We used to plan cities according to a master plan, building separate areas with different functions and reconnecting them by car. This approach shapes our cities until today, even though our ways of life and needs for the city have changed. The panelists at this Falling Walls Circle Plenary Table discuss which shifts are needed to re-design the modern city, public infrastructure, and work.

When we think of urban areas, we need to think of cities as living biomes. Individuals, the public infrastructure, and nature itself form an ecosystem whose needs must be met on different levels. Urban Planning then does not mean that a few privileged people determine what the city should look like, but rather we need to foster local dialogue and democratic practices: The city is as much a product as it is a participatory process of its citizens.

Public Infrastructure is as much a question of participation and inclusion as of sustainability

Following this thought, cities need to clarify the question of ownership: for whom are cities designed, and to whom do they belong, especially in an era of significant housing shortages on a global scale? Those who have power and money can use both to design cities according to their needs, but many more people belong to a city, so the city must also belong to them: people with lower income, disabled people, women, elder people, or the youth.

A bold idea promoted by the panel is that of the 15-minute city, which suggests that anyone should get anywhere within 15 minutes. Highly efficient public infrastructure is the key to achieve this goal, and we need to rethink what sustainable and affordable transportation must look like. Many European cities increasingly close their streets for cars and only allow bikes and passengers to travel the road. The impact is tremendous: “The streets were occupied by inhabitants. They could use it for tables, they could work outside, they were visible”, Jutta Allmendinger observed in Berlin, where seating areas and trees began to cover an earlier traffic-heavy street. “Nature brings people together, and traffic sets people apart”, she finishes.

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