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What is the city for you?

The city is my natural living environment, it’s where I feel comfortable, where I feel at home.

What are the main challenges that cities are facing today?

One challenge that cities are already facing is the challenge of mobility. Not so much because of the infrastructure it requires, but rather because of the space and protagonism it needs to offer urban life and other activities that take place in the public space. Industry is already responding with new urban mobility solutions that are more lightweight, silent and sustainable.

Another challenge, this time with a view to the future, could be that of how to incorporate technology and artificial intelligence into the city, into our urban space. I would like this incorporation to be done with a humanist approach, one that incorporates design right from the start.

Do you think we need to adopt a more ecosystemic vision of urban space?

Yes, I think we need this kind of vision, and I would explain it as an allegory of the human skin. It took scientists some time to discover that our skin is actually the biggest organ in the human body, tasked with managing the interaction between our bodies and the environment around us. So, I believe we should view urban space from an ecosystemic perspective, in the sense that all the skin of the city, whether that means the streets, the façades or the roofs… everything that is in contact with urban life constitutes an interactive skin, and I think it deserves our design, care and attention.

For us at Cierto Estudio, planning the city of the future means looking at something as simple as people’s daily lives. This has naturally become the focus of our eyes and our approach.

Green hubs
Green hubs

Green hubs

Barcelona, Spain

What aspects should we consider when planning the city of the future?

For us at Cierto Estudio, planning the city of the future means looking at something as simple as people’s daily lives. This has naturally become the focus of our eyes and our approach. Walking through the centre, placing people at the centre of the street. At the studio we also talk about how to “domesticate” public space. We want to transform it into something that feels closer to home, that responds on a much more human scale, a more domestic one.

Do you think Barcelona is a model city for others to follow?

Barcelona is a model to follow and has always been, but it needs to stay on the ball. It can’t take that position for granted, we need to keep setting ourselves challenges and evolving. For me, it’s an incredible city because of how its density generates life in the street, because of its accessible size and because of its Mediterraneanness.

How would you describe the street of the 21st century?

The street of the 21st century is a simpler street, with less information, less hierarchy and more democratic.

The cross-section of the street of the 21st century has different layers: the surface layer, where the action takes place, where the people are, the furniture, the cars, the bikes, everything there needs to be; and a lower layer, where the earth allows nature to grow, and also where the utilities are that the buildings and citizens connect to (electricity, water, gas, connectivity…). It is also important to bear in mind the proportionality of the cross-section of each street, as depending on the width-height relationship, different conditions of light and perspective are generated, as well as transversal relationships, or not, between opposing façades.

Domesticating the public space

How do you imagine urban life? What activities does it involve?

I think urban life will gradually incorporate all those activities we like to do outside. If it’s a space we feel comfortable in… Why not play in the street? Why not work in the shade of a tree? Why not have your lunch sitting on a bench?

And what about other more intimate activities? Breastfeeding in the street, taking care of the elderly or children being able to play without danger. I think all these activities will start to take place naturally, because the space is becoming increasingly inviting and comfortable for everyone.

So urban life as I imagine it is life that includes the simplest of elements, like play, work, eating, resting… In other words everything we do in a space and a place we find appealing, relaxed, safe and where we feel good.

What functions should elements in urban space fulfil today and in the future?

The elements in urban space have the chance to fulfil new functions as society develops. The functions, essentially, are the same as always, but as technology advances, the elements of urban space do too. For example, why can’t we move the furniture, as we can at home? It would be very interesting if urban elements were able to interrelate with one another. They are there to provide wellbeing, comfort and simplicity to urban life.

What does quality of life in urban space mean for you?

For me, quality of life in urban space has to do with that activity, that density that generates life and, in a way, urban life, not only as a connection of the things we do between one place and another, but also as a place where things happen.
The wellbeing that space produces really matters. It is the space that connects us. I would like it to make life easy, comfortable for us; not just serving as a passing place, but also as an eventful place.

Urban life as I imagine it is life that includes the simplest of elements, like play, work, eating, resting… In other words everything we do in a space and a place we find appealing, relaxed, safe and where we feel good.

Lucía Millet

Architect and co-founder of Cierto Estudio
Lucía Millet