Phase 3a- Bruit du Frigo-Atelier d´Urbanisme Utopique


The objective of this project is sensitize and mobilize the citizens to care about their city, Bordeaux, and its transformations and to promote the emergency and the realization of projects of urban development with the help of the habitants.

The name of this project developed since 2006 is “Atelier d´urbanisme utopique” it contemplates interventions in the neighborhood of Benague and St. Michel. This project consists to imagine projects that could transform or improve situations, places… while working in a dynamic of workshop in collaboration with the citizens. All this work of thinking in utopias and new visions for their neighborhoods is helpful to discover which is the citizens point of view and get many interesting ideas.

To visualize better their ideas, they illustrate these situations with the help of architects and artists, in order to participate in the Bruit du Frigo´s process and build a new vision of the places where we live. All these visual products are installed in the project´s site. Some projects are simulated or tested in situ. This project was conducted in partnership with the Social and Cultural Centers of each sites.



This Project is developed in Bordeaux, specifically, the neighborhood of Benague and St Michel. Both neighborhoods are being in these last years, object of future urban renewals and social cohesion programs by the city of Bordeaux Council but they are never achieved. Also both of them are examples of neighborhoods damaged by the gentrification´s process.

Context 1 St. Michel

This neighborhood is located in the historical center of Bordeaux it has 11026 habitants , there are x hab/m2 , the 20% of its habitants are foreign, 4,9% of the foreign population of Bordeaux. Right now, St. Michel is one of the sectors of the city with the highest rate of unemployment , the 25% of the population are unemployed.

It can be defined as a popular neighborhood, for families, of immigrants: it’s a hood where young people live due to the low rent and the centrical situation most of them are students  and also is a neighborhood very degraded due to the presence of a population with a lot of difficulties , the most numerous of these are immigrants.


The renewal of public spaces is necessary, most of the streets are very narrow and the sidewalks are in bad state, the hood has dense tissue, without green areas. This neighborhood has all the squares and facilities in the perimeter and they don´t have any dialog with the rest of the hood. There is a huge lack of facilities the sportive, cultural and educative offer must be increased.


Context 2 La Benague 

This neighborhood is located in the center of Bordeaux it has 5891 habitants , there are x hab/m2(el barrio tiene 200 ha) , the 23% of its habitants are foreign. Right now, ,the 18% of the population are unemployed. The population is an aging population, the 15% of the population are under 65. It has also a big problem of gentrification. In this hood a 5% of the housing are empty, 151 empty houses. There is a lack of facilities and the associations of the neighborhood must be reforced in orther to improve the conviviality between foreigns and old habitants.


-General description

In 2006, some areas of the city of Bordeaux were victims of an important gentrification process and were reclaiming an urban renewal. The Bruit du Frigo collective decided to take part in this situation and in collaboration with the Social and Cultural centers of these areas.

Bruit du Frigo with this project, invents a new practice of urbanism, different from the ones who were established in the last years. They work in an urbanism which tastes whatever is possible, clears reality , fights the poorness of the public space and augments the potential of using the urban spaces. To achieve this, they invent common spaces which are desirable and stimulating.

Gabi Farage and Yvan Detraz ,architects of Bruit du Frigo, while doing their project they try to think on themselves as a citizen more. They also live in a city with near neighbors, favorite coffees… This project is an investigation of the quotidian life.

Their main goal is stimulating the realization of a project in service of the present desires and needs of the neighborhood.


-Phase1 Research and get in touch

Bruit du Frigo starts their project with a process of research. They work to find out the “social networks” that are present in this neighbourhoods. They recompile information about the main associations, the cultural centers, the demography… in order to know how much social capital is available to develop their work. They work to compile information about which are the relationships between neighbors and their relation with social collectives.

When finally they are aware of what is happening in that neighborhood they are in conditions of selecting with which collective they want to treat so they can begin their project. For them is crucial knowing who they should get in touch with because the social implication is crucial for the future develop of their project.

Their action is based in a phase of reflexion linked to the continuous interaction with the inhabitants who they call “ the accomplices” : the habitants, the passers, the activists , are engaged to work with Bruit du Frigo.

-Phase 2 Identify possible places for dialogue

They choose ephemeral places of creation, most of them in public spaces and sometimes in the cultural or associations centers.  They create mini-workshops of consultation.

Also they build a workshop or create atmospheres to favor dialogue. They build these workshops in collaboration with neighbors. The construction process takes part of the dialogue. In the Benague context they decided to build “Le Brassero” installation where many events took part.

-Phase 3 Publicity and activities

When they have built a dispositive as the Brassero they program many events that will take part on this place such as a meal provided by the neighborhood´s associations or a sports day. Also, they work in many strategies of publicity in order to catch the attention of all the collectives that are involved in this neighbourhood life.

While these events take part, artists are there taking photos or expressing by their technic what is happening there in order to show the situation to the rest of the world.

– Phase 4 List the desires of the citizens and translate the result  

While this event is taking part they use elements such as a tablecloth to make the people express themselves about the situation of the neighbourhood.  They pick up all the desires and use their tools as an architect to translate that wishes.

The way of translating that wishes is generating some collages about how reality should be.

-Phase 5 Proposals and reality

Some of these proposals are built in but most of them are just the way of expressing the complaints of the population. They usually build some boards and place them in the conflict point.

-Phase 6 Le bruit du Frigo

This phase shows the main goal of this project. After all the results of these workshops are being communicated, the noise of the fridge persists . They talk about this noise because now they have caught the attention of the other agents. Now they now what the neighborhood needs, now citizens exist and make decisions and indeed, everybody talks about this.

In the St. Michel case these project has caught the attention of the city council and now they are elaborating a plan for urban renewal, taking as an advice what Bruit du Frigo showed.


This an exemplar project because it has a cultural, social, environmental and economic strength , that’s why we should learn about it.

-Social sustainability

This project involves the citizens in its process and reclaims that they should make decisions about public space. The project studies the relationships between neighbors and in its process develop the coexistence between them and integrates the marginalized collectives of the population.

-Economic sustainability

This project is a low-cost intervention based in doing something with the existing, in some cases they develop their actions in existing places or they build something that involves the city facilities that are nearby by their sponsorship. Also, the result is not necessarily physical so they don´t have problems of economical demarche. Their profits are ideas and cooperation.

-Cultural sustainability

The workshops where proposals are created ,promote new activities for citizens.They propose cultural activities and also the feedback of all the neighbors most of them of different nationalities. Also, the final results of urban renewal images include cultural needs of the city. 

-Environmental sustainability

The final results of the proposals of the citizens have to do with implementing the green areas of the city and reactivate spaces by reusing objects. Also, while the workshop is being developed they build objects by recycling elements and that is a way of teaching population.

-Main conclusion

This project is an example of how the architects can work in collaboration with citizens and we should learn about it but, in the other hand, this kind of participation process can have a disappointing result due to the lack of awareness of the population. It is positive in this project the tools they use to catch the attention of citizens and how artists work in collaboration with architects in order to propagate what is taking part. It is curious that the result of a project is a reflexion about what people need but in both cases that I have studied these proposals had impacted in the urban development.


Exposition Re-Architecture Pavilion de l´Arsenal Paris ; Web Bruit du Frigo ; Files from the urban renewal of the city of Bordeaux ; ;,_atelier_d_urbanisme_utopique.html ;

Presentation slides


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