The future of our cities goes through Active Design

Can we work together to give the streets back to city-dwellers and, at the same time, create healthier, more pleasent streetscapes? The answer is yes and comes from five major cities around the world: Paris, Stockholm, Copenhagen, New York and London. Five of the most important spokesperson of sustainable architecture, during a Cities Dialogue session, "Active Design", took place during the major exhibition "London: Design Capital", demonstrated that is not impossible to integrate active travel and wellbeing with rapid population growth.

CEO's APUR, the city planning agency of Paris, Dominique Alba, showed how Paris uses public space effectively, to encourage activity and promote healthier living. This process involves a changing of the street hierarchy and an increase of sport places: a different strategy with which seven of the most important places of Paris were requalified, among which Plaza de la Bastilla and Place de La Nation. "In 2040, Stockholm will be a climate-smart city that prioritises cycling, walking and public transportation": it is one of the four main goals of "Vision 2040", a long term, complete vision for the city's development and sustainable growth, developed by Stockholm's city departments, administrations and companies and presented by Monica von Schmalensee, White Arkitekter's CEO, Scandinavia's pioneer in sustainable architecture. She introduced some parts of the city that are undergoing major urban redevelopment, such as Hammarby Sjöstad or Liljeholmen and concluded: "We need to talk about democratic architecture that empowers people".

"People have to be central to all we do: you do it with them, not to them" said Riccardo Marini, Marino Urbanismo's Principal, using as example Copenaghen: "There 56% of people cycle. Why? Not for a better environment, but because it'easy and convenient, and there's been good investment in cycling infrastructure. Inactivity is a killer, we need to change our cities' public spaces to encourage more activity, improve fitness and reduce stress".

In conclusion, David Burney, from the prestigious Pratt Institute School of Architecture, talked about the massive changes that are running over New York's transport, with a rapid growth of cycle commuting (+80% than last year) in contrast with the numerous subway delays: "The most significant change in New York in the last twenty years is our waterfront transition, with new major cycling routes and park, such as Brooklyin Bridge Park and East River Park". David is also chair of the board for the Center for Active Design which supports public health by increasing opportunities for physical activity and healthy eating through the design of the built enviroment. One of the result of that is "Fitwel", a high impact building certification designed to support healthier workplace enviroments and improve occupant health.

Image: http://cooltownstudios.com/2011/03/01/active-design-prioritizes-health-in-designing-cities/ and @LondonFestivalof Architecture (Twitter)

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