It is the time and the moment of the cities



Today as we celebrate World Cities Day, the annual United Nations summit on climate change, COP26, kicks off in Glasgow. In the words of the President-designate for COP26, Alok Sharma, the main objective is to limit the thermal rise to 1.5 degrees and drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This milestone is of great importance, since, according to UN-Habitat, occupying less than 2% of the surface, cities consume 78% of the world’s energy and represent more than 60% of greenhouse gas emissions. .

These data demonstrate the close relationship between cities and a climate emergency. But the environment is not the only challenge that can be addressed from the cities. The increase in life expectancy, for example, affects the need to make them safer and more accessible, a fact that benefits the diversity of citizens, especially people with reduced mobility. The only way to feel our cities as our own is for them to reflect us how we are and this will only be achieved by placing people at the center of public policies.

With the pandemic, there has been an urgent need to rethink cities in a healthy way, considering the naturalization of public spaces, promoting corridors and green areas, as well as access to public facilities on foot or by bicycle and reducing the number of cars. All of them, key aspects in physical and mental health.

Another challenge will be to integrate the technological revolution. Smart cities seek to apply innovation and information and communication technologies to improve the management and provision of services. The improvements will be palpable in competitiveness, efficiency and effectiveness and the environment. Innovation can be understood not as an end in itself, but as a means to improve people’s quality of life.

Faced with this panorama, we architects have it clear. To make it possible, we have to channel all these challenges through the renewal of cities: the strategy is not to start from scratch, but to act in our built-up park. Let us remember that we have a very old residential park, with 70% over 40 years old. Factor that makes it difficult for cities to generate all the opportunities attributed and, at the same time, reverse the inequalities they harbor. In this sense, accessing and having an energy efficient home must be universal, thus responding to the will of European Next Generation funds.

Professionals are situated between the political sphere and the citizen, providing knowledge and execution. For this reason, when we talk about cities, quality and multilateral governance, based on consensus, is elementary. We started a first step a year ago, when the Generalitat, together with professional associations and economic and social agents, signed the declaration of the National Pact for Urban Renewal. And a second is located in the year 2026, when Barcelona will be the world capital of architecture and will host the Congress of the International Union of Architects.

Now, it is the time and the moment of the cities. Let’s act.

Assumption Puig i Hors is dean of
College of Architects of Catalonia

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