WALDEK OLBRYK: Let's talk about the human.
CARLOS MORENO: - Oh, I'd love to talk about it.
WALDEK: I represent the real estate industry. Przemek technological and digital world. But we are learning and learning each other. We believe that whatever you do in the digital and analog world, you must create value for people.
CARLOS: - So you try to act so that people are always at the center of designing and creating value.
WALDEK: Right. It's like the connection of these trails. That is why we want to know your opinion on the role of leaders, visionaries and promoters of new ideas in the cities of the future. Especially when it comes to the ever-widening circles of popularity that your concept of a 15-minute city is spreading. According to it, residents should be able to meet all basic needs, such as a shop, clinic, school, or rest in a park, within a 15-minute walk from their place of residence. So who are the contemporary leaders of urban change?
CARLOS MORENO: - The question of the role of leaders is crucial. I think that contemporary leaders should have strong relations with local leaders, commune heads, mayors, presidents of metropolises, presidents of regions. On the other side we have politicians. National leaders in countries, European leaders, leaders of large public sector institutions. And, of course, the leaders of companies, start-ups, large companies. From my point of view, we need, above all, points of contact between them. One of the most important points of intersection of these worlds is being a visionary. Having a long-term vision and the ability to discover the challenges of the future. It is clear that one of the most difficult challenges is to adopt a visionary, long-term vision, and at the same time implement concrete actions in the short term. This is the case with climate change.
PRZEMEK ZAKRZEWSKI: We have to completely change our lifestyle.
CARLOS: - In practice, yes. To do this, we need to reduce energy from fossil fuels. And need to limit the role of individual cars. Plus limit our current urban lifestyle. But in the short term, sustaining these future challenges is difficult. Why? Because they are still not very popular.
WALDEK: Carlos, you remind me that the concept of the so-called the 15-minute city was part of the electoral program of the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo. Did this idea determine her victory?
CARLOS: - I don't know, but it could have been decisive. Hidalgo surprised many people because in her election campaign she focused on new and original ideas. But on the other hand, she won't only by 15-minute city. This concept offers a new urban lifestyle. It reconciles the local economy and social activities such as regaining public spaces, developing citizens' participatory reflexes or participatory budgeting. Currently, this type of connections can be liked. For the Parisians, tired of living in the "behemoth-city", all this turned out to be quite convincing.
PRZEMEK: Now a question from another side. How much do you pay attention to digitization in this concept? What happens if we remove digitization from this thinking? Can we implement a long-term strategy of changes in cities in small steps, omitting digital solutions?
CARLOS: - Digitization is also one of the strategic points. We have three areas to discuss in the world today. The first is the great challenges: climate change, the sanitary crisis, and now the energy crisis related to the war in Ukraine. The second point is the progressive urbanization. We live in an urbanized world. Cities became the place of residence for most of the population. The third area is communication, connectivity, digitization. All this together is a huge challenge. And since this reality is already fully surrounding us, it can generate many "zombie maniacs".
PRZEMEK: Digital zombie maniacs or "zombie-geeks".
CARLOS: - Right. Many modern people can be called. Such may have "technical" names. For that kind of people, massively hyper-connected but massively socially disconnected at the same time. This is what modern loneliness looks like. People who live in an individual bubble, connected by a social network, on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Hence the wave of fake news that Bolsonaro supporters in Brazil or Trump supporters in the USA collide with. It's hard to fight it.
PRZEMEK: What can we do?
CARLOS: - It is our duty to transform this great opportunity of massive digitization into the development of digitally aware citizens. Instead of having zombie geeks, let's develop true digital citizens. There is power in this and a powerful tool for transformation. Such thinking is very fruitful in the concept of a 15-minute city. There are many new opportunities, including those looking for new business models. We must explore our cities to rediscover their hidden resources. To develop multifunctional models of cities so that they can develop naturally.
WALDEK: Okay, I'm buying it. It sounds great. But I'm a representative of the real estate world and, from a business perspective, I have some concerns. On the one hand, what you say may sound very attractive to cities. On the example of Paris, it can be seen, for example, in these experiments, when schools turn into places of socializing or discussing art on weekends. But when it comes to commercial real estate, it's not that easy.
