In recent summers, European cities have witnessed the proliferation of urban installations aiming at refreshing the citizens in public spaces, e.g. refreshing canopies, water mirrors, air-conditioned bubbles. How do these new forms of collective microclimate-conditioning modify our urban atmospheres? Starting from this initial question, COOLSCAPES seeks to better understand the physical, social and sensory dimensions of these places in order to guide their future applications for the adaptation of urban populations to climate change.

Current climate projections foresee increasing urban temperatures and more frequent extreme heat events for cities in temperate climates. Such a change would disrupt the acclimatisation habits of residents in these areas and lead to the development of cooling systems for public and private urban spaces. In this case, the term « conditioning » goes beyond air-conditioning systems and is understood as a set of techniques that modify, to varying degrees, climate parameters in the built environment. Integrated into the spatial layout of urban design, microclimate conditioning strategies create « spatio-climatic devices » that alter social practices and sensory perceptions of the public space. When their configuration is adapted to a summer-oriented design of the public space for locally cooling down the atmosphere, we call them « urban coolspots ». In the European context, the effects of the emergence of these « urban coolspots » throughout the public space of midlatitude cities are still little known.

The aim of COOLSCAPES is to study « urban coolspots » in their physical, use and sensory dimensions. A better understanding of their impacts will help to identify appropriate urban cooling approaches to adapt public space and population habits in view of future climate scenarios. Three specific objectives guide this project: (1) characterizing and spatializing climate parameters in terms of ambiance; (2) characterizing to characterize citizen use and perception; and (3) analysing to analyse current design practises for cooling and identifying new lines of reflection.

This interdisciplinary research is divided into three phases. First, we identify and analyse innovative urban cooling devices, either at a technical or spatial level. Second, we have developed a mobile climate measurement station to collect data in actual use situations of public space. We create geolocated microclimate measurements at pedestrian level (accuracy 50 cm) to study the distribution of thermal parameters throughout the studied space. In order to contextualise these measurements, we study in parallel the activities and behaviours of citizens using urban ethnography methods. Finally, we document and identify the perspectives of urban cooling in the public space through expert and citizen interviews, as well as through a seminar on urban perspectives with external experts.

COOLSCAPES is a research project awarded the 2018 Young Researchers Grant (2019-2023) by the French National Research Agency (ANR). It is led by Ignacio Requena and involves an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the AAU UMR 1563 CNRS/ECN/ENSAG/ENSAN laboratory: Céline Drozd, Thomas Leduc, Daniel Siret and Xenia Stavropulos-Laffaille (2019-2022).