No society, no culture, no civilization can live without the consciousness of its history. The roots of our life, and of our capacity to be active and responsible members of mankind, are in our history: they are in the history of our civilization, of our country, of our City and our family. Without our roots we become as sterile as uprooted trees.
And no society, no culture, no civilization can progress unless it cares for its posterity: for men and women, for coming generations, for the civilizations that will appear in our universe after us, and will live, utilize and enjoy it as we will have left it.
Therefore I think that we must consider, first of all, the livable City as a link between the past and the future: the livable City respects the imprint of history (our roots), and respects those who are not born yet (our posterity).
A livable City is a City that preserves the signs (the sites, the buildings, the layouts) of history. It preserves the historical centers and the castles, the cathedrals and the palaces of the lords and of the City powers, surely. But it also preserves and restores the common houses lived in by common people (what we call “edilizia minore” or “edilizia di base”), which can testify to a rich and wise culture of living and building, and the traces of the historic design of the city, the narrow streets and the neighborhoods square, the traditional relationship between the house and private open space, and private space and community space and public space, and indoors and outdoors.
A livable City is also a City that fights against any waste of the natural resources and that we must leave intact for the humankind, id est for our posterity. In the livable City all the care of planners and designers, all the care of technicians and administrators - and first of all the care of citizens - is applied to use the minimum resources of earth and water and energy: resources that, as now we know, are limited and cannot be reconstituted. Therefore a livable City it also a “sustainable city”: a City that satisfies the needs of the present inhabitants without reducing the capacity of the future generation to satisfy their needs.
History tells us that in a City social and physical elements are strictly tied together. As the home is the expression and the instrument of family life, in the same way, the City is the expression of social life, and the tool for well being and progress of the community.
It is not possible to separate, in the city, social elements and physical elements: it is only possible to distinguish them.
In the livable City both social and physical elements must collaborate for the well being and the progress of the community, and of the individual persons as members of the community.
1. A livable City has no boundaries: it is open to the whole world, and it has no ghettos nor segregated areas.
The City was born, in the history of our civilization, as the site where people became free and equal. The City was transformed as the site where social and economic differences, as well as ethnic and religious ones, created barriers and confined and constituted sharply defined ghettos. In the livable City policies for public services and those for house rent must collaborate with town planning in order to abolish the constraint of boundaries and the disease of segregation.
2. A livable City is marked by the complexity of its functions and by the richness of the interpersonal exchanges it fosters.
The City is traditionally the site of exchanges and of the larger scores of opportunities. The historical centers (where they have not been reduced in tourist Disneylands) tell us how livable is the City where the different functions live together: inhabiting, working, shopping, meeting, recreation, health care. With the rigid application of functional zoning modern town planning menaces to destroy the complexity of the city, and to implement more and more traffic.
3. A livable City is a City where the town planners are able to manage the complexity and the dynamics so that it does not degenerate into congestion and anxiety.
If they are not carefully managed, complexity of functions and dynamics of life can transform the richness of exchanges in to chaos. Congestion of traffic and anxiety in individual lives are more and more characteristics of urban life, exspecially in the bigger cities. Only a wise policy of town planning can enable the public administrators to manage urban development to increase the livability of the city.
4. A livable City has a good relationship with its site and with the environment.
The City is part of the balance between nature and history, between the action and culture of man, and the forces and rhythms of nature. The design of the City (in new developments as well as in restoration of the ancient settlements) must demonstrate the respect and place value on the characteristics of sites and care for the environment.
5. A livable City is the home of the community.
In its golden ages the identity of the City is strictly tied to the prevalence of the interests of the whole community over the interests of groups and individuals. A livable City is not merely an agglomeration of houses: in its organization, as well as in its stones and spaces it must show its reality as home of a community.
6. A livable City is a City where common spaces are the centers of social life and the foci of the entire community.
We will see better tomorrow this point. Today I will only say that a livable City must be built up, or restored, as a continuous network - from the central areas up to the more distant settlements -- where pedestrian paths and bicycle-paths bind together all the sites of social quality and of the community life.
7. And finally, a livable City is not built for the appearance and the glory of architects and City managers, but for the well-being of the citizens.
Town design and town planning are not the result of the imagination and the work of one person (a Genius or a Hero), but the result of a dialectic and the produce of group work, where the different competencies and the different responsibilities (those of the Technicians, the Administrators, the Politicians) systematically collaborate. Only in that way the City can really be, as in its golden ages, the home of the community.