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Growing cities | Urban plans

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The mayors of Paris, Oslo and Milan exclusively reveal how they are helping shape carbon neutral, resilient cities of the future.

What does it take to get Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, Oslo mayor Raymond Johansen and Milan’s deputy mayor Maran Pierfrancesco around a table with New Civil Engineer? Simple: a genuine, united desire to drive carbon neutral and resilient urban regeneration.

Together, they were at the international property fair Mipim in Cannes this March promoting a global sustainable architecture and urban design competition. It is called Reinventing Cities and they hope it could show a way for cities around the world to grow sustainably and with resilience to climate change. They could even have the ability to mitigating it.

Under used spaces

Through C40, a network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change, 19 city mayors have identified 49 underutilised spaces to redevelop. They include abandoned buildings, historical mansions, underused markets, former airports, car parks – and abandoned incinerator and a landfill site.

Architects, engineers, developers, environmentalists, neighbourhood groups, innovators and artists are invited to build creative teams and compete for the opportunity to transform these 49 sites into beacons of sustainability and resilience. They will also have to demonstrate how innovative climate solutions can be achieved in combination with noteworthy architecture and local community benefits.

The initiative is inspired by the successful Reinventing Paris scheme, launched by Hidalgo in 2015. Today 22 public spaces, covering 250,000m2 are being transformed across the French capital.

Hidalgo now chairs C40 and is wanting to spread the word.

Gallery doria milan 123c8

Gallery doria milan 123c8

Milan: Choice of small sites is deliberate so solutions can be reproduced

“When I became mayor of Paris in 2014, I introduced a new approach to building the city with all the actors: architects, community interest groups and sociologists. I called it ‘Reinventing Paris’,” she says.

“Now, together with Milan, Oslo and other cities of the world, we are learning together on a new scale.”

Pierfrancesco adds : “We had the impression it could work. We were ready to do something on our own. Then C40 came along,” he explains. “We’ve chosen five sites, quite small to be honest, but that’s deliberate as then we can reproduce what we do.”

Choice of sites is deliberately broad. They cover a diverse mix of land uses at various states of development, and wide range of sizes – from existing buildings to empty parcels of land, and from small city centre plots to large sites in new development areas.

With this wide variety, C40 and the participating cities hope the proposals submitted by bid teams will combine a wide range of solutions to address the environmental challenges facing cities.

Doing things differently

“We have found sites where it is possible for developers to do things differently,” explains Johanson.

Hidalgo adds: “All the sites were chosen by the mayors and all of them have issues, maybe a site that traditional investors might not value for instance.

“That’s what makes this approach so very interesting. We say we don’t know what will happen; we need social innovation; technical innovation; architectural innovation.”

There is huge variety in sites available, from an abandoned incinerator to a plum opportunity to build over the river Seine.

“In Paris we have put in a proposal to build over the Seine; and another to build over the Périphèrique,” says Hidalgo. Both sites present fascinating challenges but are also deliberately chosen to act as inspiration to other cities.

“For all the mayors of the world reinventing their cities, this is a great opportunity,” says Hidalgo. “If we can all share the same vision we can create a movement.”

Among Johnason’s sites is a bland looking plot on the outskirts of Oslo called Furoset. “It’s another area where investors aren’t interested,” he says.

Gallery furuset picture 2 44be4

Gallery furuset picture 2 44be4

Oslo: A bland plot means a blank canvas for innovative plans

Bids are being invited from now, up until the end of this month.  

For each site, teams will compete to buy or lease the site to implement their project. At the end of the competition process, each site owner will organise the legal arrangement to finalise the site transfer, in compliance with local laws and rules. In essence, it’s a blind auction and at the end, the owner deals with the red tape and planning processes.

The composition of bidding teams must reflect the expectations of the competition, and this will be used in assessing the proposals. Teams must bring together the various parties and be multidisciplinary. In addition to architects or urban designers, environmental experts, investors and contractors, teams may include artists, designers, and community stakeholders.

For all types and projects  –residential, commercial, or mixed-used buildings; public spaces; or other type of activities – bidding teams must propose solutions to minimise carbon impact. In addition, bidders can use local carbon offset to reach the zero carbon objective.

The official guidance to bidders offers up 10 key areas that will help deliver this, but definite focus will be on what the competition guidance dubs “green mobility”.

Walking, cycling and public transport emphasis

It says bidder teams should design their projects to facilitate and encourage walking, cycling, public transport use, vehicle sharing and the use of electric and other low-emission vehicles. At the same time, combustion-based single occupancy vehicle use will be disincentivised. Examples include secure bike storage and parking, ride-sharing options, electric vehicles and charging stations, plus actions to support local transit access.  

The three city leaders agree that future cities cannot be designed around cars. They accept that this is challenging, but that it must be addressed. “All mayors are struggling to balance carrots and sticks. For example car use. We need bigger carrots. Mobility is one,” says Johanson. “But in Oslo, in the future, it is not preserving cars that is attractive to investors,” he states.

“You’ve got the CO2 issue, you’ve got emissions, but also the question has to be: is the idea an effective use of the land area?”

Hidalgo agrees: “Today, lots of companies in London are looking at Frankfurt, Paris and other cities, and asking about the environment. They will take their families to cities which are fighting against pollution. Those that don’t, won’t be attractive,” she says.

Pierfrancesco adds: “You have to favour other solutions for movement. In the five spots in Milan, the developer will not think about cars.

Hidalgo agrees: “It is not about banning cars, but having new proposals for mobility.

“We have to prepare new systems of mobility,” she stresses. “It is not us mayors, we are not crazy. The CEOs of all the car manufacturers are saying: ‘today we have to focus on mobility’.”

Once expressions of interest are submitted, each city will, with the support of C40, carry out a technical analysis before inviting three shortlisted teams per project to participate in the final phase of the competition.

 Finalist teams will be asked to explain the details of their projects’ economic and business models. Winners will be picked next year.

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    Growing cities | Urban plans

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