[Research Paper 🇫🇷] Nature-based solutions in a neighbourhood of large social housing estates

March 1, 2023

Nature-based solutions in a neighbourhood of large social housing estates

URBiNAT scientific partners from Nantes recently published an article in the Journal Metropolitiques. 

In the context of the renovation of large housing estates, nature-based solutions are proposed to transform open spaces. Philippe Bodénan and Béatrice Béchet have studied these new spatial design methods in the Nantes Nord district.

Landscaping and ecological urban planning are now being used in urban development projects (Clergeau 2020). This dynamic affects social housing neighbourhoods, as shown by the recent success of the call for projects “Les quartiers fertiles” (fertile neighbourhoods) issued by the National Agency for Urban Renewal (100 winners at the national level, ANRU 2021), or the “green renovation of the greater Belle-Beille area” project (2016-2027), in Angers.

Large housing estates, which are the emblematic form of social housing planned and developed by the state, are characterised by their architecture of towers and blocks, the size of the operations and their location (Bertho 2014). Although this type of neighbourhood seems to be endowed with an abundance of green spaces, some see it as ‘an archetype of the repulsive city’ (Guet 2011).

Understanding the uniqueness of these neighbourhoods, which are found in every city in France, is a challenge for local authorities. The shortage, or even absence, of the benefits of plants and nature in socially disadvantaged situations, as demonstrated on a city scale (Laille et al. 2013), affects humans, natural balances and the economy. It appears as a form of environmental inequality added to social, economic or security difficulties. Some communities are asking themselves the question: what interventions would allow green spaces to better contribute to urban quality?

In this perspective, the concept of ‘nature-based solutions’ (NBS) – actions designed to respond to various environmental, social and economic challenges, which are inspired, supported or copied from nature (EC 2015) – seems to be an opportunity for a new reading of the green spaces of large housing estates, in order to address the links between urban form, social issues and the environment.


Philippe Bodénan & Béatrice Béchet, « Des « solutions fondées sur la nature » dans un quartier de grands ensembles ? », Métropolitiques, 27 février 2023.