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City Design Lab

Supporting the transition to sustainable cities

Supporting the transition towards sustainable cities

The research lab by design City Design Lab is dedicated to urban and territorial change. How can we support the transition towards a sustainable living environment in the areas of amenities (housing, public space, commercial space) and transport? The Design Lab brings together public and private stakeholders, companies, associations, regional authorities and academics and aims to create, develop and test new spaces, services and products combining user needs and environmental and economic requirements on a "full scale".

Director: Florent Orsoni

Areas of research

The City Design Lab’s research activities are grouped into 2 broad areas:

• The "slow" city and sharing flows: multimodal mobility and new related services;
• Mutations of the built environment and spaces, in a context in which small surface areas, increased density and accountability to ecological issues determine new "ways of living".


• to promote an anthropocentric approach and socially aware co-creation in which accessibility and energy efficiency issues are emerging as determining factors in designing cities;
• to reconcile sustainable development objectives with societal and economic developments;
• to provide innovative proposals in the context of digital developments and systemic approaches to the "smart city".

City Design Lab themes structure the MDes City Design program. Students and teachers are involved in the Lab’s activities in a process of experimentation, evaluation and project improvement.


A research chair for the design of Connected environments

The City Design Lab works alongside the Digital Design Lab as part of a research programme on Connected environments. It is L’École de design Nantes Atlantique’s first Chair, which is supported by Banque Populaire Atlantique and LIPPI and was launched in June 2014 for a period of 3 years.

Two major areas have emerged, one deals with the development of tools, creativity methods and decision making in the field of smart objects; the other involves user participation and draws on the processes explored through the methods known as Living Lab and Urban Living Lab. The first one was the subject of a presentation by Grégoire Cliquet (then Director of the Digital Design Lab) at the JAIST (Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) in March 2016, which was entitled "Designing the internet of Things for People", and the second was the subject of a publication edited by Florent Orsoni (Director of the City Design Lab), Hilda Zara and Zélia Darnault, which was entitled "The Urban Living Lab Approach, Design and Opportunities of Experimental Methodology for Urban Innovation" (June 2016). This publication was born from a partnership with SAMOA (The West Atlantic Metropolis Development Corporation) and is engaged in an experimental dynamic of "The Fabric of the city and its uses" based on a Think Tank combining teams of researchers, higher education institutions, companies and start-ups.

Prospective project for Comité 21


The research conducted within City Design Lab is based on a global design approach (products, services, spaces, communication). It promotes an anthropocentric approach, has ethics of universal accessibility and is rooted in the project field.

Method: an Urban Living Lab approach

The City Design Lab is inspired by Urban Living Lab-type methodologies which are based on urban innovation processes in realistic contexts, including user participation to design solutions. These methodologies, which are adapted to the specificities of the context and the themes addressed, are part of the mainstay of the Living Lab’s processes. As described by Dimitri Schuurman (2015), they are based on "the active participation of users, actual experimentation, a multi-method approach, an innovation process focused on co-creation, facilitated by an organisation of multiple stakeholders, which could be described as a private-public citizen’s partnership".

The experiments and research are conducted under diverse forms of partnerships (companies, institutions, regional authorities, associations, academics).

The issues and proposals result in design projects based on innovation and the dissemination of knowledge and expertise for the professional and academic world.

Research Projects

The City Design Lab implements urban and regional experiments at different levels. These experiments are based on creativity and “design thinking” workshops applied to the urban built environment, where users and stakeholders question the interactions between users, services and spaces. They lay the foundations for a research project dedicated to developing tools and methods to serve regional authorities and companies in designing spaces and services to improve the daily lives of users and respond to new environmental requirements and societal developments.

As part of the Banque Populaire Atlantique - LIPPI Connected Environments Chaire, the Sustainable Cities Design Lab is implementing an observation system for its uses, based on experiments with smart devices. These devices were installed following a “hackathon-style” collaborative workshop, in a building located in the heart of the Creation District on the îlle de Nantes. The temporary transformation of this building, The Confederation of Artisan Hairdressers, for audio-visual professionals by the SAMOA (The West Atlantic Metropolis Development Corporation) gave the Chair the opportunity to launch a research programme on uses in a very specific context involving a change of business backed by an open approach to dialogue between public and private stakeholders, citizens, associations and professionals.

Expert missions

  • Presidency of the P96A standardisation committee, "Accessibility and quality of use in the built environment" (Florent Orsoni);
  • Expert missions in various areas falling within design for all issues and proposing the implementation of reference systems (State of the art on the light reflectance index (light reflectance value) for the Tarkett Company);
  • Scientific consultancy missions with various institutions (Novabuild, Urbaccess, etc.).
Nantes Habitat project: model-making and exploring new “transient ways of living”

If you wish to develop a partnership with the City Design Lab, please contact the Business Strategy department.