Parking day: students testing ephemeral public spaces in Grenoble

On September, 19th, a class of students from Grenoble’s Alpine Geography Institute have taken part to the “parking day” event – and USER LSG members were invited to join the final jury!

“Parking Day” is an Europe-wide event which consist in taking over a parking place – and to set up an ephemeral public space on it. This action aims at proposing new uses of public spaces instead of devoting it to car parking. The goal is to discuss with users, to launch debates, to raise awareness on the question: “how to live cities public spaces differently”? As you can see, this Parking Days action perfectly matches USER topic!

The Students from the “Innovation and territories” master have grabbed this opportunity to think about public spaces and made a very interesting job, which presentation can be downloaded here: Parking Day_Presentation

For this action, the students were divided in 4 groups, and have installed 4 different public spaces in Grenoble city centre. 4 groups, 4 different ideas, which were:

– “Playful city” – More convivial public spaces thanks to open-air games

“Car Park Council” – An open City Council where inhabitants can vote for the future of their public spaces

-“ Intimately yours” – Resting and chatting in a cosy open-air living-room

– “Garden made of boxes” – Questionning the place of nature in urban public spaces

All the group have animated this 1-day even, led a reflection on what they have learnt, and proposed a project to develop their action further.

Have a look at their presentation as it is full of interesting questions and ideas that could feed into each USER city’s local experimentations!

(And special thanks to the students who have specially translated their presentation for  USER partners!)

Lublin workshop agenda and terms of reference!

This week is very important in USER’s life: the first workshop will be held in Lublin, on 16 – 17  October!

Congratulations to Lublin’s team which has worked hard to define the terms of reference of the workshop and its agenda.

Both documents are available below – the 2 other subgroups should have a look at them, at it may be helpful to prepare their own workshops.



Detailed news from Dresden LSG

Bruno from Dresden has sent a very detailed explanation of Dresden LSG activities.

In this document, you can learn:

– what main issues and sites Dresden LSG is working on,

– how it is structured: a very relevant organization in sub-groups,

– what activity each sub-group intends to launch.

A very interesting reading which may help each USER city galvanize its LSG activities!

Feedback from URBACT Summer University!

The Summer university has been hold in Dublin, from August 28th to 30th. There some 300 people were gathered to learn, discuss, network – 300 people involved in URBACT and coming out from 150 cities and 26 countries!

From USER, 8 persons were there: 3 persons from Copenhagen (Sia and her 2 LSG members), 2 from Lublin (Monika and Daniel Grzeszczuk), Ilze from Riga, Claire from Grenoble-Alpes Métropole and Fernando Barreiro took part in the event.

The USU was composed by « URBACT talks » in plenary sessions (external experts making a presentation on a specific subject, among whom was Camilla Van Deurs, who took part in Copenhagen seminar Conference), master classes to deepen a topic (integrated approach, Roma Ghettos…), as, on top of that, by « LSG at work » working groups.

All participants were grouped in fictive LSG in order to solve the case of Allium city, a city encountering important socio-urban problems. In 3 days, we had to elaborate together an action plan thanks to URBACT methods such as etc. Most of USER members where in the group working on the topic « shared public spaces » – which is coherent !
LAB session - preparation for the "best LAP" contest!LSG@work outputs


Here are some USER partner’s feedbacks about USU :

Allium City has problems like average city in Europe. Many of participants found in Allium their own cities – The City of Lublin has the same problems. It was a wonderful experience to know the opinions of other people – experts in the city planning and management. What was really surprising was that many of us have found similar solutions to Allium’s public spaces problems, but the ways to achieve the goal in many cases was different. It was an amazing experience.
I’ve been impressed by the organization of Summer University, the exchange of experiences and I wish to participate in next URBACT international meetings to broaden my knowledge and learn about experiences of other cities.

Monika Klos, Lublin

I would compare URBACT Summer University to the box full of sweets: everyone can take what he/she need or like the best. For me that was:

– Morning plenary sessions with inspiring and interesting presentations. The most inspiring presentations were of the Mayor of Udine and architect Camilla Van Deurs – both of them let me believe that every single place in the city can be alive when there are people who care about it and activities that attract and allow to interact.

Experience sharing and possibility to meet different people from whole Europe.

-Practical experience for work with local support group using Programme’s methodology.

LAB „Shared public spaces” was led by Bela Kezy, conversant and funny lecturer,and it was well organized. I got more clear view on how Programme/Project would like us to work with our local support group as well as learned a set of methods we should use. In our ULSG groups we simulated a process of LSG meeting and put in use ‘Problem tree’, ‘Solution tree’, built our possible Stakeholders list and created Action plan’s table using Opera method. Although I lacked some practical and deeper? knowledge about the topic we were working on and found it too theoretical I think it was a good experience and knowledge for us to put in use and redesign/adapt for our work with the local support group.

My main conclusion after URBACT Summer university is that Riga has not experienced wholesome and so intensive stakeholders’ involvement yet. It is vital to involve all stakeholders as well as users of public spaces in the early stages of planning proceses and we have to rememeber that all our efforts and work to create more lively, convivial and interesting public places must be directed for needs of people using the public spaces especially those which are important for local community.

Ilze Rudzate, Riga

3’47 to understand the workshops preparation

Instead of needing 15 minutes to read a memo… you just have to take 3’47 to watch Fernando on Youtube!

