Story All Stories


By Josyane Franc

On 13th September 2018 , during the final event of Human Cities_Challenging the City Scale in Tallinn, happy partners launched a very important common production : the human cities 2014-2018 project book : Challenging the City Scale, journeys  in People-Centred Design.

This 176 pages book is released by the famous international publisher Birkhäuser, and co-edited by Cité du design Saint-Etienne and Clear Village London,  with the contributions of all the partners and invited authors.  After a 1st publication oriented on research and inspirational case studies,  this final book is the story of our experiences and cooperation addressed to a large audience of people interested in urban design and practices .

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. 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.

Our project can be seeen as a journey in people-centred design.

To prepare it, we asked Alice Holmberg, a designer and co-creation expert, to help each partner start their experiment through co-creative sessions. She explains in her article her approach to participatory design, and  how  she established a co-creation framework that was applied in a variety of contexts.

After the co-creative sessions, each partner departed on their own journey. For example, our partners in Saint-Étienne, Graz, Bilbao, Helsinki and London worked with citizens to turn vacant or
underused spaces into test sites for new solutions for work, service provision, education and communication. In Ljubljana, Belgrade, Cieszyn, Tallinn, Brussels and Milan, our partners joined forces with citizens to contribute to the development of a neighbourhood through improving the quality of public spaces. We invited two journalists, Côme Bastin and Fleur Weinberg, to capture the stories of the experiments in each of the 11 partner cities. These stories compose the main part of this book.

The variety of experiments allowed us to learn from each other. It also gave some hints  for citizens, designers, and decision makers (insitutions and developers)  which would like  initiate that kind of actions. These learnings are shared in the third part of the book, written by Robin Houterman from a collective reflection led by all the partners.

We asked two urban experts to provide a context for our stories. John Thackara, a writer-philosopher, explains the importance of understanding the notion of the city “as a living system”. His chapter emphasises the need to take care of our commons, a term that includes the spaces, memories, knowledge, skills, culture and biodiversity that we all share.
Anya Sirota, founder of and architect at Akoaki, shares with us her experiences from Detroit, USA. In a context of severe urban decline, Akoaki designs architectural interventions, art objects,
and social environments that aim to make an impact far beyond their physical appearances.

As a conclusion – or an introduction to the next journeys to come – Olivier Peyricot and Josyane Franc re-question the topic of bottom-up initiatives in the global context of city making.  Could active citizen be the sole driving forces of the tranformations in contemporary cities? How to collectively take responsibility and act for the global challenges facing our urban societies ?

Since its start, the Human Cities project has led to a network of “Human Citizens” distributing their knowledge and skills across Europe, and beyond as well by making use of the network of UNESCO Creative Cities of Design. By writing this book, we hope to expand this network of Human Citizens even further. We hope that by sharing our enthusiasm and experiences, the book will be an inspiration and a valuable reference for those inclined to become involved themselves. Moreover, we want to convince policy and decision makers of the value of these initiatives and inspire them to take action to facilitate them better in the future.


Technical information: 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: