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Nantes imagines tomorrow’s green city

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par Elsa Sidawy | 11.17.11

A modern-looking henhouse in the Graslin square, a tunnel greenhouse along the Erdre River, pile beehives right in the middle of a roundabout… These extravagant ideas are at the core of an urban prospective project called “Ekovores”, which has been imagined by two industrial designers from the Faltazi agency in Nantes. A virtuous programme that Nantes, which is preparing to become the green capital of Europe, is having a close look at.

Reinventing local urban farming
Laurent Lebot and Victor Massip, aka “the Faltazis”, tackled a complex issue: imagining tomorrow’s green city. “Our project is inspired by what is happening today in Detroit in transition towns and by the principles advocated by locavores,” Laurent Lebot explains. Though the idea is readily provocative, it is nevertheless pragmatic: making our cities less dependent on petrol, wondering about food origin and eventually reinventing the relationships between producers and consumers. Reflecting on the promotion of local food supply chains – a currently very fashionable approach – is their major concern. But, while some people imagine green towers, the Faltazis, as these two cranks like to call themselves, see the city as a global food production system based on the principle of “local circular economy”. A self-sufficient city all in all, in which food would be produced on the spot and waste would be turned into resources.


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From stand-by farms to market barges

So much for philosophy now; make way for pragmatism. How, while land costs are booming, can we give local farming the place it deserves? The two designers imagined various systems. First, on the outskirts, stand-by farms would be set up to stimulate local market gardening. The closer to the urban centre equipments are, the more flexible and the more accessible they become: the floating family gardens (ancestors of shared gardens), the tunnel-greenhouse in which gardeners, cyclists and pedestrians mix and the city pile apiary. To distribute this food, the Faltazis imagined the AMAP (Association pour le Maintien d’une Agriculture Paysanne: Community Supported Agriculture) trailer and the market barge. To process fresh food, local canneries and vegetable preparation facilities would be created at the foot of buildings. Finally, to transform waste, public composting toilets, district composters, water butts and urban henhouses could be very convenient in terms of waste management.

Nantes 2013, European Green Capital
They have a somewhat straightforward approach but at least they raise relevant issues,” Frédéric Vasse – communications and forecasting adviser to the mayor and president of Nantes Métropole, Jean-Marc Ayrault – admits. The elected representative met the two accomplices in order to consider collaboration with local authorities. “In their project, what drew our attention was all that concerned food.” Though the elected representatives of Nantes may smile at some of these proposals, they take the whole thing very seriously. The urban beehives, the floating market, the district composters and the urban agriculture are already well thought in the capital of the Dukes of Brittany. Though local authorities have not made any firm promise to the Faltazis yet, the first experiments will definitely take place in Nantes. Meeting is due to take place in 2013 at the latest, the year when Nantes will be the European Green Capital: “as a Green Capital, we want to deal with the issue of food and hyper-urbanisation for it matches our political project of a post-carbon society.” In 2013, pigs still won’t fly but the inhabitants of Nantes might be able to grow their tomatoes on floating barges.

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Translated by Oona Bijasson

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