You might have heard of it before. Indeed, the concept of 15-minute city existed before the pandemic. However, the sanitary crisis brought this crucial question under the spotlight. It has revealed the urge to rethink the development of our city to:
French-Columbia scientist Carlos Moreno popularised the concept. Moreno is a specialist in intelligent control of complex systems. That lead him to become a pioneer in intelligent cities or Smart Cities research, focusing on human interaction with the urban infrastructure.
Urbanisme is all about evolution and innovation. Indeed, a 15-Minute city refers to the development of the urban spaces from the perspective of social interest. Therefore, it means allowing citizens to access all daily needs, services and infrastructures within 15 minutes by walking distance from their home. Daily needs refer to all places we interact with the city—supermarket, workspace, school, gym, cinema, etc. The idea is to adapt to the shifts in how we live, consume, work and interact with the city.
This new proposition of urban transformation or evolution is breaking with functionalist urban planning. In fact, functionalist urbanism answered the challenges of the automobile era. It aimed to make our cities drivable. When, nowadays, cities aim to become walkable and less contaminated. That is why cities intend to reduce general traffic, increase walking and biking areas, and boost public transport accessibility, expanding to the suburbs. It represents a significant change, redefining the concept of modern mobility.
It means the management of the city according to time. The concept links daily rhythm and spaces. Where do people usually go, and when do they go? How long does it take them to go to the supermarket? Or to get their kids at school. From a humanist vision, the concept of chrono-city is a human-centred development, focusing on accessibility and proximity.
It refers to the different uses of the same space for different occasions. For example, a public square can host markets, terraces for bars and restaurants, or outdoor concerts for special events and celebrations. It can be described as the optimisation of spaces and facilities.
Finally, topophilia means the attachment to a place; the literal translation is “love of place”. The term refers to the “relationship” of the people with their city. That’s why the 15-minute city concept strongly integrates this factor in urban planning. The user becomes the centre of the town’s development. The objective is to build enjoyable and “lovable” surroundings with beautiful parks and monuments.
Even if the 15-Minute city is not a new concept, it is taking a central place in the discussion about the city of tomorrow. The C40 is an excellent example of this commitment toward the future. It represents a network of almost 100 cities worldwide working together on concrete actions to fight the environmental and climate crisis.
Cities are generating 70% of greenhouse gas. In front of this alarming number, they have to reduce emissions and contamination. And, to achieve this objective, leaders have to look at and integrate sustainability in all their processes. Build more efficient constructions. Renovate and densify urban spaces instead of expanding the city over green areas. And, reduce traffic inside cities, creating both carbon and noise contamination.
The way we interact with the city is changing as well. Indeed, the pandemic obliged us to rethink how we work, move and consume. That is why the 15-Minute city concept reflects the evolution of user behaviour and demand. Local consumption is booming; we observe massive low-carbon mobility implementation. Health and environmental awareness is also increasing. People care about air quality; they want to commute less and access essential commodities easily (office, school, supermarkets, cinema).
Home office and hybrid work models are taking the lead; companies are moving toward a permanent transition to remote work. In 2019, we counted only 5.4% of employed remote workers in the EU. Then, in 2020, estimations have shown that near 40% of employed started working remotely on a full-time basis. Additionally, if well implemented, remote work offers many benefits for both employees and employers.
Barcelona is firmly committed to sustainable development. You can see Barcelona’s complete climate plan for 2018-2030. Their primary objective is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030.
The superblocks, also called “supermanzanas” o “superilles”, are already present in six neighbourhoods of Barcelona. Poble Nou, Sant Antoni, Les Corts, Hostafrancs, L’Eixample and Glòries.
The objective is to create urban islands, to recover space used by private vehicles for the citizens. To achieve a healthy, greener, fairer, and safer public space, supporting and increasing social relations and the local economy.
La Bordeta is a flourishing neighbourhood in Barcelona lying between Sants and Montjuic. The area hides a true gem, “Can Batlló”. A former cotton yarn and fabric factory founded in 1878. A business making echo to the industrial legacy of Barcelona.
By 2023, the 26.000 sqm of industrial premises will become a new green area. Parks, trees, urban gardens, water paths, and playgrounds to create a healthy and enjoyable public space that will give a great shot of energy to the fast-growing neighbourhood.
Also, as the old factory is part of the city’s industrial heritage. That is why, the area’s rehabilitation plan aims to maintain almost 50% of the buildings, to preserve this historical legacy.
Finally, the Montjuic hill is the lung of Barcelona. It concentrates 27.8% of the green areas of Barcelona. Montjuic is the most significant green space located in the city centre. It also offers a great diversity of natural environments: parks, cliffs, gardens, and preserved natural zones.
Barcelona is looking toward the future. And that is one of the reasons that make it one of the most attractive European hubs for young professionals, entrepreneurs and the startup ecosystem. Many initiatives are blossoming in the city. The neighbourhoods act locally to improve the citizens’ quality of life, highlighting the social reflexión around the development of our cities.