Jean-Paul Viguier: “I want to change the cities”

Some 50% of the world’s population now lives in cities, and in 20 years the figure will be 75%. Faced with this situation, it seems necessary to rethink the present concept of the city. And in the view of French architect Jean-Paul Viguier, the solution is in the fusion between design and architecture so as to produce spaces that respond to the needs of modern society.

“I want to change the cities,” says the architect. He says they should begin to be conceived as a unity, “not just from the view of conceptual design but also from the practice of architecture.” And to do that it’s very important to take into account the context and understand how to integrate new forms of architecture into it, so as to provide the necessary elements in the right way. “When I have a new project I spend a lot of time studying and understanding the location, and until I have it clear in my head I don’t begin to design.”

As a result of the exodus from the country to the cities, there will be less available space in the cities. So when it comes to designing the city it is important to take into account the increase in population density. “When we come to a built-up area and say we’re going to increase the density, there’s normally a big uproar,” he explains. And it’s true: people don’t usually take to the idea that even more people are going to be living in their neighborhood. But Viguier insists that it is something cultural –we have only to look at the large Asian cities– and that with time it will be better received.

Viguier goes even farther and claims that “increasing the density of the cities is not enough.” He has coined the concept of “intensity.” Increasing the “intensity” of a city requires, according to him, several actions: the integration of shops, offices, services… “This unleashes a movement that improves the functioning of the city, and density becomes something relative,” he explains.

In addition, the cities should grow and change. “The ones that fail to do so end up in decline,” this Frenchman claims. Referring to Segovia, he says it is an “intact” city but one into which, “with a little talent”, it’s possible to introduce modernity.
These reflections by Jean-Paul Viguier were made last September 23 at the IE University campus in Segovia as part of the Hay Festival. It was there, along with Martha Thorne, Executive Director of the Pritzker architectural prize and Dean of IE School of Architecture and Design, that he outlined what the cities of the future will be like.


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