How mixed is actually the mixed-city? Housing remains the main program in many urban development projects of the post-industrial era. We wisely add some office places and public amenities, but remain especially keen on stimulating bars, shops and restaurants because we want every new district to be a “genuine vibrant urban neighbourhood. Looking back at how we organized this wave of regeneration, we can see how we have systematically excluded one program: the productive economy.
There is now in many European cities a spatial and social mismatch between living and working conditions. The city provides high-skilled professionals with many working possibilities while a large part of low-skilled workers live in the city with no work opportunity. This mismatch generates many problems with regard to economy, mobility and sociality.
Of course, we should not bring steel factories back to the city centre. But we are already welcoming all kinds of small-scale urban manufacturing. We are accommodating more and more of the new recycling industry within the city itself. We could systematically save some space in our programs for redevelopment areas for small and medium enterprises. We should avoid that the plumber living in the city and repairing our houses in the city has to drive out of the city to find available storage space. Production should be encouraged in the city, be part of the fabric, be allowed to be seen, connected to shared daily life, nurtured and celebrated. Which alternatives should we produce for such a city?
How to integrate some of the production activities in the city –such as the production of food, energy, low skilled services, new industrial products– to enhance new relations between citizens?
How to live in productive fields and to produce in living environment?
How to integrate all the production cycles considering distribution, waste and consumption?
The challenge for Europan 14 is to generate new kinds of proximity by connecting the living and the producing.