15 minute fence
In this writing I will give you my polemical and unsolicited point of view on the topic of "15-minute cities" that has been raging lately in my professional bubble and on the Internet. This analysis must be related on the one hand to the theoretical approach advocated by Polemicarc on the subject of "sustainability" - to take it very broadly - and on the other to the political controversy between the critics (or those who impersonate this role) of the System, in which I am personally involved in in my spare time.

 To summarize the whole question, what is the "15-minute city"? And what is the problem?
Personally, I am of the opinion that the question is subtly semantic, as we will see, and has enormous implications.
Let's proceed in good order, dividing everything into the usual clickable and expandable paragraphs (or not!) to make reading easier!

What is the opinion of supporters of the "15 minute city" concept?

As a typical example of enthusiasm for this "political program" we include the friendly and prolific British foundation Create Streets, created and led by the dynamic and determined Nicholas Boys Smith, who we already met last summer at the Summer School of Traditional Architecture in Bruges.

According to this manifesto, the name "15-minute city" is nothing more than one of the many names we give to traditional urban planning to make it more popular, captivating and accessible to the mass public. After all, it concerns only a criticism of the city of the Modern Movement: it is about creating places on a human scale, which promote a simple beauty, based on diversity of functions, varied social composition, presence of natural infrastructures, mobility and low impact services... in short, the city that we all would like, the type of traditional urban planning that we also have in Italy, a country dotted with small towns, fabulous buildings and ingenious urban devices developed by our architects over the centuries and which rightfully find their place in architectural manuals and in the mass iconography of our country and abroad.
This is also the philosophy of Create Streets and our Nicholas, who is truly an ace, I mean it, visit the site: the type of urban planning and the philosophy that this foundation develops is strongly complementary to the Polemic position on many issues. I'm certainly not here to criticize their work, which I certainly applaud. But.
How to design appreciable places
Some basic ingredients

The idea that everything can be reached on foot or by bicycle within a radius of just 15 minutes is certainly seductive and evokes that ancient flavor of the village, neighborhood taverns and bars, walks through the streets and pigeons pecking bread at the foot of the benches . What could possibly be insidious in this concept of community which for millennia around the world has given shape and drawn life from the definition of the urban fabric in neighborhoods of character where it is pleasant to live? We would all like a pleasant, healthy urban environment that provides the necessary support of essential services and leisure for all ages and social groups. And we would like all this to be at hand reach, of course.
Just the thought that this could be a Trojan horse for the usual globalist threats to the freedom of peoples is therefore clearly a conspiracy theory of the far right (or of the communists as the case may be). Let us therefore proceed decisively according to the guidelines of the Agenda 2030 on energy, sustainability, mobility, food security, healthcare, education... and so on towards a bright, resilient and sustainable future.

Unfortunately, things are more complex and genuine enthusiasm could lead to underestimating the possibility of exploitation for purposes other than those envisaged (and over here we have already discussed the risks inherent in idyllic visions) exposing the flank so that the flight is hijacked by a commando who snuck on board and takes the flight to a different destination than the one the passengers imagined.
Let's start with a consideration instead. Naming the "15-minute city" means implying the concepts of traditional urban planning. Right? So... what need is there to name those concepts with a different and, moreover, English-speaking name? (Ok if you are English speaker you wouldn't even notice that, but with us they even change language to name something we can name in our own language!).

Have the peoples of the Earth created human-scale cities for thousands of years according to the dictates of the "15-minute city"? Of course not, and so what does this semantic shift which is a real rebranding entail?
The addition of new concepts which, once incorporated into the perception of "sustainable city", will be accepted by the population and will become part of urban and territorial policies.
These concepts that attract our attention are those relating to the smart city, which constitute the genetic modification of good urban planning and urban living.
Still not convinced? Ok, let's put it this way: what would the reason be to say that "trans women are women"? Yes, because they are men.
So what would the reason be to say that "15-minutes city is traditional urbanism"?
A friend pointed me to this article. Although entirely different in tone from Nicholas's gentle enthusiasm, we note that in the end they both converge on the theme of "it's all a conspiracy, there is no conspiracy." There isn't much to say about this: experience shows that when the mainstream begins to brand something as a conspiracy it's because someone has sniffed the right trail, so it's better to discredit them with names like "right-wing extremists" (or...hummm... left wing extremists), "flat earthers", "fascists" (or...hummm...communists?)...yes, all at the same time.
Leaving aside the amusing but worrying comedy of the absurd in which the critics of the "15-minute city" are branded as "fascists" while they themselves cry at the "socialist" intrigue, certainly the last three years have completely squandered in an ever-increasing amount the trust in institutions among people; therefore there is no wonder if there's an allergic reaction to yet another idyllic vision dropped from above and morally mandatory to adhere to.

