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Shared Gardens in Strasbourg: Limited Sharing Spaces

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Part of the Cities and Nature book series (CITIES)


The history of French shared gardens is inseparably linked to social problems resurging at the end of the twentieth century such as precariousness and social exclusion, as the allotment gardens were with the poverty problem at the end of the nineteenth century. But this aspect tends to be forgotten by many studies on shared gardens rather focused on their environmental aspects. Yet the dynamics of shared gardens seem to be complex regarding this double social and ecological questioning. In this study, we investigated the shared gardens in Strasbourg (France) in order to bring out the diversity and complexity of these gardens according to their local contexts. Then, we suggest a typology of these gardens with qualitative analysis on their possibilities and limits. Three types of gardens emerge: 1 gardens “at the foot of buildings” intended for disadvantaged population groups which are part of the social and urban policy; 2 gardens “in town” organized by autonomous associations of gardeners for the purpose of greening and user-friendliness; 3 hybrid gardens which combine these two forms in an original way. Our investigation combines an ethnographical survey conducted in a shared garden and in-depth interviews conducted with organizers of several gardens. We supplemented our surveys by documentation on quantitative data on all existing gardens in Strasbourg. We finally highlight the limited nature of sharing practices in these gardens regarding their social and territorial conditions and the concrete commitments of actors in the space and over time to improve their practices.


  • Shared garden
  • Social inequality
  • Urban policy
  • Green infrastructure
  • Commitment
  • Living together

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-72733-2_15
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  1. 1.

    The French “Politique de la Ville” aims at reducing the social inequality within cities by public investment in the disadvantaged districts.

  2. 2.

    Cérézuelle, Jardins d’Aujourd’hui (1999, pp. 3–4). This association multiplied its experiences of monitoring of gardens intended for a public with social problems, in particular by means of a national funding created in 1988 for the Urban Policy with a number of local authorities and social services in France.

  3. 3.

    The new social professions, namely those of the Urban Policy and the “insertion (inclusion),” appeared at the beginning of the 1980s by adopting a territorial and transverse approach carrying on the living conditions of the people at multiple levels instead of a clinical approach limited to the public unsuitable for working (Estèbe 1998).

  4. 4.

    For example, the person in charge of the movement of community gardens in New York “Green Guerrilla” was invited in a conference which took place in 1997 in Lille to form the French network of collective and shared gardens called “Jardins dans tous ses états” (Chantier Nature 1997, see below). We also know that the networking of the Belgian “solidary” gardens grouping the gardens for social inclusion and shared or community gardens was organized during the years 2004–2008 on the initiative of a Quebecker who had been one of the founders of the first community gardens of Quebec City in the 1980s (Muramatsu 2012a).

  5. 5.

    This network is called “Jardin dans tous ses états (Garden in all its states)” livened up by the same activists of the Association “Gardens of today” of Bordeaux and facilitators of shared gardens of the other regions (Lille, Lyon, Paris) and supported by the Foundation of France, a philanthropic foundation (Chantier Nature, op.cit.; Jardin dans tous ses états 2000).

  6. 6.

    This point is obvious in following statements given by an ecologist councilor and a deputy mayor of Paris in charge of Parks and Gardens in a conference on shared gardens of Paris in 2005: “When A.L., project leader to my cabinet, told me it is necessary to make shared gardens I answered ‘no’. I had in mind the model of allotment gardens with their individual management of the plots of land and thus too personal appropriation. Fear of the clientelism, the risk of privatization of the public place, the fear that associations ‘do not carry on over time’ and that their investment crumbles off, problems of soil pollution” (Contassot 2005, p. 3).

  7. 7.

    Kayser E., Quintin, J. (2004) Jardins participatifs en pied d’immeuble dans les quartiers d’habitat social, Eco-Conseil (internal document); Facilitator of Eco-Conseil, interview, June 21, 2012.

  8. 8.

    The website of the association underlines the importance of the support offered by a local representative. See:

  9. 9.

    In the case of the Belgian solidary gardens, this division appeared clearly as regards differences at several levels: at the regional level between Brussels marked by its multicultural context and Wallonia marked by several cities formerly industrial affected by a massive and chronic unemployment; at the institutional level enter the politics of the environment promoting the urban agriculture and the social action using the gardening for social inclusion; finally, at the political level between the local representatives of various political persuasions supporting each of the projects of gardens. This division was one of the major causes of the failure of the networking of the Belgian gardens (Muramatsu 2012a).

  10. 10.

    This naming firstly relies on the current expression of French “aller en ville (to go in town)” meaning moving toward the city center by going out from one’s residence. Its implications are related to the distance from one’s residence and the move of the people. Secondly, the concept corresponds to the expression used in the French urban policies for biodiversity called “Nature in town (nature en ville)” which promotes the concept of “ecological network” in varied urban spaces since the mid-2000s.

  11. 11.

    The rate of reported incomes under the threshold of 60% of the median reported income per consumption unit (INSEE 2016).

  12. 12.

    The statistical unit used here is the IRIS (Grouped blocks for Statistical Information) which largely designates the residential zones where the population is generally between 1800 and 5000 inhabitants, in the municipalities of at least 10,000 inhabitants and a large number of municipalities of 5000–10,000 inhabitants. INSEE:

  13. 13.

    This association was created in 2009 for the purpose of “showing a plural image of the district which is not stigmatizing” (Morovich 2011, p. 93).

