What is a 15-Minute City and why is it important?

¿Qué es una ciudad de 15 minutos y por qué es importante?

There has been a lot of discussion in the media recently about the concept of the “15-Minute City” and how it will change the future of urban design around the world. Chapman Taylor has been applying 15-Minute City principles on large-scale urban design projects for a number of years now, particularly in China. In this paper, Shanghai studio Associate Director Yichun Xu explains the increasing importance to urban design of the 15-Minute City concept and how Chapman Taylor has been applying 15-Minute City principles on masterplans in many of China’s rapidly expanding towns and cities.

Recientemente, se ha debatido mucho en los medios sobre el concepto de la “ciudad de 15 minutos” y cómo cambiará el futuro del diseño urbano en todo el mundo. Chapman Taylor ha estado aplicando los principios de la ciudad de 15 minutos en proyectos de diseño urbano a gran escala durante varios años, particularmente en China. En este documento, el director asociado del estudio de Shanghái, Yichun Xu, explica la creciente importancia para el diseño urbano de la vida en 15 minutos y cómo Chapman Taylor ha estado aplicando los principios de la ciudad de 15 minutos en planes maestros en muchos de los pueblos y ciudades en rápida expansión de China.

What are 15-Minute Cities and what benefits do they bring?

The 15-Minute City is an urban design concept which is gaining traction around the world, having become especially prominent in China in recent years. We are seeing the idea being implemented in urban planning for cities in Japan, the USA, Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands and others, and we can expect it to spread further in the coming years.

The essence of the 15-Minute City is to design an urban district so that all of the uses and amenities a person needs can be found within 15 minutes’ walk of where they live, with those functions placed intelligently so that the shorter journeys are for more regular trips.

¿Qué son las ciudades de 15 minutos y qué beneficios aportan?

La ciudad de 15 minutos es un concepto de diseño urbano que está ganando terreno en todo el mundo, habiéndose vuelto especialmente prominente en China en los últimos años. Estamos viendo que la idea se está implementando en la planificación urbana de ciudades en Japón, EE. UU., Australia, España, Francia, Países Bajos y otros, y podemos esperar que se extienda aún más en los próximos años. La esencia de la ciudad de 15 minutos es diseñar un distrito urbano para que todos los usos y comodidades que una persona necesita se puedan encontrar a 15 minutos a pie de su lugar de residencia, con esas funciones colocadas de manera inteligente para que los viajes más cortos sean para viajes más regulares.

The design of an urban district using 15-Minute City principles involves drawing a series of concentric circles radiating outwards from the city’s core, each marking 5, 10 and 15 minutes’ walking distance from that core. Within these circles, the functions are arranged appropriately, always taking account of the specific context. Within 5 minutes’ walk, the functions and amenities provide for the daily needs of residents, such as groceries, while at 15 minutes’ walking distance, there will tend to be those needs which are weekly or monthly, such as DIY stores. At 10 minutes’ distance, there is usually a park, schools, health clinics and other community assets, with the residential provision placed between here and the core.

El diseño de un distrito urbano que utiliza los principios de la ciudad de 15 minutos implica dibujar una serie de círculos concéntricos que se irradian hacia el exterior desde el centro de la ciudad, cada uno de los cuales marca 5, 10 y 15 minutos a pie desde ese centro. Dentro de estos círculos las funciones se organizan adecuadamente, siempre teniendo en cuenta el contexto específico. A 5 minutos a pie, las funciones y servicios satisfacen las necesidades diarias de los residentes, como la compra, mientras que a 15 minutos a pie, tenderá a haber aquellas necesidades semanales o mensuales, como tiendas de bricolaje. A 10 minutos de distancia, generalmente hay un parque, escuelas, clínicas de salud y otros bienes comunitarios, con la dotación residencial ubicada entre aquí y el centro.

There has been a lot of discussion in the media recently about the concept of the “15-Minute City” and how it will change the future of urban design around the world. Chapman Taylor has been applying 15-Minute City principles on large-scale urban design projects for a number of years now, particularly in China. In this paper, Shanghai studio Associate Director Yichun Xu explains the increasing importance to urban design of the 15-Minute City concept and how Chapman Taylor has been applying 15-Minute City principles on masterplans in many of China’s rapidly expanding towns and cities.

What are 15-Minute Cities and what benefits do they bring?

The 15-Minute City is an urban design concept which is gaining traction around the world, having become especially prominent in China in recent years. We are seeing the idea being implemented in urban planning for cities in Japan, the USA, Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands and others, and we can expect it to spread further in the coming years.

The essence of the 15-Minute City is to design an urban district so that all of the uses and amenities a person needs can be found within 15 minutes’ walk of where they live, with those functions placed intelligently so that the shorter trips are for more regular trips.