Smart or 15-minute?

Have you noticed that the "smart city" has lately taken a lot of back seat as a media definition? The reason for this lies in the progressive absorption and systematization by green marketing of the various items of the 2030 Agenda. "15-minute city" is a much more friendly and "green" denomination, which reassures and instills hope.
"Smart city" is the implementation of a digital layer to the urban fabric. Repeatedly and obnoxiously implying a digital administration governance and digital interaction of the citizen in the urban environment (and even domestic, if we consider domotic home automation as an extension of this concept), can generate unorthodox interpretations in some people vulnerable to excessive and dangerous use of their brain, non-compliant ones, even dangerous conspiracy theorists; for example identifying the possibility of mass digital surveillance in the panopticon city. Because at this point, one wonders what it means, even legally, to be a "citizen", but that's another matter...
I remember once, while chatting with a friend who was a so-called expert in international relations (with China!!), I heard her saying that yes, China uses questionable means of social control, but we in the West are democratic and we don't do these things, so I could relax. Me: stunned. It was 2018, I think.
Well, in China the situation is more or less like this, I don't think anyone can argue on it:
And we in the West certainly don't do these things, we are democrats! Therefore we develop smart cities because we are sustainable and we link them all globally and achieve the goals of Agenda 2030, which is different from what the Chinese do because we are democratic.
Note: I always have to say this: the constant reference to "communism" behind these policies is ridiculous! Of course, the Bolshevik Gates and the Trotskyist Schwab. And no, the Chinese are not communists but state capitalists. The gloss is valid wherever this useless and harmful anti-communist Pavlovian reflex is present: it stops you from thinking correctly, and communists are so weak they lose all their time discussing with each other. You can have fun in finding several of these cases right in the materials included in this post!
Explained like this, it's a horrifying story, even an averagely distracted person could reach conclusions that are unfortunately dangerous for the stability of the System. It is therefore necessary to present everything in another way... how about this? Aaah, what a fairytale world!
After all, the World Economic Forum reassures us that they will use our data "responsibly and sustainably", so what are we worried about? These are the ones who love us and think about our health and our pockets, as we see from "green" policies and COVID management for example.
You may be wondering what the "smart city" has to do with the "15-minute city"? That they are two different things; that no, this thing about the Chinese and control is paranoia motivated by the rejection for traffic restricted areas, and that those poor people at the WEF have nothing to do with it: they stay there holding conferences, having aperitives, and the fact that their Agenda 2030 has defined both the COVID policies and the green ones are a pure coincidence.
And in any case the Agenda doesn't exist and, if it did existed, the WEF would have nothing to do with it, after all the smart city has nothing to do with COVID or green policies...right?
Here we are, at THE nexus:

smart city ⇔ COVID management green policies

Not the triangle! I hadn't considered that! (*)
(* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ej9__NTLgAc)


Panopticon City

How do we manage these three vertices of the triangle, i.e. how do we implement and control them in unison? With a concept that contains them all. Guess what? "15-minute city".
Let's think about the characteristics of the 15 minute city, and see if this "smartcityzation" is not dangerously complementary to a certain modus operandi...
Of course, no one has ever tried to make the "15-minute city" a Trojan horse to establish a reduced autonomy of movement for citizens! What is this conspiracy theory!? Meanwhile, in Great Britain...
So we have e-gates (gates here, Gates there...) that regulate access to six districts into which the city is divided, which would be the neighborhood within the famous 15 minute radius. Regulated, registered, monitored access. To which perhaps you can add biometric data as you go. What about a COVID Pass?
We can embellish the idea as much as we like, add the little trees, the cycle paths, the little squares with old people playing cards at the table etc. but doesn't it remind you of the management that the Chinese have put in place with COVID?
After all, who needs to move when owning and maintaining a private car will soon cost an eye?? If the social credits or the CO2 quota are exhausted, or if - God forbid! - the "next pandemic" arrives, we will have our 15 minute perimeter in which to remain. Just like in Wuhan... the Smart City! The cases of life, in a 2012 article.

