Yulia Ermolaeva has visited the international Moscow Urban Forum, which was held on 4th-7th of July 2019 in the Moscow’s ‘Zaryadie’ Park. The core problems which were discussed during the forum are addressing the burning issues and investigating the tools to improve the quality of city life. The paradigm aimed at meeting the human needs in the living space took precedence over the urban “growth machines” concepts. Health, both physical and mental, also became a central theme of the forum. The ways of improving the health of the most vulnerable groups of the population - children and elderly people were actively discussed.
During the talk show “The street of the future. A walk with an urbanist, a transport worker and a futurist”, the projects that can create a comfortable image of the streets of the future were debated. The speaker of the session was Vicente Guayart - Head of the International Laboratory for Urban Design, HSE, Spanish urbanist, and chief architect of Barcelona in 2011-2015. He explored the relationship between architecture, nature, and technology in creating new models of city development in the information era, promoted the idea of city planning with the help of gamification. His concept is mostly consistent with the Urban Habitat program, where he advises on environmental issues, infrastructure, urban planning and information technologies in the sustainable cities’ context.
Kent Larson, who is the director of the City Science project and the head of MIT, introduced the practical solutions to support the business sector, increasing the viability and efficiency of urban spaces. In his projects, his team is leveraging simulation and augmented reality technologies, as well as transformable living spaces and mobility tools (the “mobility-on-demand system”).
Another speaker of the forum was a futurologist and urbanist Greg Lindsay who is a senior researcher at the New Cities Foundation, head of the Connected Mobility initiative, author of the book “Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next”. In his book, he proposes the implementation of minimalistic solutions such as “apartment without furniture”, where the built-in furniture is transformed to the immediate needs of the residents, combining the kitchen, bedroom, living room in one space. Such urban planning technologies are already massively implemented in Singapore. As a green solution, it is proposed to make the transition to a car-free street with the help of a car-sharing network, improved urban public transport, and electric robots — machines that can avoid obstacles in real-time. Changes are expected in the degree of freedom of citizens decision-making based on the “city- without -government” concept, the essence of which is to expand the sphere of democratic influence of citizens using the tools of tactical urbanism, for example, through e-government.
Both local and international urbanists participated in the briefing called “Development Priorities. Projects that change Moscow ". For example, Marat Khusnullin, Deputy Mayor of the Moscow Government, Gerard Mestrallet, Honorary President of ENGIE, SUEZ, Tadao Kamei, President and CEO of Nikken Sekkei, Vladislav Butenko, Managing Partner of BCG. All experts noted that the growth of the citizens quality of life is the key priority for future Moscow development. This goal could be achieved through the implementation of large-scale projects in the housing and transport sectors, the creation of high-quality public spaces. Such projects include the City Renovation Program, transport mega-projects, such as the Moscow Central Ring and the Moscow Central Diameters.
In the BCG report, there are 5 practices for megacities has been highlighted. In the new citizens-centric paradigm, the government considers urban changes from the citizens perspective and more attention is been paid for civil modeling. According to the pyramid of a city dweller’s needs, a city must tightly provide a basic set of services, keep the quality and diversity of the city services at a high level, create recreation areas, environmentally friendly spaces, create inclusiveness of all communities with equal opportunities to participate in the city life.
In addition, during the forum, five of Moscow’s best practices were highlighted that can be offered for the other world cities. Currently Moscow has become a city that creates a sustainable infrastructure which is able to withstand natural disasters (resilience), focuses on the citizen’s needs (convenient public transport, car sharing, social programs development, public spaces expansion); Moscow is not afraid to compare itself with other megacities, introducing different innovative solutions; it has moved to the concept of "district needs" - an initiative to introduce management mechanisms through micro-projects. Thus, the Moscow Central Ring (MCR) contributed to the effectiveness of the project for the rental of premises in areas far from the center, so they became involved in the city’s economy. Thanks to the MCR, the travel time has reduced, the quality of life improved. Moreover, areas that are already economically diverse are growing quickly, they include many sectors of the urban economy allowing the city’s infrastructure in different areas to be self-sufficient.
Foreign experts pointed out Moscow’s readiness to accept new changes and adequately respond not only to environmental but also to economic challenges. As one of the most successful innovations, the transition to sustainable transport was particularly emphasized.
International urbanists provided such recommendations as to maintain a balance between the development of bureaucratic and controlling structures and those structures that can be created by the citizens themselves. At the end of the discussion, the participants came to the conclusion that the future is possible only for those technologies that will pass the test of time, and that they will scale in the cities regardless of the cultural context of the urban environment.
Author: Yulia Yermolaeva