CARLOS: - I know what you're up to...
WALDEK: From the investor's point of view, it is a challenge to find a building that does not need a clear income in an Excel spreadsheet. Investment funds want clarity about future cash flows. So if we want to turn such a building into a multifunctional asylum of free ideas for residents, it may be difficult to implement. And I think this is also a place where local leaders can appear. To have the courage and to educate what other ideas you can have for cooperation in such a building.
CARLOS: - I completely agree with you, Waldek. Indeed, many new business models are emerging in the real estate industry today. It's worth discussing. We can observe changes in the corporate environment of global companies, the international workplace, different ideas for the business style of work. And today's digitization is one of the elements of changing our way of working. Thanks to digital technologies, high-speed networks, the power of new video, we have the ability to work from far away. We can generate virtual universes for a common work area. The latest craze is ChatGPT, a world-leading enterprise that uses artificial intelligence. A lot has changed, but there is still a lot to do. A Spanish friend of mine sent me a GPT chat definition of a 15 minute city yesterday...
PRZEMEK: ...and could you share this vision with us?
CARLOS: - Sure. When ChatGPT was asked "what is a 15 minute city?" the answer of the artificial intelligence was perfect. I was totally surprised. The new transformation opens generalizations to discover new opportunities in new business models. However, the common point of this new exploration should be based on the assumption that we need to develop more social economy services. We need to turn digitization into social digitization. In my opinion, the same trajectory operates at the interface with infrastructure. And it has been for a long time. In urban infrastructure, i.e. streets, avenues, boulevards, we have a space completely dedicated to cars. And we are seeing a transformation of infrastructure that is becoming social infrastructure. Contrary to what was.
PRZEMEK: Yes, it has been going on for a long time. And it is consistent with all global trends, for example in the area of reducing car traffic from cities.
CARLOS: - We need to transform user-based digitization into a new type of social digitization user. For example, develop hybrid forms of space arrangement. These should be multi-functional places that could offer many new services. Related to work, health, childcare, education, culture, entertainment. We need a new mapping of everything that happens in cities.
PRZEMEK: - And artificial intelligence? What is and what will be its place? I'm not surprised that it perfectly answers the question "what is a 15-minute city?". I wonder how you can answer? I'd love to compare your answers.
CARLOS: - My team and I have been exploring different ways forward based on this idea of hybridization. I think the future is to develop this mental construct. Hybridization combined with the concept of a 15-minute city is a strategic development trajectory. On the one hand, polycentrism, multi-center cities, where there is an offer of many different services at any place and time. Of course, in order to transform the infrastructure into an area of multifunctional public spaces for organizing more and more social activities. And to create new opportunities, new jobs, new frictions to strengthen the development of the local economy.
PRZEMEK: So what would hybridization look like here?
CARLOS: - On adapting new technologies to all this. There's no denying that it gives new fields to show off and experiment. For example, thanks to medical services combined with artificial intelligence, we could offer more help to patients. Many people ask me how the provision of medical services in a 15-minute city looks like? And I always say that it's not about proximity in the sense of shorter physical distances. In the "quarter city", the idea is not to create a new hospital every 15 minutes, but rather to offer medical services within 15 minutes.
WALDEK: Service is not equal to infrastructure?
CARLOS: - The service is synonymous with a new social infrastructure. In the case of medical services, it would make sense to conduct remote diagnostics, remotely make an appointment to diagnose my health situation. But we might as well have a really moving truck, well equipped with medical instruments.
PRZEMEK: It's probably a matter of good social dialogue and convincing city dwellers that you have a chance to work.
CARLOS: - Education is key. We should educate new generations in this direction. If we want to change the way we think about sustainability, we need to change the way our children think. For them to accept a better world, which we are slowly reaching thanks to global dialogue. We need counterparts of Greta Thunberg. thanks to this girl, in 2015 a huge, worldwide movement was launched, of which young people were the fuel and the addressee. And suddenly the young generation has become very sensitive to climate change. I think this should happen in every school. And the school should become the focal point of every district, no matter how small.
