session 1 - Changing Streets


the Future Design of Streets – webinar series – 4th edition 2023

18 January 2023, 17.00-18.30 (GMT+1)

Speakers: Rita Castel’Branco, Patrick Bernard, David Sim // Moderation: Daniel Casas Valle


Streets changes every day. But what is the best way to make existing streets better? In this session about ´changing streets´ it was clear that there is not one single solution. Rather it is about an approach: to start from the people, from the existing structures, and start to create conditions that can provoke and intensify human and societal relations. No blue prints, but local customised approaches.

Patrick Bernard presented the ideas of his neighbours in Paris with their aim “to transform neighbourhoods who says “hello” 5 times a day, into hyper neighbourhoods who says “hello” 50 times a day”. La République des Hyper Voisins is a collective of neighbours from the 14th District in Paris, that try to improve the place where they live and promote the conviviality of this friends of the neighbourhood. They do this by organising social activities, like collective lunches, gardening and games, turning their streets to a real public social meeting place. “We were convinced that conviviality was not only a good feeling. We saw conviviality as an economic asset. Something powerful, but sufficiently exploited to design a better city, with people in the centre of strategy. Smart people rather than smart cities.“

In the same base of thoughts, David Sim brought us his ideas to think softer, and think about softening relationships, with ´the Street´ as the place and the platform therefore. A “perfect escape” for being with friends, and being comfortable with strangers. David invites all of us to use streets as “democratic” and “nice places”. Use it wisely and softer, to take a walk, to get a bike, to recognise the pleasure of “conversation cycling”. And: “Sharing the space. Getting along as we get about in the city. This kind of ecosystem of sharing and meeting at the eye level, where walking, stopping and cycling and shop keeping is part of the same ecosystem.”

Rita Castel´Branco establishes an analogy for porosity in relation with the street space, between a very technical characteristic for solid materials, and the porous aspects of our social relations. She underlies that the idea of porosity .. is very much related with the co-creation of the cities. People have the power to interfere, to modify and to change, and do to appropriate the spaces they use. More flexibility and less rules are needed in planning, especially when rules lost their relevancy. In this, Rita unfolds: “Porosity is very much about the spontaneous appropriation of spaces. Legislation cannot enforce spontaneity. But it can, and I believe it should require the conditions for it to happen.”

Within the perspective of the actual and future social and nature challenges, an extra effort is needed in order transform existing streets. This is not only essential from on a spatial design point of view, but also from on the viewpoint of people.