Sentimental Urban Planning

Translated from its Spanish version by Nicolas Cook

Android theme “The Sentimental City”

I watched “Interstellar” a while back, a movie in which the human race escapes from climate disaster using an artefact of theoretical physics known as a “Wormhole”. I once wrote that que the most sensible way of avoiding an environmental “Armageddon” would be to put intelligent urban planning into practice as soon as possible, which encourages cities of certain densities, with mixed uses, and with active public spaces. Intelligent urban planning is rational, or perhaps enlightened. It provides a basis for a sustainable mobility, for energy savings in building construction and management, and for an economy that is less intensive in its use of materials and energy – more circular.

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El urbanismo sentimental

The English version of this article can be found here

Hace algún tiempo – acababa de ver la película “Interestelar”, que mostraba cómo la humanidad escapaba del colapso climático mediante un artefacto de la física teórica llamado “agujero de gusano” – escribí que la manera más sensata de evitar el “armaggedon” medioambiental era poner en práctica cuanto antes un urbanismo inteligente, ese que preconiza ciudades de una cierta densidad, usos mixtos, espacio público vivo. Un urbanismo inteligente es un urbanismo racional o, si se prefiere, ilustrado, que pone las bases de una movilidad sostenible, de ahorros energéticos en nuestra manera de hacer y gestionar los edificios, y de una economía menos intensiva en uso de materia y energía, más circular.

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Smart Univercities

Emily Carr’s University building in Vancouver’s Grandville Island (Canada). Source: The Province

There is little doubt about the positive impact that a strong collaboration between cities and universities can bring to our societies. Cities are a focus of many disciplines, ranging from astrophysics to medicine, and as such there is a growing interest in urban matters for researchers and academia. According to a 2015 report by Anthony Townsend for the NYU, it is estimated that by 2030 as much as $2.5 billion will have been invested by universities in researching the dynamics of cities. At the very least, we can say that improving urban life is a joint effort, and that universities – the hotbeds of talent – should be at the very kernel of every smart city’s operating system.

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Piketty vs. Pinker: el vaso del progreso medio vacío o medio lleno

Thomas Piketty: El Capital en el Siglo XXIDesde siempre he tenido una rara inclinación por los datos. Desde almacenar en mi cabeza estadísticas inútiles, como el récord de puntos conseguidos en la NBA con la mano izquierda por parte de un jugador no zurdo (Larry Bird, 20 puntos contra Portland), a jugar a adivinar el número exacto de caracteres escritos sobre un bote de champú o el de pasos que quedan desde la panadería de mi barrio hasta la puerta de mi casa. Por eso, cuando en mi entorno alguien afirma que el mundo está peor que nunca yo me lo tomo muy en serio y rebusco entre ese gran banco de datos que es el World Data Bank para arrojar en el debate algunos indicadores importantes. Por ejemplo, que la renta per cápita mundial se ha multiplicado por 20 en los últimos 50 años. O que la tasa de mortalidad infantil se ha dividido por 2 desde 1995 y la tasa de analfabetismo no ha dejado, desde que existen registros, pasando del 35% en 1970 al 13% en 2015.

Por si alguien piensa que los anteriores indicadores no son lo suficiente significativos, diremos que, a pesar de las guerras, las migraciones y los desastres naturales, la esperanza de vida de la población mundial ha aumentado desde 1960 en 20 años, gracias sobre todo a la incorporación al progreso de países densamente poblados como China e India. La esperanza de vida sí es un indicador clave de rendimiento del sistema (los ingleses llaman a esto KPI, Key Performance Indicator). De hecho, nos atrevemos a afirmar que es, en términos evolutivos, el KPI por excelencia, pues todo individuo aspira a perpetuarse. Vivir más tiempo y vivir mejor es una de las claves de nuestro paso por este mundo, grabada a fuego en nuestro ADN. Continue reading

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Zaha Hadid’s Pavilion Bridge: Linking Architecture and Smart City

Original photo at roomdiseno.com

It was made public today that Zaha Hadid’s Pavilion Bridge in Zaragoza will host a center for showcasing progress in electric mobility. According to the local media, the project is a joint agreement between Aragon’s main savings bank, Ibercaja, the administration and the motor industry, and will reinforce Zaragoza’s strategic position in the mobility arena.

