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Regular version of the site

Moscow to Paris: Here, There, and Everywhere

In early July, the fifth summer school organized by French association D’Est together with the HSE Vysokovsky Graduate School of Urbanism, with the support of the French Embassy in Russia and the Paris Mayor’s Office, was held in Paris. For 11 days, students of the HSE Master’s programme  in Urban Development and Spatial Planning and members of Moscow’s Municipal Council learned about French urban development, local administration and the country’s participatory democracy. 

How to Go to Paris for the Summer

Traditionally, the School participants are selected in May among first-year students of the Urban Development and Spatial Planning master’s programme at HSE’s Faculty of Urban and Regional Development. Students participate in an essay competition, where they write about a topic relevant to the School’s theme in the context of their core research interests, and their motivations for participating in the School. The essays are evaluated by a committee based at the Faculty of Urban and Regional Development and headed by Evgeny Plisetskiy, the Faculty’s Deputy Dean for Academic Affairs.

This year, five out of 13 submitted essays were selected. The School participants were:

  • Anastasia Burova, a student of sociology and urbanism and the manager of Urban Studies and Practices academic journal with interests in polycentric city models and urban sociology;
  • Ilyas Kulbarisov, a student of architecture and urbanism and an expert in participatory planning and practices;
  • Alexander Mikhailov, a student of geography and urbanism with interests in municipal and local administration, as well as economic activities in cities;
  • Darya Parfenova, an expert in state and municipal administration and urban construction, who studies issues of urban administration, as well as night city management and residential policy practices;
  • Darya Chigareva, a student of international area studies and urbanism, who studies the processes of urban constriction and mono-profile cities.

Anastasia Burova, student in Urban Development and Spatial Planning Master’s programme

‘In my competition essay, I wrote about how my personal and research interests align with the School agenda. Since I’m actively involved in studying the city, this summer school was an opportunity to see how the city works from the inside, and to meet people who are directly involved in city regulation.'

Over its five years, the School has developed a list of regular topics, with a focus on politique de la ville, a set of economic, social, and construction measures that are at different levels and of different scales and are aimed at eliminating regional socio-economic inequality. Despite the fact that politique de la ville is rather young, it is largely related to the consequences of the policy of mass residential building in 1950s-60s and the 1973 Oil Crisis, which triggered the degradation of residential suburbs in big cities. Politique de la ville is about renovating the urban environment, residential policies, and urban administration—all of which fall under the purview of the annual programme of the School.

An academic paper that will be based on the conclusions of the School is currently being planned. Its general theme will be the concept of a fair city and residents’ involvement as a part of this concept. Later, the academic paper will be rewritten as a journal article and published on open platforms. The students will in turn integrate their newly gained experience and knowledge into their research projects.

Marianna Shkurko, supervisor of the summer school, Leading Expert at the Vysokovsky Graduate School of Urbanism

Over its five years, the School has developed a list of regular topics, with a focus on politique de la ville, a set of economic, social, and construction measures that are at different levels and of different scales and are aimed at eliminating regional socio-economic inequality. Despite the fact that politique de la ville is rather young, it is largely related to the consequences of the policy of mass residential building in 1950s-60s and the 1973 Oil Crisis, which triggered the degradation of residential suburbs in big cities. Politique de la ville is about renovating the urban environment, residential policies, and urban administration—all of which fall under the purview of the annual programme of the School.

This year, the programme’s list of topics on urban administration has been expanded to include issues related to residents’ institutional involvement in city management. In addition to the traditional introduction to various grassroots initiatives (and associations), the School participants met with representatives of municipal and national authorities, who emphasized the importance of residents’ participation in decision making, as well as providing public oversight of how these decisions are implemented. The expansion of participatory democracy tools has become an important aspect of politique de la ville over the recent years, so it was decided to give more attention to this issue.

Another important development at this School was the expanded pool of studies in urban planning: the programme now includes an introduction to Plan Urbanisme Construction Architecture (Puca), a research agency, and experts of Profession Banlieue, a resource centre for urban policy experts.

