29 Dec 2015

How to form collective memories linked to the temporary nature of public spaces

Project: Place Au Changement

Location: Saint Étienne, France

Year: 2011

Size: 700 sqm

Budget: € 30 000

Team: Collectif etc.

Initiator: ÉPASE (Établissement Public d’Aménagement de Saint-Étienne)


Place Au Changement

In response to the on-going mutations in the neighborhood and to remind that the place has a temporary condition as a public space, the project has two intentions. First, the idea was to design a draft of the construction that might emerge on the site in a few years: an imaginary plan of a future apartments and its corresponding section on the surrounding wall. So it opens the question for people to imagine what they wanted in this big house. And second, to build the place in an open participatory process involving different actors of the city, and use this opportunity to exchange knowledge and give the instructions to the local community to manage this space by themselves in the future.


Situated at the north-eastern part of the old city, the vacant lot has a strategic position since is close to the main railway station in the town and it is located at the intersection of two streets which it gives it a highly visible street front.

Before it was a petrol station which was demolished due to real-estate development. But while this project never began the site became a random parking lot.


Place Au Changement Opus 2

As part of the International Design Biennale in Saint Étienne in 2013, ÉPASE offered the Collectif Etc to intervene at the neighborhood one more time. The Collectif Etc wanted to return to Place Au Changement to question the public space again and give it a new face.

In this context, they organized a two weeks event. In the first week, there were repairing existing structures, inviting the local community and there was an open meeting questioning the occupation of obsolete and temporary public spaces in urban projects.

On site there was also an exhibition tracing the history of the site.


For the second week, the collectif etc launched via social networks an open call for participation. So, they chose 5 collectives from different parts of France and with different skill to take over the place and give their own vision. Each group had a specific area to work on, and they had to consider the different existing spaces in the square.

As integration and exchanging knowledge were the main intentions in this building process, all meals were taken together in order to increase the the time for this informal exchanges.

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