The cities of the world are facing a change. It has become clear that higher speeds do not save time, but mean longer distances. The concept of the car-friendly city has failed; its structures have not led to greater freedom, but to more constraints, to a premature unnecessary travel. A place to get away from instead of a place to be - this was the C20th’s dogma. It has been recognised almost everywhere that this needs to change; public transport is being expanded throughout Europe. However, there is a constant “more of the same”: increased capacity and higher speed giving rise to even greater distances.
It was France that reserved the right to reconsider the new city - as a living organism, not a technocratic structure of transport systems. In German-speaking countries the tram is nothing new; the major networks have been in operation for many decades. But it is precisely this continuity that stifles reinvention. France is more advanced - because it had to go back to the beginning. Cities have always been places in which to meet, not rapid transit spaces - and French urbanism invented a new means of transport that brings back the pleasures of a place to stay.
The new school of French town planning has rediscovered the city in all its beauty and magic. Among all the globalised standardisation, cities once again became recognisable as individuals, with affectionate detailing and distinctive design. Humanity, with its needs for rest, beauty and harmony, now stands at the centre of re-urbanization. The new tramways arrange themselves accordingly and are thus so charming; through them the city has rediscovered its sensuality. Town centres have once again become “prestige territories”, the road surface is once again a “third facade” linking the fronts of the houses, and in the suburbs the tram has created a people’s park with its green tram tracks. Throughout France you can sense the will to charm, to inspire and to delight people. These are the real values and responsibilities of the city of tomorrow: providing people with an environment in which they feel comfortable and where they can develop their creativity, imagination, and strength.
Die Zukunft der Städte (Book 'The Future of our Cities')
© 2010-2016 Harald A. Jahn