The design of an urban district using 15-Minute City principles involves drawing a series of concentric circles radiating outwards from the city’s core, each marking 5, 10 and 15 minutes’ walking distance from that core. Within these circles, the functions are arranged appropriately, always taking account of the specific context. Within 5 minutes’ walk, the functions and amenities provide for the daily needs of residents, such as groceries, while at 15 minutes’ walking distance, there will tend to be those needs which are weekly or monthly, such as DIY stores. At 10 minutes’ distance, there is usually a park, schools, health clinics and other community assets, with the residential provision placed between here and the core.

The concept has been popularised recently by French-Colombian Professor Carlos Moreno, whose work has led to the idea being adopted by the Mayor of Paris. His vision requires mixing as many different uses as possible in the same areas, contrary to the post-war urban planning orthodoxy, with a strong focus on multi-use spaces and buildings. However, the idea is not new – it has been around in one form or another since the New Urbanism movement of the early 1900s. Indeed, the walkable 15-Minute City was an unconscious element of the pre-car, pre-railway era, before the relentless spread of suburbia began.

A key driver for the growth of the 15-Minute City agenda is social equity – allowing more and more people to experience a higher quality of lifestyle and more convenience. The popularity of the concept is due to its benefits for wellbeing – by arranging urban districts in this way, people will no longer need to commute long distances to work or make car journeys to do the shopping or bring their children to school. This frees up time for leisure and promotes physical activity, especially walking, while reducing pollution from vehicle journeys.

To be fully realised, the 15-Minute City would ideally have a core of residential, around which the other amenities would radiate outwards according to walking distance from people’s homes. Given the large populations of cities, particularly in China (where the ratio of residential space to workplace space is 2:1), this is not feasible, so the core instead tends to be commercial, including a key piece of urban infrastructure, usually a transport-orientated development, and the residential provision is mixed with other uses in the first kilometre around that.

How has Chapman Taylor been applying the 15-Minute City concept in its urban design projects?

All large-scale urban masterplans we now create in China are influenced by the 15-Minute City idea. We have been incorporating its principles in projects for nearly four years and we feel that it dovetails very well with Chapman Taylor’s Responsible Design mission, particularly in terms of social, environmental and economic sustainability as well as wellbeing. Fundamentally, we believe that the 15-Minute City makes good sense.

On our competition-winning, 2,930-hectare masterplan for Jiaxing High-Speed Railway New City, we created two linked core areas based on the new South Jiaxing High-Speed Railway Station and a major new urban district to the south of the station, Southern New City. The nature of the masterplan provides an opportunity to provide two overlapping, but complementary, 15-Minute Cities, centred on the station and the core of the Southern New City.

Among the key provisions for Jiaxing High-Speed Railway New City are cultural, business, civic, retail, leisure, hospitality, residential, educational, industrial, logistics and R&D developments, linked by beautifully landscaped public spaces, waterways and parks. Streets will be ecologically diverse and environmentally sustainable, with vibrant interfaces between the streets and the buildings. There will also be parks and wetlands, as well as urban farms.

This was a more complex application of the 15-Minute City concept because of the need to provide two cores. We used a two kilometre radius circle for the main city centre and then placed the sub-centre core at the outer circle of that, helping to ensure that the overlap worked efficiently and did not involve function gaps or unnecessary replication. The design intelligently maximises the city’s value and provides the best possible urban living experience for residents.

It is not a problem if an urban design cannot neatly apply the principles due to overlap or other reasons. It will not always be possible to cover the entire 15 minutes’ radius or it may not be appropriate to place amenities and functions in a way we would on other projects. Everything is determined by context, whether geographic, demographic, historical or otherwise, and that’s what makes each project a distinct and interesting challenge – there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to the 15-Minute City.

We use GIS analysis on most of our masterplan projects, including research and output in relation to the ecology, topography, landscape, climate, population, infrastructure and other aspects of the spaces we work in. This kind of scientific approach to creating urban districts chimes perfectly with the requirements of a 15-Minute City project, given the very precise nature in which functions and amenities have to be placed for the district to work efficiently and provide a good quality of life.

Among several other projects, we used this GIS-based 15-Minute approach as a guide for our urban masterplan designs for Xiong’an New Area in China’s Hebei province, creating technologically advanced and environmentally sustainable designs for Zangang Cluster and Xiongdong District while enhancing the surrounding environment and protecting historic cultural sites.

Our design used quantitative analysis of the site’s ecological characteristics and proposes the diversion of water to serve the needs of the city as it develops while improving the waterways system and preserving and upgrading the existing water resources. Landscaping will be optimised to create a Sponge City water management solution which combines an urban stormwater management system and a natural water filtration system.

The project is people-orientated, fully considering the physical and mental wellbeing of people of all ages and levels of ability. The spatial layout ensures that educational, commercial, medical, public transportation, cultural and sports facilities are all provided within a walkable distance.

We are also currently implementing the principles on an ongoing urban masterplan, for which very detailed research and careful analysis has been required in relation to what functions and amenities to include in the core area.

Are there any practical problems with 15-Minute Cities? For example, is it possible that there will not be an appropriate pool of labour in some cities?

Less so in China than in other countries because China is a communist country – social and economic inequality is less obvious, the economy is much more planned than it is in other countries and there is usually a diverse mix of backgrounds in any given place. There is a different of idea of society in China.

However, there has been debate in China about whether there should be urban clusters based on income and wealth, which is a contentious topic. On a very local level, we do sometimes see this type of clustering, possibly just as a very human impulse to be with people like ourselves. However, on the macro scale, cities and their infrastructure are designed to serve everyone and there is a diverse mix of demographic brackets everywhere.

It is possible that the principle could run up against practical problems when faced with the realities of specific contexts worldwide. This is why no masterplan should be designed with presumptions. Every Chapman Taylor urban design is guided by the unique characteristics of the place and its people.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic bolstered the case for the 15-Minute City?

A benefit of the 15-Minute City is that, in a time of pandemic, the ability of a pathogen to travel is reduced. If people have everything they need in their own areas, there is less travel to other areas and there is less opportunity for a pathogen to spread, effectively helping to contain outbreaks locally (or at least slowing down the progress of the pathogen).

The COVID-19 pandemic will pass, but epidemics tend to appear in every generation, some more serious than others. It is fair to say that the recent pandemic has accelerated the trend towards the 15-Minute City, as it has towards the Smart City and mixed-use urban design, but the agenda was already broadly accepted long before COVID-19.

How do you design to ensure integration with the wider urban area, taking account of other 15-Minute Cities in the region?

We are primarily responsible for the design of things within our 15-Minute City boundaries, but we have a duty to take account of the wider context if we are to provide the best possible experience for residents and users of our districts. For example, it is important to ensure that we aren’t providing a major piece of infrastructure such as a sports stadium which already exists nearby.

A large urban masterplan will not be based solely on the 15-Minute City idea, although 15-Minute City principles will be applied within it. The masterplan will usually have its own logic and aims and will ensure that the component parts work well together. The 15-Minute City will need to fit that masterplan structure, not the other way around. Admittedly, this is not always easy because conflicts can arise, but the wider masterplan always takes precedence. So, for example, you cannot provide a major events space such as a concert hall in every 15-Minute City; they will instead be placed according to the logic of the masterplan or the needs of the wider city.

Therefore, the 15-Minute City design will always be guided by the wider context, including environmental aspects such as green corridors and waterways. This is a good thing because it demands variety – each 15-Minute City will have its own character and sense of identity.

We often design cluster cities, where urban spaces are placed around, for example, a green corridor. For these, there will be several urban clusters following 15-Minute City principles, but the core at the intersection of the clusters will be used to site facilities and infrastructure which are used by all, but which can’t be provided separately in each, such as concert halls, stadiums, arts centres, exhibition spaces, knowledge centres and museums. We took this approach on the overlapping circles of the Jiaxing project, for example.

What is the future for the 15-Minute City Concept?

There will certainly be a convergence with the Smart City agenda, with technological advances leading to adjustments in how we place functions and amenities as well as changes in what is included. Both the 15-Minute City and Smart City concepts are being vigorously promoted by the Chinese government and so it makes sense that the future of urban design must take account of both – certainly in China, but probably throughout the rest of the world as well. There is a strong emerging philosophy in China that the digital city must sit perfectly inside the physical city and we will see that become an automatic aspect of urban design in the country.

We are beginning to see the development of artificial intelligence-based urban planning software which can analyse large volumes of data about the area and its wider context and quickly calculate a lot of what is needed (or not needed) for the new city, although human common sense will always have the final say.

It will be an evolutionary process, not a sudden occurrence, but the Smart 15-Minute City will become the norm. What is crucial is for designers, developers, planners and others to ensure that buildings have the flexibility to easily adapt to the future city and its demands. We have put that principle at the front of our masterplan for Xiong’an. The designs are flexible and capable of easy adaptation to the rapidly evolving needs of people, society and the economy, including changes in transportation patterns, industry, the area’s landscape and ecology, technology, architectural functions and uses.

What is Chapman Taylor’s role in this future?

Chapman Taylor is well placed to be at the forefront of, and shape, the development of the 15-Minute City concept and we are already deeply involved in research into, and implementation of, the approach and its principles.

We firmly embrace the tenets behind the 15-Minute City because it encapsulates some of the main principles of our broader Responsible Design initiative, particularly in terms of making people’s lives better.

We have been applying 15-Minute City principles on many urban designs over the last few years and we are committed to developing our strong expertise in the area. We strongly care about our social responsibilities and the positive change that we as designers can bring to the cities in which people live. Developers, governments and local authorities are often keen to work with us because they know that our values, our creativity and our technical abilities are perfectly in sync with the 15-Minute City vision.

