36th AESOP Annual Congress 2024 Paris, France
“GAME CHANGER? Planning for just and sustainable urban regions”

Ecological transition as a (planning) game changer? Questioning Reinventing Cities and similar competitions



In the face of climate change, cities worldwide have been imagining initiatives that strive for an effective ecological transition. Among them, the valorisation -sale or lease- of public land and buildings through competitions is a recurrent tool supposed to create more sustainable and vibrant
neighbourhoods. In these competitions, successful bidders must fulfil demanding sustainability requirements.

This special session is proposed by a team of academic researchers from four European universities who are developing independent research about the RC-winning projects in Europe (Reinventing Cities Observatory – RCO). Reinventing Cities (RC) is a competition organized by the C40 Cities Climate leadership group, an international network of cities created in 2005 to respond to the global climate crisis. Member cities share and implement policies and innovative solutions to environmental challenges. In RC, public land and buildings are put up for sale or for long-term lease for real estate and urban (re)development projects, collective facilities, or even public space refurbishment. Local authorities commit to choosing not the highest bidder but rather the project that best suits C40’s ten climate challenges. To achieve carbon-neutral, resilient, mixed-use developments, the RC framework encourages new forms of cooperation between public and private stakeholders, as well as multidisciplinary project teams.

Our intention is to establish a dialogue with researchers interested in competitions such as RC to understand their capacity to change the planning game for ecological transition. We are particularly interested in exploring the implementation of these competitions across very diverse national and local settings, in terms of processes and results.

  • What are, for a city, the political and planning objectives behind these competitions? What are the overall urban strategies behind site selection and expected programs?
  • Do concept competitions act as levers for change in local urban production systems? If so, how (processes,rules, actors…)?
  • To what extent do these competitions give way to standardized real estate and public space imaginaries? Are these imaginaries vehicles for international models and actors? What is actually “reinvented”? 

Keywords: Ecological transition, Reinventing Cities, planning and design competitions, public asset valorisation

1 Observatory members are Federica Appendino (ESPI2R-ESPI and Lab’Urba), Antonella Bruzzese (DAStU- Politecnico di Milano) Hélène Dang Vu (Lab’Urba-UGE), Pedro Gomes (ESPI2R- ESPI and Lab’Urba), Barbara Pizzo (Dip. di Storia, Disegno, Restauro dell’Architettura-Sapienza Università di Roma) Laura Pogliani (DAStU- Politecnico di Milano). The team has no hierarchical nor financial ties to the C40.