A world without borders. The global village. The universal city. Far from being utopian expressions, about which the great thinkers and urban planners of Western civilization have been talking since the founding of Rome, these ideas express a reality that cities are materializing, inexorably, from their first steps and reaching a dizzying speed in the convulsive beginnings of this 21st century, in which humanity seems to have definitely lost the fear of change . Technological advances have imposed, without turning back, that globality in the evolution not only of large cities, but in the development of even the most modest urban centers. And I speak of imposition not as a bombastic or rhetorical device. Few doubt that technological advances are overtaking man, imposing themselves on his own humanity and dominating his life trajectory from the cradle. And that feeling imposes on us the need to run after technology, forcing us to search for a continuous expansion of that globality and its consequences, as the only way to mitigate the anxiety caused by knowing ourselves behind the reality that man himself has created. The inertia of the city accelerates that anxiety. The city is a problem and a solution.
Lewis Mumford, among other great urbanists, he was already drawing a similar panorama in the middle of the 20th century and he was already proposing, from his historian perspective, what would be the solution to keep pace, without stopping them and integrating them into the daily life of the city, the successive technological revolutions that have been happening since then . A brilliant solution, of course, for its tremendous simplicity. The humanization of the city. Recover its foundation, the genesis of cities, its reason for being. The city was born as a summary of the history of man and his own nature. Its grouping for the fulfillment of its goals, more mundane in its beginnings, related to the defense of its crops and its surpluses, thus allowing trade with them to obtain other and more intrinsically human goods as those first ones were achieved. Objectives, such as the promotion of interpersonal relationships, the cultivation of the mind and spirit, the exchange between equals, art. Se then displaces the focus and nerve center of the city, from its walls and castles to squares, streets, parks, wherever that exchange could take place that consecrates the city as an instrument that has always made man more man.
This proem is not trivial, that the reader may consider excessive for the short speech that concerns me. And I bring the ember to my sardine. Many think that large cities see that genesis that it explained irremediably move away from their evolution. That its humanization is a lost cause, that we must abandon ourselves to its growth outside of man. But like any well-constructed tragedy, we must find and activate its catharsis. And in this search we will find the solution. We must take the man back to the square, to the exchange, to the embrace. Many solutions have been proposed, some accepted as the beginning of that return to the origin. There the multicenter cities or
the city of fifteen minutes. Ideas that imply, of course, the return of the citizen to the street, his reconciliation with the city, the return of man to man.
In order to operate such changes in Spain, however, we find another important obstacle that, rather than difficulty, it has already become a danger that prevents the solution. Our urban system. I will not crush, again, the indulgent reader with the imperative need for his change. Suffice it to say that this is possible and that the consensus for doing so is overwhelming. In this sense, we see how some administrations, such as that of the city of Madrid, are endeavoring to anticipate partial solutions to the essential outcome that will have to modify the foundations of the system.
Solutions that guide the expected reconciliation of the citizen with his environment. Make urban uses, their design and implementation more flexible in each neighborhood, is shown today as the most direct remedy to resolve man’s detachment from his city. There will be progress, in addition and of course, in the achievement of multicenter cities allowing, in effect, that our needs, of all kinds, can be satisfied in that radius of fifteen minutes on foot from our homes and pushing the recovery of an intimate and direct relationship with our city. If we are able to overcome the determinism of an urban planning whose rigidity prevents the adaptation of uses to the needs of the citizen-man, thus putting it at their service, we will be closer to urban redemption. The mixture of urban uses and urban functions is, without a doubt, a remedy that will help to solve some of the most serious problems that plague our cities today, the one of mobility standing out among them today. For this we need courageous administrations, capable of avoiding the political cycle and to focus on the implementation of actions whose electoral return may not arrive in the short term. The Madrid City Council has initiated a modification of its urban regulations that will allow the flexibility of its regime of uses, also giving entry to the ordering of some new ones that carry, on the other hand, that mixture, such as cohausing or coliving (I prefer the Spanish term of residence or shared housing) or allowing the use of logistical storage, called proximity, in residential uses. For its part, the modification of its urban planning legislation by the Community of Madrid seems closer, which will allow municipal administrations to undertake actions of greater significance with respect to that indispensable flexibility.
There is no place not to wait for change and reconciliation to occur. We must face the immediate future with optimism and with projects, because it will be a project that an optimist raises against the excuse behind which the pessimist will hide. Let’s start by propping up the idea of the mixed city. Good start. Let our politicians not ignore the maxim of the philosopher William James: Pessimism leads to weakness, optimism to power. Our cities deserve it well.