OECD DevTalks, 1st of March 2018

On the occasion of the Italian Design Day the Permanent Delegation of Italy to the International Organizations in Paris and the OECD organized a podium discussion in the framework of the DevTalks Series entitled “Cities: Where Citizens, Design and Social Innovation Meet”.

The main message of the conference was that the precondition for the successful modernization of cities is the existence of a favorable infrastructure for the realization of local initiatives and a central body that coordinates bottom-up ideas.

Ezio Manzini, Italian designer, professor, founder of DESIS, a network of design schools specifically active in the field of design for social innovation and sustainability presented the role of urban design in the promotion of social inclusion through the examples of Medellín, Seoul, Barcelona, Shanghai and Milan. The professor emphasized that before city planners looked at cities from a bird’s eye view, but today in order to realize urban projects with the aim of modernization and promotion of livable cities, we need to get familiar with the inner dynamics of cities. He stressed that long term sustainable development cannot be reached only by top-down or bottom-up projects, but by a supportive ecosystem and the cooperation of both elements.

The Italian designer highlighted the example of Medellín’s Metrocable lift system, the Seoul Innovation Center promoting social and high-tech projects and the design school of Shanghai as agent of change. He added that significant and durable changes can only be reached with the active involvement and ownership of local citizens, as proven by the example of superillas in Barcelona creating superblocks where only internal mobility is accepted, the Parisian Mayor’s program to enhance locals’ initiatives or the neighborhood projects of Milan to promote social inclusion.
According to the professor, one of the future’s major challenges is the intense urbanization of African cities. The cities of the African continent do not follow the traditional urbanization pathway of European cities reaching over centuries; instead they are going through a rapid change involving economic, environmental and social challenges at the same time.

Anita Obermayer