A “15 min city” is a new urban planning model that will change the designs of cities for years to come. Every need and want is located only 15 minutes away from you that can be accessed by walking or cycling around the corner. It is a simple concept that is trying to improve the quality of life by creating cities that can be entirely covered in a 15-minute walk, car ride or by the use of public transport

On a more micro-scale, this model emphasizes the neighbourhood level and aims to create all such programs and functions that would cater to a person’s life. It will not only satisfy the basic criteria that included providing shelter, food and jobs but also other wants like recreation and well-being centres. The district will have all the necessary features to support a full life. 

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The idea is to create a “neighbourhood unit” that can be multiplied over time in different parts of the city and adapted better to cater to the needs of that particular locality. Even though the hierarchical idea remains the same, designing for the locals can be done at a more intricate level based on on-site study and analysis. In a sense, this concept needs to be Glocal which means globally accepted and locally connected. The heights of the buildings, length of the streets and the types of programs would be more centralized based on the community and climate of that particular region. 

Concept

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The concept of a 15 min city is not a new one. Inspired and later built on the principles of New Urbanism and transit-oriented development, it was first thought of in the 1900s. The aim is to improve the quality of life in an overall aspect by giving more options for walking, more public spaces to gather and create a community and also to pay closer attention to the economic development of the city. 

The idea was heavily inspired by Jane Jacobs and her theories regarding the urban development of the city as well. The rhythm of the city would follow the people and not the vehicles for a change. All the areas should be designed in such a manner that they promote all types of programs in one block together. The integration should seem seamless and make life easier for everyone. The idea of “walkability” needs to be instilled into the design.

Effect of climate change

Climate change has turned over the entire process of design and construction for years now. With architects and urban planners becoming more aware of the harmful problems they create during construction, they have now adapted and switched to more environmentally friendly building materials. This model of the 15 min city is also one that helps to combat climate change. With the reduction of usage of private transport and advancing public transit or walking, the pollution levels in the city will significantly drop. 

Creating a 15 min city means making the city more sustainable, aware and better. It involves deconstructing the entire city to its bare minimum and focusing on what the city needs to keep it running. The goal is to create zoning of a plan that will contain several multi-purpose programs and hence space wastage will be reduced. The idea of hybrid spaces is promoted to ensure that school playgrounds can double as open public plazas for the community. It is all about making a tight-knit locality for the people to feel a sense of belonging. 

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Strong 15 minute cities would have some of the following features. Provision of more neighbourhood schools in the area that caters to students of all age groups and all types is important. The housing blocks should be designed in such a way that they provide more settlements by utilising a minimum area. A more informed way should be introduced in order to deal with the rising population density. An alternative to high rises can be created to resolute and relocate the population. Green spaces are the most optimum need in a city and the inclusion and creation of these spaces in forms of parks or landscapes that would be accessible to the public is an ever growing and essential aspect that needs to be installed. It not only promotes health, but also creates a sense of walkability and better circulation. An alteration of some of the city regulations and policies should be allowed in order to promote creativity while planning and designing the city. It is important to do so and let loose to ensure liberty is provided to maximise the design capability that will not be confined to restriction. 

The Positives and Negatives

The creation of a 15 min city has a lot of positive implications associated with it. It is economically and socially more equitable that people of all kinds can access everything they require without access to a mode of private transport. Another advantage to this is that the need for transportation is minimized as everything can be walked to ideally and as a result it also promotes the health and well-being of the citizens. A gain through this minimization of transportation is the reduction of the use of fossil fuels that also helps to a safer and better Earth. The area that is being dealt with is smaller. Having a similar type of people living in the same area can seem to be useful as with less diversity, the needs and wants can be better chosen and suitably accommodated. Another major benefit of this city is that the convenient spacing of functions overall saves time and people can do something more productive than being stuck in traffic for long hours of commute. 

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However, there are also some negative outcomes of creating a 15 min city. The lack of diversity in a region and the mixing of communities can create problems outside their little community. As people might grow to be less sensitive and open-minded. Another major concern is that 15 min cities do not consider some jobs and their locations. The industrial or agricultural-based buildings would be located far off from the city because of its locality and hence they cannot be accommodated in the model. A major point that diminishes this ideology is that while it is easy to say that the neighbourhood can be duplicated in all parts of the city; the shape, locality, climate and topography are just some aspects that would prove to be hindrances in this ideology. 

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Overall, the 15 min city is a great alternative to control climate change and provide a more well-rounded life for the citizens. With the lockdown and quarantine, people have realized that all they need to do in their daily life can be done from home and hence with that newly formed understanding, a 15 min city can be the next step to creating sustainable, green and more evolved cities for the communities. 

References

  1. www.knightfrank.com. (n.d.). The rise of the 15-minute city. [online] Available at: https://www.knightfrank.com/research/article/2021-03-01-the-rise-of-the-15minute-city
  2. What is a 15-minute city? [online] City Monitor. Available at: https://citymonitor.ai/environment/what-is-a-15-minute-city.
  3. Yeung, P. (n.d.). How ’15-minute cities’ will change the way we socialise. [online] www.bbc.com. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20201214-how-15-minute-cities-will-change-the-way-we-socialise.
  4. Andres Duany, R.S. (2021). Defining the 15-minute city. [online] CNU. Available at: https://www.cnu.org/publicsquare/2021/02/08/defining-15-minute-city.
Author

Shloka Mashru is an Architecture student aspiring to be a conceptually expressive Architect by day and an articulate writer by night. She believes every wall has a story to narrate. Besides working, you can find her binge watching, dancing or reading at the balcony with a hot cup of chai.

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