The seventh meeting of PLACES + SPACES organised by ULI Poland turned out to be a real journey through several cities, countries and continents. Vienna, London, Copenhagen, Gdańsk, Toronto, Shenzhen – more than 100 participants had a unique opportunity to learn about best practices in recreating urban spaces and breathing new life into them and creating sustainable and people-friendly cities.
Open, intelligent, and an optimal place to live – these are the adjectives that have been used in recent years to describe Vienna. For ten years in a row, the city has been at the top of Mercer’s Quality of Living City Ranking, and this year, Vienna was also top of the Smart City Index. During PLACES + SPACES, Maria Vassilakou, deputy mayor of Vienna (2010–2019), presented the key factors influencing such high ratings:
high availability of subsidised affordable housing (62% of the total number of dwellings, two thirds of flats in each new investment) – every year approx. EUR 600 million is earmarked for this purpose;
emphasis on the development of mix-use projects, urban quarters and entire new districts;
urban greenery (53% of the agglomeration’s area is green and the city tries to keep parks and squares no more than 300 metres apart); support for agriculture in urban areas;
development of public transport (including 14 urban railway and metro lines, as well as 29 tram lines), which provides residents with access to the nearest station or stop within a 3-minute walk;
development of cycling infrastructure (approx. 1,400 km of bike paths) and streets closed to road traffic;
reduction of harmful emissions (the city plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 35% by 2030 and 80% by 2050); and
financial and institutional support for projects initiated by local communities.
The British perspective on urban regeneration was presented by Alexandra Notay, Build to Rent Fund Director at PfP Capital, a part of Places for People – one of the largest companies operating in the residential sector in the UK. She was especially interested in proper investment planning, which helps to avoid mistakes resulting from the gentrification of districts (such as in London’s Brixton) or the creation of enclosed urban enclaves. The increase in the average life expectancy in the world (today’s average life expectancy of 72 years stands for a 36%-increase since the 1960s), the development of ubiquitous technologies, the needs of the millennial generation, and the epidemic of loneliness (according to research conducted in England, more than 9 million people in the country, i.e. 14% of the population, feel lonely) – these are the factors that make, in Alexandra Notay’s opinion, city planning crucial: not as a collection of buildings, but the space for people living in it.
Lars Funding, Chairman, Urban Rigger, spoke about a place where it is impossible to feel lonely. This is one of the most original residential concepts in Europe, designed by Bjarke Ingels, the current star of the world’s architectural scene, and dedicated in particular to cities situated on the waterfront; it involves the use of floating platforms with apartments and comfortable social facilities, including even a swimming platform, a marina or a barbecue area. The solution made of transport containers offers from 300 to even 420 sqm. of living space. It was developed in response to the needs of Copenhagen students and is now planned to be used in coastal cities such as Stockholm and Gothenburg.
Viggo Haremst, Partner & Design Director at the renowned studio Henning Larsen Architects A/S, spoke about the architect’s view on the regeneration of urban space. In his speech, he pointed out that while the concepts of “smart city” and “smart building” are interesting, when implemented without taking into account local conditions and the needs of the local community, they lose their value. So how to design? First of all – for the community, and not for the organisation. This means emphasis on the openness of buildings, taking into account coherently designed public spaces, integrating them with the environment. The most important is cooperation, because, as Viggo Haremst stressed, in a rapidly changing world, nobody has enough knowledge to face the challenge of implementing truly sustainable projects on their own.
During the discussion of PLACES + SPACES experts, Marc Lebbe, Managing Director of Liebrecht & wooD Group, talked about his experiences related to the construction of the vibrant Praga Koneser Centre in Warsaw. Nicklas Lindberg, CEO, Echo Investment S.A., presented to the participants the concept of “Destinations” (implemented by the largest Polish developer) consisting in creating places that attract people, encourage them to live in such urban space and inspire them to act; this is reflected, among others, in the “Browary Warszawskie” complex or the planned multifunctional investment at Towarowa Street in Warsaw.
The PLACES + SPACES event is supported by: Greenberg Traurig, Skanska, Colliers International, Cushman & Wakefield, Dentons, Echo Investment, Ghelamco, Globalworth, Hines and Vastint.
The discussions were followed by a networking cocktail.