The project seeks to counter the transactional and lonely aspects of modern city living and transform the city space.
If there's one thing the pandemic taught us it's how much our human lives crave connection. Everyone deserves companionship and camaraderie. In one district in Paris, a project has come about to help people come together and celebrate a sense of community. In the south of Paris’ city center, the 14th arrondissement has been conducting a neighborhood-wide experiment, the self-styled République des Hyper Voisins, or Republic of Super Neighbours, on deliberate living by consciously choosing to be good neighbors. The Republic of Super Neighbours is a stretch of the 14th arrondissement on the Left Bank and covers roughly 50 streets and 15,000 residents.
“Every Wednesday at 4pm we invite elders to share their memories of the neighbourhood” - Patrick Bernard, Founder of La République des Hyper Voisins, Paris #PlacemakingWeekEurope pic.twitter.com/A8Xw3XTGh8— TJ Maguire (@tjhfx) September 29, 2022
According to the Guardian, the project hopes to improve modern city living, which can be transactional, fast-paced, and lonely. “The stereotype of a Parisian is brusque and unfriendly,” confessed Patrick Bernard, the former journalist and local resident who initiated the project. “But city living doesn’t have to be unpleasant and anonymous. We want to create the atmosphere of a village in an urban space. Conviviality is not just a good feeling. It can become a powerful asset, an essential economic and social agent in the construction of tomorrow’s cities.”
Good News Network reports that the Republic has been the site of hundreds of small events since 2019. Thousands of people come together for fun activities like brunches, aperitifs, cultural outings, bake-a-thons, children’s activities and group exercise meets. People also connect over trading and selling handmade goods, electronics or mechanical equipment repairs, or sharing referrals to various professional services.
The initiative shows how we are all interdependent on each other and that very connection is the pulse of a neighborhood that keeps it healthy and brimming with life. Anna Morozova, a local resident, said the project helped her after her divorce. “I live alone, but if I need help there is always someone,” she shared who at the time was planning on setting up tango classes.
“There’s an energy this place gives me.” 86-year-old resident Mireille Roberdeau was too shy to meet neighbors before the project but is now so grateful for it. “I was quite timid before,” the widow said at the time. “I wouldn’t speak to anyone. I would scowl at people. But now I look forward to going out. It’s good because my doctor says I need to get out.”
It's not just about celebratory moments, but the project is also working towards the environment, healthcare, public spaces, and mobility. “Someone might be in hospital and can’t return home because they need support,” explained Bernard. “However, what if we put in place a scheme for local children to do the shopping for patients, so they could come home a week early? It would be better for patients and create big savings for public services.” Hyper Voisins hopes to inspire other districts to follow suit or similar projects.
Patrick Touzeau who moved to the area with his three children in 2018 believes the concept should be implemented everywhere on the planet! “It’s a beautiful thing. It’s a collective effort. The benefits don’t happen straight away, it takes time. But I think that this concept should be everywhere,” Touzeau shared.
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