The global economic crisis hasn’t caused social isolation, as many feared. On the contrary, I’d like to argue that it has enhanced interpersonal relationships and encouraged people to make more of what is closer to home and to discover more about their local roots.
The new buzz word is proximity. It’s a word that encapsulates what Italy is all about as a country – a land of bell towers, of bars and squares.
However, proximity shouldn’t be confused with provincialism, which is what’s happened in Italy. Instead it should be a concept that helps to recreate relationships making use of new technology.
The bicycle symbolises both sides of the coin as far as activities and relationships are concerned. In fact, we could call it the ‘cycle of life’.
According to research, more bicycles than cars have been sold in the past three years and that’s something that hasn’t happened for 50 years.
This indicates we are returning to core values like physicality and exploiting human energy to get around. In big cities like Milan, places where you can fix up your bike and have it serviced have already outstripped new boutiques.
By using a bike, people are slowly beginning to reclaim the idea of home.
The number of bars and meeting places dedicated to cyclists is growing both in Europe and in US and it’s more than just a trend. Paradoxically when people have the opportunity to use technology to share their ideas, they prefer meeting up and speaking face to face.
This is the positive side that small and big cities have managed to hang on to. The downside is that any sense of community is lost and this is true especially in Italy. A generalised indifference for the places and the boroughs where we live has replaced it.
In 2020 cities are going to resemble the cities of old, and look more as they did centuries ago. Pedestrian and cycling areas are going to be wider. Sustainability and quality of everyday life will be key.
Public transport will be free (there are already examples of this in Brasil and the North of Italy) and we will have to re-define what we mean by clean air, green areas, and social services.
Architects will have to understand and re-shape the socio-environmental balance within the city, since town planners have failed to do this up to now.
A new equilibrium between all these elements needs to be struck and the bicycle can help us do this: it helps to keep us fit, and preserves urban areas for the enjoyment of all people.
Lastly we should look at Italian flair where design is concerned. Design will be a crucial factor in the future. And bicycles are indicative of a certain style.
Italy excels in this field and at times we spend more on a bike than we do on our furniture.
The concept of luxury has been redefined. Either it will have to embrace the ethical challenge or it won’t have a future.