El concepto ha sido popularizado recientemente por el profesor franco-colombiano Carlos Moreno cuyo trabajo ha llevado a que la idea sea adoptada por la alcaldesa de París. Su visión requiere mezclar tantos usos diferentes como sea posible en las mismas áreas, contrariamente a la ortodoxia del urbanismo de la posguerra, con un fuerte enfoque en los espacios y edificios de usos múltiples. Sin embargo, la idea no es nueva, ha existido de una forma u otra desde el movimiento del Nuevo Urbanismo de principios del siglo XX. De hecho, la ciudad transitable de 15 minutos era un elemento inconsciente de la era anterior al automóvil y al ferrocarril, antes de que comenzara la implacable expansión de los suburbios.

Un factor clave para el crecimiento de la agenda de vida de 15 minutos es la equidad social, que permite que más y más personas experimenten una mejor calidad de estilo de vida y más conveniencia. La popularidad del concepto se debe a sus beneficios para el bienestar: al organizar los distritos urbanos de esta manera, las personas ya no necesitarán viajar largas distancias para ir al trabajo o hacer viajes en automóvil para hacer las compras o llevar a sus hijos a la escuela. Esto libera tiempo para el ocio y promueve la actividad física, especialmente caminar, al tiempo que reduce la contaminación de los viajes en vehículo.

Commercial areas and pocket parks

Proyecto Lago Baiyun (en colaboración con Turen) – Ciudad histórica VS mejoras del círculo vital 15min.

To be fully realised, the 15-Minute City would ideally have a core of residential, around which the other amenities would radiate outwards according to walking distance from people’s homes. Given the large populations of cities, particularly in China (where the ratio of residential space to workplace space is 2:1), this is not feasible, so the core instead tends to be commercial, including a key piece of urban infrastructure, usually a transport-orientated development, and the residential provision is mixed with other uses in the first kilometre around that.

How has Chapman Taylor been applying the 15-Minute City concept in its urban design projects?

All large-scale urban masterplans we now create in China are influenced by the 15-Minute City idea. We have been incorporating its principles in projects for nearly four years and we feel that it dovetails very well with Chapman Taylor’s Responsible Design mission, particularly in terms of social, environmental and economic sustainability as well as wellbeing. Fundamentally, we believe that the 15-Minute City makes good sense.

On our competition-winning, 2,930-hectare masterplan for Jiaxing High-Speed Railway New City, we created two linked core areas based on the new South Jiaxing High-Speed Railway Station and a major new urban district to the south of the station, Southern New City. The nature of the masterplan provides an opportunity to provide two overlapping, but complementary, 15-Minute Cities, centred on the station and the core of the Southern New City.

Para que se realice por completo la ciudad de 15 minutos idealmente tendría un núcleo residencial alrededor del cual las otras amenidades irían hacia afuera de acuerdo con la distancia a pie desde las casas de las personas. Dadas las grandes poblaciones de ciudades, particularmente en China (donde la proporción de espacio residencial a espacio de trabajo es 2: 1), esto no es factible, por lo que el núcleo tiende a ser comercial, incluida una pieza clave de infraestructura urbana, generalmente un urbanización orientada al transporte, y la dotación residencial se mezcla con otros usos en ese primer kilómetro a la redonda.

¿Cómo ha estado aplicando Chapman Taylor el concepto de ciudad de 15 minutos en sus proyectos de diseño urbano?

Todos los planes maestros urbanos a gran escala que estamos diseñando actualmente en China están influenciados por la idea de 15 minutos de vida. Hemos estado incorporando sus principios en proyectos durante casi cuatro años y creemos que encaja muy bien con la misión de Diseño Responsable de Chapman Taylor, particularmente en términos de sostenibilidad social, ambiental y económica, así como de bienestar. Básicamente, creemos que la ciudad de 15 minutos tiene mucho sentido.

Un masterplan reciente implicó una aplicación más compleja del concepto de ciudad de 15 minutos debido a la necesidad de proporcionar dos núcleos. Usamos un círculo de radio de dos kilómetros para el centro principal de la ciudad y luego colocamos el núcleo del subcentro en el círculo exterior, ayudando a garantizar que la superposición funcionara de manera eficiente y no involucrara brechas de funciones o replicaciones innecesarias. El diseño maximiza inteligentemente el valor de la ciudad y brinda la mejor experiencia de vida urbana posible para los residentes.

No es un problema si un diseño urbano no puede aplicar claramente los principios debido a superposiciones u otras razones. No siempre será posible cubrir todo el radio de 15 minutos o puede que no sea apropiado ubicar los servicios y funciones de la manera que lo haríamos en otros proyectos. Todo está determinado por el contexto, ya sea geográfico, demográfico, histórico o de otro tipo, y eso es lo que hace que cada proyecto sea un desafío distinto e interesante: no existe un “enfoque único” para la ciudad de 15 minutos.

Among several other projects, we used this GIS-based 15-Minute approach as a guide for our urban masterplan designs for Xiong’an New Area in China’s Hebei province, creating technologically advanced and environmentally sustainable designs for Zangang Cluster and Xiongdong District while enhancing the surrounding environment and protecting historic cultural sites.

