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  • Claire Flurin

Eco-Districts: Dream or Marketing?


“Eco-districts” are an exciting solution aimed at re-enchanting the city, a concept standing somewhere between dream and reality. 


Malmo B001 neighborhood (Credit: Flickr, CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0)

In 2013-2014, when the eco-district trend were finally reaching American planners, I decided to study the study four high- and lower-profile, old and new, European eco-districts. I based my research methodology on a series of field interviews, which revealed residents‘ and stakeholders’ raw opinion on eco-districts. I paralleled this effort with an in-depth analysis of the largest international rating systems. This allowed me to deconstruct the many meaning of sustainability and “eco", and to better understand cities' objectives when pursuing those certifications. Eco-districts are far from perfect. But they undeniably have participating in opening a discussion about livability and encouraged technical innovation.


Based on a comparative case study of Malmö Bo01 (Sweden), Barcelona Trinitat Nova (Spain), Bordeaux Ginko (France), and Docks de Saint Ouen (France), the paper shows that there are substantial differences in the practical interpretation of the term eco-district, and that the eco-district framework has evolved to suit different governmental systems and cultures. The four urban development projects arrive at similar outcomes and a common understanding of “urban sustainability”, yet their structures differ. Cities and city governments go above and beyond the national and international guidelines and tailor policies to meet their local priorities.


Full paper available here.

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