Gauthier de la VilleBaugé
Aretian contributes with a chapter in the Acciona Book "The Decisive Decade"
Aretian Urban Analytics and Design is contributing with a chapter in The Decisive Decade, the brand new book by Acciona. The Decisive Decade presents an overview of sustainable urban development challenges and opportunities, co-authored by a dozen world class thought leaders, researchers, designers, and technologists, including Samuel Schwarz, David Kaner, Juan Carlos del Olmo, Patricia Murrieta, Sunita Narain, Genevie Fernandes, Leonardo Martins, and Catarina de Albuquerque, among others.
Acciona's President, José Manuel Entrecanales, introduces The Decisive Decade, and the prologue is written by the renowned thinker Javier Gomà and the book coordinator, urban solutions' thought leader Antonio Lucio.
Aretian's contribution focuses on identifying how City Science techniques can illuminate sustainable development challenges, and help shape Urban Design and quality development solutions.
In this book, Ramon Gras Alomà, Aretian co-founder and Harvard researcher, explains that urbanism has greatly evolved in recent years to lead us to great changes for our cities and urban environments. As 55 percent of the world’s population and 70 percent of GDP is concentrated in cities, and by 2050 these figures are expected to reach 70 and 85 percent, respectively, it is urgent to start developing better means of urban success and methodologies. One of the sustainable development challenges that cities face is promoting sustainable production cycles that contribute to the prosperity of all their residents, without distinction, guaranteeing universal access to quality urban services and addressing the climate and environmental issues that loom before us.
The biggest current issue for the field of urbanism is antiquated urban design and analysis tools largely inherited from the bad urban planning practices of the 20th century. Deficient urban development patterns have been applied without critical consideration, further complicating our efforts to approach the standards of quality established in the SDGs. Ramon Gras explains that the chaotic acceleration of the urbanization process around the world has exacerbated urban problems such as overcrowding in substandard housing, a sharp increase in traffic and average commuting time, limited opportunities for stable employment, a widening income gap, the gradual disappearance of local businesses and everyday social interactions, energy and water inefficiency, and social isolation and loneliness due to urban atomization.
Today, new methods of modeling the urban phenomenon are facilitating the diagnosis of the challenges of sustainable urban development and providing rigorous data to support urban leaders and experts in their decision-making processes. Cities can now be described as complex systems in constant flux, whose growth tends to follow preferential attachment models that take advantage of the non-linear benefits of strategic geographical aggregation. The results of our research with the Aretian team, composed of affiliates from various Harvard University schools have identified ten main urban form or design typologies, all of which can be modeled as complex network systems.
Each type of city belongs to a family of urban networks, depending on their two dimensional topology, three-dimensional morphology, level of urban entropy and scale. We subsequently found that the formal properties of a city have an impact on the dynamics of urban systems, which in turn structurally condition urban performance indicators. Therefore, each type of city can be described, both visually and mathematically, by means of networks in constant flux. Among these typologies, Fractal cities combine the multiplying, non-linear benefits of the geographical concentration of knowledge-intensive activity with a polycentric layout where every corner of the city is within a twenty-minute walk of all essential services: education, healthcare, shops, employment, recreational and cultural opportunities, etc. This makes the most of the multiplying benefits of the geographical concentration of uses in the city centre, while also facilitating a polycentric distribution of second, third and fourth-tier hubs around squares and intersections scattered across the length and breadth of the urban fabric. In addition, the decentralized layout of the fractal city ensures that residents in any part of the city have access to basic commercial, cultural, healthcare, educational and other services.
The great challenge we now face is to determine, for each city and context, what kind of urban layout design interventions, density levels, building heights, smart location and design of hubs for boosting the knowledge economy, geographical distribution of services and mobility model structures should be prioritized to reinforce this fractal condition, consolidate the standards of quality of the ‘15-minute city’ model and, ultimately, outline strategies that will allow us to achieve the SDGs.
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