Our design used quantitative analysis of the site’s ecological characteristics and proposes the diversion of water to serve the needs of the city as it develops while improving the waterways system and preserving and upgrading the existing water resources. Landscaping will be optimised to create a Sponge City water management solution which combines an urban stormwater management system and a natural water filtration system.

Utilizamos el análisis GIS en la mayoría de nuestros proyectos de plan maestro, incluida la investigación y los resultados en relación con la ecología, la topografía, el paisaje, el clima, la población, la infraestructura y otros aspectos de los espacios en los que trabajamos. Este tipo de enfoque científico para crear distritos urbanos suena perfectamente con los requisitos de un proyecto de Ciudad de 15 Minutos, dada la naturaleza muy precisa en la que se deben ubicar las funciones y comodidades para que el distrito funcione de manera eficiente y brinde una buena calidad de vida.

Entre varios otros proyectos, utilizamos este enfoque de 15 minutos basado en SIG como guía para nuestros diseños de planes urbanos ganadores para la nueva área de Xiong'an en la provincia china de Hebei, creando diseños tecnológicamente avanzados y ambientalmente sostenibles para el clúster de Zangang y el distrito de Xiongdong. al tiempo que mejora el medio ambiente circundante y protege los sitios culturales históricos. Nuestro diseño utilizó un análisis cuantitativo de las características ecológicas del sitio y propone el desvío de agua para satisfacer las necesidades de la ciudad a medida que se desarrolla mientras se mejora el sistema de vías fluviales y se preservan y actualizan los recursos hídricos existentes. El paisajismo se optimizará para crear una solución de gestión del agua de Sponge City que combina un sistema de gestión de aguas pluviales urbanas y un sistema de filtración de agua natural.

The project is people-orientated, fully considering the physical and mental wellbeing of people of all ages and levels of ability. The spatial layout ensures that educational, commercial, medical, public transportation, cultural and sports facilities are all provided within a walkable distance.

We are also currently implementing the principles on an ongoing urban masterplan, for which very detailed research and careful analysis has been required in relation to what functions and amenities to include in the core area.

El proyecto está orientado a las personas, considerando plenamente el bienestar físico y mental de personas de todas las edades y niveles de capacidad. El diseño espacial asegura que las instalaciones educativas, comerciales, médicas, de transporte público, culturales y deportivas estén todas a una distancia caminable.

Actualmente también estamos implementando los principios de un plan maestro urbano en curso, para lo cual se ha requerido una investigación muy detallada y un análisis cuidadoso en relación con las funciones y comodidades que se incluirán en el área central.

Are there any practical problems with 15-Minute Cities? For example, is it possible that there will not be an appropriate pool of labour in some cities?

Less so in China than in other countries because China is a communist country – social and economic inequality is less obvious, the economy is much more planned than it is in other countries and there is usually a diverse mix of backgrounds in any given place. There is a different of idea of society in China.

However, there has been debate in China about whether there should be urban clusters based on income and wealth, which is a contentious topic. On a very local level, we do sometimes see this type of clustering, possibly just as a very human impulse to be with people like ourselves. However, on the macro scale, cities and their infrastructure are designed to serve everyone and there is a diverse mix of demographic brackets everywhere.

It is possible that the principle could run up against practical problems when faced with the realities of specific contexts worldwide. This is why no masterplan should be designed with presumptions. Every Chapman Taylor urban design is guided by the unique characteristics of the place and its people.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic bolstered the case for the 15-Minute City?

A benefit of the 15-Minute City is that, in a time of pandemic, the ability of a pathogen to travel is reduced. If people have everything they need in their own areas, there is less travel to other areas and there is less opportunity for a pathogen to spread, effectively helping to contain outbreaks locally (or at least slowing down the progress of the pathogen).

The COVID-19 pandemic will pass, but epidemics tend to appear in every generation, some more serious than others. It is fair to say that the recent pandemic has accelerated the trend towards the 15-Minute City, as it has towards the Smart City and mixed-use urban design, but the agenda was already broadly accepted long before COVID-19.

How do you design to ensure integration with the wider urban area, taking account of other 15-Minute Cities in the region?

We are primarily responsible for the design of things within our 15-Minute City boundaries, but we have a duty to take account of the wider context if we are to provide the best possible experience for residents and users of our districts. For example, it is important to ensure that we aren’t providing a major piece of infrastructure such as a sports stadium which already exists nearby.

A large urban masterplan will not be based solely on the 15-Minute City idea, although 15-Minute City principles will be applied within it. The masterplan will usually have its own logic and aims and will ensure that the component parts work well together. The 15-Minute City will need to fit that masterplan structure, not the other way around. Admittedly, this is not always easy because conflicts can arise, but the wider masterplan always takes precedence. So, for example, you cannot provide a major events space such as a concert hall in every 15-Minute City; they will instead be placed according to the logic of the masterplan or the needs of the wider city.

