IGU Urban Commission, Tel Aviv, 2010


Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture et de Paysage de Lille, France


Green guerillas, illegal gardens, and city activist gardeners : between land reclaim, promoting local scale and cultures of resistance


The starting point of this paper is a questioning about the new relationship between city/nature/city-dwellers, its meanings and its consequences on urban structures. It deals with a a deconstructive approach of the contemporary sequence of this relationship, marked by an environmental logic accompanying urban renewal as opposed to the previous one, of “embellissement”, (beautifying) accompanying urbanization.

For about fifteen years, there has been a major shift, in France, in the role and place of gardens and other planted spaces, linked to several intertwined factors: such as the redevelopment of city-centres, the regeneration of vacant industrial lots, or/and the suburban sprawl. These factors brought once again to the forefront the questions of public space and planted spaces from the viewpoint of the authorities as well as the inhabitants.

In order to understand these news mechanisms, it seems effective to change our focus point, to exit the public gardens and enter more marginal spaces, to exit the legal gardens for illegal greening activities. Therefore, I will concentrate on collective forms of gardening in the city, on radical uses of public spaces by different kinds of groups and individuals, which are brought together under the term Green Guerrillas.

Green Guerilla movement encompasses a very diverse range of people and motivations, from the enthusiastic gardener who spills over their legal boundaries to the highly political gardener who seeks to provoke change through direct action. The guerrilla gardeners take over abandoned lands ("squat") to grow plants. They believe in re- considering land ownership in order to reclaim land from perceived neglect or misuse and assign a new purpose to it.

We can say it is an eco-activist movement aiming at greening cities by diverting the common uses of public spaces and vacants lots.

My paper is organized in three parts:

1- First of all, I will rapidly trace the history of the movement in the United States
2- Secondly, I will analyse its importation and its acclimation in France in the late.
3- Thirdly, I will relate its effects both on urban structures and social uses.

Follow us:  
Institute of Geography - University of Lausanne - CH-1015 Lausanne
Tel. +41 21 692 30 70