Symbol of the possible communal regeneration of cities, the Agrocité project was launched ten years ago by the French collective Atelier d’Architecture Autogérée (AAA) – in the frame of their winning initiative R-Urban – to “increase urban resilience by introducing ecological transition units managed by the inhabitants themselves within the local environment”, explain Doina Petrescu and Constantin Petcou, the collective’s co-founders.
Last year, the original experiment was evicted by force from the city of Colombes – despite the numerous petitions and protests – to make space for a temporary parking lot planned by the new local authorities. Inaugurated in April 2018, following an extended period of uncertainty, the second edition of the Agrocité was built in Gennevilliers, a northwestern suburb of Paris, where it found fertile ground.
Like the original version, this new laboratory encourages the regeneration of the urban ecosystem by providing locals with much more than a simple communal garden where to grow vegetables. A real multidisciplinary hub, it hosts a cafe and a workshop where professional courses are regularly held to learn about local distribution networks, beekeeping, composting, and much more.
Despite being architecturally identical to the one in Colombes, being based on bottom-up initiatives and participatory actions, the Agrocité of Gennevilliers will inevitably be different from the previous one in cultural terms. It will take time to recreate the feeling of belonging and the social bonds that characterised the first experiment, but it seems that the R-Urban team, the inhabitants, the volunteers and the organisations that have joint the initiative, are ready to take up the challenge.