Biological Metaphor: The Grand Paris, the Biopolis and Promise of Town-gown Partnerships

Magda Maaoui

Play structures, solar energy, greywater collection, augmented reality, antimicrobial coatings…These are some of the ingredients successive cohorts of students at the Biopolis suggest should be used for a more sustainable Paris.

Can the “city as an organism” framework really ground town-gown initiatives in the local issues the city of Paris has to face? The students and faculty of the Harvard Summer School in Paris certainly believe so.

This summer school is hosted by the CRI[1] and Sciences Po, in partnership with stakeholders involved in the making of the Grand Paris, which was officially launched in January 2016. Such stakeholders include established institutions like the Mairie de Paris, APUR[2], as well as recently launched civic or private initiatives like Arc de l’Innovation .

The format of the school combines actionable project design, biology, and urbanism. As the 2018 edition just launched, it’s a good time for a throwback to the 2017 edition. Fourteen multidisciplinary teams, composed of an even mix of American and European students, presented their proposals at the Hôtel de Ville[3] in July 2017. This concluded eight weeks of immersion for the students, both on the premises of the CRI and in the streets of Paris.


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[1] Centre de Recherches Interdisciplinaires.
[2] Atelier Parisien d'Urbanisme.
[3] City Hall.
[4] Agence de l'Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l'Énergie

Photo credits: Author & Harvard Biopolis Summer School.