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Design for Change.org approached Parsons DESIS LAB to participate in their annual Design for Change Competition. The competition brings together 300 students from across the world to come up with innovative solutions to improve the quality of life of local residents. The location for 2013 competition was the suburbs near the city of Lille, located in northern France, near the Belgium border. The city profited from a boom in textile production during the Industrial Revolution. However, its suburban communities have been facing the changes wrought by de-industrialization.

Experiment-A-Lille is a suite of services that uses existing resources in the city of Lille as assets to create systems that enable sustainable lifestyles and new interactions for citizens. Each theme is applied to a specific suburban neighborhood and community near this northern French city.

The themes for the city of Lille were:

  • Urban agriculture

  • Ambiance

  • Cultural diversity

The team created three services: L’Union Grows, an urban farming hub; Roubaix Connects, an experiential digital interface for public spaces; and Tourcoing Plays, a proposed sports curriculum to bring the community together.

L’Union Grows

L’Union Grows proposes the Urban Farming Hub as an educational space on urban agriculture. The mission is to re-humanize and reposition urban agriculture in a way that will allow for easy integration into the lives of the residents. The education offerings at the Hub will provide incentives for sustainable behavior and community innovation as well as cross-cultural interactions within the region, further feeding into the identity of L’Union as a model for the future of sustainable cities.

The physical location of the Hub will be in a post-industrial textile mill, located within walking distance of the current site for CETI (Centre Européens des Textiles Innovants), and next to the future site of SEM Ville Renouvelle. With the thread of urban agriculture, this location will create a physical connection between the historical past and the future of innovations of the textile industry. By tapping into the pre-existing social capital, L’Union Grows  will help recreate the community for a more sustainable future, in terms of social, economical, and environmental changes.

This project was selected to be displayed at  Jardin aux Tuileries, Paris in the Summer 2013.

Roubaix Connects

Roubaix Connects is a service that stimulates new social relationships in the urban ambiance. Exploring tangible and intangible strategies that extrapolates the physical built environment, Roubaix Connects aims to give voice to the citizens of Roubaix in public spaces, improving local social capital and urban quality of life.

It is a platform that interfaces between online and offline communications fed by the inhabitants and visitors of Roubaix. Display screens and a physical ‘soapbox’, are the elements that support programmed and spontaneous public events. The aim is to bridge the digital Roubaix with the physical Roubaix, the public spaces and hubs. The digital screens placed in public spaces displays daily community events that are  gathered and aggregated by an online platform—working as a virtual town square.

Users can also input information onto the platform, which is displayed on those screens placed at hubs along paths of travel connecting public sites with transportation hubs. These public narratives empower local individuals, as well as increase the sense of ownership of public spaces.

Tourcoing Plays

Tourcoing Plays presents sports as a natural way to strengthen a sense of community and diversity within Tourcoing. As a cross-cultural activity, sporting was the clear choice to connect the diverse community of the area. Sports are capable of transcending cultural differences while emphasizing the value in physical activity and team work towards a common goal. Play becomes a cultural exchange, and Tourcoing Plays then allows for both social and cultural connections to be built in future generations.

A large number of athletic facilities currently exist in the area. This service emphasizes that athletic identity of Tourcoing by bridging the gap between play and sports for the younger generations. Providing a safe and supervised space for children every Wednesday, they will actively engage with other children through age appropriate sports and games derived from cultures found in the community. Using the existing assets the project will be free of charge to the families of Tourcoing.

Team: Hellem Pedroso, Jennifer Meyer, Marissa Hatch, and Molly Oberholtzer.                        

Special thanks to: Parsons DESIS LABLara Penin and Nadia Elrokhsy for the guidance and support.

Role: Context research, user research, workshop planning, concept development, video editing, documentation, and document and file management.

Fall 2012 - Spring 2013

*The project was submitted to Lille Design for Change competition, and "L'Union Grows" was displayed at Jardin aux Tuileries, Paris in the Summer 2013.