Mathilde Riou

Urbanist, illustrator and visual facilitator


My name is Mathilde. I grew up by the Atlantic Ocean in a French region called Bretagne, where a part of my heart still is, but I currently live in Copenhagen, Denmark.

At this point in my life, I have no idea whether I should call myself an urbanist, a civil engineer, a cooperation facilitator or an illustrator. They say most of the jobs that will exist in the coming years do not exist today, so I don’t think it really matters… Instead, I prefer to say that I am devoted to generate positive changes and more cooperation in cities. I am focused on facilitating dialogues, respectfully changing mindsets, and asking questions that matter. By doing this, I hope to contribute to creating healthy, inclusive and future-proof cities and communities.

mathilde riou future proof cities human centered graphic facilitation

I have always been fascinated by cities, but clearly not for the same reasons as my family, who liked to visit iconic monuments one after the other, with their nose in the backpacker’s guide. While they visited the touristic attractions, I would instead observe everything there is to see between the buildings: the people, the way they interact with the city, the layout, people walking in the streets, those in a hurry, those who stopped to tie their shoes, those who were talking to others, etc. I couldn’t help but imagine what they were doing there, what their life was like, where they were going next, why they were laughing out loud, or on the contrary, frowning. I still do!

Growing up, I entered an engineering school to study cities and urban planning. What a disappointment when I realized that “life between buildings” was not a part of the curriculum! Committed to finding answers, I pursued my studies in Sweden where I experienced a little more closely how one could, as a designer or planner, design cities not for cars, but for people.

While I was studying the challenges facing cities from a very different perspective, with classes in urban sociology, environmental psychology, or criminology in cities, I grew a passion for everything that could help me understand the behaviour of people and the dynamics of behaviour change in cities. Indeed, I believe that the actors of the city have a role in transforming urban spaces into places that can unlock human capital and genuinely promote empathy, open-mindedness and cooperation. Qualities which I think are essential to prepare our cities for the challenges of the future.
This is what I worked with once I moved back to France. Moving away from urban planning per se, I focused on cooperation facilitation and change management. For a few years, I helped the actors of the city create sustainable and human-centered places with new ways of working together with the community.

With this blog, I share everything which I find interesting about these human, almost invisible dynamics in the city. Much more than nice buildings, this is what drives me and brings me joy, and I hope to communicate a little bit of that to you, too.