Yes, because unfortunately it is not a triangle, but a six-dimensional hypercube of konspiracies interweaved to each other, like digital identity and carbon credits.
But this certainly won't happen! In fact, in the era in which everything that is possible to do is done without any inhibitory brake, this will not happen because...we are democratic and have the values ​​of the West that make us "a garden" outside of which lies "the jungle" . Therefore, identifying this risk and raising defensive barriers is a (right or left, or whatever) extremist and denialist conspiracy theory: if you want decent urban planning then you have to want the "15-minute city", otherwise you are a retrograde reactionary. Whole package or nothing.
heartI take this opportunity to greet Eva Vlaardingerbroek, hello Evy, ciao, you're very good, but you could have avoided the part about the communishts, you too know that they are liberals.
With unchanged respect, ciao, ciaoheart

What is the polemical synthesis in the end? That as usual, Architecture is Politics. This means that if we want traditional urban planning, let's talk about... traditional urban planning. If we want surveillance technologies, let's talk about surveillance. We call things by their name and meaning, conscientiously resisting the engineering of language that alters our perception of our surroundings and our own thoughts.
You realize for yourself how easy it is to change the genetic code of a beneficial seed to make it evil and poisoned, if you don't specifically defend yourself from these threats: when have human scaled cities ever needed digital technology to function well!?
Indeed, we reject the biotechnological control of the declining late financial liberalism, which tries to cling to power by intensifying its grip with these psychopathic delusions of control. But while it intentionally causes economic crises, it gets its ass kicked in Ukraine while squandering our money, and condemns Europe to the catastrophe. In all of this the élites will have to find someone to pay the costs of this situation. Even the rich cry, poor things. For the rest we talk about good architecture, urban planning, tradition, natural materials, quality and solidity, human spaces and dimensions, timeless architecture within a context of social cohesion and individual freedom - perhaps promoted by a Republic that is friendly to the people, therefore ecological without the need for changes to the Constitution. In a word, let's talk about Sustainability, the real one, not that of the Greta-people. And that's what we stand for!
Yes, because the "Greta-sustainability" is just a financial scheme of carbon quotas to drain money from the real economy. Small review taken from an old post: (Green New Fear):

Nice view, right? It's up to us whether to live at a human scale or under surveillance!
The normal reader will be satisfied by reaching this point. For the particularly polemical reader, however, there is an extra paragraph here...

Polemical Notes

Do you think people will understand all this? Will we unite in democratic formations and, by participating in the political struggle, be able to reverse the trend? I don't believe this.
Cities will become a controlled environment and the majority will passively accept, applauding the "15-minute city" aka "smart city" aka China but NATO version. For the countryside, however, another discussion applies which we will not address today. What I want to consider is that those who wish to maintain a minimum margin of life autonomy should take note of this, and act accordingly.
Here we enter the Twatter's Great Debate: to reacquire traditional customs and skills that can help us deal with the repercussions of the imposition of a scenario such as we described in the discussion so far, the Via Del Bosco (VDB - The Way Of The Woods, inspired by S.Junger) is therefore proposed.

This approach is not free from critics, among whom we have our favorite group of socialists who deride the idea of ​​creating new types of relationships between citizens that already emerged at the time of the famous lockdowns.

They maintain that it is in the cities that political action takes place, and that is where we need to stay and preside with a resistant political force soon to be created (?) which - judging from what they write in the Twatter - should not even promote strikes (!) but simply spread criticism of the System. All this while those who have the possibility of improvising a minimally more structured organization are accused of being "privileged, grandma's house owners". Socialists. All true, did you click on the links? Whatever, it's all in Italian anyway!

So in the end, is it better for us to do nothing in order to do something, as they would like?
The conclusions are up to you ladies and gentlemen. Will it be a good choice for us and our quality of life to carry out everyday life in a smart, 15-minutes city? Will we be able to stop this eventuality and "settle" for traditional, sustainable and quality urban planning? Or should we try to equip ourselves in other ways and for a long period of time, getting out of a hostile environment?
Posted: 14/06/2023 11:37 — Author(s): Polemicarc


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