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  • Michael Mehaffy

Less than one month to go to the 58th IMCL conference in PARIS!

Join us as we share tools and strategies to build "15-minute cities" (and suburbs) for ALL

The fascinating and impressive 15-minute suburb of Le Plessis-Robinson, our partner and host, whose planners and officials will share detailed lessons and case studies of "how to do it"

LE PLESSIS-ROBINSON, FRANCE - In less than one month, this suburb of Paris will host one of the most timely international conferences on cities to resume after the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. Cities and their suburbs face a range of growing challenges, including climate resiliency, affordability, health issues, equitable economic opportunities, ecological and sustainable development, and urban quality of life.

Famous for its transformation from a former dormitory suburb to a walkable, mixed-use town, Le Plessis-Robinson offers many case-study lessons on these and other issues. Among its many innovations are numerous ecological features, affordable and mixed-income housing, and beautiful new parks and public spaces adorned with flowers, plants, and public art. What was once a grim “dormitory banlieue” is now a thriving, diverse, walkable town.

The city’s many lessons have lured the Lennard Institute for Livable Cities, host of the International Making Cities Livable (IMCL) conference series, to locate its 58th conference in this laboratory of suburban livability. Michael Mehaffy, Executive Director of the Lennard Institute, says that the conferences are more than talk – they are opportunities to share effective new tools and strategies. “It’s important to gather and share the concrete lessons of what has been so successful in transforming this and other suburbs, where such a high percentage of the population now lives,” he says. “And not just suburbs, but big city cores and smaller towns too, can share these lessons, and learn from each other here.”

The conference will gather many international experts in urban innovations, including Carlos Moreno, developer of the “15-minute city” plan for the City of Paris. The concept has caught on globally, in part because it offers a humane vision for livable cities. “For too long,” says Moreno, “those of us who live in cities big and small have accepted the unacceptable,” cities that are dysfunctional and lacking in human scale. “Why is it we who have to adapt and to degrade our potential quality of life?” he asks. He proposes a new model, one “that goes in the opposite direction to modern urbanism, and attempt at converting life into a human sized space.” That, in a nutshell, is his model of the 15-minute city.

In many ways, the model echoes the New Urban Agenda, the international framework agreement that was adopted by acclamation by all 193 countries of the United Nations in 2016. Laura Petrella, Chief of Planning, Finance and Economy for UN-Habitat, will also join the conference, and discuss new tools and strategies to implement this sweeping new agreement on cities. "The New Urban Agenda is a consensus on a quite advanced and progressive agenda for human settlement," she says. And conferences like the IMCL, bringing researchers together with officials and practitioners, will play a key role in achieving its goals, she thinks. "The relationship between research and practice, I think is one of the most important in implementation."

The conference will also feature top researchers in public space and city quality of life, including Setha Low, Professor of Anthropology and Environmental Psychology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York; Rachelle Alterman, Professor of Urban Planning and Law, and Research Fellow at the Neaman Institute for National Policy Research, Haifa, IL.; David Brain, Professor of Sociology at New College of Florida; and Sergio Porta, Director of the Urban Design Studies Unit at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK.

Many other leading urban reformers will also participate, including leading representatives of the “placemaking” movement; associates of the late architect Christopher Alexander, whose work will be celebrated and discussed; and leaders from the Prince’s Foundation in London, who are associated with other leading walkable mixed-use developments around the UK and Europe.

Proposals for new tall buildings in the Paris area will also be discussed and debated, and the conference will include the launch of a collection of essays on the topic, in the form of a new book titled Paris Without Skyscrapers. The collection of essays is just now being published by the International Coalition for the Preservation of Paris. The life of its late founder, Mary Campbell Gallagher, will also be celebrated.

Leading mayors, former mayors and senior planners will also join the conference, including George Ferguson, first elected mayor of Bristol, UK, and Past President of the Royal Institute of British Architects; Rui Moreira, Mayor of Porto, Portugal; and of course, the current and former mayors of Le Plessis-Robinson, together with architects and planners for the city, who will provide an account of how they accomplished that city’s remarkable transformation.

Experts in the economic and finance aspects of livable urban transformations will also participate, including Christopher Leinberger, Professor Emeritus at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.; Yves Bovero, Paris economist who has worked with the City of Le Plessis-Robinson; and James Brainard, Mayor of Carmel, Indiana – another impressive showcase of livability – and Henry Mestetsky, Economic Development Director for that city.

Partners in the conference include the City of Le Plessis-Robinson; the France and Sweden chapters of the International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture and Urbanism (INTBAU); the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU); and the Council for European Urbanism (CEU).

The IMCL was founded in 1985 by Henry L. Lennard, Ph.D., Professor of Medical Sociology and Social Psychology at the University of California Medical Center, San Francisco, and Suzanne H. Crowhurst Lennard, Ph.D.(Arch.), Professor of Social Aspects of Architecture and Urban Design, University of California, Berkeley. Since their founding, the conferences have been held annually in Europe and the United States.

More information and links to registration are here. We hope to see you in Paris!



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