The Vauban eco-project in Fribourg, presentation of an exemplary urban project (CISDPH)


The Committee on Social Inclusion, through the Inclusive Cities Observatory has drawn up a case study on urban development policy carried out in the neighborhood of Vauban in Freiburg (Germany).

The Vauban Sustainable Urban District process took place in the German city of Freiburg between 1993 and 2006. It is based on the city government’s aim of restoring an old military barracks based on ecological and social cohesion criteria, and creating a participatory process that would generate the NGO Forum Vauban and would have inter- and intra-administrative coordination structures to enable proposals emerging from the process to be implemented and permit a high degree of coordination between the public participation process and the local government.

Establishment of the program

The year 1995 saw the beginning of the participation process involving the future residents of the sustainable urban district, who formed cooperative groups that decided on the design of their homes. These groups, in turn, created forums of interaction between themselves and with Forum Vauban in order to begin debates on the urban fabric, mobility models, and facilities in the area. The first residents started to move into Vauban in 1998-1999 and the participatory process shifted towards community work (as well as continuing its participatory work with cooperative housing groups).

Mains results

After 13 years of this process, the most important results are: the creation of more than 40 cooperative housing groups, which include energy efficiency and bioclimatic architecture criteria, have common services managed by the users and, in many cases, have significant levels of social inclusion of people on low incomes. Important community facilities have been created (some of which are managed by the inhabitants of the sustainable urban district, such as the Haus 37 centre) and impetus has been provided for numerous ongoing participation initiatives (consumer groups, cultural production groups, women’s groups, etc.).

The sustainable urban district has a high level of energy efficiency (using renewable energy-generation plants) and has implemented a successful model for alternative mobility. Vauban is a car-free neighborhood, where traffic is prohibited in most streets and where about half the population does not own a car (those who do have a car must park it in a car park located on the edge of the neighborhood). This means that the urban planning of the neighborhood prioritised green areas and public spaces, which has become an essential factor in the community’s social cohesion.

Impact of the program

There are many similar experiences in Europe which show that many of the criteria used in the Vauban Sustainable Urban District have a very high level of replicability. Of particular importance is the commitment by the majority of these experiences to participation as a cornerstone of a policy that aims to link environmental sustainability and social cohesion.

The Inclusive Cities Observatory’s Commission

The Inclusive Cities Observatory is a space for analysis and reflection on local social inclusion policies. It contains over sixty case studies on innovative policies for community development, access to basic services, gender equality, environmental protection and the eradication of poverty, among others. The initiative has been developed with the scientific support of Prof. Yves Cabannes from the University College of London (15 case studies) and a team of researchers from the Centre for Social Studies (CES) at the University of Coimbra, which has worked under the supervision of Prof. Boaventura de Sousa Santos (50 study cases). With this Observatory, the Committee aims to identify and investigate successful experiences that might inspire other cities to design and implement their own social inclusion policies.


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