we interviewed Charles Morenocreator of the notion ’15 Minute City’, adopted by many mayors around the world. This French-Colombian visionary researcher explained why the pandemic proved that his idea could be put into practice.
This notion is based on reducing our time on buses and subways, so that citizens can live close to their workplace, but also close to a hospital or health centre, close to supermarkets, cinemas and theatres, football fields and gyms .
This implies eliminate unnecessary travel, experience the city differently, at a different pace. That our movements are chosen, that they are not by obligation.
-Could you give us concrete examples of urban planning projects by mayors who have put your concept into practice?
-In South Korea, I can tell you an example in the second city of the country, Busan, which is well known for its technology. Since 2020, during the pandemic, the mayor has launched the concept of ‘City of 15 minutes’.
-Were you in Busan?
-I was there and I discovered that the heart of the town hall, a sort of open courtyard, had been transformed to install a playful educational center for children and their parents. They can find stories, short stories, a library, digital items.
-What conclusion did you draw?
The mayor told me that he had taken into account what I said about the Municipality of the 15 minutes, that is, that every square meter can have multiple uses. Because we’re wasting not only our time moving trash, but the square footage of too many buildings because they’re only used for one thing. Therefore, when the business ends, they remain closed. This mayor set an example by installing a play-pedagogical center for families.
-And in Latin America?
-I was in Buenos Aires recently. The microcenter of that city was a corporate center with only buildings to work in. But since the pandemic, people have never returned to those buildings and that microcentre has practically no activities.
Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta has therefore decided to incorporate it into the 15-minute City project so that these buildings are transformed, so that there is a mix of different types of uses. Thus, public space can be used not only for cars but also for other activities.
-Can you give us an example in Paris, where your concept was born?
-The first measure taken by Mayor Ana Hidalgo — who is the co-author of this concept and for this reason I pay tribute to her anywhere in the world because without her this would not have had this global virality — was to open the schoolyards during the weekend. week.
This was the first time this had been done since the creation of public school in France. It was the first time that a school had opened its playgrounds on weekends for activities that had nothing to do with education. Imagine what those closed places are, which are there, ready to be used.
These spaces are recovered for multiple activities. Thus proximity is regenerated, social interest is regenerated. This proximity gives birth to new economic models thanks to trade, thanks to the activities of health centers, thanks to cultural activities. It’s a bit ‘imagination in power’.
-What impact has the confinement had on your concept of the 15 Minute City?
-People realized that it was possible to start it because there were many restrictions on movement. I publicly launched this concept in 2016, after COP 21, which was a key global element in the fight against global warming.
When the pandemic arrived, the mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala, in whose city the repercussions were dramatic, took this concept as an element of reflection. He told me that this 15-minute City concept would be the key to safety from the pandemic because we learned to work differently: we had to use new technologies, shop close to our place of residence because we could go very far, to discover our nearby green areas, to talk to our children and not just to communicate with them via WhatsApp. They also have neighborhood social activities.
This mayor, in May 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, held a press conference in which he included the 15-minute Municipality as part of the pandemic exit strategy.
The author is a journalist for RFI
Mark Jones is a world traveler and journalist for News Rebeat. With a curious mind and a love of adventure, Mark brings a unique perspective to the latest global events and provides in-depth and thought-provoking coverage of the world at large.