Our lead expert explains the workshop preparation process: expectations towards the workshops, tow to define the methodological or thematic focus, respective role of the host and guest cities…

One more tool to help each sub-group get ready for the workshop!



What about “users” and “users involvement”? Fernando’s thoughts!

Parama Roy is assistant professor in Copenhagen University, and member of Copenhagen’s LSG as well. Most of you met her in Riga. She asked Fernando to express his mind about “users” in USER. Here are his answers, let’s read it as a crucial “food for thought” for all USER partners”!
1. Who in your mind are the potential users?
In the USER approach, the real and/or potential users are those who use, cross or make some kind of work linked to the space.  Using a space entails enjoying some activity in the space, meeting with friends, making sport or just looking, spending leisure time and sitting in their benches.  Crossing a space is not stopping there, but crossing it to address other places. It is somehow a way of using without staying there. Workers and managers are those users that are engaged in maintenance, cleaning, control, preventing conflicts, etc, in the public space.   This enlarged approach of what means “using” public spaces allow us to understand better how public spaces work and its complexity. Beyond these categories of users, we can also consider the different “needs and expectations” of users regarding the function of a public space, i.e., young people, children, elderly people, ethnic minorities, etc. Finally we have to consider   not just the current users but the potential users. May be, several potential users are not really using the public space because it is not accessible for them, because other people are  controlling and occupying the whole place avoiding their access.                                                                                   

2. What is their role as defined by the USER project? Why are they  important?
As it was said in the former answer, users are the real life of a public space. In a public space people become real citizens “using” its right to share common spaces and to meet with strangers. Avoiding access to the public spaces entails a restriction to citizenship for those who are denied to access.  What is important for USER are users and uses (how and by whom public spaces are used) and not the physical space by itself. That’s why we define a list of attributes that should be reached by a successful public space. And these attributes or functions deal basically with users and uses.

3. Are the ‘users’ different than ‘citizens’ or ‘stakeholders’? How so?
Users, in this wide definition, include citizens (residents in the area or not), stakeholders (people, groups, institutions, companies… that have interests and needs linked to the public space). In this sense the municipality, (and mainly those departments directly concerned) becomes a user.

4. Do you believe that involving users in planning/management is any  different than involving the citizens or stakeholders?
I think that by the previous answers this question is already responded. But, the involvement of users is a new challenge for local authorities. It entails a complex process in identifying and contacting with different type of people that should be defined in terms of current uses and potential uses as well, in terms of different type of uses, at different time, etc. We have to involve the residents that make a daily use of the place, but also the tourists that just use it once, the workers of the municipal services, the bus drivers that “cross” the place, the homeless, the shopkeepers located in the surroundings. Indeed, “using” public spaces entail a complex urban function with several uses and users and, basically, with conflicts and dysfunctions that only can be solved with the involvement of users.

5. Can user involvement provide a broader, more inclusive, more empowering framework for participatory planning?
Yes. But mainly it deals with achieving inclusive, pluralistic, interactive and safer public spaces where no user can be rejected and where a common life is ensured within the city.

Krakow sub-group getting ready for workshop

Congratulation to the Krakow team!

According to Fernando’s roadmap for workshop preparation, they have lead an internal work to identify the most relevant topic they would like to share with the 2 host cities – and they now propose them to open the discussion in order to choose one focus topic together.

In this proposal document: Workshop Proposal Document_Krakow, Krakow describes its main preoccupations regarding Azory’s neighbourhood, which are:

– Accessibility.

Communication with the rest of the city, bad access to public spaces due to a bad maintenance, accessibility for disabled people, social exclusion / safety, “dead spaces”, perception of public / private / semi-private limits.


Azory’s users found during the LSG that there is enough recreational public areas – but most of them are redundant, poorly equiped and badly maintained. There are no spaces dedicated for specific activities (except children playgrounds). There are no bike road, no jogging, no rollerskating lanes… There are hardly any sportsgrounds, no picnic areas, etc. The lack of proper management and equipment is the reason why public spaces in Azory are harly ever used, or misused.

Place identity

The place identity is a very important issue in Azory’s case. This is a very well known and distinctive area, but it is mostly because of being infamous. There is a dramatic difference between how the neighbourhood is perceived from the inside, and by the cities inhabitants. Surprisingly from the data collected during the LSG meeting and studying the housing property market, the value of apartments is relatively high, and there are no problems with selling or renting an apartment.


The comfort issue in public space should be self-understandable. In Azory case, public space users got accustomed to the poverty image of the neighborhood – and their expectations diminished. It is essential to show poeple that a good quality of public space is important to create good living conditions.

Food for thought during the summer break!

During the summer Fernando, our lead expert, has gathered interesting documents about different public space-related topics: Links_Fernando_Aug2013

In this document you can find background thoughts, articles, experiences about:

Placemaking, walkability, streets, temporary uses of vacant plots, safety, privatization, managing public spaces, markets, sustainability, social conflits, walking observation of uses, design, gendered public spaces, tourism and public spaces, political activism, involving inhabitants, regulating public spaces, conviviality, mobility, using public spaces, street vending, sidewalks, lightening, urban farming, waterfronts, Jan Gehl, Jane Jacobs.

Like in a market, pick up the resources about the topics you are interested in!

And… of course, if you have interesting documents to share with the USER network as a complement to this (open) list, please do it!