Open windows. In the physical and figurative sense. More air for better breathing; And to renew the ideas that we will need in the post-pandemic period. Economist Richard Florida, a professor at the Towns College and Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, has been studying the driving forces behind the ongoing transformation of cities for twenty years. He became famous, and also attracted a lot of criticism, for his analysis of the increasing, if not decisive, importance of the creative class in the fates of urban society.
Relaunch Florida, one of the foremost researchers of urban centers: Far from it, epidemics have always led to living quarters being redesigned. There will be news in post-Covid life: business districts will have to be rethought and the new “informal” way of working will lead to rethinking of cafes, squares, and vacation spots.
Professor, your book The Rise of the Creative New Class written in 2002 has been updated several times in this early part of the millennium on the wave of economic crises and booms but also of major transformations in the social mosaic of cities. The latest release dates back to 2019, just before the pandemic broke out. Not even after two years of reviewing everything?
I would say no. On the contrary, the pandemic has accelerated the needs of the creative class, who are now gaining greater freedom and more awareness of where they want to live. The equation Great projects, amazing people, amazing places, big spaces, Has been inflated. And here we go back to the open windows. Companies will no longer be able to force people to focus in closed towers. The office as a workplace at sunset, business districts will have to be rethought, and Downtown America will be the most affected part of a post-Covid city.. Which will lead to mixing everything, and the final dismantling of the organizational structure of an industrial society in the twentieth century, with the separation of residential areas from work areas. In a society where technology plays a large part of the tasks, work will also be a meeting in cafes and restaurants, and the office will serve instead in moments of interactions and decisions.
However, we come from a harrowing period of urban realities around the world: closed social and cultural spaces, broken schools, deserted streets, curfews, and the mass exodus of many citizens. Have you ever thought it would be the end of cities?
Not even for a minute. Of course, at first I was terrified, I have Italian ancestry and I was so amazed by what happened in Bergamo. I have two young children, and one day we were in the car and heard songs from a Disney movie Frozen. I was stunned by the similarity of feelings between that story and the one that was accumulating in us. That day we came home early as a strong desire to protect. But regardless of this anecdote, I began reading the history of epidemics. I was born in 1957, in the midst of Asian influence, my Spanish grandparents encountered and never spoke about it in the family. It found that epidemics from the Middle Ages to the 17th century in Europe killed 30 to 40 percent of the population, as did smallpox in England. However, these tragedies specifically developed the resilience of cities. A year ago, I wrote an article confirming a belief I had already developed: Cities will survive. Today, young people are returning to New York with the help of lower rental rates. Of course, those who would have gone out, a choice mostly made by wealthy families. And it will take longer time to return. In this sense, the most interesting phenomenon that occurs is that it is not a move to more decentralized suburbs but rather to rural areas or small towns three or four hours by train from the capital. Where you no longer have to go every day. However, the cities were not emptied.
Richard L. Florida is among the world’s foremost urban studies theorists. He teaches at the Towns School and Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto
In Europe there is talk of making the city usable in 15 minutes. In the new urban ecosystem, what do you think of this idea?
The idea that Paris Mayor Hidalgo launched and studied also cities like Barcelona and Milan make sense, because European cities are better prepared for this revolution in the way of living and working. The separations between the workplace and the commercial and residential spaces are not entirely clear, and you have no hassle commutes. And in Italy, there are many beautiful cities where business meetings are also held in the bar and under the bell tower of the mother church. You have a sense of mixed neighborhood. In America, Greenwich Village model in New York.
As urban planner Jane Jacobs said 60 years ago, it’s always a place where there are people at different times of the day. But do you really think that the remote work system will not get caught up in the traditional organization?