Therefore, the 15-Minute City design will always be guided by the wider context, including environmental aspects such as green corridors and waterways. This is a good thing because it demands variety – each 15-Minute City will have its own character and sense of identity.

We often design cluster cities, where urban spaces are placed around, for example, a green corridor. For these, there will be several urban clusters following 15-Minute City principles, but the core at the intersection of the clusters will be used to site facilities and infrastructure which are used by all, but which can’t be provided separately in each, such as concert halls, stadiums, arts centres, exhibition spaces, knowledge centres and museums. We took this approach on the overlapping circles of the Jiaxing project, for example.

What is the future for the 15-Minute City Concept?

There will certainly be a convergence with the Smart City agenda, with technological advances leading to adjustments in how we place functions and amenities as well as changes in what is included. Both the 15-Minute City and Smart City concepts are being vigorously promoted by the Chinese government and so it makes sense that the future of urban design must take account of both – certainly in China, but probably throughout the rest of the world as well. There is a strong emerging philosophy in China that the digital city must sit perfectly inside the physical city and we will see that become an automatic aspect of urban design in the country.

We are beginning to see the development of artificial intelligence-based urban planning software which can analyse large volumes of data about the area and its wider context and quickly calculate a lot of what is needed (or not needed) for the new city, although human common sense will always have the final say.

It will be an evolutionary process, not a sudden occurrence, but the Smart 15-Minute City will become the norm. What is crucial is for designers, developers, planners and others to ensure that buildings have the flexibility to easily adapt to the future city and its demands. We have put that principle at the front of our masterplan for Xiong’an. The designs are flexible and capable of easy adaptation to the rapidly evolving needs of people, society and the economy, including changes in transportation patterns, industry, the area’s landscape and ecology, technology, architectural functions and uses.

What is Chapman Taylor’s role in this future?

Chapman Taylor is well placed to be at the forefront of, and shape, the development of the 15-Minute City concept and we are already deeply involved in research into, and implementation of, the approach and its principles.

We firmly embrace the tenets behind the 15-Minute City because it encapsulates some of the main principles of our broader Responsible Design initiative, particularly in terms of making people’s lives better.

We have been applying 15-Minute City principles on many urban designs over the last few years and we are committed to developing our strong expertise in the area. We strongly care about our social responsibilities and the positive change that we as designers can bring to the cities in which people live. Developers, governments and local authorities are often keen to work with us because they know that our values, our creativity and our technical abilities are perfectly in sync with the 15-Minute City vision.

¿Existe algún problema práctico con las ciudades de 15 minutos? Por ejemplo, ¿es posible que no haya una mano de obra adecuada en algunas ciudades?

Menos en China que en otros países porque, en China, la economía está mucho más planificada que en otros países y generalmente hay una mezcla diversa de antecedentes sociales en cualquier lugar. Hay una idea diferente de la sociedad en China.

Sin embargo, ha habido un debate en China sobre si debería haber agrupaciones urbanas basadas en ingresos y riqueza, que es un tema polémico. En un nivel muy local, a veces vemos este tipo de agrupamiento, posiblemente solo como un impulso muy humano de estar con personas como nosotros. Sin embargo, a escala macro, las ciudades y su infraestructura están diseñadas para servir a todos y existe una mezcla diversa de grupos demográficos en todas partes.

Es posible que el principio pueda tropezar con problemas prácticos frente a las realidades de contextos específicos en todo el mundo. Es por eso que ningún plan maestro debe diseñarse con presunciones. Cada diseño urbano de Chapman Taylor está guiado por las características únicas del lugar y su gente.

¿La pandemia de COVID-19 ha reforzado el caso de la ciudad de 15 minutos?

Un beneficio de la ciudad de 15 minutos es que, en tiempos de pandemia, se reduce la capacidad de un patógeno para viajar. Si las personas tienen todo lo que necesitan en sus propias áreas, hay menos viajes a otras áreas y hay menos oportunidades para que un patógeno se propague lo que ayuda efectivamente a contener los brotes localmente (o al menos ralentiza el progreso del patógeno).

La pandemia de COVID-19 pasará, pero las epidemias tienden a aparecer en cada generación, algunas más graves que otras. Es justo decir que la pandemia reciente ha acelerado la tendencia hacia la Ciudad de los 15 Minutos, como lo ha hecho hacia la Ciudad Inteligente y el diseño urbano de uso mixto pero la agenda ya fue ampliamente aceptada mucho antes del COVID-19.

Working and living areas with only one separation road are connected underground in Chapman Taylor's Chengdu Qilong project

Las áreas de trabajo y de vivienda con un solo camino de separación están conectadas en niveles inferiores en el proyecto Chengdu Qilong de Chapman Taylor.

What is the future for the 15-Minute City concept?

