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).

The exhibition SHAPING HUMAN CITIES was designed by students of the Master‘s programme Exhibition Design at the University of Applied Sciences, FH JOANNEUM.


From 5 May to 24 June 2018 urban experiments have been presented, which took place within

the framework of the Human Cities Project in these cities. The exhibition space was the GrazMuseum, which is located in the city centre.

LET’S TAKE ACTION! Gave tips on how to become active in your own urban environment and thereby improve the urban space.

WANNA PLAY? Consisted of eleven miniature golf courses that invited visitors to play. Each lane was assigned to one Human City and one of their experiments. The courses incorporated the spatial and creative circumstances of the experiments and posed a challenge for the players.

WANNA TASTE? Invited up to 20 guests on four Sundays to taste the Human Cities projects in eleven


WANNA TRAVEL? Presented 11 Human cities.

The exhibition was curated by Erika Thümmel und Anke Strittmatter and designed by Tessa Kaczenski, Cara Mielzarek and Julia Prinz.

SHAPING HUMAN CITIES was part of „DESIGNMONAT Graz“ and „Architektursommer Graz“.





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