Conspiracy theorists have recently described the “15 Minute City” model as a diabolical scheme, designed to restrict people’s freedom of movement. Rather, this concept brings social justice and a solution to future environmental challenges, says Montreal architect Daniel Pearl, who has studied this innovative concept in depth.
“We are in such a difficult ecological crisis for the next 15 years that we must now look at architecture in an urban landscape approach,” says Mr. Pearl, who believes that Montreal should follow the path set by cities like Paris. , Dublin and Portland.
Indeed, a change of mentality is necessary when we take a look at the dangers that await the Quebec metropolis, continues this partner at the office L’Œuf Architectes and professor at the University of Montreal, drawing a topographic map prepared by Ouranos, an innovation center specializing in climate change, to illustrate his point.
On the screen, the map displays hatched lines on the old bed of Lac à la Loutre, between the Turcot and Saint-Pierre interchanges, to designate what will become one of the next flood zones caused by the rise of the oceans and the increase in precipitation.
That’s not all, he adds. In this same sector, in summer, the average temperature is 7 to 8 degrees higher than in Westmount or Mont-Royal. “When it’s 27 degrees there, it’s 35 degrees here,” says Mr. Pearl in his offices in Saint-Henri, while recalling that repeated heat waves will no longer be the exception in the coming years.
Faced with these announced upheavals, it is necessary to review the design of the construction, believes the university researcher. It is here, he says, that the concept of the “city in 15 minutes” offers not only possible solutions, but also a global vision where architecture is integrated with urban planning.
“The city in 15 minutes is an expression which means that the citizen has access to everything he needs within a 15-minute walk”, explains Daniel Pearl.
No need for a car, therefore, to go to a café or a bakery, he continues. Not only is the journey faster on foot, but it also allows the walker to “maintain physical fitness, meet people, and enjoy flora and fauna.”
Struggling with an air quality responsible for the death of 3,500 people a year, the Catalan metropolis took the bet in 2016 proposed by the Spanish architect Salvador Rueda, recognized as the father of “super-islands”.
A “super-island” is a quadrilateral now protected from all through traffic. In its center, old crossroads have been converted into public squares, filled with trees, benches and games for children, and even dance floors in some places.
Connected by green corridors, these super-blocks allow residents to get around on foot or by bike in complete safety. They are the embodiment, in Barcelona and elsewhere, of the city in 15 minutes, explains Daniel Pearl, who has worked with Salvador Rueda since the mid-2000s.
Is a city in 15 minutes possible in Montreal? Of course, Mr. Pearl replies without hesitation, provided the winning conditions are met.
“For example, for a city of 15 minutes, the target is 85 to 100 dwellings per hectare, so as to support a real supply of public transport,” he says.
So how do you manage to bring together the necessary elements in Montreal, where the average is only 40 dwellings per hectare? By targeting sectors that are currently depopulated and without infrastructure that allow us to rebuild on new foundations, answers Daniel Pearl, naming various places in southwestern Montreal such as Verdun, Pointe-Saint-Charles, Saint-Henri, LaSalle, Ville-Émard and Cote-Saint-Paul.
It is precisely on an area of 250 hectares, which includes the Saint-Pierre interchange, the surroundings of the Lachine Canal, parts of LaSalle and the grounds of Dominion industries, that the troops of Daniel Pearl are currently working.
This multidisciplinary team, made up of students, architects, engineers and landscape architects, has drawn up the detailed plans for a district composed of new residential and commercial buildings, buildings and converted warehouses, all separated by a knitting of green spaces conducive to active living. The diversity of housing would ensure a social mix, underlines Daniel Pearl.
The residents of this district, crossed by several cycle paths, would have access to high-frequency public transport. Automobiles and delivery trucks would be confined to a few primary and secondary streets.
Several obstacles, both political and financial, stand in the way of the realization of such an innovative project, recognizes the academic. “But it costs less to prepare for disasters than to repair the damage,” he recalls.