How to make our cities liveable, competitive and resilient? This was one of the questions that the radio show ‘The Urbanist’ tried to find answers to on the 23rd of February, during the session entitled ‘Rethinking the city’. One surprising answer came from Martin Barry, founder of reSite, an organisation based in Prague. From his perspective, the focus is clear: we have to make the city cool and lovable by its citizens.
‘The Urbanist’ is a weekly show that has set the goal of trying to find out what makes our cities work – or fail. During the edition that took place on the 23rd of February, and together with Arne Olsson, managing director of Folkhem, Martin Barry, founder of reSITE, Elizabeth Reynolds, director of Urben and Nick Rees, architectural director of The Collective, the emphasis was on the future of the city. The scope was not to come up with a ‘to do’ list that would offer a recipe for a successful city, but to devise a learning experience process together with the invitees on how to think ‘outside the box’. Building the city with local, sustainable materials, re-imagining the underground city, all these are just some of the topics discusses during the radio show.
Feeling inspired? Listen to the whole radio session here.
Now, discussing and trying to uncover the future of our cities is not a new topic. We aim at having cities which are sustainable, creative, self-sufficient, and most importantly liveable. Liveable cities became a label cities strived to achieve and more initiatives focus on this very aspect. During the ‘Rethinking the city’ session from “The Urbanist’, Martin Barry posed an interesting alternative. Cities need to be more than liveable, they have to be ‘lovable’.
‘We want to create this environment that we love, the environment that makes your heart beat a little bit faster when you are there.’ – Martin Barry, founder reSITE
Martin Barry is a landscape architect, world known for his great involvement and passion for urban planning and urban architecture aiming at making our cities more than just liveable, competitive and resilient. What he talks about during the radio session is the complex system behind creating a city which is more than a liveable model, that goes beyond the practicalities of offering a ‘supply meet demand’ context of increased accessibility, housing or businesses. In Martin’s perspective, citizens have to be able to connect more with their surroundings, to appropriate the space and make it their own. Still, considering all the complexities of the urban living, finding out what makes citizens love their city is an ongoing process which Martin set up in Prague, through reSite.
Apart from his interest in finding out what makes a city ‘lovable’, he is also committed to providing solutions to current urban challenges that our cities are confronted with. Taking into account his background in education, business and sustainable planning, in 2011 he founded ‘reSITE’, together with Regina Loukotova and Milota Sidorova. ‘reSITE’ is a non-profit organisation, a place where experts from different backgrounds and disciplines meet in order to detect the problems, discuss and design appropriate solutions. It brings together the private and public sector to co-work in order for everyone to live in more sustainable, lovable cities.
During ‘The Urbanist’ session, moderator Andrew Tuck asked about what makes a city lovable and Martin Barry responded in a very clear, pragmatic and citizen-oriented way. He gave a particular answer, which did not centre around ‘what’ needs to be done, but more on ‘why’ this different approach is needed. Once again, we are reminded that in order to find solutions, first we need a good grasp on the problem. For Martin, that seems to be the dissatisfaction which people have with their cities, that lack of connection and identification with the surroundings. Issues such as people wanting to feel safe and close to university or work, the need for greener cities with easy ways of transit, more alternative ways to travel, all these need citizen input in order to uncover the particularities and personalities of each city.
‘They are the environment for meeting new friends and people to exchange ideas on the streets.’ – Martin Barry, founder reSITE
For Martin Barry, a liveable city takes more than making use of the buildings and public services, and that is what he is trying to change in Prague. Making it a liveable city resides in the essence of public spaces, which are to be used by everyone in their daily life and activities, which bring people together and foster sharing and creative capabilities. It remains to be seen if Prague will not only be a liveable city, but also a loveable one.
Listening to ‘The Urbanist’ session we get the idea of what are the future trajectories that mayors, academics and urban planners are committed to. Greener, sustainable and liveable modern cities with their own powerful policies and economies to tackle urban challenges seem to be the future. Yet, are these picture-perfect scenarios enough to make us love our city?
This publication was written in collaboration with Deppy Keranidou.