Penser créer l'urbain

International Perspectives

Understanding local questions by opening to the global context

A public restitution of the research-creation activities carried out during the Citizen Forum took place on September 30th 2016 during an Interdisciplinary and International Symposium. This Symposium brought together members of the Forum and its participants from community and associative organizations of Parc Extension; Montreal academics with solid expertise on the future MIL Campus and researchers from Europe, Canada, the United States and Lebanon, recognized for their scientific expertise and their involvement in similar fields at the international level. The MIL Campus has become the starting point for a series of interventions that aimed at examining and understanding the international context in which fits the new figure of the city integrated university.

In their contribution, Kai Wood Mah and Patrick Lynn Rivers re-emphasize this recent trend of creating integrated urban campuses in the economic context of North-South relationships and the decline in State revenues that directs universities towards private funding. Hence, they explain, the integration of the university into the “new economy of innovation hubs” implying a novel conception of the worker. Taking into account the history and memory of the neighbourhoods surrounding the future Campus, as well as the current risks of gentrification, the authors introduce the possibility of an integrated urban campus that would be animated by “postcolonial sensibility” in order to allow its users and neighbours to “live together, between strangers”.

By referring to her practice as an architect in Lebanon and in Europe, Anastasia El Rouss compares the town planning policies of the different countries where she works in a perspective that is centered on the place of the individual and his freedom of appropriation of public space. What is the “tolerance that a city can produce” according to its rules and the specificities of its territory? She invites us to conceive an “urbanism at liberty [which] is not urbanism without rules” but, on the contrary, produces the conditions of “surprise and appropriation, sources of evolution and attachment to city”.

It is also these links between the university campus and the city that are questioned by urban planner and sociologist Hélène Dang Vu. Noticing the recent increase in campus and university projects in the heart of the city, the researcher is interested here in the tendency of some universities to “physically return to the city, when others try to diversify and intensify the life of the campuses with the aim to make them pieces of an integrated city”. She observes these forms of return and of accentuated presence of the university in the city through European examples, in particular French.

In a reflective and critical perspective, Alain Bourdin questions the identity of the university – or the “university brand” – by taking into account certain current mechanisms: the transformation of knowledge and sources of knowledge implied by the Internet; the unusual transversalities and the epistemic communities that this provokes; the impact of new technologies on the geography of knowledge production; the new figure of the university as a business that produces knowledge; and, finally, the influence of these elements on the social status of those who live and work on campuses. It is in this context that he questions the challenges of today’s university changes and consequently their essential relationship with the city.