Christmas Editorial

Before turning the page, let’s re-read 2020 carefully!

When we urban planners, especially in strategic planning contexts, emphasize the unpredictability of events, we refer to situations such as those that 2020 brought us with COVID19. However, I do not want to talk to you about this topic, I think too many words have been spent, when perhaps, in the face of certain situations, the silence of reflection is worth more. I think for the moment, it is more important trying to understand what needs to be changed, now, to prevent these situations from happening, repeating more frequently in the years to come.

We, who deal with the city, with how to organize its administration, design its spaces, imagine its services and so on, must be aware of the fact that cities are the great defeats of this 2020. The model of the contemporary city has shown everyone their flaws. The city has been laid bare. The limits and risks of urbanization have become evident. The urbanization of many areas of the planet means only informality, peripheralization, exploitation for many people and growth in disparities.

The enthusiasm of the many who invest in themselves and their wealth to find redemption, a different life in the city, is often disappointed. They leave the countryside to usually end up having to manage a life of hardship and live in situations of informal transition, in a limbo that is neither hell nor heaven: permanent transition areas where the hardest challenges to face are generated, and which we are often unable to face; but where a disease, for which we have not yet started studying the vaccine, is evident: the disparity.

Inequality has an enormous creative and generating force: ethnic conflicts, infectious diseases, terrorism, impacts on the climate, energy insecurity, food and water scarcity, migration flows are consequences of an inequitable model of planetary development that is still far from creating resilient and sustainable models.

Where to place our contribution as urban planners?

Obviously, there is no single answer. From the Urbasofia laboratory we observe the change in our profession. A change that holds two apparent contradictions together, but which instead are strongly linked and generate synergy:

• A renewed attention to the physicality of the territory (Green Deal, Nature Based Solutions, Cultural Heritage Valorization, Place making…).

• A strong need to work at a high and intangible level of coordination and integration of the values ​​structuring territorial governance (just transitions of territorial policies, requirements to promote and manage multi-actor decision-making processes, rethinking the mechanisms of urban and territorial governance in a multi-scalar way …).

On the one hand, we talk about a strong materialization of our discipline, on the other  a strong call to return to thinking about the principles of planning, the frameworks that structure decision-making relationships at the basis of sustainable and coherent development.

I take the opportunity of this year-end newsletter to thank all the people and institutions, more and more, who have chosen to work together with Urbasofia, who have placed their trust in our ideas and our services. Finally, a big hug to all the Urbasofia team, to the seniors, now international professionals, and to the newcomers. I have not met in person many of the new researchers and planners hired this year in the team, due to the pandemic; to them, with whom I have interacted only through the computer screen, I want to say that I hope to meet them in person soon and to be protagonists, together, in many new projects.

Many happy holidays to all readers of our newsletter and Urbasofia followers in Romania and the rest of the world!

Pietro Elisei

Urbasofia Director

December 2020

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