The facts say we went from 5 percent of remote work prior to the pandemic to 20 percent plus 20 to 30 others doing so occasionally. But these workers are not only at home. They are located with their computers in bars, in hotel lobbies, in co-working spaces, and in a friend’s house. Roughly thirty percent is the percentage of innovators in the big cities in relation to the urban fabric that unfortunately sees the gap between the super-rich and the underprivileged increasing and where the middle class is shrinking. The fact remains that a traditional office will have less importance, work goes outdoors, even nightlife becomes an opportunity for productivity.
In this labor revolution, green change in cities cannot be ignored.
The two are connected. Each pandemic has resulted in a redesign of urban spaces, and a reduction in body density. Green plays an integral role everywhere: more gardens, more street furniture, more trees in rooftops, more plants indoors. Like neighborhoods, buildings must also be mixed, and they must be a place that guarantees health and well-being. And they should be able to open windows. In transportation, we are already seeing an extraordinary acceleration in electricity which will have an important impact in combating pollution in delivery, a business activity that is now dominant in our cities. The danger is congestion in hybrid or electric cars as public transport will be the last ones to recover fully. (Read after the links)
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Before the pandemic, we saw the extraordinary mobilization of young people around the world with Fridays for the Future in the wake of Greta Thunberg’s actions. What role can new generations play in these changes?
important role. Certainly not all young people adopt sustainable behaviors, but awareness of the dangers of climate change has undoubtedly been broadened and consolidated. In the Western world, more than 80 percent of the population lives in cities. We can only strive together to achieve the eleventh United Nations goal in the 2030 Agenda, which relates to sustainable cities from an environmental, economic and social point of view. Young people should be of equal weight and dignity as administrators, the business community, commerce and the third sector. We always talk about countries affected by the epidemic, but in reality we have to talk about cities. The tragedy occurring in Delhi or Rio makes us horrified and raises troubling questions about the fate of mega-cities in developing countries.
When he wrote a book on the creative class in 2002, he linked, among other things, the dynamic of cities with the presence and contribution of LGBT people. The thesis has been widely criticized. Does this assertion of identity still make sense? Is there another “minority” that plays a decisive role today?
Then I spoke about homosexuals because they can only express themselves freely in big cities; The extraction of civil rights, social development, and customs make this consideration obsolete today. I would say that The new dividing line in terms of innovation will henceforth be between cities and countries that will have the strength not to lock in due to fear of contagion and those that will adopt restrictive measures instead. Among the latter are Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Australia, long seen as a land of opportunity, has decided to reopen the doors of regular trade no later than 2024, imposing strict quarantines even on those who have already been vaccinated. We think of migrant workers who will not only see family members in their countries until that date, but also those who want to do business. Conversely, many entrepreneurs in America move to Florida or Texas not because of a tax issue but because they are free to act solely on their sense of responsibility.
In conclusion, if you wanted to rank the cities most prepared to challenge changes after the pandemic, who would you place first?
New York is at the top, because it remains the symbol of a resilient city, able to adapt to any problem, with any trauma, and to find the key to salvation; Then I put Miami, which is attracting more and more people from the US and Europe. For some time now, it is no longer just an exotic and very conscious destination at a crossroads: it either knows how to manage climate change or it will be overwhelmed. Then Paris, for the innovative approach to managing it as a function of the new sustainable urban society. Why This will remain despite an entire century of cities. Because I will also see another site on the platform.
Amalfi Coast. Sure, not a city … but it’s not a joke. This amazing place known all over the world should not be considered a tourist destination for a few days off vacation. For me, the model of the new “informal” way to work remotely, immersed in wonderful nature but near important call centers and residents. Technology works wonders. When I talk to American or Australian managers and executives, it’s become a mantra: the Amalfi Coast, the Amalfi Coast! .-
Creative Class Theory
Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1957, Richard L Florida is one of the world’s foremost theorists of urban studies. He teaches at the Towns School and Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, as well as being a Distinguished Fellow of New York University. His most successful book, The Rise of the New Creative Class, was first released in 2002 (in Italy by Mondadori), and has received several updated versions.
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