A city where you can reach in 15 minutes, on foot or by bicycle, all the places where you work, eat, have fun and cultivate your interests. This is the “city of 15 minutes”, the concept developed by the French-Colombian urban planner Carlos Moreno and applied by the mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo in her project for the urban reorganization of the French capital. Carlos Moreno has also explored these concepts in a book, Urban life and proximity, in which he proposes solutions to address the triple challenge of ecological, economic and social aspects of the city of tomorrow. We interviewed prof. Moreno in order to analyze the complex open-air laboratory that is the city, where our contradictions are expressed and the changes in our lifestyles are experienced.
Professor Moreno, what are main features of the 15-minute city, and why do we need a deep change in our urban way of life?
The 15-minute city is a polycentric city, where density is made pleasant, where proximity is vibrant and where social intensity is real. It’s a city where inhabitants can meet their needs from 6 social functions categories: living, working, supplying, caring, learning and enjoying. It envisions that people meet a high quality societal life in a 15-minutes ride or walk. It is guided by three major ideas: Chronourbanism, intends to give a new rhythm to the city by considering times into urban planning (1), Chronotopia, aims to give various functions to a place depending on temporality (2) and Topophilia (3), literally «the love of place », is about enhancing the attachment of people to their neighborhood.
15-minute city is a change in urban organisation but also a change of lifestyle, made urgent by the multiple crises of our times. The environmental crisis demands a new city organisation, more sustainable and viable. The sanitary crisis urged us to re-think how we live in cities and move in public space. We also have to face the underlying feeling of a loss of life meaning, loss of time, and time acceleration. This is the proposition of a 15-minute city which integrates both time and space in its high quality life strategy.
An important issue in the 15-minute city is related to multi-purpose spaces. Every square meter already built should serve more than one use. Can you give us some examples about this?
Indeed, the 15-minute relies on the optimisation of the existing living environment. Enhancing the multiplication of uses can take diverse forms. Considering the application of chronotopia, it can, for instance, happen by giving various functions to a place depending on temporality. Paris is currently experimenting with the opening of schoolyards during week-end, so that they can be used as a playground by families.
Can you tell us about your collaboration with Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, and how are you trying to apply this model of urban development in the city?
The 15-minute city concept has been defined and launched before the pandemic by Pr. Moreno and the Chaire ETI Paris Sorbonne. Its implementation is backed by french municipalities, among them Paris. Indeed, before and during the covid19 crisis, a closed collaboration with Paris’ mayor Anne-Hidalgo made its development possible. The 15-minute city was part of her re-election campaign, which happened during the first lockdown. A “15-minute Paris” master plan depicts the guidelines for the coming years. Furthermore, a 15-minute deputy mayor has been designated to take care of the effective implementation of the program. Experiments and concrete actions are already underway, even though the priority is for now the adaptation and fight to covid19.
Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogotá, said that “A progressive city is not one in which even the poor use cars, but rather, one in which even the rich use public transportation.” Are you agree with this? What can we do in our daily lives to make our cities more “democratic”, more sustainable and on a human scale?
I really do agree with this. A progressive city is able to adjust to environmental and social issues and we now know that cars are everything but a good solution. The success of the 15-minute city relies on the behaviour of its inhabitants, thus, everyone should consider taking part of the process. It can be by going to groceries in small proximity shops, choosing to walk or to ride instead of driving, participating in local organizations… it can also just be about feeling well when having a walk around the neighbourhood.
The memory and soul of a city is also the relationship that places have with people and their lives. By the way, some writers have called it “topophilia”. What exactly is it and why is it so important for the identity of an urban space?
The etymologia of topophilia means “the love of place”, so it’s easy to understand that topophilia in urbanism is about making people love their living environment. It’s one important pillar of the 15-minute city concept, as this new urban organization intends to enhance the attachment of people to the neighbourhood they live in. A city is nothing but what people are feeling.
A progressive city is not one in which even the poor use cars, but rather, one in which even the rich use public transportation
Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogotá
During the lockdown, in some neighborhoods of Rome a spontaneous solidarity started to support the weaker segments of the population (bringing them food or medicines). How can we help social cohesion of neighborhood communities in the city model we are imagining?
The 15-minute city is also meant to be an inclusive city, as sustainable development relies on environment, social and economy. The revival of proximity is also a way to strengthen social links and neighbour communities. In Paris, the 15-minute master plan encompasses a solidarity pillar giving solutions to help the elders and those in need. In public space, neighbourhood kiosks are to be set up and will be a meeting point where people could find help with social service volunteers.
Researcher of international renown, Carlos Moreno is Associate Professor at the Paris IAE – Panthéon Sorbonne University in France, and also co-founder and scientific director of the ETI Chair «Entrepreneurship – Territory – Innovation ». He is specialized in the study of complex systems and in the development of innovation processes. He earned recognition as a scientist with an innovative mind, pioneer works and his unique approach on urban issues. He is renowned for his “Smart City” concept, and well-known as successful entrepreneur thanks to an innovative start-up. He is now renowned as a scientific advisor of national and international figures of the highest level, including the Mayor of Paris, Mrs. Anne Hidalgo, in quality of “Smart City” special Envoy of the Mayor. His works aim at promoting the transformation of our lifestyles and urban spaces, and to offer solutions to the issues faced by the cities, metropolises and territories during the XXIst century. Carlos Moreno was awarded Knight of the Order of the Legion of Honor in 2010 by the French Republic. In 2019 he received the Foresight Medal by the French Academy of Architecture.