There will certainly be a convergence with the Smart City agenda, with technological advances leading to adjustments in how we place functions and amenities as well as changes in what is included. Both the 15-Minute City and Smart City concepts are being vigorously promoted by the Chinese government and so it makes sense that the future of urban design must take account of both – certainly in China, but probably throughout the rest of the world as well. There is a strong emerging philosophy in China that the digital city must sit perfectly inside the physical city and we will see that become an automatic aspect of urban design in the country.

We are beginning to see the development of artificial intelligence-based urban planning software which can analyse large volumes of data about the area and its wider context and quickly calculate a lot of what is needed (or not needed) for the new city, although human common sense will always have the final say.

It will be an evolutionary process, not a sudden occurrence, but the Smart 15-Minute City will become the norm. What is crucial is for designers, developers, planners and others to ensure that buildings have the flexibility to easily adapt to the future city and its demands. We have put that principle at the front of our masterplan for Xiong’an. The designs are flexible and capable of easy adaptation to the rapidly evolving needs of people, society and the economy, including changes in transportation patterns, industry, the area’s landscape and ecology, technology, architectural functions and uses.

What is Chapman Taylor’s role in this future?

Chapman Taylor is well placed to be at the forefront of, and shape, the development of the 15-Minute City concept and we are already deeply involved in research into, and implementation of, the approach and its principles.

We firmly embrace the tenets behind the 15-Minute City because it encapsulates some of the main principles of our broader Responsible Design initiative, particularly in terms of making people’s lives better.

We have been applying 15-Minute City principles on many urban designs over the last few years and we are committed to developing our strong expertise in the area. We strongly care about our social responsibilities and the positive change that we as designers can bring to the cities in which people live. Developers, governments and local authorities are often keen to work with us because they know that our values, our creativity and our technical abilities are perfectly in sync with the 15-Minute City vision.

¿Cuál es el futuro del concepto de ciudad de 15 minutos?

Sin duda, habrá una convergencia con la agenda de Smart City con avances tecnológicos que llevarán a ajustes en la forma en que ubicamos las funciones y comodidades así como a cambios en lo que se incluye. Tanto el concepto de ciudad en 15 minutos como el de ciudad inteligente están siendo promovidos enérgicamente por el gobierno chino, entre otros, por lo que tiene sentido que el futuro del diseño urbano deba tener en cuenta ambos, ciertamente en China, pero probablemente también en el resto del mundo. Existe una fuerte filosofía emergente en China de que la ciudad digital debe asentarse perfectamente dentro de la ciudad física y veremos que eso se convierte en un aspecto automático del diseño urbano en el país.

Estamos comenzando a ver el desarrollo de software de planificación urbana basado en inteligencia artificial que puede analizar grandes volúmenes de datos sobre el área y su contexto más amplio y calcular rápidamente mucho de lo que se necesita (o no) para la nueva ciudad, aunque el sentido común humano siempre tendrá la última palabra.

Será un proceso evolutivo, no una ocurrencia repentina, pero la Ciudad Inteligente de 15 Minutos se convertirá en la norma. Lo que es crucial es que los diseñadores, desarrolladores, planificadores y otros agentes se aseguren de que los edificios tengan la flexibilidad para adaptarse fácilmente a la ciudad del futuro y sus demandas. Hemos puesto ese principio al frente de nuestro plan maestro para Xiong’an. Los diseños son flexibles y capaces de adaptarse fácilmente a las necesidades en rápida evolución de las personas, la sociedad y la economía, incluidos los cambios en los patrones de transporte, la industria, el paisaje y la ecología del área, la tecnología, las funciones y los usos arquitectónicos.

How do you design to ensure integration with the wider urban area, taking account of other 15-Minute Cities in the region?

We are primarily responsible for the design of things within our 15-Minute City boundaries, but we have a duty to take account of the wider context if we are to provide the best possible experience for residents and users of our districts. For example, it is important to ensure that we aren’t providing a major piece of infrastructure such as a sports stadium which already exists nearby.

A large urban masterplan will not be based solely on the 15-Minute City idea, although 15-Minute City principles will be applied within it. The masterplan will usually have its own logic and aims and will ensure that the component parts work well together. The 15-Minute City will need to fit that masterplan structure, not the other way around. Admittedly, this is not always easy because conflicts can arise, but the wider masterplan always takes precedence. So, for example, you cannot provide a major events space such as a concert hall in every 15-Minute City; they will instead be placed according to the logic of the masterplan or the needs of the wider city.

Therefore, the 15-Minute City design will always be guided by the wider context, including environmental aspects such as green corridors and waterways. This is a good thing because it demands variety – each 15-Minute City will have its own character and sense of identity.

We often design cluster cities, where urban spaces are placed around, for example, a green corridor. For these, there will be several urban clusters following 15-Minute City principles, but the core at the intersection of the clusters will be used to site facilities and infrastructure which are used by all, but which can’t be provided separately in each, such as concert halls, stadiums, arts centres, exhibition spaces, knowledge centres and museums. We took this approach on the overlapping circles of the Jiaxing project, for example.

