15-minutes cities

Strolling around in Brussels is a must-do when the sun shines (which should never be taken for granted).

Speaking about strolling, the next big things as far as urban organisation is concerned is the 15-minute city, or “la ville du quart d’heure”, as Sorbonne professor Carlos Moreno dubbed his concept. «Work, home, shops, entertainment, education and healthcare» the Financial Times informs us «— in Moreno’s vision, these should all be available within the same time a commuter might once have waited on a railway platform.»

Large cities across Europe, starting from Paris in February with Milan following suit, are planning to implement this veritable commuter’s dream. Truth be told, the idea of having everything within walking distance (at least roughly) is not new at all: districts such as Laurentino 38 in Rome, Jižní Město in Prague or Nowa Huta in Kraków were designed and built as “cities within the city”, as living organisms so to say, even though they turned up to be something completely different. Ironically enough, we needed a pandemic to realise that the king had no clothes and that the city life as we knew it was way overrated — that the odds of managing to balance private life and work life, in whatever reasonable way we might think of, were so teeny-weeny precisely because of the huge quantity of time that communiting in Tokyo or in London or even in Rome (or rather, especially in Rome) required?

It goes without saying that overdoing things is not an option. As much as this novel outburst of urbanistic wisdom can bring us a more sustainable way of living, it is crucial not to fragment cities into a patchwork of lil’ gettoes. Cities exist also because they act as huge melting pots, and I guess that there is always a certain guilty pleasure in dallying around while hiding in plain sight amidst the crowd (remember Benjamin’s flâneries, anyone? or Restif de la Bretonne’s long before, for that matter).

In the meantime our working spaces is physically shrinking more and more while rapidly expanding in the infosphere. I may have the barber’s, the boucherie and the local police station at hand’s reach and my customers or employer or coworkers or employee thousand of miles away, and spread all over the globe. The interplay of physical and digital lies at the very heart of our future.

First published on Eventual Consistency