City Scale 2014-2018 / Investigation Main authors: Cité du design Saint-Etienne: Isabelle Daëron, Floriane Piat & Eléa Teillier Design Departement, University Politecnico di Milano: Davide Fassi & Laura Galluzzo Urban Planning Institute of the Republic of Slovenia, Ljubljana: Matej Nikšič, Nina Goršič & Biba Tominc

Language: English Copyright © Cité du design, 2018 ISBN: 978-2-912808-79-0 . Format : 215×260 mm – 240 p – not sold – free distribution within the framework of Creative Europe Programme of the European Union 2014-2018

THINKtent is the brainchild of Dr Natasha Cica, the founding director of, a consultancy which works globally to help leaders, teams and organisations deliver effective and sustainable change. In 2014 she was recognized by the Australian Financial Review and Westpac banking group as one of Australia’s 100 Women of Influence, and in 2011 she was an inaugural recipient of a Sidney Myer Creative Fellowship rewarding outstanding talent and exceptional courage. Natasha is an award-winning author and public commentator, and is an adjunct professor at the Australian National University.

Lucile is a French student living in Rennes, in Bretagne. She is studying at Sciences Po Rennes, a French political studies institute where she is learning history, sociology, law, and other subjects. Specialized in public services, she wants to work for cities in the future. For her third year at the institute, Lucile chose to leave France and to live abroad. After a first semester studying in Istanbul, she is now an intern at the Urban Planning Institute of the Republic of Slovenia, actively involved in the Human Cities project. She arrived in Ljubljana in January and will stay until the end of June 2015. In the Human Cities project, Lucile is helping in the first stages of the project. This project gives her an opportunity to discover urban design as a discipline. Thanks to Human Cities she is discovering bottom up initiatives from different countries in Europe. When she will come back to Rennes, she would like to help implement some of those ideas in her city. Next year, Lucile wants to continue studying urban design and city policies. In the future, she hopes she will be able to integrate to the Paris Urbanism School.

After Milan and Belgrade, the exhibition  of the project  Human Cities_Challenging the City Scale was set up in Biennale Internationale Saint-Etienne 2017 from 9th March to 9th April 2017. To maximize the visibility and exchanges with the public, the exhibition had 3 forms and locations

  • A synthetic form on Cité du design site, where the main exhibitions and events of the Biennial takes place
  • A more developed form in a vacant shop of  Rue de la République in the city centre,  where the Cité du design led an experiment of temporary occupation of closed shops by creative projects during the Biennial
  • A teaser on the Saint-Etienne main street under the arches of the City Hall

The Cité du design Saint-Etienne built the exhibition concept together with the designer Jean-Sébastien Poncet. Like the title of the project “challenging the city scale”, the exhibition was based on the different scales of actions led by the Human Cities partners in their experimentations and in some inspiring case studies selected from the  Human Cities State of the art : from the street to the district, to the whole city, the landscape or the virtual scale. Videos and totem objects were telling the particular process and methodologies implemented in each city to involve local partners and citizens : the  “Jakomini radio” broadcasting the sounds of Jakomini street in Graz,  the kilim carpets of the thinktents used to make colletive discussions for the playgrounds in Belgrad, the model of insect-house made with the children of Ljubljana before the installation in real scale in their district etc.

From the human, body scale to the street, district, the whole city and even the virtual scale, everywhere in Europe the city is a field of action for creative people together with the citizens. Cities are transforming. They become a  world of networks, connections and multipolarity. Alongside with the traditionnal place makers, new experts  are getting involved to create vibrant urban environments adapted to the transformations of the city life. They are designers, architects, artists, community associations, festivals, creative industries, leading bottom-up initiatives as and with residents to transform the city.

Occupying vacant buildings to test new ways of working or learning ; federating the makers community to contribute to the development of a district; activating and improving the quality of public spaces involving cultural and associative stakeholders, users, residents etc. ; we wanted to show to the public that in Europe today, initiatives are taking place everywhere.

Full catalogue of the exhibition can be viewed here:Human Cities-StEtienne-exhibition catalogue

Charles Landry is a world leader and a Master of the future of Cities and the creative use of resources in urban revitalization. He is best known for having written the book The Creative City: A Toolkit for Urban Innovators. With this book he shares with Human Citizens how to make the cities great and places to be.

Human Cities is privileged to welcome the presence of Charles Landry  at the International Design Biennale Saint-Etienne on Tuesday 17 March 2015 for the conference ‘Designing the human city creatively’.

Alice is a conscious entrepreneur, curious change-maker and a passionate innovator. She is a global business developer and negotiator, energetic educator and experienced facilitator.

“As a designer, I am not bound to any specific product, like a garment, a chair or a website. Instead, I use design to look for relevance and meaning – and then design what is needed”
says Alice with a passionate light in her eyes. She has specialised in cultural identity and driving cultural change and puts some of the hot topics of the day into practice: Circular economy, design thinking, co-creation, social innovation, creative entrepreneurship, appreciative inquiry and design strategy.

Alice has founded and runs the design bureau That Something in partnership with Michael Brinch and her decade-long international experience shows what she means by “relevance and meaning”. Alice has designed and delivered processes for rethinking education in Germany; created legacy strategies for Creativity World Forum in Denmark; instigated circular models for social housing in the UK and brought entrepreneurship to sustainable fashion design across the Mediterranean.

Born and bred in Denmark, Alice has lived the last decades in Germany, Bangladesh, Greece and the UK, where she teaches at Central St. Martins, University of the Arts London.
She is a fellow of the British Royal Society of the Arts and has been awarded membership of the German National Academic Foundation.

Alice is the co-creation expert co-creation expert for Human Cities.

Alexis Castro, of Spanish nationality, owns a university degree in archaeology and art history (Université Libre de Bruxelles) and in oriental studies (Università Orientale di Napoli). Living in Brussels, he is a founding member and executive manager of Culture Lab, a Belgian consulting agency specialized in the design and management of European and international cultural cooperation projects as well as in communication and public outreach strategies. In this framework, he provides expertise to projects and programs in the fields of creative industries and cultural heritage for the European Commission and many other national and international cultural organizations in Europe, in Africa and in the Mediterranean area. Alexis Castro has also taken part in a number of archaeological missions in Syria and other Mediterranean countries and contributed as an author and editor to many studies and publications dealing with contemporary creation and cultural heritage.