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Call for Participants: “Les Ateliers” Urban Planning Workshop in Nouakchott

[Nouakchott. Image by Les Ateliers] [Nouakchott. Image by Les Ateliers]

The French association Les Ateliers is organizing an urban planning professional workshop in Nouakchatt, Mauritania, between 26 April and 11 May 2014, entitled “The Future as Challenge” (L’avenir pour défi.) Les Ateliers (International workshops of planning and urban design) is a non-profit organization created in 1982 that aims to promote the creation of ideas examining the challenges and processes of everyday city planning and design. It does so by fostering a process of collective and multidisciplinary work that produces innovative proposals relating to urban design and spatial development. Whether it involves students or professionals, each “Atelier” brings together people of diverse nationalities and disciplines: architecture and urban planning, as well as geography, economics, landscape architecture, sociology, art, engineering, and environment studies. Year after year, Les Ateliers international network has been growing: it includes today more than two thousand former participants who are now professionals, academics, and decision-makers in the urban field.

The call for participants for the Nouakchott urban planning workshop is available in both English and in French. The background document presenting the city’s urban history and complex urban challenges is available on the Ateliers site, also in English and in French. Below is the Nouakchott workshop’s concept note.

Nouakchott: The Future as Challenge

Nouakchott was created ex-nihilo in 1960 as the capital of Mauritania, and has since known an exponential growth, from an original count of five hundred inhabitants (at the time of Independence) to over one million, encompassing approximately one-third of the national population. This is partly due to the droughts of the 1970s, causing thousands of nomads to head towards the new capital city. Ever since, Nouakchott has become the major activity center for the country and spread in an uncontrolled, anarchic way. Its star-like shape covers about thirty kilometers in diameter and has defeated successive ordering attempts by urban planning schemes.

Fifty or so years after the creation of Nouakchott, urban authorities are now looking into the future of the Mauritanian capital. The Urban Community of Nouakchott is studying possible directions in which to pursue urban development in order to tackle the multiple environmental, social, and economic challenges facing the city, such as:
- High population growth
- Significant urban sprawl fed by high real-estate speculation
- Environmental threats, such as flood risks and sand build-up, due to the site’s specific vulnerability linked to human interventions and climate change
- Weak infrastructure and engineering systems (e.g. water provision, sewage treatment, electricity networks and garbage collection), related to both national and local poverty levels
- Complex urban governance system, due to competition between central and local governments, the overlapping of competencies, incomplete decentralization and weak human resources
- A recently established capital city with limited urban identity, timidly appropriated by newly settled dwellers marked by rural culture.

The April-May 2014 session of Les Ateliers will brainstorm the future of Nouakchott, its possible adaptations and mutations to tackle the aforementioned multiple challenges. It invited participants to conceive Nouakchott as:
(i) An urban space able to face environmental challenges
(ii) A regional metropolis between Maghreb and Sub-Saharan Africa, attempting its best to manage its growth
(iii) A capital city seeking a future that will secure the well-being of all its citizens.

To Participate

The team organizing the workshop will select twenty-one participants on the basis on their professional capabilities, their experience on similar topics, their approach to the subject of the workshop, their communication skills (both in terms of language and graphic skills), their interest and enthusiasm!

To apply, please send an email by Sunday 23 February 2014, at the latest, to, with one single PDF document (file name: SURNAME_first name) attached, including:
- Application form (which can be downloaded from
- CV (one or two pages long)
- One or two pages in which you explain the nature of your interest in participating in the workshop, the skills/ experiences you can build on, and most importantly your initial ideas on the topic (either in text form and/or using graphics.)

Deadline for applications: 23 February 2014.
Announcement of selected participants: Early March 2014
Workshop Dates: 26 April to 11 May 2014

Workshop Coordinators: Armelle Choplin, Geographer and Lecturer, Institut Français d’Urbanisme; Frédérique Vincent, Engineer and Director, Institut Supérieur en Ingénierie et Gestion de l’Environnement (MINES Paris Tech, ISIGE).

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