Grey Matter / Matière Grise

Opening-up Health and revitalising our town centers. Placing our seniors as drivers to economical and urban revival.

The long read

For the Europan 15 entry in Auby, France, team : Matthieu Boustany, Benoist Desfonds, Elida Mosquera, Jerome Picard, Peeraya Suphasidh

Text by Jerome Picard

When looking for a second time at the idea of ‘Productive city’, we voluntary move away from the notion of production as literally ‘making’ and the Youth as the expected ‘maker’. We ask our-self: If not the city but our life in the city were to be more ‘productive’ had more to do with the idea of being ‘meaningful’? What if the notion of productivity was not focused on youth but overcoming a fortuitous age segregation to focus also on senior?

Supporting a network of possibilities, Auby, France
© Grey Matter — Boustany, Desfonds, Mosquera, Picard, Suphasidh

CCNE reports in 2018 reports is unapologetic, the “ghettoization” of the elderly in France is shameful and collectively denied. Ageing has become ignored, unfordable and no policy or network offers seniors and their relatives solution to tackle this societal challenge both economically and spatially. It urges for alternative integrated EHPAD or self-management by the elderly themselves. The fact that a growing number of senior are independent longer, active, professionally willing to contribute is also ignored. With the future ‘reforme des retraites’ and cases of young retired or people retiring earlier picking up again professional activities either part-time, via exchanges of services or voluntary, we see here a potential for a scaled-up change.

Urban loop with existing and new civic anchor, Auby, France
© Grey Matter — Boustany, Desfonds, Mosquera, Picard, Suphasidh

Looking at the changes in Healthcare architecture we notice changes in the trend and a potential to shift our understanding of Health from segregated institutions to possible civic actors contributing to new urban cultures. We realize that municipality alone can no longer be the sole provider of the civic life because there is simply not enough resource to do so. At the same, we see a change in the private sector understanding the benefit to deliver better integrated project with added-value which can contribute to the public life of cities. At the same time, by giving the opportunity for people to take more ownership in shaping their future environment and being included and active in a community, there is also a bottom-up effect and possible economic incentive.

Place making and public-private synergy, Auby, France
© Grey Matter — Boustany, Desfonds, Mosquera, Picard, Suphasidh

Our proposal revolves around the synergy of different actors over time:

- Municipality willing to convert their most attractive sites along the beautiful canal.
- Regions improving public transport infrastructure
- Private companies running healthcare institutions, looking to expand their ambitions as service provider beyond the apparently holy ‘Thé dansant’ and are mindful of the added value and market share there is to create more integrated and productive projects.
- Families willing to relocate in new places where they can live closer to their seniors have better access to health, nature and education.
- Independent seniors relocating to new places because there is a network of possibilities and meaningfulness where it is possible to contribute, give back, able to self-manage care facilities or kindergarten, support business part-time, help academic or scientific research, or keep the mining history alive.

Our concept of Urban Loop in Auby brings the two side of the canal together in a large framework vision that harness the effort made until now and pave the way to consolidating the idea of an attractive, healthy, productive and desirable city, taking into consideration the entire spectrum of ages of the current and future residents and placing pedestrians at the center.

Shared living in between the open gardens, Auby, France
© Grey Matter — Boustany, Desfonds, Mosquera, Picard, Suphasidh

The 8 loop connects the city center with a proposed one-way network to give a new breath to the street Leon Blum planned as a new gateway green and multi-modal. The houses and plaza at the junction between Jaurès and Surcouf are short term flats for academics and care staff, with self-managed services run by the senior community opens new sharing services and mark the canal walk part of the loop. On the project site, we envision an inter-generational habitat open to the city of Auby with adaptable types. Typical functions are mutualized and integrated in the cityscape. Other functions are inserted in the context of growing a knowledge-based and shared short-circuit community. The masterplan activates the river with a green network and substantial sport amenities. Typologies derived from local linear farm and mining townhouse offer a mix of rental and owned properties focused on age-integration with self-managed program to sustain a Health ecology in Auby at different scale supporting the life in a meaningful city.

Inter-generational and shared activities for Auby
© Grey Matter — Boustany, Desfonds, Mosquera, Picard, Suphasidh

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