Urbanites are taking back their space through 1,10 or 15-minute neighbourhood concepts

  • Living
  • Thursday, 10 Feb 2022

In Paris, Seoul and Stockholm, neighbourhoods are being shaped and defined according to one type of measure: time. Photo: AFP

Smart cities do not necessarily mean ultra-connected cities. The great challenge for cities in the West over the next few years – starting with 2022 – will be to revitalise its spaces and let citizens have greater say over how urban spaces are used.

In Paris, Seoul and Stockholm, neighbourhoods are being shaped and defined according to one type of measure: time. Fifteen minutes, 10 or even one.

Certain urban planners and architects are integrating this notion of temporality into the design of how humans move around a city and their relationship to city centres in order to make cities more flexible and adaptable. And above all, to connect city dwellers to one another.

Experiencing urban spaces

"The one-minute city is loosely described by the space outside your front door – and that of your neighbours adjacent and opposite," wrote Dan Hill, designer and urbanist at Vinnova (a Swedish government innovation agency).

In charge of an experimental one-minute city project in four sites around Stockholm, the designer has imagined spaces that radiate from doorways, circles encompassing your house and your block. Central to this approach is that citizens get involved in mapping out how space gets used.

How can they do this? By adding bicycle or scooter spaces, planting trees or creating adaptable community modules to encourage encounters. Dan Hill's one-minute city encourages hyperlocalisation and encounters with one's neighbour, so that a personal use of the street and the modules emerges.

With cities being mapped out by minutes, the living experience of city dwellers is once more put at the front and centre of urban planning. Why should business districts be empty at night and residential areas deserted during the day?

In Seoul, for example, a 10-minute city project, validated by the municipality in Nov 2021, aims to mix these two types of neighbourhoods.

"We have aimed to create the ultimate contemporary 10-minute city, where the daily life experience of the residents is the top priority," said Ben Van Berkel, an architect with UNStudio.

Cultural, leisure, work and residential spaces are designed to encourage the meeting of diverse populations in this new style of neighbourhood bringing life to the areas within the span of 10 minutes.


Contemplating the city through the prism of temporality is referred to as "chrono-urbanism", an approach that includes a famous concept theorised by scientist Carlos Moreno. A specialist in the smart city, he wrote about the concept of "the 15-minute city" in a tribune published in 2016.

This type of urban organisation allows residents to have access to essential needs and services within a 15-minute walk or bike ride.Adopted by many cities, from Paris to Hong Kong to Los Angeles, this way of thinking about urban use breaks with the functional model imagined by Le Corbusier.

The separation of neighbourhoods according to their activities leads to "a constant race to try to organise personal and professional life, and to resynchronise each of them", outlined geographer and urbanist Luc Gwiazdzinski. – AFP

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