Mathilde Riou from Nantes, France

How would you describe the city’s inhabitants?

Nantes’ inhabitants are a very heterogeneous group, from catholic families to activists of the ZADs micro-society, from students to business men in suits. I find that the extremes are quite striking here.

Why do you love your city?

There are always plenty of activities and events. For example “la ligne verte”, a green painted line on the ground will lead you to the most interesting places of the city. In Nantes everything is possible, you can even go for a ride on the back of a mechanical elephant!

What’s the best place in your city and why? 

The city park, or “Jardin des Plantes”, is one of my favorites. I love it because it is a true haven of nature at the heart of the city, perfect for a pique-nique or to relax and read a book in the sun!

What can we learn from your city in terms of city making?

Nantes used to be a very influential harbour. However the world wars deeply affected the city, after which the municipality chose to invest in culture in order to boost tourism and economic development. Now Nantes has become a huge playground for all ages, which attracts people from all over France. Investing in public places was a bold but rewarding decision!

What’s the biggest challenge your city is facing?

Cultural progress unfortunately has been at the expense of the development of public transports. While the city center has become car-free, the city still lags behind in infrastructure to make cycling easy. On this matter we have a lot to learn from our Dutch fellows!

Why should BRAND open a flexible office in your city and who would be our first client? 

Nantes is good at programming public places, but less at designing streetscapes which support the “life between buildings”. Why not team up with city makers like Wigwam Conseil in Nantes where (unfortunately) big brands progressively replaced small independent stores, and lead these businesses into creating active “plinths” which supports city life and not only their own business?