“Take back public spaces by working on how they are used”
80% of Europeans live in urban areas now. Increasing daily physical activity therefore involves transforming public spaces and how they are used. Julien Brouillard, Head of “digital and Urban Innovation” for the Dédale Agency, explains some of the issues.
The Dédale Agency specialises in urban and social innovation. How do you define these concepts?
JB: At Dédale, we are working on new ways of designing and constructing towns, with the emphasis firmly on the way public spaces are used, the role of digital technology and the involvement of individual citizens. We take a broad look at the new public spaces that are re-emerging with the end of the “city-car” model, and which show new forms of expression (citizens’ participation, mobility, digital infrastructures and services and so on). Urban and social innovation is all about allowing inhabitants to take part in the design, running and organisation of the urban spaces they live in. For example, in France we have initiated the “Parking Day” project, where, for one day, creative ways of taking back a public space, in this case, a car-park, are offered. We also have a lot of suggestions for integrating mini sports grounds. It is interesting to see how sport can find a place in this kind of public space.
One of your focuses is on the innovative city. The sedentary lifestyle is becoming more and more prevalent in society nowadays. How can new digital technologies help regions to become active zones (Smart and Active City)?
There are several trends. Firstly, doing sport, such as running, in public spaces is becoming accessible to everyone. Private operators such as equipment manufacturers are behind this practice, as they put in place a number of connected services. Today, runners have a full range of tools to analyse their performance. These are smart athletes. Another fascinating example: a few years ago, Nike developed a virtual basketball court, projected directly on to a space in a town. The educational and sporting pleasure potential of this type of device are limitless. They can redefine the way urban spaces are used.
A second trend we are working on is the idea of “urban circuits”. This involves improving walkways and making it easier to set up a network of public spaces. Many cities are investing in these schemes, such as the “Pedestrian Paris” strategy or the “Rouen, walkable, multimodal and attractive” scheme. It is interesting to run experiments where digital technology makes these circuits more rewarding, with a cultural, touristic and educational aspect. Touching this, we have developed the “City Telling” project, which proposes digital solutions for making a city narrative. These enhanced tours of an area encourage people to walk and follow circuits in the town, and they are very effective from the educational point of view as well. “Serious games” have also appeared, for as philosophers have known since classical times, walking aids concentration. It is really worthwhile to develop the cultural content, materials and extras, because they indirectly encourage an active lifestyle.