Design and the city

Design and the city

How should cities evolve to respond to today’s urban challenges? What is the role of design in ensuring that the essence of cities is maintained, offering both communication and mobility? These questions and many others were discussed at the first meeting of citizen participation in Àgora València to discuss design and city, as a preview of the “World Design Policy Conference” that will bring together in València the main actors in decision-making on design policies and will be held on November 3 and 4 at the Palacio de Congresos.

Participating in this meeting were Silvana Andrés, graduate in Fine Arts and founder of Arquilecturas; David Estal, architect and advisor to the City Council of Valencia; Marta Serrano, managing director of the EMT València; Juan Salvador, graphic designer and curator of the exhibition “Urban Graphics of Valencia. A project of Letras Recuperadas de Juan Nava”.

From the design of cities for children, to the importance of mobility, the withdrawal of private vehicles, visual cleanliness or respect for the graphic heritage, through the solutions provided by the design in all areas have been the topics discussed at the meeting. A debate open to the participation of all and moderated by Kike Correcher, director of the Design Policy Congress.

Beyond their profile, all participants have defined themselves as activists in the city. Each one contributed their point of view to the questions posed by Kike Correcher, such as the aspects that make the city less pleasant, possible solutions or examples of other cities.

Transforming the city

For Silvana Andrés, co-director of Arquitecturas and a graduate in Fine Arts, “a city prepared for children is a fantastic city for all ages. Appreciating the needs of children and providing solutions based on care should be the beginning. Often the simplest and most common sense solutions are the most appropriate. We have to build cities based on affection, care and for the little ones”, she explained.

The director of EMT Valencia, Marta Serrano, explained how administrations define solutions based on social demands. “Although the process is never as fast as we would like,” she pointed out.

In this sense, she explained how EMT Valencia is making an effort to improve safety in the bus shelters or to rename the stops to make them more recognizable. He also pointed out the importance of reducing private vehicles to improve public transport service.

“Public space is a place of encounter but also of conflict. We have improved in mobility, safety, gender equality and care. But there is still a long way to go and more vegetation, which is what makes a city really pleasant,” explained David Estal.

For Estal, the city is not only the center, but also the neighborhoods. How we design cities has a direct influence on people’s lives, on relationships between neighbors, on socialization. And the essence of the meeting places, the transit points between one place and another, is lost.

The public present was able to intervene at all times, contributing their vision of the city, highlighting the need to look at it more and to investigate its history, its streets and its buildings.

The essence of the city

In this sense, Silvana Andrés has proposed to promote that cities return to their roots: “In Valencia we like to go out in the fresh air, playing in the street, playing music and talking. What a pity that in such a short time the city has been perverted and has lost its essence”. A clear example is the loss of the commercial signs that gave the city its particular character.

The loss of graphic heritage has been the discourse of Juan Salvador, graphic designer. “We have lost part of our essence as a city by allowing third parties to remove the graphic heritage of, for example, commercial signs and we have filled the cities with visual garbage and light pollution.”

“It is not only the historic that is the hallmark of the city. What we, the citizens of a place, are capable of doing is the identity of the city. The Turia Garden, for example, is so consolidated that it is the identity of Valencia. One makes it one’s own with use, creation leads to identity. A design is a translation of personality. Urban planning must be able to enhance the personality of its inhabitants,” said David Estal.

Working from co-design, citizen participation, knowledge of the technicians in charge and general lines that continue to promote a calm urban transformation at the service of people are some of the conclusions of this day on design and city.

The meeting closed with an anecdote recalled by the designer Juan Salvador, who left a slogan for the city: he told how Jordi de Lama, the well-known Valencian publicist, was looking for a slogan for the presence of the Valencian Community in the 1992 Seville Expo. Taking as a starting point the pensat i fet, so typical of the Valencians, he added a word to it: ben pensat i ben fet. A guide to continue designing the city.