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The role of Young urban planners in transforming cities

Recognising the achievements of young architects and urban planners working in our cities should now be a goal in and of itself. Not only because it is a treasure for the profession, enabling it to progress and adapt to current and future challenges, but also because it is a treasure for citizens overall.

Gran San Blas PaisajeTransversal

Urban negotiation for joint transformation of cities” and “The future of sustainability will be urban or it will not be at all” are two major slogans perfect to understand the role that we as a new generation of urban professionals are forging. The first phrase – written in our own handwriting- best reflects the approach we at Paisaje Transversal take to urban planning. At the same time, it is representative of young urban planners who are working to improve cities around the country. The second phrase refers to a classic, repeated at a host of conferences and rehearsals and attesting to the significance that urban issues have gained around the world.

We novel urban planners learned in Schools of Architecture how to plan for growth of cities. But it could already be seen that the real challenge was to lie in acting on built cities and curbing the unbridled growth spurred by the property bubble. Many young architects, singly or in groups, reacted by generating new approaches, new methodologies and typologies of projects as alternatives for our cities in order to improve living and environmental, social and economic conditions there. In turn, these proposals took a step forward towards making cities more democratic as they conceive the projects jointly with the community that will benefit or suffer as a result. This follows along in the spirit of the neighbourhood urban renewal projects of the 1960s and 1970s when neighbourhoods were spawned together with neighbourhood movements to provide basic services for newly developed areas that sprung up overnight in major cities after the rural exodus of the 1950s.

Nowadays we have more tools, more data and greater inter-governmental capacity. Urban planning is yielding to strategies and (ever more accurate) city measuring indicators –smart cities- to identify and quantify problems and evaluate improvements. Furthermore, technology facilitates new channels for us to involve society in drawing up urban projects. Tools under development that have been used over the last decade young architect-urban planners in projects that facilitate the transformation of cities into more sustainable models. A host of different types of project have seen the light of day. Some are tactical, others collaborative, strategic, cross-cutting…This new crop of innovative urban proposals is opening up new professional horizons in this country.  We see success in strategic plans and urban renewal plans that reconcile different political visions in the same long-term plan of action.

Likewise, we are beginning to enjoy collaborative public space designs able to reactivate social activity, reinvigorate depressed urban fabric, recover public space that had been lost and, in short, improve urban health. In turn, we are witnessing urban tactics, reversible designs, which bring to light the potential transformative nature of the overhaul of thoroughfares. This has generated interest among the population and mobilised change in the way everyone envisages the city. We have examples in many places around Spain. To begin with those that are best known, we could mention Barcelona’s superilles, large blocks, or the overhaul of Madrid’s Gran Vía, or other projects that are exemplary in different ways such as the 11 Plazas project in the capital. This competition was aimed at regenerating eleven key areas in different neighbourhoods in Madrid. Then there is the plan Huca  that sought the best way to weave together urban fabric and generate new uses for the former hospital in the city of Oviedo, the novel refurbishing of la Rambla in Barcelona, the proposal to turn a highway into a street in Oviedo, Imagina un bulevar, or the tactical projects whose implementation has begun in the Marina de Valencia.

Applauding each one of the achievements attained by the architect-urban planners that are working on today’s cities should be an objective in and of itself. Not only because they are a treasure for the profession, leading it to progress and adapt to current and future challenges, but also because they are a treasure for everybody. They are joint projects that improve the lives of people, spotlighting their opinions and their well being in their surroundings.

Text translated by Beth Gelb
Paisaje Transversal es una oficina de Planificación Urbana Integral que ofrece asesoría y consultoría en la transformación de las ciudades y los territorios desde una perspectiva innovadora, integral y participativa. Desde el inicio de nuestra andadura profesional a finales de 2011 hemos desarrollado más de 100 proyectos repartidos entre España, Europa y Latinoamérica.

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