From vacant places to meanwhile spaces

Transitional urbanism in the cities of today and tomorrow







For the fourth webinar organised by the Fair economies Hub, we welcomed three speakers from three different countries: based in Paris, Dickel Bokoum from La Belle Friche, in London, Jen Storan from Meanwhile Space and in Budapest, Levente Polyak from KEK and Eutropian.  

Whether it is residential or commercial vacancy, a public or private ownership, the emptiness can turn into a spiraling urban decline and affect the quality of life of a whole neighborhood. Following a more sustainable city model, the reactivation of vacant spaces is a promising lever to limit urban sprawl and revitalise a neighborhood often with a sense of community.

These three organizations across Europe have proven the positive effects of temporary use projects. Transitional urbanism can unlock a variety of innovative cultural, social and entrepreneurial activities and transform previously undesirable areas into creative hubs of entrepreneurship, culture and social integration.  With our three speakers, we developed the implications of such projects in metropolises like London, Paris and Budapest.  

Dickel Bokoum (La Belle Friche) 

For LBF in Paris, transitory urbanism or the development of meanwhile spaces is seen as an efficient tool for urban development: it gives access to urban spaces for communities, the agency can experiment new ways of building while involving a large public.  

According to Dickel, urban planning is about the future whereas the timescale of the citizens is immediate: thus, temporary use becomes one solution to gather the two. Their main objective is to develop tools to empower citizens and involve them in urban planning through place making.  

Jen Storan (Meanwhile Space) 

After the 2008 financial shock, there were a lot of vacant properties in London that Meanwhile Space wanted to reuse and make active, affordable and vital.  

To do so, the organisation highly relies on successful partnerships with the municipality, architects, local people. Their projects also aim at giving back social activities to the neighbourhood with workshops, arts and culture and other community activities. The legacy and impact in the long run also matter, so they make sure to secure spaces from gentrification by giving priority to residents and avoiding strengthening inequalities.  

Levente Polyak (KEK & Eutropian) 

KEK is based in Budapest and focuses on reusing buildings but also develops projects such as community gardens.    

Since 2012, they are developing a community mapping to help locating the vacant places in the city. They also opened buildings for long periods, dedicated to sports for children with disabilities. Once a year, they organize the festival of open shops to invite owners to open their businesses for a month. Capacity building is also at the core of their gallery for collaborative learning.   

After the three presentations, the discussion revolved around the impact on local shops, quality-of-life indicators, social integration and much more. There is still a great margin of evolution for municipalities to act and help such organisations making the urban fabric more inclusive, sustainable and accessible.  

To guide them through urban regeneration, we reviewed several ways for local authorities to support such projects: through public spending and financial support frequently but also the development of a database to collect information on the vacancies and help the organisations with the mapping. An adjustment on tax properties when buildings are used or underused could also be a significant lever. In addition to this, the municipalities have also a role to play regarding their own properties to develop these resources. 

Interested to find out more? Watch the full webinar below :

From vacant places to meanwhile spaces : Transitional urbanism in the cities of today and tomorrow.

Recommended interesting readings by our speakers: 


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Access the recording of the previous webinar of the series : Ecological transition and jobs: accelerating green local economies.