Successful revitalization program in Lille, France wins the “World Design City” award

Lille is the capital of Nord-Pas-de-Calais, a region in northern France near the Flanders (Belgium) border. The city was long part of Flanders – it was only annexed to France in the 17th century – and Lille’s gorgeous, pedestrian-friendly historic center still bears a strong Flemish design influence.

With the arrival of the high speed train, and the creation of a transit-oriented business district in the city center called Euralille, the city launched a very successful revitalization process which has resulted in futuristic redevelopment projects from a variety of world-famous architects.

After many decades of decline, Lille has put itself back on the map.

Now, on October 14, 2017, the World Design Organization (WDO)™ announced that Lille, France was named World Design Capital® 2020, for the effective use of design to drive economic, social, cultural, and environmental redevelopment.

The designated city was revealed on the opening day of WDO’s 30th General Assembly, which is being held in Torino, Italy from October 14-15, 2017. Lille Metropole is the first French city to hold this biennial designation.

WDO President and Member of the WDC 2020 Selection Committee, Prof. Mugendi M’Rithaa, stated, “As a strategically located metropolis in the heart of Europe, Lille is an intellectual, cultural, socioeconomic and creative hub of significance to the sub-region and beyond. Their bid references their creative traditions and rich heritage whilst showcasing the catalytic benefits of embracing human-centred design thinking at cityscale.

For Lille Metropole, the WDC designation will reap a number of benefits, including positioning the city and region on an international scale. In accepting the designation, Damien Castelain, Lille Metropole’s President said, “We are proud and honoured to be designated World Design Capital 2020. This designation is a wonderful opportunity for the metropolitan area and the nation to… lay down the foundations for a new society by spreading design practices across the region and inviting all of our fellow citizens to play a part. We are convinced that design will be the key to our metamorphosis. For it provides methods and skills that are essential, inspirational and edifying when it comes to bringing about the profound societal, economic and environmental changes needed in society.

Located in the heart of northern Europe, less than one and a half hours from the major economic and financial centres of London, Paris and Brussels, Lille Metropole boasts a thriving cultural scene and over 1600 designers. The region believes that design in all its dimensions will improve many sectors, including improving the lives of residents, making local companies more attractive, and optimizing urban travel and public spaces.

The region and its inhabitants including entrepreneurs, business leaders, local authorities, research and training centres, cultural sites and private citizens are all actively engaged in collaborative design-driven projects to ensure Lille Metropole becomes more attractive, competitive, liveable and sustainable.

Sydney’s Pyrmont Bridge. The auto bridge was repurposed & renewed to reconnect Darling Harbour for pedestrians only.
Photo credit: Storm Cunningham

Shortlisted candidate Sydney, Australia also mounted a compelling bid.

They hoped to use the WDC program as an open platform to engage, collaborate and design a new model of social impact for an increasingly urbanized world, one that embraces the land, connects to the climate and engages not only its citizens but also people around the world.

While Syney was unable to secure the relevant government support, their bid clearly set in motion a collaborative design movement that continues to resonate in their city and has served only to deepen their resolve as they set their sights on 2022.

Mexico City. Photo credit: WDO

World Design Capital® is a biennial designation celebrating cities that use design to improve economic, social and cultural life.

Previous designations include Torino (2008), Seoul (2010), Helsinki (2012), Cape Town (2014), and Taipei (2016).

Mexico City has been selected as World Design City 2018.

Featured photo of Lille via Adobe Stock.

See World Design Capital website.

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