Such was the theme of a debate held this past September in London. The panel included philosopher and author Alain de Botton, former mayor of Bogotá Enrique Peñalosa, associate director at Arup Alejandro Gutierrez and monocle’s editor in chief Tyler Brûlé.
While you can watch the entire debate, here are some snippets that I found inspiring:
What are the most exciting things happening in cities today? Diversity, finding ways to expose the inner workings of a city and public pedestrian space.
The notion of a great public transit systems transcends simply efficiency and volume of passengers. It becomes an integrator of the various regions of a city, a public space with a function that serves its users not only in moving them from one corner to the next, but as a source of open spaces. Such was the lesson learned in Bogotá after creating many kilometres of pedestrian spaces.
Urbanization, or the process of incorporating more people into cities adds 45 million people per year. In China alone the next 20 years this process will require the equivalent of building 50 Shanghais! There is a sense of lost opportunity when all these new cities are being built in the same way that today’s cities were.
Shopping malls are a sign that a city is sick. The ideal public space is a combination of a cathedral, museum and mall without being any one of them, but it seems we are just bad at coming up with new typologies of public spaces. The role of urban planners is to inspire to do more things than go shopping. Maybe looking at the primordial needs of humans such as walking, enjoying big spaces, etc.
In the future we may be forced to make smart decisions about consumption, travel and way of life in general, as imposed by a personal carbon quota. Hopefully this will lead to a redefinition of what is fun.
And my personal favourite: Diversity requires of a meeting point to be realized.