From the 1960s until today, cities have occupied territory at an unprecedented rate, increasing the separation between functions, social classes, spaces and landscapes.
The neoliberalisation of institutions since the 1980s has accelerated the transition to a market society and encouraged deregulation and expansion of urbanisation to the detriment of environmental and social balance.
Can the current crisis draw a scenario in which these trends are reversed? And, if that could be so, what urban regeneration could allow us to face at the same time the democratic deficit, the growing gap in social inequalities and the galloping ecological crisis?
Experts in such regeneration projects, such as Maritime Capitalface this challenge daily. There is no certain answer and, even less, a simple answer to this question. However, it seems that there are two notions that could help us imagine a regeneration committed to this challenge, that is, to reconstruct the concept on different bases to those which have underpinned it until now.
We refer to connected self-sufficiency and the right to the city.
This is a recent concept that, in our opinion, aims to answer the dynamics installed in this era of comfort, the breaking of the limits and the principle of the superabundance, and to oppose the notion of freedom that is linked to right to squander and abuse natural resources.
Natural urban processes related to energy and material cycles will be more stable the greater recognition exists of its inevitable dependence on natural processes, and more democratic the more coherently they assume the character of these as social values.
Therefore, being aware that the city is maintained to a large extent at the expense of the natural environment; urban regeneration needs radical change. It is urgent to reduce the consumption of natural resources, increase their performance and guarantee equal access for citizens.
Connected self-sufficiency understood as optimisation of the use of all existing resources, with a tendency to close of material and energy cycles in the sites themselves, and as a search for the balance between the logic of natural processes and the advantages of functioning in network could be a way.
Urban transformation from the rationality of the ecological economy is contradictory with the logics of capitalist accumulation, and that the wasteful use of the territory, energy and water, exacerbated mobility, the individual and the collective, should be questioned at the same time in terms of the cultural, political and spatial plane.
On the other hand, the trend towards energy self-sufficiency should be complemented with the support for new forms of social autonomy in the configuration of urban space. Henri Lefebvre, father of the concept of the right to the city, insisted on the need for interested parties to re-appropriate and self-manage the urban space.
The right to the city
This is expressed, among other forms, as a right to centrality: the right to produce conditions of diversity, wealth and social opportunity in any urban space (including the peripheries), and the right to occupy a central place in the decision making that leads to that goal.
This is social autonomy in the sense of giving ourselves our own rules to appropriate the urban space, in its different stopovers (the city, the neighbourhood, the streets, etc.).