Article | International | Unesco

Saint-Étienne, Unesco Creative City of Design

A territory for research and experimentation

par Sonia Hedhibi

As a member of the Unesco Cities of Design network, Saint-Étienne is helping to shape the cities of tomorrow. © Unesco

With a rich history linked to industrial modernity, a land of creators and inventors, Saint-Étienne is a city in constant change, driven by a dynamic linking art and industry. Since 22 November 2010, it is the only French city to have joined the network of Unesco Creative Cities of Design.

Thanks to initiatives such as the creation of the Cité du design and the Biennale Internationale Design, Saint-Étienne has adopted design as an agent of urban transformation and a lever for economic development. Drawing on the creativity of its territory and the commitment of the public and industrial sectors, the city is reinventing itself by drawing its large network of small and medium-sized businesses into innovation and by improving the quality of life of its citizens through design.

The research developed by the Cité du design on new lifestyles makes the city the laboratory of French design, an innovative, sustainable and supportive territory. Saint-Étienne shares its experience and skills with the Unesco Cities of Design in order to address the current changes in society and the central issues facing urban centres and megacities today. To date, it is the only French city to have been designated a city of design by Unesco.

A pioneer area

A pioneer area driven by a dynamic linking art and industry since the 17th century, Saint-Étienne is a city in transformation. With 400,000 inhabitants, its conurbation is the second largest urban centre in the large metropolis that includes Lyon, Saint-Étienne, Bourgoin-Jallieu and Vienne (2 million inhabitants). The main economic activities of the area are now oriented towards services and centres of excellence (optical industry, mechanics, medical technologies, higher education and design). Innovation is the lever that allows the region to count, among its companies, more than fifty European and world champions and more than twenty thousand SMEs.

The Cité du design, agent of transformation

The Cité du design, created in 2005 by the City and the Metropole of Saint-Étienne, is the result of the tremendous development of design education and the success of the Biennale Internationale Design Saint-Etienne. It is a platform for observation, creation, teaching, training and research through design. The Cité du design and the Esadse have joined forces in the same structure with a common objective: to develop research through creation. It bases its activities on three strong and unifying axes: design, social change and economic dynamics. Inaugurated in October 2009, it is located on the emblematic site of the former Royal Weapons Factory, in a renovated and avant-garde space designed by Finn Geipel and Giulia Andi.

Since 2010, the Cité du design has been carrying out a design management mission for Saint-Étienne and its Métropole actively participating in the transformation of the urban centre and the ecosystem of the urban area. Its mastery of the tools of design and innovation through use contributes to the creation of new services or the design of facilities for local authorities by involving users. Together with Esadse and its research team, it produces creative scenarios on the future of public policy, or participates in improving the functioning of administrative departments. Its team dedicated to companies supports start-ups, very small businesses, SMEs and large groups in their innovation and transformation projects and participates in the new dynamics of the region's economic and social fabric.

An international lifestyle design laboratory

By becoming a Unesco Creative City of Design, Saint-Étienne has joined a large international network of cities and towns at the cutting edge of experimentation and research to imagine our future. The Cité du design maintains, for the city and the French public, a close link with the cities in the Unesco network. Thanks to its active participation in conferences and workshops that bring together its international partners on the subjects of the urban framework, economic development and research, it is a privileged observatory of global transformations. These exchanges of experience and the development of common tools feed local strategies for adapting to the challenges of today and tomorrow and increase the attractiveness of the territories as well as of the companies or communities that the Cité du design supports.

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par Sonia Hedhibi

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