Jane Jacobs’ predictions about Detroit


Source: Jane Jacobs Walk

Almost a decade after her death, the shadow of Jane Jacobs keeps growing as architects, urban planners and city makers discover (and worship) her acute understanding of how cities work. We owe Jane Jacobs the exploit of placing humans at the center of urbanism, in a time where cities were planned, designed and built for cars.

Jane Jacobs wrote her most renowned books during the splendour age of Detroit. Her disruptive ideas were the product of close observation, deep reasoning and naïf romanticism. Just like Einstein’s theories about relativity came too early to be tested, Jane Jacobs thoughts about cities were formulated with decades of anticipation. Fifty years after urban practitioners from around the globe witness in awe how her predictions have materialized. Continue reading


How to face globalization (V). Urban manufacturing: “Made in the city”

made-in-nyPrevious post: How to face globalization (IV). Changes at work. The urban jiu-jitsu

Big corporations are much less innovative than they seem to a non-trained eye. Innovation often happens despite big corporations and sparks in new businesses fueled by ex-employees of companies that, combining top skills with a deep business knowledge, decide to part and implement their ideas on their own account. It is important that the city fosters these processes so these spin-offs can survive and succeed.

In her acclaimed book “The economy of cities”, Jane Jacobs cleverly explains the former process. Her understanding of the economic flows of a city implies that, only by means of innovation, cities can engine sustainable growth, since only innovation is able to create products and services to be exported and, consequently, finance decent life conditions for citizens, in the first place, and the capacity to develop new innovations, in second.

Where did industries go?

Talent, venture capital, knowledge and institutional support policies are essential in this process. However, new businesses, when their size increases, tend to abandon the city in what appears to be a mutual interest: they can get cheaper land to expand and better access to transport infrastructures, while cities avoid the disturbances of pollution, goods delivery and noise, and liberate urban land for higher revenue uses. Continue reading


Jan Gehl. How to study public life

howToStudyPublicLifeVaya por delante que pensamos que el fenómeno de las “Smart Cities”, más allá de su componente “hype” industrial, trata fundamentalmente de parchear a base de tecnología los fallos del planeamiento urbanístico. Desde esa óptica, no es extraño que las ciudades que ocupan los primeros puestos en los más serios ránkings de ciudades inteligentes son aquéllas que cuentan con las mejores escuelas de urbanistas y en las que el conocimiento práctico y teórico entre ciudad y universidad circula en ambos sentidos con fluidez. No es extraño, por tanto, que Copenhague, gracias a urbanistas como Jan Gehl, ocupe el número 1. Continue reading


How to face globalization (I): what can we expect from cities?

matrixWestern societies, especially in southern Europe, are facing a double crisis: on the one hand, an abrupt economic downturn that, as a consequence of the austerity agenda adopted by the European Union to fight it, has not only been technically aggravated, but has produced the collateral effect of undermining the confidence of the people in their institutions. This has led to a remarkable erosion of the legitimacy of otherwise solid public and private agents such as governments, politic parties, trade unions, banks, media, big companies, justice, etc.

This loss of legitimacy, alongside with the aforementioned economic and social problems, threatens the very foundations of our democracies and should be a primary concern for those who seek to renew our hibernated western societies to face the unstoppable challenges imposed by globalization, all without losing our identity of wide civil rights and strong democratic principles. Continue reading


Creatividad tecnológica: mantener al alcance de los niños


La crisis económica no ha hecho sino poner al descubierto las evidencias de un brusco cambio de época. Por delante nos espera un mundo globalizado e impregnado de tecnología, que produce artefactos a un ritmo muy superior a nuestra capacidad para comprender cómo funcionan, y absolutamente multi-tarea en lo que respecta al manejo de la información. Trabajando sobre estructuras como la educación o el sistema industrial, podemos afrontar mejor los retos que los nuevos tiempos nos plantean. La creatividad tecnológica, la cultura “maker” y los centros de innovación que están surgiendo en ciudades de todo el planeta pueden ser herramientas claves de éxito en esta inaplazable tarea.
Continue reading


This is not Detroit. A post on urban resilience

thisIsNotDetroitThis is not Detroit. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be. But it could. The collapse, resilience or rise of a city depends on a number of factors, but it ultimately depends on you. Whether you are an urban planner, technologist, public servant, entrepreneur, or just a plain citizen, you need to know that the fate of our cities is not written anywhere. It is a story that we all write with our daily acts, decisions, and work.

The “city maker”, that’s you. Continue reading


Una no conferencia sobre Smart Cities

majadahondaEn 1952 la Universidad de Harvard invitó al poeta E.E. Cummings a pronunciar un ciclo de conferencias sobre la creación artística, un acontecimiento que recoge un libro titulado “Yo: seis no conferencias”, en las que el autor expresa su punto de vista sobre este complejo asunto desde el único asunto en el que se considera experto: su propio yo.

El 25 de Septiembre de 2014 fuimos invitados a una mesa redonda en Majadahonda con motivo de su “Smart Week”, un evento que combina una nutrida sucesión de conferencias y seminarios durante la semana con un interesantísimo programa de actividades creativas y tecnológicas para chavales y familias durante el fin de semana. Continue reading