by architect Christakis Sergides
A pun without punctuation, which ends in a vague question. A phase with multiple readings and varied interpretations. It is a peculiar phrase, to which everyone can attach their own perspectives, according to personal ideologies, experiences and concerns.
What kind of development? A perpetual increase of a certain activity? An expansion of the dimensions of quality? A financial development, a social or cultural one? Is space spreading out, a “green” or a psychological development? A holistic improvement of all the above, perhaps? Beyond all the above mentioned, the term development is often accompanied by positive or negative adjectives, especially when referring to space. We read adjectives like unplanned, scattered, unreasonable, livable, sustainable, centralized, rational, etc. Time lapses and our actions, the flow within time seem circular, with ups and downs and regression. Terms like “afterwards” and “what” are closely connected to the efforts of humans to create conditions which will allow them to improve the standard of their living. Do we all agree, however, on what these conditions will be? Far from it!
A profound concern is often projected, regarding the need to redefine the equilibrium between individual desires and self-interest in relation to the collective consciousness, a common good, and the term “we” or “jointly”. Contemporary concerns, beyond a
receptivity and friendliness of the urban environment, and in particular, “public spaces” and impulses of “public perceptiveness”, are connected to a “holistic” way of thinking and the need for corresponding planning and interventions in the context of enhancing “ecological consciousness” and “cultural progress”. This must include participation in decision-making, reasonableness and the elimination of all forms of discrimination.
I believe we could discuss the term “sustainable urban development”, which should always be adapted to our local socio-economic, cultural and environmental circumstances, so that we can live within the limits that our urban environment (in the broader sense) can endure and tolerate. Such a development would ensure a strong, healthy and just society, and achieve a supportive, competitive and innovative economy by promoting good governance, but also using a valid scientific background responsibly as indicated mainly in two documents (plus one) of the responsible bodies for the Urban development of the European Union. These are the Leipzig Charta of 2007 and the Toledo Declaration of 2010. Many of the basic principles included in the two abovementioned documents are largely reflected in the essays that were presented at the conference, and this, I believe, is a promising event.
Starting with the concept of public consultation and consensus, through the participation of economic factors in the decision-making process, along with stateholders, and the broader public, we end up with various desirable features of our urban environment. The documents above and through the essayists, the need for an endeavor to achieve a solid network of functions is stressed, which would avoid urban diffusion, as well as the strategy of meddling urban functions, in terms of housing, employment, education, benefits and entertainment.
At the same time, the development of a viable, accessible and economically affordable transportation system is essential. This would mean that it would ensure coordinated connections to the city-periphery transport networks. This system should include the traffic management and the interconnections of means of transport, including the infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians, as well as the modernization of the infrastructure networks through appropriate technical means.
The essays raise concerns over the preservation and management of the urban landscape while protecting areas of distinct value, as well as preserving, re-using, keeping the historical and cultural heritage of our city functional and appealing. All the above should be combined with the notion of a studied urban revitalization, which emphasize culture, knowledge, creativity, innovation and quality, along with the provision of new job positions in new relevant productive fields.
All the above comprise already declared principles of sustainable urban development, along with additional positions and principles that appear in the essays presented, such as, the creation and securing of high-quality public spaces but above all, what it is known as “Baukultur” (building culture), which means an overall perception of cultural, economic, technological, and social aspects that support high quality during the process of planning/design and construction.
In the above documents, in addition to the need for proactive policies of innovation and education, especially for children and young people, special attention is recommended for poor neighborhoods within the cities, and for the implementation of strategies for the improvement of the natural environment. Our essayists did not hesitate touching these aspects, too, each focused on particular subjects, in his or her own way.