15 abr. 2015

THE RIGHT SCALE OF CITIES


People aim to live in society, crystallized as the city.

The flow of population from the village pursued safety inside its walls.
Throughout time, physical security, turned into the chance to make a living out of our profession and interact with new people.

Living in larger and more diverse settlements doesn't mean that its inhabitants share a sense of community. Actually it reaches a point where cohesion is impossible to get.
There are certain tasks to be done  by capable people - including food and sustainable energy production - in order to keep society running
They increase in number the larger the community gets .
But this growth shouldn't be translated into widespread ground predation around the core of the old city.

The right scale of a city is enclosed inside what the society which planned it expected. We just have to retain the urge of expanding and multiply by thinking more carefully
.
A proper analysis of the reality gives hints of the requirements. It can always be solved in an ecological way. We just have to make a step back ,and at the same time, apply the technology we have developed. Even if it goes against the interest of the few.

Planning has to be lead by necessity and sustainability, leaving speculation as the anecdote that deceased our previous society. An agreement between the number of citizens and their right to live in a good environment.

We should look back to some old cities bringing back the beauty of balance between order and diversity. Investing in culture and education  we could reach a point where we can lean on freedom of choice to make it happen.

People aim to own a home. Some moved to suburban areas due to lower prices of mortgage in the periphery. Others just keep moving, trying to find somewhere  genuine, without realizing that in order to reach that place , they have to stop and commit with a project

Because of promoter's interest and its lack on both planners and population, new residential areas are a landscape of roundabouts, where commuting is pointless without a car. Resulting in a consequent time-money consumption and air pollution.
Since maintenance cost of spread public services is higher than in a compact area, neither citizens or municipalities are really saving or making money out of suburban developments in the long term.

Instead of growing in height or sprawling "ad infinitum", we believe in conurbation of self sufficient cities - in which inhabitants can make it in walking and cycling distances, spending less than one hour per day commuting - linked all together by efficient, affordable and ecological means of transport. Leaving space for nature in between. Sharing the sense of belonging to a big regional city.
Re-habitation of already existing towns nearby which drink from rehabilitation and creation of new quality public spaces and instead of draining the energy from the old structures - now impossible to cope with the increased population -.

At the same time, by puttig down price of land in the center, municipalities will save money of suburbs facilities. Bringing back life to the center.
Saving 40% of the locals at the street level for small business, keeping big corporations where they belong, inside the shopping mall.
Allowing inhabitants to make their life inside walking or cycling distances will result in higher productivity for business, Making it easier to access customers, and  benefit from knowledge spill over that happen within.

There is internet. Big companies are moving their offices to countries where the cost of living remains low - and despite the lack of amenities can offer good weather, healthy food, smaller communities with narrower links -. We should learn and take the most from it.

Previous generations fought for a place to live and certain commodities; once the mortgage has been paid we heritage spaces to call home when we are in need.

Living in rented spaces has always been seen as a lack of stability. Certainly, mortgage attaches you to a place, but on the other hand when there is no job - so no income to afford it- it's almost impossible to move to look for a better luck somewhere else.

We could lose this fear instead - now that retirement plans are not something sure -, look for a chance to really save money for the future during our working life, and maybe move back to the place where you grew up when you feel you are done with it.

Far from an accurate answer, the right scale of a city is created by people which share the sense of belonging not to a city but to the region, as they feel at home in any of the communities within.
They all share the walking-cycling distance facility. There is repetition and variety. Not ruled by a strict normative but by necessity and common sense.

Facades of the average 6-8 stores buildings have balconies and shape a well defined urban space with sunlight. Unfamiliar houses will  continue the line of the street - as in London or the Netherlands - either with a fence, mid height bushes or any other solution that keeps the chance of eye contact between pedestrians.

This network could be spotted with odd high buildings for "another perspective" lovers, which together with public buildings would work as landmarks, always taking care of shaping quality urban space.

Larger trees will provide shadow on the streets - so we have to plan space for the roots -. Vegetable patch for self-consumption could take place on the courtyards of the blocks. Or pop up in any other convenient place as urban gardens.

The definition of city has nothing to do with hectares, whether if it's not paved or asphalted, width of the streets or the number of car lanes and avenues.
City means to be able to feel the vibes of other people  working inside business in the ground floor, open to the streets. Look in the eyes to some other random pedestrian, and run into someone familiar from time to time.

We could take a look at the scheme of Howard's Garden City and overlay already existing dwellings that could have a new renascence. One  will never look the same as the other.

To sum up: the right scale of a city is that one where you can commute to work spending max.1 hour per day, through an attractive public space, plus enjoy some outdoor nest in your house as a balcony or small backyard. Having the chance to meet nature within a 20 km ride. The main point of a city is to create appealing public spaces inviting to interaction in the search of inspiring new thoughts from other people.

There is no much difference between total surface of land occupied from nowadays cities  - it's all a matter of composition - but life would be more pleasant.


This is just my vision - today - over the always open forum about the city. 

There is much more yet to come.

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