Sustainable Cities™

Joan Busquets: Geography, history and diversity

According to Joan Busquets a sustainable city is a city that delts properly with the natural geography: the mountains, the water and the landscape

1. In your opinion, what are the three main qualities that characterize a sustainable city?

The sustainable city is a city that delts properly with the natural geography: the mountains, the water and the landscape. The second thing is a friendly city center - a comfortable city is percieved comfortable by its users. Third dimension which is very important to me is a long lasting city. The design of the city can be there for decades. That has something to do with history. The European city is old - a city sustainable city is like the historic city a lasting city.


2. What are the most important actions that cities need to take to become sustainable?

The actions will make these things happen. We have to make the relationship between the city and geography more evident. After the World War 2 we neglected the geography of the city. We were thinking that by building freeways and highways we could neglect the history and the geography. But the geography and the history is always there - and that is what we discover today. We allow the water to show - we want the green to show.

The important question to me is that we have to allow a city to be used in many different ways. What I think that we as citizens like the most is in fact that we can use the city in many different ways. We like to ride the bicycle, take the tram, the subway and even call a taxi. I think that the different options is important because the city of the future is a city that allows you and us the freedom of making choices.


3. Which cities do you think have done really good in terms of becoming sustainable?

There a quite a lot Europeans cites that are struggling with that. For instance I feel that Copenhagen need a huge airport, however, Copenhagen also has great big open spaces for its pedestrians and bicyclists. To me Copenhagen is always a good example. In general there are quite a lot great cities for instance Swiss cities like Zurich that is building a huge airport. In the city all industries are becoming are part of the urban structure - of the urban space - and a part of recycling. Buildings that are going to be demolished are now reused and so on.

I like this idea of history and recycling. in the end a sustainable city is very much linked with the history of the European city. I don't see a gap there. The only gap is properly the remaining system after World War Two where we were neglecting the geography, the history and the past of the city. That doesn't mean that the past should lead the future. But without the past we cannot build a nice future.

About Joan Busquets

JoanBusquets_JorgenTrue_040211_20110204_2037 Joan Busquets is the first Martin Bucksbaum Professor in Practice of Urban Planning and Design at the Graduate School of Design (GSD) at Harvard University. Prior to joining the GSD faculty, Busquets was Professor of Town Planning in the School of Architecture at the Polytechnic University of Barcelona from 1979 until 2002. A world-renowned urban planner, urban designer, and architect, Busquets served as Head of Urban Planning for the Barcelona City Council during the formative years, from 1983 to 1989, and in the preparations for the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, including the New Downtowns for the City program and the improvement process for existing neighborhoods. Professionally based in Barcelona since the 1970s, Busquets received his degree in architecture (1969) and his doctoral degree (1975) from the University of Barcelona.

In 1969 he was a founding member of the Laboratorio de Urbanismo in Barcelona and undertook a long-term study of squatter settlements in Barcelona and other Southern European cities, for which he received the Spanish National Award for Town Planning in 1981, winning the award again in 1985 for his masterplan for Lerida's old town. Joan Busquets has participated in strategic urban planning and design for the cities of Den Haag, Lisbon, Marseille, Rotterdam, Singapore, and Sao Paulo - most involving public-private partnerships - having also completed projects for the modern center of Trento, Italy; Villanova, Spain; and for housing in the Maquinista development of Barcelona. In 2002 his team won the International Competition for La Lanterna in Trieste, and the City Center for Nesselande in The Netherlands.

His urban rehabilitation strategy for Toledo, Spain in 2000, and the publication Toledo y su futuro was awarded a national prize and the Premio Europeo Gubbio 2000, and he is presently at work on a similar rehabilitation strategy for the Cuitat Vella (Old Town) in Barcelona. Busquets has published several articles and books, including The Old Town of Barcelona: a past with a future (2003), Bringing the Harvard Yards to the River (2004), Aleppo: Rehabilitation of the Old City (2005), Barcelona: the Urban Evolution of a Compact City (2005), New Orleans: Strategies for a City in Soft Land (2005), Cities X Lines: A New Lens for the Urbanistic Project (2007), Cidade Antiga e Novo Projecto Urbano/Old City and a New Urban Artifact (2007). Besides writing he has participated as a visiting professor in London, Urbino, Rotterdam, Rome, Lausanne, Geneva, and at the GSD, as well as on numerous juries for international competitions.

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014