Mobility is an essential side of any smart city strategy, as it is a smart citizenship. But, traditionally, the motor industry around Zaragoza, which accounts for 6% of the region’s GDP and more than 25.000 jobs, has stood with his back turned to the city. The situation will likely change when the Pavilion Bridge opens its doors and the citizens will be able to interact with the latest developments through its exhibition rooms.

But this is not the only divide that the renewed Pavilion Bridge is intended to close. On each bank of the Ebro river, two flagship urban developments still seem unconnected. On the north bank, the Expo site, formerly dedicated to water and sustainable development and now hosting many of the regional administration offices, is mainly fueled by the regional Government. On the south, the Digital Mile, an innovation district planned by the City Hall in 2003 that has stagnated for almost five years following the financial crisis. The crisis has also left its footprints on the Zaha Hadid’s Pavilion Bridge. Lifeless for almost 10 years as a consequence of Ibercaja’s struggles to digest the real estate crash, it wil now require more than just a coat of paint to shine again as one of the landmarks of the “new Zaragoza” that emerged with the Expo 2008. Continue reading

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Innovation Districts: From Barcelona to Dublin, This Is What I Know

Elections for Mayor are a-coming. With the aim of shaping my contribution to the approaching campaign, I have been reflecting lately on innovation districts. Ours, the Digital Mile (Milla Digital) is unfinished. One tends to think that all innovation districts are, by definition, unfinished. But, seriously, the Digital Mile must be one of the more unfinished innovation districts in the world, and I’ve known a few. Planned ahead of its time, built too late, never fully understood.

District layout at Poblenou and Barcelona's 22@

District layout at Poblenou and Barcelona’s 22@

I know that innovation districts are big real estate operations in the first place. Land owners, developers and construction companies are the first and primary beneficiaries. To shift the urban economics from construction to innovation we need bricks, glass and concrete. And a delicate urban planning, too. See the delicacy in Barcelona’s 22@ urban fabric, the first innovation district I knew back in 2002 and a place I have visited many times since.

In it, the legacy of Cerdà’s urban layout serves as a landing track for Castells’ discoveries about digital economy. Jane Jacobs would have approved: perfect block sizes, mixed uses, walkability. And a focused management structure, that soon shifted its efforts from urban development to economic development. The result: more than 100.000 new jobs (many of them high-skilled) and an overall impact of 15% in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the city. Continue reading

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Descifrando la estrategia urbana de Zaragoza

Aunque en Open Your City hablamos de ciudades, en general, uno de los objetivos “fundacionales” de este blog era ayudar a comprender nuestra ciudad, Zaragoza, sus proyectos y sus retos. En el apartado estratégico, nos hemos dado cuenta de que no hay un único lugar donde aparezcan todas las piezas, todos los planes estratégicos sectoriales que marcan el presente y que marcarán el futuro de nuestra ciudad. Por ello, nos hemos tomado el trabajo de buscar todos ellos y mostrarlos en un único lugar. De esta manera el lector, planificador urbano, político, académico o simplemente ciudadano curioso, puede tener una visión integral acerca de adónde se dirige su ciudad, así como del trabajo que a la ciudad le queda por hacer desde el punto de vista de su estrategia urbana.

Empecemos por arriba. Continue reading

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Zaragoza Citizen Card wins the ‘Green Digital Charter’ award

We are so proud to share the following

Press release from EUROCITIES

Brussels, 25 January 2017

Zaragoza (Spain) has been revealed as the winner of the Green Digital Charter (GDC) 2016 Award on ‘Citizen participation and impact on society’. The awards ceremony took place during the conference ‘Cities in Transition – the role of digital in shaping our future cities’ jointly organised by the EUROCITIES Knowledge Society Forum (KSF) and GDC.

Cristobal Irazoqui, formerly policy and project officer on smart cities and sustainability at the European Commission (DG CNECT), presented the award and congratulated Zaragoza on the deployment and success of its Zaragoza Citizen Card, which offers all-in- one access to the city, improving the sense of citizenship and belonging in Zaragoza. Continue reading

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