Cities are proof of all of the ups and downs of our history, a kind of complex blackboard on which our behavior, thoughts, beliefs, etc. leave an indelible mark. In the majority of cases terrain has been our ally; it has offered us the support based on which we have built the complex jungles of our metropolises. Perhaps that is precisely why mankind erroneously understood that this is no more than a homogeneous cloak upon which to do what it will. It is sad to see how the outlines of terrain are broken, cleared, and polished until they disappear entirely to place structures of proportions and types that have little to do with the place. Those disproportionate structures, scars of the capitalist world, in turn form housing developments. The place where they are built does not matter, as their architecture does not correspond to the scenery, the sound or the silence of the area, the sun, only to the development guidelines and occupancy coded in square meters and a handful of euros. The result is that of a housing development similar to any other place connected to all the others with an immense system of roads. Thus, cities grow based on huge stains of oil spread throughout a territory that it would appear has nothing to say.
In this interminable extension, cars have dictated how cities grow. We live far from where we work, we commute to large malls located in the middle of nowhere, but that just so happen to be perfectly connected by highway, we drive miles and miles to be able to breathe a bit of fresh air… Nothing seems to be within walking distance. Our metropolises are no longer centers with a periphery, but rather sprawling structures in which the limits of contiguous cities blend together into indistinct suburbs. There are hardly any territories that dictate how to live, as they have been silenced under miles of asphalt.
This world that boosts global consumerism, the same one that invites us to go to those shopping malls and live in gated developments far from “any danger” endorses unsustainable cities. Monocentric and sprawling cities that do not protect the resources around them, that are not inclusive because public spaces have been replaced by parking lots or narrow, completely shadeless sidewalks. In these cities no one knows anyone else, neighborliness seems to be a relic of the past, there is no urban structure incorporating and optimizing the proximity of the individuals living in it. There is no dynamic human community forged by diversity.
Not even historic centers, where there is more diversity, seem to survive the present transformation. Their patina based on coexistence, history, and children’ playing has been killed by stoning; in its place we can only seem to find similar consumer experiences. In Lisbon, Rotterdam, Rome, and Málaga we can walk down the streets that bring us to the next ZARA or STARBUCKS while finding interminable swathes of tables and chairs accompanied by formidable white umbrellas advertising the beer most sold at the bar, the same beer that the tourist, camera in hand, utilizes in an attempt to satiate their thirst after walking for hours on a predetermined path. The aromas of homemade food are no more, no longer are the warnings of mothers amplified across building courtyards for the children to come home to dinner, there are no facades turned into imaginary soccer stadium goals. In their stead, “city” streets are full of homes refurbished with a bit of paint, walls of drywall, and removable joints, which in the majority of cases will be empty until their owner (a millionaire, as prices after gentrification are prohibitive for the people who watched the neighborhood grow) returns for a short vacation.
It is therefore not difficult to understand the change in sensitivity occurring in modern society. Precisely because of the process of unsustainable development seen in recent years, citizens have begun to value aspects that seem to have been lost, those relating to what was mentioned above: the terrain, its ability to show us the kindest structures in the world in which we grow, its footprints, its nature-linked language, the sky, spaces where you can recognize the landscape surrounding you. This return to tradition demonstrates the merits of interventions like that of Peter Lazt. His Landscape Park Duisburg Nord is a kind of manifesto in favor of urban ecology. The job began with a large public space on the grounds of an abandoned factory. The architect’s response was none other than to leave the terrain alone, to not intervene, but rather to create a park full of life; to give nature the space to grow purely, allowing the various species to colonize what was there. The result was a kind of 18th century romantic ruin, imbued with terrain.
Values have changed and with them there is a cry to move toward the collective. After the enormous housing crisis, concern for others, situations of poverty, and economic reinvention based on recycling what has already been built has led to the reappearance of certain lost values, those that relate to the environment, but also to the community and quality public space; there where the multitudes originate and are formed, where the town square is the primary unit of identification for people who live in the city, the perfect place to coexist with your neighbors while projecting a movie on the facade left behind by that boundless growth of the past. Considering that need to commit to a return to the basics, our cities must prioritize urban voids. I’m not referring to voids as unbuilt spaces, but rather to the void of public space, the place able to be a town square and also an ephemeral market at the same time; space that is able to become the perfect spot for children to kick a ball around or play hide and seek with the help of an open hall. Quality voids highlight the sound of the streets, the murmur of passers-by; they do not subdue the terrain, but rather become part of it; they help existing outlines to come to fruition to make us more sensitive to the places we walk through. For this, our cities must be full of people who make up the neighborhood, be fair and not sell out, commit to quality without falling into the trap of million-euro interventions that cause the people who are truly part of the city to flee.
Our cities must allow us once again invite us to take a stroll; they must be different, multi-purpose, and diverse, have efficient public transport, and search for beauty. Our cities must invite us to walk them, be compact; they must push us to reclaim the pedestrian’s scale and space, make us feel like we belong, be the perfect space to foster meeting up, contact, make us imagine, let us feel the rural environment, protect it, and also–why not–reverse course in certain areas so as to include gardens in spaces that we thought would be built out forever.
Our cities must offer rich everyday routines.
 The values set forth by Richard Rogers as indicators of a sustainable city include it being just, beautiful, creative, ecological, favoring contact, compact, poly-centric, and diverse. Rogers, R. (2000)“Ciudades para un pequeño planeta” [Cities for a Small Planet]. Barcelona: Gustavo Gili  A theory that, according to Carlos García Vázquez, is related to the biodiversity and jumble of the “third landscape” posed by Gilles Cléments. See García, C. (2017) Fenómenos urbanos emergentes. La reinvención de la ciudad europea tras la crisis de 2008 [Emerging Urban Phenomena. The Reinvention of the European City after the 2008 Crisis]. (Online) (Date consulted September 10, 2018). Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8SFPG0-fM0