City ​​of proximities / Newsletter of 9 Décembre 2019

The city of proximity as a social model

The city of proximity responds to a simple philosophy: putting people at the centre of the picture

(Crédit : Shutterstock)
(Crédit : Shutterstock)
To reduce the theory supporting the quarter-hour city to an ecological functionalism would be a mistake. The quarter-hour city is not just a question of demobility, i.e. reducing travel time, and zero-carbon transport. Above all, it responds to a social ambition. 
Sociability is the ultimate target of the “quarter-hour city”; demobility is merely an aim that makes it possible to achieve this goal,”explains Carlos Moreno, who coined the expression. There is no doubt: it bonds family groups, brings together people who love each other since they can spend more time together, allows for good neighbourly relationships, and ensures smoother, more effective relationships with work colleagues. All in all, citizens can’t help but find themselves supported in their roles, committed to a city – and, beyond that, to a planet – that is more inclusive and sustainable. 

City and democracy

Because living in the city of proximity means reconnecting with the original meaning of “policy”, derived from the Greek word polites“he who lives in the city (polisin Greek), and takes part in the city's affairs”. Cities and participatory democracy are interlinked, one helping to keep the other alive. The quarter-hour city can help to achieve this by allowing every citizen to perceive interactions, inclusion in urban life, diversity and social mixing in a responsible manner. “This project is an opportunity to ask ourselves how cities can become calmer, with more flexibility, altruism, diversity: a common good with intangible values for all citizens”, explains Lily Munson,town planning and economic development advisor in Jean-Louis Missika’s office, at Paris City Hall
The project could also boost the legitimacy of politicians, in the contemporary sense this time, by bringing citizens closer to their elected representatives, the public and the private. The Mayor occupies a central role as the pivotal point between citizens and those who must meet their needs, primarily promoters and entrepreneurs. “We are currently experiencing a revolution in terms of consumption, including in property,” said Franck Dondainas, CEO of the Quartus group, to L’Opinionin March 2018, “where what counts is less the structure than how we use it or what we’re planning to do with it […] The 2008 crisis has led to the emergence of the concepts of “co-” and “sharing” [essential in the city of proximity]:co-working, co-living, car-sharing, and co-sharing. Economic pressure has encouraged better use of the available capital. This change also applies to our market, because we need to put people at the heart of the picture in the property sector. And the value of a building is in its use.” 
The same aim exists in the joint project between Ogic and Altarea Cogedim, known as Nudge, and inspired by the work of Richard H. Thaler, winner of the Nobel Prize for Innovation. It should be completed by 2022. This 137-storey building is a “vertical village”, “focused on all that is common”: “a generous system of walkways forming a canopy of shared spaces”, according to the Paris Rive-Gauche website. DIY workshops on the ground floor, a shared terrace, a vegetable garden on the 11thfloor, a sports hall and winter lounges should unite the neighbours. And an apartment with several guest rooms would allow another level of closeness. On the ground floor is a hybrid space, the “Bouillon Club” born of France’s first solidarity-based commercial property, a ground-breaking partnership, SoCo. “Much more than just a shop or restaurant, it will be a platform for innovations dedicated to ethical and responsible food, a “workshop/shop window” which will provide, at the same time, participatory workshops, an educational kitchen, “Cantine Rock”, andprovision of cultural content”, announces the LSA’s Commerce & Consumption website.
“The fact of living in the same building certainly helps to bring citizens closer together. But the inhabitants of a district can only forge strong links there if they feel safe. This is what shops and cafés provide, playing the role of lookout”, explains Lily Munson. Urban planner Jane Jacobs develops this idea in The Death andLifeof Great American cities (1961). In a street, when a shop closes it opens up a hollow space into which discourtesy flows. In the city of proximity, filled spaces – like cafés and shops on the ground floor – mix services and functions and reinforce civic-mindedness; in this way they increase their chances of survival whilst guaranteeing balance in the neighbourhood.


Finally, “ecology is an ideal factor for uniting citizens of a district, like those of a village”, emphasises Rima Tarabay; she co-leads a project called Eco-Town, developing small towns in the Mediterranean area, based on the model of the quarter-hour city. One of them, Nakamura, is on the border with Israel in a military area. “I think geography is our common project, more than our history. The attachment to land and to the air we breathe goes beyond political quarrels. And encourages people to find ideas that are good for their region. They put their energy into competitions to reduce energy use and water consumption. But it's a project that is progressing slowly, very slowly…”

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