Today there is much talk of the compact city, considering perhaps the only valid model for sustainability and Italians and Europeans know very well what it is because we just have to walk in our historic towns and urban areas already established to see the effects.
|Aereal view of Edinburgh from ecocompactcity.org|
The big cities instead, especially since the second half of the last century, have grown quite differently and it has contributed decisively to create very large urban agglomerations in which it was lost almost completely the idea and the feeling of the city, at least as we intended it up to that time.
As all of us architects have studied on the books of planning, there have been two main models of modern urban development: the Anglo-Saxon garden city and the European and Cartesian city derived from functionalist theories of CIAM.
Apart from the theories and books, however it is rather easy, as well as necessary, see the results in reality, analyzing the type of city which derives from them, the spaces that generated and especially the relationship that has created with the people who live them.
In the first type, adopted throughout all the English-speaking world, it has increased a lot the size of the urbanized city, generating the so-called “sprawl”, maintaining at the same time an excellent relationship between built and green. Buildings dimension remained generally on a human scale and the close relationship between the public and private has enabled to maintain a high decor of public spaces, thanks to the development model chosen, as these are perceived as a sort of extension of the private space. The downside has instead given by the significant use of the land, the difficulty and the cost of providing public services to all, especially the public transport that often become impossible, forcing the population to the indiscriminate use of the car, the only medium that enables them to reach the most central areas.
In the second type, derived from the functionalist theories, the spaces of the city have generally widened, especially the open ones and more difficult to manage, thus having the same negative aspects of the American model, the high consumption of land and the need to use the car. However we must add to these to the loss of human scale, due to both the large size of the buildings that of public spaces, a key factor to explain the discomfort of living in certain neighborhoods, where it is often very difficult to gain a sense of belonging that allows to feel better and to comply more common and public areas.
However in both models of development has prevailed the use of private car over the systems more adapted to humans, such as walking or cycling.
In fact, another phenomenon that is helping in recent years to prefer the compact city to the diffuse is the increasing use of the bicycle, that in some cases, as in that of the city of Copenhagen, has even become a symbol of public transport policy in terms of energy savings and air quality and thus the health of citizens.
|Cycling in Copenhagen from Wikipedia|
The success of Danish model is affecting a lot the United States, so much that many people who live in the major urban areas in the United States have begun to use the bike. It just seems that its use for moving within the city has a long list of benefits including economic ones, as pointed out in the Guardian some months ago in the article “Four Reasons U.S. business leaders want to import Danish-style cycling”.
|Cyclists in San Francisco Photograph: People For Bikes|
Protected bike routes increase retail visibility and sales volume per parking space, since the bikes take up less parking space than cars.
Protected bike routes make real estate more desirable and help to build the sort of neighbourhoods that people enjoy walking around.
Protected bike routes help companies score talented workers, who reach their desk the way they prefer.
Protected bike routes make workers healthier and more productive, burning calories and strengthening hearts, hips and lungs.