The 15-minute city concept is one in which residents can fulfil all of their daily necessities within a 15-minute walk or cycle from their home. Living, working, commerce, healthcare, education, and entertainment comprise the six essential functions according to the theory’s author, Carlos Moreno, a French-Colombian scientist.
It seeks to reverse planning and urban design policies of the last century – which have designated residential areas as profoundly distinct from business, cultural, retail, and leisure offerings – and unites the various components in densely populated neighbourhoods throughout the city.
The concept was first theorised in 2014 but has catapulted into the public consciousness over the last year in response to the pandemic-induced working habits and restrictions to travel, shopping, and other essential requirements. As the perception of hyper-proximity and density takes on a new lease of life, local authorities from across the globe have become vocal proponents of the 15-minute city. Cities are beginning to change.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is well known for her contribution to this urban shift after making it a cornerstone of her successful 2020 re-election campaign. Paris has started to re-energise public squares, introduce new bike lanes, and open public buildings such as schools for after-hours use.
Melbourne has made the 15-minute city a focal point of its 2050 masterplan, whilst the likes of Berlin, Barcelona, Shanghai, Portland, and Lagos are a fraction of the list of major cities signalling their intent.
Lisbon is, in many ways, unique. Commentators often cite the city’s bicycle-friendly aspirations as evidence of its credentials. They point to the pioneering bicycle and e-bicycle sharing system, or the promise of bicycle lanes topping 200km by the end of 2021.
But some pockets of Lisbon already advance the key principles of the 15-minute city better than many places in the world.
The Park of Nations was developed in 1998 to host the World Expo and is arguably the city’s most ‘complete’ neighbourhood in respect of the six essential functions.
Its designers were arguably ahead of their time, creating a melting pot for all things living, working, and enjoying – underpinned by a sense of pleasant density and proximity.
The latest data (2018) reveals that over 30,000 people live in the Park of Nations, an area that has grown into one of the city’s most attractive residential destinations. Martinhal Residences occupies a highly sought-after Southern Park location, just metres away from the Tagus River and Gare do Oriente, an awe-inspiring architectural masterpiece and train station from Santiago Calatrava, one of today’s most recognised neo-futurist architects and best known for his work on New York’s world trade centre transport hub and the City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia.
The Residences are also a short walking distance from the abundance of business, leisure, educational, and healthcare facilities for which the Park of Nations has become renowned.
They include vast public spaces; contemporary sculptures; office buildings; a marina; museums; concert halls; a state-of-the-art private hospital; a diverse restaurant scene; sports facilities; and United Lisbon, a brand new international school.
There is also a major shopping centre; Lisbon’s only casino; the National Ballet of Portugal; a theatre; a fantastic oceanarium and a number of public gardens dedicated to urban art, music, and culture. It is also Lisbon’s spiritual home of contemporary architecture and design, with the iconic 17km Vasco de Gama Bridge and the city’s tallest building Vasco de Gama Tower being focal points.
Ease of travel, the golden thread running through every aspect of the 15-minute city, is realised through the 10km of flat walkways, dedicated bike paths, esplanades, parks, and more, all of which can alternatively be enjoyed via scooters rented through an app.
Park of Nations has it all. It’s perhaps an exemplary model of what chief theorist Carlos Moreno called “the big bang of proximity.”