ARCH: permissive city

CONTENT / In many cities, globalisation has contributed to the emergence of new urban environments which, over very short periods of time, have replicated similar and homogenous spaces, evacuated public ownership, erased local singularities and produced what may be defined as a generic and franchised city. Most of these cities retain urban environments developed on the long term, where palimpsest spaces give a fair share to public space and where the character and singularity of place are preserved.

This process raises a variety of questions, particularly that of the appropriation of public space by people in these two ‘versions’ of the city. Considering that the work of time in the construction of urban space cannot be replaced, it becomes crucial to identify the conditions which may accelerate the process of appropriation of public spaces by users whilst encouraging the emergence of uncontrolled and non-programmed uses and spatial arrangements.


AIMS / The workshop will explore how the implementation of more inclusive approaches in terms of public space design and usage may promote more vibrant urban environments

To this end, two urban fragments, one “palimpsest” and the other “generic”, will be explored through the prisms of public life.  At first, emphasis will be put on identifying the types of public spaces encountered, the variety and density of uses observed as well as the factors that appear to favour or constrain individual and collective ownership of these spaces. Secondly, lessons will be drawn from this understanding to suggest conceptual processes that promote the appropriation of public space by people and allow them over time to develop their own responses and solutions.



Session 00: Introduction

Organised in groups of 3 to 4 students, you will introduce yourself with a 2 to 3 minutes video, explaining why you chose to attend this workshop and what urban sites you wish to investigate.


Session 01 – Immersion, interpretation and representation

You shall choose two urban environments of the same surface. The first one will be a part of the “palimpsest city” where you would usually enjoy dwelling and spending time, the second will be a part of the “generic city”, as described above.

Using walking as an exploration too, you will dwell through site for an average of 2 hours. You shall prepare the itinerary of your journey beforehand using a map, but you will allow yourself to drift once on the spot.

Whilst on site:

– Identify the main types open spaces you encounter (sidewalks, paths, squares, café terraces, playgrounds, etc.) and the forms of public life that take place in them as well as in the spaces visible from them (e.g., outdoor extensions of dwellings), distinguishing between spontaneous and more official uses;

– Associate keywords with each identified situation;

– Register your perception and feelings in each place (e.g., excitement, anxiety, boredom, …);

– Register your perception of time and the density of the uses you observe along the way.


– Seek potential correlations between the shape and location of the open spaces and their degree of appropriation by people.

Once off site:

– Process your observations and “findings” by organising this new knowledge in a “narrative” (example: exploration book, graphic novel, comic strip, video, etc.) that clearly highlights your understanding of the issue of public life in your two chosen urban environments;

– Indicate your route “before” and “during” the drift, highlighting times of movement and pause. When using graphical supports such as plans or maps, use the same scale for both urban fragments.


Session 02 – / Reflexions & projections

Based on your previous work and if necessary, by referring to existing practices and experiences, define the broad outlines of “proposals” or “recommendations” that could set up and promote a more people centred urban life in your generic city fragment.  Beyond the production of artefacts, you may focus on defining processes which will ultimately contribute to this objective (i.e., alternative urban morphologies / specific spatial arrangements / new urban planning rules / experimentation and prefiguration phases / Post-occupation phases / new “permission to do” for inhabitants / ….

The presentation format remains free, but shall be in continuity with your previous work.


SCHEDULE / 2-Week Workshop / Weekly 4-hour class arranged with the students:


Session 00 – Introduction / 15 Feb 2020.

Session 01 – Development (Immersion, interpretation and representation) / 15-19 Feb 2021.

Session 02 – Final Crit (Reflexions & projections) / 26 Feb 2021.


EVALUATION / Fulfilment of the requirements of sessions 00, 01 & 02


École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture et de Paysage de Bordeaux (France)

Hocine Aliouane-Shaw (

Workshop idea developed with Yvan Detraz from non-profit organization Bruit du frigo (