What is the Passages project?

Action-research project in partnership with the cities of Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Paris, Santiago, Shanghai, Toronto, Tours, Valparaiso, Paris… for the implementation of demonstration projects, academic exchanges and architectural and cultural events.


Urban tunnels, footbridges, escalators, cable ways… We use these essential links in our day-to-day journeys to struggle from one form of transport to another, from one urban ambience to another.

The passage through the dense blocks of the city was a 19th-century invention. What kinds of passage do we need in our sprawling contemporary cities, fragmented by their transportation systems? What needs to be done to help the mobile, demanding and connected urbanites of today, local or foreign, energetic or weary, busy or idle, jogger, skateboarder, cyclist?

What innovations can we find to make these urban connectors – sometimes bright and lively, often gloomy and neglected – into spaces that are functional, but also places of urban quality and sensory experience, transitional spaces between contrasting physical, cultural and symbolic worlds?

Passages in practice

For two years (2014-2015), our network of international experts has been engaged on interdisciplinary exchanges on real-world cases, with the aim of designing and building innovative demonstration passages in different cities around the world. 

Together, the different partners have developed new ways of doing things: identifying and mapping barriers of different kinds, choosing one or more standout local situations, filming everyday practices, interviewing citizens, conducting surveys on mobility, constructing a method for discussing and describing problems, and ultimately designing low-cost projects for implementation.

Some of the solutions relate to architecture or landscape, others to organisation. This programme has shown that if all the protagonists – citizens, businesses, academics, planning agencies and the departments in charge of roads, public spaces and transport – work together and recognise the responsibilities they each share, specific responses can be found for each situation.

IVM’s international programme 2014-2017

- Some 40 partners: cities, universities, businesses, NGOs…

12 architecture and urban design competitions attracting 1000 entrants

- 750 students in 12 workshops of the research hub

5 short films made in Africa

- 5 portraits of inhabitants filmed in Sao Paulo

- More than 20 public events and lectures

1 first panorama of passages staged on three continents

- 6 local exhibitions: Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Montevideo, Shanghai, Toronto

- 10 websites, 6 blogs

- Publications: special “Passages” issue of Revista R, from Montevideo’s University of the Republic, in partnership with IVM Latin America; analysis of metropolitan barriers and presentation of the “Besòs” and “Metropolitan Passages” competition projects; presentation of the “What if the A10 motorway opened up (a) passage(s)” in Tours. 

- An international catalogue published in English and French (Actar, 2017, 256 pages)

- A touring exhibition staged in Paris, Beijing, Barcelona, Shanghai...

- A manifesto for the Passage, call for innovation