Jose Daniel Perogordo , pp. 121. TKS/Fysisk planering, 2008.
This master’s thesis was aimed at researching the possibilities of a project for building a metropolis out of a former industrial region in southern Poland. The idea was to study the development strategies and plan, and the spatial status of the agglomeration region in Upper Silesia, to measure it against a framework of polycentric development model. What I could argue is the innovative element in the study was the incorporation in the framework of both polycentric principles and ‘livability’ principles. Livability is understood as the spatial and social characteristics that generate quality of life in the inhabitants.
The purpose of adding livability to the planning stages of a project of this kind was to make quality of life a priority and a goal of the development, and not only a by-product, as it usually is. We are aware that commonly, economic development is pursued first in most given projects, specially in the countries of Eastern Europe, and lately environmental sustainability is the objective of the projects in Western Europe. The proposal of my thesis is to take an integral approach to planning and to put the balanced development of the person at the center of the urban and metropolitan planning. To achieve this, a combination of livability principles taken from the experience of some of the best cities to live in the world, and of polycentricity models as understood by the European Union institutions and documents was created. Measuring existing development plans like those of Upper Silesia, (and any other cases for that matter), with a certain degree of attention to the context (historical, social, political, economical, natural), the areas that are lacking importance in the spatial planning can be identified, and recommendations can be done to improve the livability of any metropolitan or combined region. Above all, a balanced development should be pursued to enhance quality of life and the attractiveness of the region, which in the long run translates into growth and welfare for the people.
This particular study yielded interesting results to the case of Upper Silesia and their projected building of their metropolis, finding areas that were not considered before, and that could improve the livability of the city. Based on these results, two urban design proposals were put forward, addressing similar but individual issues: the building of Meeting Places Networks within city centres, and the establishing of Green Path Networks across the region. Both proposals complement each other to generate a better space and alternative uses for the inhabitants of the metropolis. The Meeting Place Network is based on a regeneration of the public realm to make the city navigable once more for the person on foot, rather than by motor vehicles. It doesn’t contemplate the erradication of vehicle traffic in the cities, but a better relationship between it and the public space. The network is designed between certain areas that are important for people gathering and exchanging experiences and information without recurring to the isolation of the automobile. By fostering these meeting places and linking them, it is believed that the city can reach a renewed level of livability for the inhabitants and also a new attractiveness for tourism and leisure activities. The city stops being fragmented spaces partitioned by street borders, or isolated building interiors, and becomes a whole navigable space for people walking or cycling, for popular culture, entertainment and personal exchange. The Green Paths further enhance this network by serving as walking, cycling and green area links between city cores and parks, serving as truly viable alternatives to private and public transport and an attractive mode of transport of the livable city.
It if my belief that the thesis expresses clearly enough my interest in the enhancing of livability in both post-modern, post-industrial and emerging cities of all sizes. By returning the human being as the scale and center of the planning, and by integrating the necessary technological developments of the new society, a new level of livability can be achieved, where people truly live the city while keeping globally connected.
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