Sustainable Cities

Organized with the support of the Florence Gould Foundation and Air France in 2011 to 2013, this initiative focused on the current challenges facing French and American cities and the policies they are implementing to achieve greater sustainability. Each year, the program consisted of two study tours, one in France, one in the United States, which showcased successful models and innovative approaches to urban planning and sustainability.

Read the summary of findings from the three-year Sustainable Cities program here.

2013 Study Tours


 In 2013, the U.S. portion of the program took place in Seattle, Washington, focusing on the role played by arts and culture in improving the livability and economic vitality of cities. The program also explored how cultural policies and practices engage and highlight diverse and immigrant communities as integral parts of the sustainable city’s social fabric. The French delegation met with representatives of Seattle's Office of Planning and Development, the city's Office of Arts & Culture, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Participants also visited the South Lake Union neighborhood, a former warehouse district in the midst of redevelopment, notably by Amazon, and the Wing Luke Museum of Asian-Pacific Experience, a Smithsonian Institution affiliate dedicated to the culture, art, and history of Asian Pacific Americans.

Click here to read Will Doig's article in Next City about Amazon's plans for South Lake Union.

Click here to see photos and here to read the press release about the study tour in Seattle.

Paris and Marseille

The U.S. delegation to France explored important cultural projects in Paris and Marseille, the 2013 European Capital of Culture. The European Capital of Culture initiative - a European Union project - celebrates the important role of cities in shaping European culture. In Marseille, participants visited large-scale projects like the newly opened MuCEM (Musée des Civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée), as well as smaller projects like the Friche Belle de Mai, a former tobacco factory converted into a cultural complex. 

Click here to read Kate Borders blog post with her impressions of the study tour in Paris and Marseille. 

2012 Study Tours

New York City

The 2012 program brought a French delegation of urban planning and sustainability experts to explore sustainability efforts in the New York City metropolitan area, especially in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Meetings also focused on initiatives to promote access to basic amenities and services (green space, affordable fresh produce and public transportation) in underserved areas.  

The French delegation visited Governors Island, Newark, the Gowanus Canal, as well as met with local and national leaders in the field, including Adrian Benepe, senior vice president for city park development, The Trust for Public Land; Rick Bell, executive director, New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects; and Leslie Koch, president, The Trust for Governors Island. 

Click here to see photos and read about the study tour in France-Amérique

Paris, Nantes, & Lyon  

In a parallel exchange, a U.S. delegation visited Paris, Nantes and Lyon in December to explore similar questions. They learned about Nantes’ status as the European Green Capital in 2013 and explored the Lyon Confluence project, a project that aims to double the size of the city center. Meetings were held with such key figures as: Gérard Pardessus, deputy director for culture, city of Nantes; Mr. Xavier Barès, director of the Green Capital project, Nantes; and Benoît Bardet, communication director, Lyon Confluence.
Read participant Kaid Benfield’s article about his experience in Nantes “From elephant to estuary: does the 2013 European Green Capital have something to teach US cities?”.

2011 Study Tours

Washington, D.C., Baltimore, & Cleveland

In November 2011, the French-American Foundation welcomed a delegation of French professionals to the United States to explore the rehabilitation of rundown neighborhoods and the revitalization of inner cities. The delegation met in Washington, D.C., before traveling to Baltimore, Maryland, and Cleveland, Ohio.

The participants met with both local and national entities in Washington, D.C., involved in sustainable planning. This included meetings with the National Association of Local Government Environmental Professionals, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the D.C. Office of Planning. In Baltimore, Michael Braverman, Deputy Commissioner of Permits and Code Enforcement for the city’s Housing Department, led a tour focusing on Baltimore’s efforts to reclaim vacant properties through their "vacant to value" plan in neighborhoods like Baltimore Highlands and Patterson Place. The delegation then traveled to Cleveland, where the delegation learned about the city’s challenge of finding a “green” use for the many vacant lots of land, and of balancing sustainable efforts with the responsible historic preservation of many now-defunct buildings.

Paris & Lille

As part of a reciprocal exchange in December 2011, a delegation of American professionals traveled to Paris and Lille to explore the same topics. In the Paris region, the American delegates visited La Villette, which had been transformed from a slaughterhouse to a multidisciplinary cultural center, as well as the Philharmonic in the Parc de la Villette, which was still under construction at the time. In Lille, policy implementation was discussed at the European, national, and local levels. In this region, seeking to rehabilitate its rich industrial heritage, sustainable economic, social, and environmental development often benefits from industry and business experts collaborating with regional organizations, through such entities as CD2E (a business incubator project).


For more information, please contact: Emma Archer at [email protected] or Chrissa LaPorte at [email protected].