Imagine that you only had one item of clothing, a long-sleeved wetsuit, which is your protection day and night. It safeguards you from the rain and is easy to wash. It’s black and so absorbs plenty of heat, which is pleasant in winter but unbearable in summer. No air gets to your skin, sweat stays inside, the fabric’s not breathable. But it’s useful for getting around, you can move freely in it. What’s more, if everyone dressed the same way, you could only tell us apart by our complexion, face and hair.
Imagine a city with tarmac and plenty of buildings, where 80% of the surface area is sealed off. It’s our habitat day and night. Ordinary rainfall is handled relatively well, but a storm causes problems. The tarmac is black and, as such, is pleasant in winter, unbearable in summer. It’s not breathable, just bounces back the heat, but helps us to travel around “comfortably.” It manages to make every city look similar, only their shapes and architectures are different.
Neoprene’s functionality is designed for specific situations. Wearing it 24 hours a day is inhuman. So why do we have cities designed with only one functionality in mind: motorised mobility. The result is that our cities are less human. A sustainable city is an environment where human beings are the benchmarks and reference points when designing different spaces. Where tree coverage has an eco-function (shade, cool, protection, colours, aromas). Where residents can open the windows of their homes and let fresh air inside. Where streets act as filters and the car is no longer a privately owned object but a service provided for the public. A sustainable city is a city that serves human beings in all their diversity.
Cities combine two spaces: empty, comprised of common areas and, to a great extent, public space; and full, occupied by buildings, architecture, the places where we live and work. It is not only the empty space that requires an overhaul, however. At building level, the full space also needs a transformation towards sustainability: more shared and common areas, lower energy consumption, greater flexibility in building usage, larger green areas in patios and atriums, health-conscious and recyclable materials, and greater capacity to light and ventilate homes naturally. Sustainable building doesn’t depend on machines to ensure day to day comfort, nor does it rely on large-scale infrastructures that require significant maintenance and energy to work. It’s an approach to building that allows places to transform over time and provide a service to people, housing an enormous range of different activities and lifestyles.