Oakland/Saint Denis Cooperation Project

UC Berkeley

Initiated at the end of 2018, the Oakland/Saint-Denis Cooperation Project questions the metropolization of our territories and the role of cultural actors in urban development to build more inclusive and creative cities. How can we keep artists and art places in cities? How do we amplify the role of the cultural sector in urban development, and make sure residents’ stories are heard?

The Oakland/Saint-Denis cooperation project opens up the public debate, giving voice to the two French and Californian cities, to share the models that are being invented through:

What Cities Can Teach Us

Perfect counterpoints to their so-called “bad reputation”, Oakland and Saint-Denis experience an amazing artistic liveliness as well as a recent wave of gentrification. Appealed 10-15 years ago by a devalued real estate and great empty areas, artists are now gradually excluded and displaced towards the periurban area – which, in the case of Oakland, can be outside the Bay.  

At the heart of urban transformation – development of the Silicon Valley on the one side, and the Grand Paris Express and the 2024 Olympic Games on the other side -, Oakland and Saint-Denis are major places of cultural and social innovation where artists, architects, institutions’ supporters and cultural places create new forms of solidarity, the sharing of ideas and the gathering of inhabitants.

Even though they both emphasize the implications of the inhabitants in their projects, their approaches to public action are at the same time both similar and different. The scheme of cultural orientations in Saint-Denis leans on the recognition of the cultural right and considers cultural diversity as a resource that must be valued. In Oakland, they chose to put cultural equity and the recognition of the right to cultural diversity at the center of their considerations.

An International and Transdisciplinary Dialogue

Calling upon a great diversity of points of view – from the Mayor to inhabitants, artists to urban planners, entrepreneurs to officials, or from the local to the federal level -, the cooperation program questions how we are making cities in France and in California with the same conviction that our cities must be built collectively. 

This diversity of perspectives is at the heart of intercultural and inter-professional exchanges and requires taking time to translate, from one culture to another, from one profession to another, in order to build together open, sensitive, and inclusive cities. These translation processes are at the very heart of the collective productions we are willing to share.