Dense urban areas are subject to dynamic and urgent challenges. Urban Heat Island and heatwaves pose a threat to residents’ comfort, due to extreme microclimate conditions. In this framework, urban parks represent effective strategies towards more livable and comfortable urban areas. In particular, small pocket parks can contribute to the mitigation of such challenges in every neighborhood. Indeed, they are near residents, allowing large population groups to benefit from the advantage of living in green areas.
Paris is experiencing climate change impacts: heatwaves compounded by the urban heat island effect and floods caused by the Seine overflowing its banks or by rainfall runoff after heavy rains. Droughts are also expected, a fact that can impact water resources. As a result, the city and its population are becoming increasingly vulnerable.
The Climate Adaptation strategy of Paris aims at making the city more resilient, more attractive, and a nicer place to live. The strategy consists of four requirements and scales of intervention: protect Parisians from extreme climate events, ensure the supply of water food, and energy, apply more sustainable city planning to live with climate change and foster new lifestyles and boost solidarity.
For the above to be accomplished, the Paris Climate Adaptation Plan expands nature reserves and water bodies in the city and creates «cool islands and paths». The objective is to bring shade and mitigate heat with the development of small «urban forests» and more vegetation on roofs, streets, and squares.
The UIA project (OASIS) is fine-tuned to the Climate Adaptation Plan of Paris; it converts schoolyards into «cool islands» at the neighborhood scale through nature-based solutions and eco-innovative materials with a low carbon footprint and improved thermal performance. Schoolyards by being covered by asphalt and impervious surfaces enhance the heat island effect; this is because the evapotranspiration process, which acts as a cooling mechanism in cities, is suppressed.
The project follows a co-design and participatory process, leading to the engagement and mobilization of city residents of all ages. The latter is a critical precondition for developing a sense of co-responsibility for the public space.
The innovation of the project refers to materials (for infiltration, thermal performance, and low carbon footprint), rainwater recovery systems and Nature-Based Solutions adapted to risks (for shading, evapotranspiration, and drought resistance).
OASIS proposes the emergence of new models of micro-local governance, with methods for local actors’ empowerment.
The UIA project is based on a partnership between the City of Paris, higher education and research Institutes, the Architecture, Urban Planning, and Environment public service, and the Education Association of Paris. Support regarding meteorological and climatological issues is provided by Meteo France.
The output of the project so far is both tangible through a network of ten schoolyards converted to cool islands and intangible by means of a new municipal approach for urban space interventions and governance.
Finally, the upscaling of the project to the network of 656 schools and 115 high schools managed by the city, reflects a major challenge for increasing the adaptive capacity of the city and its resilience.