A Return to the city

The 1973 “oil price shock” followed by the stock market crash was soon forgotten and already then the environmentally conscious lessons were abandoned and became marginal again as soon as the global recession period was over. Forty years later, it appears that we have not only forget those design lessons, but we have also made the energy use a structural problem and the environmental moderation frivolously political.

The current structural shift within the built urban territories is a consequence of the flow of modern dwellers around the globe. According to some studies, two thirds of the world population will live in the urban areas within the period of fifty years. This is the “return to the city”.

This migration is the natural antipode of the suburban sprawl, which was based on the economy of cheap and available land. We all know by now, that suburbanization effect has increased the energy and environmental problems. Less known side effect is the dilution of the cosmopolitan publicness within the cities.

Who are those returning to the city? Not only rural population, but also suburban crowd and business nomads, who have returned to a better facilitated, more vibrant and livable working and living environments. One of the key challenges is the appropriation of the new territories for these daily activities, ranging from living and working to even the alike of food production within the new city territories. We may be short of the old buildings, suitable for the immediate refurbishment, so we may want to rethink the creation of the new habitable territories, where we can live, work, but also grow our own food. These are the new design tasks for architects and city planners.

Are-use of the existing industrial area is the most traditional way of accommodating new needs for the new city dwellers. The topping above the existing structures may be another immediate option for the design reconsideration. The low-rise can be always additionally layered, without the sacrifice of the existing. The less obvious one is the double use of the infrastructure, which will anyhow have to be empowered for the new capacities. In every city, there is an incredible amount of the “forgotten spaces” occupied by the infrastructural corridors. Even more, we are taking for granted the design conventions of bridges, viaducts and tunnels. Why do we see them in advance as empty black holes, non-suitable for anything but transportation of people and goods?

A return to the city is demanding to identify new opportunities from us designers.