¿Cómo diseñar para asegurar la integración con una área urbana colindante más amplia, teniendo en cuenta otras ciudades de 15 minutos en la región?

Somos los principales responsables del diseño dentro de los límites de nuestra ciudad de 15 minutos pero tenemos el deber de tener en cuenta el contexto más amplio si queremos brindar la mejor experiencia posible a los residentes y usuarios de nuestros distritos. Por ejemplo, es importante asegurarnos de que no proporcionamos una pieza importante de infraestructura, como un estadio deportivo, que ya existe cerca. Un gran plan maestro urbano no se basará únicamente en la idea de la ciudad de 15 minutos, aunque se aplicarán los principios de la ciudad de 15 minutos.

El plan maestro generalmente tendrá su propia lógica y objetivos y garantizará que los componentes funcionen bien juntos. La Ciudad de 15 Minutos deberá ajustarse a la estructura del plan maestro, no al revés. Es cierto que esto no siempre es fácil porque pueden surgir conflictos pero el plan maestro más amplio siempre tiene prioridad. Entonces, por ejemplo, no puede proporcionar un espacio para eventos importantes como una sala de conciertos en cada ciudad de 15 minutos; en su lugar, se ubicarán de acuerdo con la lógica del plan maestro o las necesidades de la ciudad en general. Por lo tanto, el diseño de la ciudad de 15 minutos siempre se guiará por el contexto más amplio, incluidos los aspectos ambientales como los corredores verdes y las vías fluviales. Esto es bueno porque exige variedad: cada ciudad de 15 minutos tendrá su propio carácter y sentido de identidad.

A menudo diseñamos ciudades agrupadas, donde los espacios urbanos se colocan alrededor, por ejemplo, de un corredor verde. Para estos casos habrá varios grupos urbanos siguiendo los principios de la ciudad de 15 minutos pero el núcleo en la intersección de cada grupo se utilizará para ubicar las instalaciones y la infraestructura que todos utilizan pero que no se pueden proporcionar por separado en cada uno de los casos, como por ejemplo son las salas de conciertos, estadios, centros de arte, espacios de exposición, centros de conocimiento y museos, entre otros elementos de ocio.

What is Chapman Taylor’s role in this future?

Chapman Taylor is well placed to be at the forefront of, and shape, the development of the 15-Minute City concept and we are already deeply involved in research into, and implementation of, the approach and its principles.

We firmly embrace the tenets behind the 15-Minute City because it encapsulates some of the main principles of our broader Responsible Design initiative, particularly in terms of making people’s lives better.

We have been applying 15-Minute City principles on many urban designs over the last few years and we are committed to developing our strong expertise in the area. We strongly care about our social responsibilities and the positive change that we as designers can bring to the cities in which people live. Developers, governments and local authorities are often keen to work with us because they know that our values, our creativity and our technical abilities are perfectly in sync with the 15-Minute City vision.

¿Cuál es el papel de Chapman Taylor en este futuro?

Chapman Taylor está bien posicionado para estar a la vanguardia y dar forma al desarrollo del concepto de ciudad de 15 minutos y ya estamos profundamente involucrados en la investigación y la implementación del enfoque y sus principios en todos nuestros proyectos urbanos.

Adoptamos y desarrollamos firmemente los principios de la ciudad de 15 minutos porque encapsula algunos de los principios fundamentales de nuestra iniciativa más amplia de Diseño Responsable, particularmente en términos de mejorar la vida de las personas.

We have been applying 15-Minute City principles on many urban designs over the last few years and we are committed to developing our strong expertise in the area. We strongly care about our social responsibilities and the positive change that we as designers can bring to the cities in which people live. Developers, governments and local authorities are often keen to work with us because they know that our values, our creativity and our technical abilities are perfectly in sync with the 15-Minute City vision.

Hemos estado aplicando los principios de la ciudad de 15 minutos en muchos diseños urbanos durante los últimos años y estamos comprometidos a desarrollar nuestra sólida experiencia en el área. Nos preocupamos mucho por nuestras responsabilidades sociales y el cambio positivo que nosotros, como diseñadores, podemos aportar a las ciudades en las que vive la gente. Los desarrolladores, los gobiernos y las autoridades locales a menudo están interesados en trabajar con nosotros porque saben que nuestros valores, nuestra creatividad y nuestras habilidades técnicas están perfectamente sincronizados con la visión de la ciudad de 15 minutos.

About the Author

Yichun Xu

副董事, 上海

Yichun joined Chapman Taylor in 2018 and is a key member of the studio’s masterplanning team. Among the major projects on which she has worked are the Beixingjing masterplan for Shanghai, the Xiangyang Mixed-Use District, Future Hotel in Chongqing, the Xili Hub Area in Shenzhen and the Sanya Baopo Cultural and Sports District in Hainan.

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