France: Ceremony for Garden City of Stains opens European Heritage Days

The Local Award Ceremony for the Garden City of Stains, winner of an EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award 2015 in the Education, Training and Awareness-Raising category, was held on the evening of 18 September 2015 and marked the official opening of the European Heritage Days in the Plaine Commune, France. The ceremony was hosted by Azzédine Taïbi, Vice-President of the Plaine Commune and Mayor of Stains, and attended by 60 people. Europa Nostra was represented by its Executive President Denis de Kergorlay and its Vice-President Piet Jaspaert.

Photo: Matthieu Rondel / Plaine Commune

Photo: Matthieu Rondel / Plaine Commune

The 1930s Garden City of Stains, located in the northwest of Paris, had for a long time lost its previous radiance and become neglected. Since 2004, a determined effort has been made to reinvigorate the primary garden city vision. The Awards’ Jury considered “the project in Stains as a model of how to re-establish the ideals which originated in the early atmosphere of hope and determination to bring benefits to the present community and to influence other suburban areas with the same needs”.

“I am delighted to host this special ceremony in Stains. This is a great opportunity to celebrate the beautiful heritage of our city and to showcase the historic social housing policies of France, which are the genesis of the housing programmes of tomorrow. This event is dedicated to the people living in the Garden City of Stains”, stated Azzédine Taïbi.

Denis de Kergorlay congratulated the public and private stakeholders and the local community on their remarkable heritage achievement. The Executive President of Europa Nostra, who is also the President of Europa Nostra France, was pleased to discover this prime example of the City Garden concept which was born in England in the 1890s and extended to the rest of Europe in the following decades. He expressed the hope that the project in Stains would help many more people learn about and appreciate the model of the Garden City.

Piet Jaspaert paid tribute to “the wonderful team who has worked with passion, generosity, expertise and friendliness to make this exemplary project possible”. He noted that “the careful rehabilitation of Stains was carried out in parallel with a comprehensive heritage tourism development plan”. He concluded: “Europa Nostra has recently released the results of a European cooperation project which clearly demonstrates that ‘Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe’. It was thanks to impressive examples like yours that this assertion could be proved.”

Ceremony attendees arrived at the heart of the Garden City by the ‘Discovery’ bus line, which runs every day and has panels at some stops drawing the attention of citizens and tourists to heritage assets in the area. Participants were given a guided tour of Stains, which explored its heritage, architectural, urban, environmental and social aspects. The tour allowed them to discover the “coeur d’îlot”, a large green space hidden in the midst of the residents’ social area which hosts exhibitions and where the light-painting ‘Star City’ by Konte Rast was displayed. The event ended with a convivial buffet, with dishes made by the residents of Stains and a tasting of honey harvested from hives within the city.

The ceremony for the Garden City of Stains opened the European Heritage Days in the Plaine Commune. The programme featured more than 70 initiatives, from visits to the most iconic monuments, such as the Saint Denis Basilica, to guided tours of social housing by their tenants, and concerts in rehabilitated industrial spaces.

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