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Asier Santas Torres, , Deputy Director department of Projects, Urban Planning Theory and History of the School of Architecture

The happy city

The author indicates that it is a priority to avoid the loss of identity to which our cities have been subjected in the last decades by having favored a systematic extension of the

Sun, 01 Nov 2015 12:04:00 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper

Yesterday, October 31, as every year, World Cities Day was celebrated. There are almost 4 billion of us living in them, 54% of the entire population, and according to the UN it is estimated that by 2050 we will exceed the figure of 6 billion. This is largely due to the growth of conurbations in India, China and Nigeria. However, while one out of every eight citizens lives in one of the 28 megacities with more than 10 million inhabitants, half of the urban population lives in medium-sized cities of less than 500,000 inhabitants. Moreover, if we consider that we have gone from 746 million in 1950 to the current 4,000 million, and in anticipation that medium-sized cities will continue to grow constantly -such may be the case of Pamplona and its district-, it is necessary to update our urban planning strategies as a matter of the utmost urgency. Because we are undoubtedly facing one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century: to turn them into the best place to live.

In this sense, medium-sized cities condense the best of the human condition. Well managed, they offer important opportunities for development staff because they allow access to decent housing and work , healthcare and Education as basic necessities. But also, as Edward Glaeser states in his book The Triumph of the City, they offer exchanges, decisions and ideas, and that is why they are the engines of progress and wellbeing: the city
has always been and will always be a source of hope, because for many it provides the illusion of a better, more complete and more promising life.

Consequently, those who manage, project, build and inhabit the city must bring together wills to find places of consensus with the main goal of benefiting all. goal . Always with the maxim of putting human interests before economic or political interests, for which those responsible must actively participate in its configuration: urban planners, architects, landscape architects, engineers, sociologists, legislators, economists, politicians and administrators, public and private builders, philosophers and artists. Even the citizens themselves. I insist, we all have in our hands the progress of the city and our own well-being.

When it comes to thinking, projecting and determining the city, the fundamental goal is the balance between the city, its inhabitants and the territory on which they depend. To achieve this, we must improve the Structures we have inherited and avoid the mistakes made in the past; we must be aware of the obligation to project them not by means of the mechanism of extension, thus forgetting the care and shortcomings of what already exists, but acting with the same energy in the city that already is. We must strive for cities with a moderate density of inhabitants, prioritizing the universal and public mobility over the automobile, including more nature and ensuring rational energy consumption, providing it with services and culture within the reach of anyone; and configuring it with residential arrangements in which, above excessive real estate profits, the ideal formal and legal instructions for a typology of housing that is yet to come should take precedence.

It is very important to regulate and value the land in a fairer and more realistic way, seeking harmony between private and collective interests; and to demand thoughtful and necessary public investments, not just random ones based on arbitrary decisions. It is also desirable to incorporate the aspirations and desires of its inhabitants through participation mechanisms directed by qualified technicians; to take care of the human scale of the neighborhoods, trying to recover the forgotten concept of neighborhood and making it compatible with a globalized world (let us remember that cities are the points of the planet where the global is best articulated with the local). But above all, it is a priority to avoid the loss of identity to which our medium-sized cities - and above all their extensions - have been subjected in recent decades, by focusing on strengthening the uniqueness of each one and offering their inhabitants domestic and unique urban spaces with which they can identify. Because it is necessary to understand, today more than ever, that part of our happiness depends on the feeling of belonging to the city in which we live.