Author: Daniella Muraca
ABSTRACT: The 15-Minute City is an urban design concept where residents have access to all the services they need to live, learn and thrive within their immediate vicinity.
The “15-minute city” is an approach to urban design that aims to improve quality of life by creating cities where everything a resident need can be reached within 15 minutes by foot, bike or public transit (Sisson, 2020). The model places citizens in the centre of their neighbourhood, making urban areas adaptable to humans – not the other way around.
For the 15-minute city to be successful there must be a demonstration of a series of principles, introduced by Carlos Moreno and Anne Hidalgo.
Ecology must be integrated into the city for a more green and more sustainable environment, allowing the cityscape and nature to coexist harmoniously, while also absorbing CO2 emissions to provide clean air free of harmful pollutants. Second is proximity, enabling citizens to access activities within a short distance of their residence, reducing the need for motor vehicles and promoting travel by foot or bike.
Encouraging participation among residents is a crucial aspect in developing a 15-minute city, residents must be willing to get involved in the transformation of their neighbourhood to create a suitable environment for all who live in it. Likewise, there must be a variety of mixed land use to support businesses and households of different incomes, enabling people to live closer to where they work by means of smaller scale offices, retail and hospitality, and co-working spaces. To support this diversity of businesses in such a compact land area, a dense population must occupy the land to enable small businesses to excel. Lastly, these neighbourhoods must be so common that they are affordable and available to anyone.
It may seem that an overwhelming amount of change is required for the 15-minute city model to be demonstrated around the world, however, introducing these changes can be as simple as asking questions about the current state of neighbourhoods. How is the land area used? Are services only being offered in the city centre? Are there green areas? Designers must analyze and propose exciting solutions that will interest the general public into making changes in their lifestyle, contributing to the development of more sustainable, interpersonal, and vibrant communities. While designers hold a large responsibility in navigating the future of cities, the general public must also question their current lifestyle. How do I work? Why is the place I live and the place I work so far from one another? Do I support large corporations over local businesses? Am I connected to my community and neighbourhood?
While COVID-19 has damaged the lives of millions, it has (re)introduced new and old concepts into people’s lifestyles. NASA satellites have documented a 20-30% reduction in air pollution in major cities around the world due to the drop of traffic from people working remotely. Cities all over the world have implemented both temporary and permanent bicycle lanes that have received an overwhelmingly positive response. People are interacting with their immediate vicinity more than ever, promoting exercise outdoors and the support of local businesses – “about 70% of Canadians said their appreciation for parks and green spaces has increased during COVID-19” and “94% of cities indicated they’ve seen increased awareness among municipal leadership of the value of parks to public health” (Park People, 2020). Now is the time to decide how we are going to move forward as a society post-pandemic, if we are going to maintain and push further the habits we’ve adopted because of it.
COVID-19 shocked the entire world, but for the 15-Minute City, a global shift is entirely necessary to inch closer towards making the concept a reality.
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Daniella Muraca is a 3rd year Interior Design student from Toronto, Ontario. She understands that as a future designer, her duty lies not only in producing her best work, but the best work for the future of the planet.