session 3 - New/Old approaches

the Future Design of Streets – webinar series – 4th edition 2023

15 March 2023, 17.00-18.30 (GMT+1)

Speakers: Holly Lewis, Rodrigo Coelho, Jasmijn Lodder // Moderation: Daniel Casas Valle

The session ´New and Old Approaches´ showed various projects at different scales of interventions, in space and time. From the level of structural territorial planning to socialising projects in neighbourhoods.

The ´Metro do Porto´, presented by Rodrigo Coelho, is a large-scale infrastructure project of public transport in the Metropolitan area of Porto. Interesting was the strategic integral approach combining mobility infrastructure with public space projects. This led to very site-specific projects to improve and requalify public spaces in municipalities as Maia, Matosinhos and Vila Nova de Gaia. “Here the metro intervention achieved the formal and functional balance between the infrastructure, urban fabric, road system and other pre-existing public space ripping an enormous benefit for those cities.”

Looking to the complexity of urbanisation Jasmijn Lodder emphasised to dominant role that cars: “The status quo that is absurd: All cars in Germany can form a motorcade that goes the Earth more than five times”. Knowing that cars are more a stationary than mobile. “… [cars] stand around for 23 hours out of 24, and we only use for a small amount of time, to bring people from A to B.” A shift in street design and planning is therefore needed and urgent. With other words: what could a street be without cars? This was the main driver to create the ´Free the Streets Manifesto´, a research that holds seven relevant topics: neighbourhood, mobility, economy, health, climate, participation, and politics. The manifesto also demonstrates several possibilities to change streets, as manual to act: “Changing the streets to change societies.”

Social values are also being key drivers of street projects, Holly Lewis mentioned. In all their project: a whole discussion with workshops and participation processes comes before starting designing. These contributions deliver a variety of rich outputs – information, data, principles, ideas, uses, organisational schemes, etc. – that are essential for an intervention plan, and are crucial for local communities. “Because there’s a sense of this very locally driven action and a bit of disconnect to the kind of national and regional scale infrastructural projects. The budgets that they have, and the time that they have and the resources that they have. (..) Wouldn’t it be fantastic to say actually these things are all part of making cities and they should working together? If we can do more to bridge or embed those big infrastructure projects in that local context, I don’t see why that can happen. They’re incredibly, cleverly delivered to this huge amount of scales that are going to those projects”

Although, recent street transformation projects seems to have different approaches than older projects, it is clear that well-designed streets goes beyond the mobility function. Perhaps, opening a  wider range of possibilities is not only a matter to ´imagine´, but also an obligation in the context of major environmental and social challenges.