  14. 14.

    Among them, three (14–16) are tiny plots of land of less than 10 m² and managed by the same association, and three (19–21) are small a few plantations under trees and managed by the same association.

  15. 15.

    Some data on the district: the poverty rate 62.7% (Southeast—Garden 1), 70.7% (West—Garden 2); the median income 8142 euros (Southeast), 9218 euros (West); the unemployment rate 29.30% (zone designated for the Urban Policy); the rate of social housing 75% (idem.) (Strasbourg Eurométropole 2015, p. 184; INSEE 2016).

  16. 16.

    In the project of urban renewal submit to the National Agency of the Urban Renewal at the end of 2006, the inhabitants formulated the question of protection and value of green spaces as “heart of stitches” (Morovich 2011, p. 96).

  17. 17.

    Facilitator of Eco-Conseil, interview, June 21, 2012.

  18. 18.

    A shared garden, it is a garden where there are men and women, it is a garden where people decide on what they are together going to make, it is a garden open to all in a regular way (Ibid).

  19. 19.

    Website of the Strasbourg Eurométropole:

  20. 20.

    Having participated in the creation of the first shared gardens in Lyon around 1998, this salaried facilitator d’Eco-Conseil was for the initiative of numerous shared gardens of Strasbourg since 2004 until she leaves her mission in 2015.

  21. 21.

    I think that what I see is that there are people for whom the garden is a moment of breath, because their life, it is the survival, it is completely exhausting. When we do not have money, when we have many difficulties, everything is difficult, that takes some energy, that takes time, it is exhausting. Thus sometimes, here we rest (Ibid).

  22. 22.

    Facilitator d’Eco-Conseil, interview, June 4, 2013.

  23. 23.

    Facilitator d’Eco-Conseil, interview, June 21, 2012.

  24. 24.

    (…) I think that it is just a little unfortunate that we do not turn to a multiplication of this kind of gardens, projects in the disadvantaged districts. (…) The city of Strasbourg at the moment tries now, and if there is a group of inhabitants who exist and preexist and that they want a shared garden, they can visit the services, saying there, ‘we would want a shared garden’. The municipality has to try to answer. But there will be no social support for that. (Facilitator d’Eco-Conseil, interview, June 21, 2012).

  25. 25.

    Some data on the district of Cronenbourg: the poverty rate 60.5%; the median income 9896 euros; the unemployment rate 30.50%; the rate of social housing 90% (zone called “Cité nucléaire”) (Strasbourg Eurométropole 2015, p. 195; INSEE 2016).

  26. 26.

    Volunteer, interview, February 25, 2014.

  27. 27.

    Having finished the training of primary school teacher and having spent one year in Paris as a temporary teacher, her current project is to go to training to become educator.

  28. 28.

    According to the volunteer, the gardeners are mainly mothers, elderly, or unemployed persons. Then, these people “really represent the district.”

  29. 29.

    Volunteer, Ibid.

  30. 30.

    Some data on the district of Krutenau: poverty rate 21.8%; median income 22,938 euros (INSEE 2016). The district is integrated into a larger territory called Bourse-Esplanade-Krutenau at the level of the municipal administration.

  31. 31.

    AHBAK 2008. Downloadable on the following site:

  32. 32.

    Convention of provision of a green space for the creation of a shared garden. Place St. Madeleine (AHBAK and Strasbourg City 2009).

  33. 33.

    This aspect of political marketing seems obvious when a local representative of the district and the councilor in charge of the environment put their hand in the soil for the inauguration of the second garden of about twenty square meters which the association AHBAK created in the same district in 2012 (Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace, May 12th, 2012).

  34. 34.

    Some data on the district of Schiltigheim (west): poverty rate 23.8%; median income 18,704 euros (INSEE 2016).

  35. 35.

    President of the association, interview, July 6, 2013.

  36. 36.


  37. 37.

    Some data on the district of Neudorf (west centre): poverty rate 19.2%; median income 21,602 euros (INSEE 2016).

  38. 38.

    According to a gardener we questioned, the majority of the gardeners are in the age range of 35–45 years and often in couple with children.

  39. 39.

    As mentioned above, this risk was quoted by a Parisian representative as regards the allotment gardens.

  40. 40.

    Gardener, interview, July 6, 2013.

  41. 41.

    Gardener, interview, op.cit.

  42. 42.

    Some data on the district Gare (southwest): 12,731 inhabitants in the whole district; poverty rate 50.4%; median income 11,400 euros; rate of social housing 44.2% (Strasbourg Eurométropole, op.cit., p. 257; INSEE 2016).

  43. 43.

    Michel Foucault had rediscovered the equivalent idea of this notion in the town planning appearing in Europe in the eighteenth century. Designed as “influential circumstances” (Lamarck), the milieu became then a central element of the town planning to manage the traffic of the populations and the events in a probabilistic way (Foucault 2004, pp. 14–24). Since then, via the development of the hygienism and the organized industrial and urban growth, the notion of “milieu (environment)” appears to regain in importance not only with its experts (architects, town planners, geographers) but especially with its inhabitants invited to participate in its appropriation and management.


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Correspondence to Kenjiro Muramatsu .

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Muramatsu, K. (2018). Shared Gardens in Strasbourg: Limited Sharing Spaces. In: Glatron, S., Granchamp, L. (eds) The Urban Garden City . Cities and Nature. Springer, Cham.

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