WALDEK: You talk about the school as the most important point in the district. Speaking of school and kids, do you do any more research on this? How do teenagers perceive the 15-minute city? Maybe they have a different vision and sense of closeness, virtual closeness?
CARLOS: A teenager thinks differently than an older person. Typically, you have a stereotype in your head that someone is fit, without mobility limitations, healthy and fit. Meanwhile, among modern teenagers, for example, obesity is widespread. Not only the population of the United States is threatened by it, but also many other countries. Young people neglect physical activity, and this bodes very badly for the future. And it was the plan to change that that Anne Hidalgo in Paris tried to propose to young people. We need to explain to teenagers the importance of physical activity, cycling, running. But for that you need a human-centric infrastructure. After all, if we want young people to ride bicycles, we must offer them the right conditions, right?
WALDEK: This is the natural order of things when you look at cities through the prism of ESG data.
CARLOS: - I think that the whole ESG (Environment, Social and Governance data - ed. note), whatever you call it, is not just about drumming various reports or meeting specific parameters. It's really about promoting a massive change in how we want to live in the near future. And if this thinking starts to germinate in the young generation, then great. At the same time, we cannot stop learning independently, regardless of age. And I think at times in history, especially in the last two years, we've had moments of great change. Paris used one of them, COVID. Transformed the city into a more intelligent organism. But changes are also noticeable in other cities. Streets for bicycles are widened, more greenery is planted, and space is given to pedestrians, not motorists. This kind of thinking becomes canon. COVID paradoxically helped with this.
PRZEMEK: COVID-19 was one of the most complicated crises in cities.
CARLOS: - But not the only one, now we have, for example, an energy crisis related to the war in Ukraine. And this fits well with thinking about the green transformation. We started talking about leaders, and it is their role, the role of leaders, that is to turn this crisis into new opportunities. In the case of Paris, we are dealing with the transformation of public space with the help of e.g. bike. And yet this is not the only strategic action we have in the French capital.
PRZEMEK: What about smaller towns?
CARLOS. - There's a lot going on in smaller towns. And very well. We really have many projects in small towns, also in Poland.
WALDEK: There is one great example from Poland. Pleszew, a town with 17,000 inhabitants in Wielkopolska region, managed by the mayor Arkadiusz Ptak, a professor at the Polish Academy of Sciences. This mayor has implemented the concept of the 15-minute city on a very, very small scale. Even smaller ones learn from him.
CARLOS: - Exactly. I know Pleszew very well. Today we have a lot of different small towns, villages involved in these cities. We have a 15-minute concept of the city, and in less dense areas, the so-called "30-minute city". This is where this model can be adapted to population or more loose infrastructure. All in all, these are very similar concepts, but the 30-minute area assumes the use not only of your own legs, bicycle or emission-free public transport, but also mobility using your own vehicles. There is simply no other way, but in this case, of course, we are talking about electric vehicles, assisted or digitally controlled, with the use of algorithms or the development of digital platforms. We have complete freedom here. You can draw on many different experiences to implement the idea of a 30-minute area in a constellation of small towns or villages.
PRZEMEK: Are these changes inevitable? Won't we go back to the world from a few years ago?
CARLOS: - We have no need. I don't necessarily see any reason why we should go backwards. So much has already happened that we cannot talk about passing fashion or temporary hype on these topics. The global discussion is ongoing and it is our duty to take part in it.
prof. Carlos Moreno - French-Colombian researcher and scientist, author of the world-renowned concepts: "Human Smart City", "15-minute City", "30-minute Area", scientific director of the "Entrepreneurship - Territories - Innovation" department at the IAE Paris-Sorbonne Business School. In his scientific research, he focuses on the issues of smart and sustainable cities and the challenges faced by cities, metropolises and regions. He is a consultant to many municipal authorities and global institutions.
* curioCITY - a series of inspiring interviews on the Re:view platform on the borderline of technology, business, management and design. A joint project of Waldek Olbryk (Archicom) and Przemysław Zakrzewski (ABB), the aim of which is to look for inspiration outside one's own sector and to creatively exchange ideas in intersecting areas. Together with Rafał Romanowski (Re:view) we are looking for trends that will affect how we will live in some time and we check what it can mean for us.