In this shared space, work, training, culture and even social activities merge.
The place of exchange and meeting, the third places have become essential players of “living and doing together”, but the limitations have made these peer offices, production laboratories and other cultural places uncertain. At the small Fablab 86, at the 11th Arrondissement in Paris, the courtyard is lined with 3D printers and other laser cutters and a DIY and carpentry workshop. This Friday, in the forties, without a mask, Nicholas is leaning on a prototype of a water level sensor.
“I live between France and Brazil. I registered in Brazil to find equipment to make a sensor for my huge tank,” explained the 51-year-old Frenchman, who has been coming here twice a week since the health restrictions expired. Aimed at transporting his tools to his home country. At 11, Yasin is another regular. When leaving class, the teenager often sits next to his or her “mentor”, behind a computer. It was here that he took his first steps in computing before being captured, and he is happy to be back, resuming his 3D drawing.
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An envelope worth 130 million euros
This place has not yet regained its pre-health crisis activity. “People are realizing that it costs less money and time to get on and off public transport,” noted Georges Mendes, 44, manager of Petit Fablub 86. According to Patrick Levy-Weitz, president of the National Association France Tears-Lux, “about 2,500 spaces” are open in metropolitan France (including one thousand in Ile-de-France) and 26 abroad. Despite the health crisis, he estimates that “by the end of 2022, 3,000 to 3,500 will be in third place.”
Aware of the interest in these shared spaces where work, training, culture and even social activities are intertwined, the state announced in August 2021 that it would release an envelope of 130 million euros, half of which comes from the France Reliance plan.
Patrick Levy-Weitz stressed, “In order to grow third places in a society facing the biggest changes associated with digital technology, ecology and new ways of working for the French.” Already before the health crisis, “I was ringing alarm bells. Continuing captivity exacerbated the situation. Today I am forced to attend an activity of events in my space (cultural waste, editor’s note)”, explained Antoine Plumio, 39, 3D graphic designer and “Garage” de Paris “owner.
Difficulty repaying their bank loans
A survey conducted by the Paris Region Institute, the Smart Lab Lability Research Laboratory and the Ile-de-France region between autumn 2019 and September 2021 shows that 83% of the Ile-de-France third place “partially or total” according to the same survey, their bank loans Problems with payment were four times more likely. Since lifting the ban, they have been able to find their audience by organizing evenings, cultural meetings or even festivals. However, “we have lowered our ambitions because of the debt we have to repay,” admits Aurelian Denes, coordinator of the Association A +, which is even better !, a third-largest community in the -le-de-France region.
For Patrick Levy-Weitz, the economic model of these institutions is based in part on public subsidies. In addition to their activities and their membership fees. A “fragile” and “insecure” model that hinders the development and sustainability of these spaces.
“For our survival, support must be structured and long-term so that we can fulfill our responsibilities for the inclusion and development of our territories,” Aurelian Dennis underlines.
Everything depends “on the attraction of these places”, Mr. Levy-Weitz believes. “We are in talks to build collaborations with large industry groups and to consider third places as useful support tools for their activities.”