AAA – Passage 56 / Espace culturel écologique


Creator:Atelier d’architecture autogeree in association with local organizations and inhabitants

Location: Paris 20°, 56 rue Saint Blaise, Partners: DPVI, OPAC, APIJ, City of Paris/ Charte Main Verte, Area: 200 m2, Cost: 90,000 €


Atelier d’architecture autogérée (aaa) is a collective platform founded in 2001 by Constantin Petcou and Doina Petrescu in Paris. The platform conducts actions and research on urban mutations and emerging practices in the contemporary city, involving architects, artists, students, researchers, activists and residents with different social and cultural backgrounds. aaa ‘s projects focus on issues of self-organisation and self-management of collective spaces, emerging networks and catalyst processes, resistance to profit driven developments, recycling and ecologically friendly constructions, collective production of knowledge. Recent projects include Ecobox, a nomadic eco-urban network in La Chapelle neighborhood in Paris and Passage 56, an eco-interstice in St. Blaise area.

The Passage 56 project is located in a former passageway at the core of a very dense and socially deprived residential area in the 20th arrondissement of Paris.

An unusual partnership between the public administration, local organisations, professionals and residents was set up and an open consultation process was organised with the idea of creating a collectively managed space. From the very beginning and throughout a sustained participative process, temporary installation, mobile devices and public events were used for consultations with the residents. A project was thus elaborated gradually and agreed upon collectively, continuing through the minimal-cost construction phase, which was carried out by local youngsters involved in a training programme in eco-construction.

The 200m2 plot was conceived as an ecological interstice hosting a collective garden, a small wooden building (with a green roof and powered by solar panels) compost toilets, rain water collector, cultivation patches, seed catchers and wild birds’ corridor. Ecological cycles are closed on site in such way that the space produces or recycles most of what it consumes: water, fertiliser, food and energy.

Passage 56 is currently collectively managed by a group of residents who organise most of activity that takes place during the week: gardening, screenings, debates, organic food deliveries and neighbourhood gatherings.

This project exemplifies the emergence of new forms of public space which do not culminate in the physical construction of a designed object but are rather continuously developed as a social, cultural and political production.

STRENGTHS & OPPORTUNITIES: This inner urban block project takes advantage of under-used pre-existing residual city space. Proximity to a neighborhood and users facilitate the construction and management of the endeavor as well as the ability for it to encourage social cohesion. Physical openness encouraging greater accessibility coupled with neighborhood spatial reinforcement are well-defined strong urban design considerations. Attention to energy cycles articulated by the inclusion of a water recuperation system, green roof and solar panels further strengthen the project.

WEAKNESSES & THREATS: Productivity, although a appreciated output of the project, are certainly not paramount attributes. The small surface area and dedication to much of the space to public congregation, drastically limits the garden’s agronomic productivity. Socially popular gardens place great pressure on often fragile plant structures and growing system. Unless management is well considered, a dilution of tasks may threaten the health of the garden’s vegetation and cleanliness. Aesthetic considerations are often difficult to manage and sustain in organizations that are driven by a more publicly open process of decision-making occurring via the input of many diverse individuals.


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