The School programme is usually broken up into two big parts: the preparatory ‘Moscow’ part, and the core ‘Paris’ part. In charge of the core programme is Nina Berezner, the School organizer and president of D’Est association, which aims to establish and develop civil partner links between Russia and France.

In addition to the ideas behind politique de la ville, the School’s programme is shaped by the view of French urbanism as a union of three factors: spatial planning, urban research, and city administration. Key actors of politique de la ville participate in the School as speakers and experts, both as advocates and critics. Paris has a high population density and a high level of space urbanization, and in fact, the city planning has already been completed. This determines the city’s construction policy, with a focus on long-term planning and process management, city renewal and implementation of target driver projects, as well as conservative intervention in built-up areas. From this standpoint, it is important to demonstrate a situation in which built-up areas are the main resource for urban development, and the issues of city management and research are as pressing as never before.

Another important aspect is to demonstrate how it works in practice. The programme includes field expeditions in quartier populaire – priority quarters of politique de la ville, where the participants can look at how the national policy is implemented in real life, as well as meet and exchange experience with local experts. Each year, the programme has offered a trip to Clichy-sous-Bois, a commune of the Seine-Saint-Denis department, where socio-economic and urban development problems are particularly pressing. The second destination has been the commune of Grigny of the department of Essonne. The two cases demonstrate the contrasting historical and social contexts in the two communes, with the mutual challenges they are facing.

Dialogue between Students and Moscow Municipal Council Members in the French Capital

For Anastasia Burova, it was meeting new people that was the most important and interesting part of the summer school. ‘Interactions and discussions with experts and professionals from different fields who deal with urban issues allowed me to look at the city from a new perspective. At university, we read a lot of texts and study a lot of theories, while here we had an opportunity to see how it works in a real city with real people—how urban policies evolve and are implemented. In France, the policy of residents’ participation in solving issues related to the whole city has been getting really big recently. I believe it is a new level of interaction for the solution of city problems, which could be very useful for Russian cities, as well.’

Marianna Shkurko believes that the most thrilling part of this year’s School was an evolving dialogue between the students and the second part of the group, which this year consisted of municipal council members from different Moscow districts.

According to Marianna, the students were interested in comparing their theoretical and academic knowledge about municipal administration with the real-life experiences of municipal council members. That’s why the School featured several unplanned evening mini lectures about how public and municipal administration works in Moscow, the experience of residents’ involvement in community life, and a variety of participatory practices.

‘The School devotes a lot of attention to different plans, strategies and agendas, which determine the trajectories for urban development, as well as the implementation of the principles of politique de la ville. That’s why field trips and meetings with local specialists are an important component of the School. They help students learn how theoretical and strategic tools are scaled from the national to the municipal level, how they are implemented, what difficulties and new tasks arise. These difficulties and new tasks, in turn, help readjust the strategies and agendas. I believe that these practices of critical rethinking and observation help develop the skills of a flexible planner and urban researcher, who is sensitive to the heterogeneous and changing urban environment,’ Marianna noted.

Professionals Worth Learning From

Anastasia Burova was particularly impressed by the French experts whose talks shed light on some aspects in urban development and planning that were new to her. ‘I personally was impressed by the talks of Stéphane Moch, head of resident participation office, Christine Leconte, president of the Guild of Architectures of Île-de-France, and Bénédicte Madelin, president of Pas Sans Nous association. Stéphane was one of the first speakers who discussed and demonstrated the level at which residents and urban authorities can interact. He told us about the ‘night debates’ project (an event that invites city residents to attend debate platforms and discuss any and all issues they are concerned about) as an example of this. Christine provided us with a lot of details about architects’ ethics in France and also spoke about the future of Notre-Dame de Paris and the possible solutions and their feasibility. Bénédicte impressed us with her alternative view on the effectiveness of the city policy implemented in France, raising a lot of relevant and controversial questions.’

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