Please join CSU as we welcome our guest speaker Clara Simay and moderator Rick Bell on Wednesday, October 25, 2023 from 12:30-1:30 pm ET for our next Green Cities Event of 2023!

How can residents, including the most disadvantaged, become actors in the ecological and social transition? How can we consider other, more sustainable ways of working and living? How can we share the resources of our common world more equitably? The Ferme du Rail citizen initiative provides concrete answers to these questions. The first urban farm in Paris, it relocates fruit and vegetable production while allowing people in transition to find housing and work with dignity. Built from renewable materials by local artisans, its architecture is based on the links between urban and agricultural land, between humans and the rest of the planet’s species.

The Ferme du Rail is a neighborhood facility based around urban agriculture which promotes market-based gardening. As the winning project in the Réinventer Paris competition for the Ourcq-Jaurès site in the 19th arrondissement, the project’s objective is to minimize the need for energy, food and financial resources by implementing a circular economy. It develops market gardening activities that recycle the city’s organic waste, and is based around a community of people in transition and horticulture students. Born from the desire of residents and associations in the 19th arrondissement to see the growth of a place that combines urban agriculture and solidarity, Ferme du Rail aims to integrate those who have been disadvantaged. It is integrated into the social fabric of the neighborhood and generates a service and agricultural production activity, creating jobs.

The building, of bioclimatic design, achieves exemplary performance in terms of thermal, water management, use of biosourced materials (straw insulation) and reuse, consumption and maintenance. Cultivation practices are inspired by permaculture and production takes place throughout the Farm. The hybridization of uses within buildings makes it possible to intensify production on small areas. Backing onto the Petite Ceinture elevated rail loop, the Ferme du Rail includes a vegetable garden, a greenhouse, the Passage à Niveau restaurant, and a wood building designed to house some twenty people in the process of social reintegration. The restaurant is supplied with vegetables and fruit produced by the Farm, using methods of permaculture and aquaponics.

Also to be presented is current work by Grand Huit, including the Maison des Canaux, which has as its objective 100% reemploy of materials as a place of reference for an economic system characterized by circularity and solidarity. Located on the quai de la Seine, also in the 19th arrondissement, the Maison des Canaux offers to the city of Paris an international showcase that embodies how we can meet the major challenges of urban resilience by sharing resources and reproducible solutions to make the ecological transition.

Event Recording

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Clara Simay, Architect, Co-Founder Grand Huit 

Clara Simay is an architect and cofounder of the collaborative Grand Huit. Committed to creating ecological and supportive living spaces, she invents other ways of bringing communities to life thanks to local actors and materials. (see more about Grand Huit at


Rick Bell, FAIA, 2023 CSU President

Rick Bell is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Columbia University and Acting Director of its Center for Buildings, Infrastructure & Public Space. He previously was at the NYC Department of Design and Construction as Assistant Commissioner and Director of Design & Construction Excellence.




1. Describe how the Ferme du Rail demonstrates how to combine urban agriculture and transitional housing.

2. Discuss how the project uses recycled materials and natural products including straw insulation.

3. Identify how the circular economy can enhance social integration and neighborhood solidarity.

4. Illustrate how the underlying principles of community engagement and local production are replicable. 

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from leading experts and join the conversation about shaping a greener, more livable, and more resilient future for our cities!


Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization (CSU), UN-Habitat, AIA New York, AIANY Planning & Design, the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development-NY, Habitat Professionals Forum for  Sustainable Cities, Creative Exchange Lab (CEL), Global Urban Development (GUD), and the Columbia University Center for Buildings, Infrastructure and Public Space (CBIPS)

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