Moscow changes and Italian experience in urban planning. Interview with Pierfrancesco Maran, Deputy Mayor of Milan

July 18

For most of megapolises, improvement in life quality of its dwellers is taking centre stage. A convenient city will attract young professionals, entrepreneurs, and new investments. During the Moscow Urban Forum which was held from 1 to 4 July in Zaryadye, Pierfrancesco Maran, Deputy Mayor for Urban Planning, Green Areas and Agriculture of the City of Milan, told how to make the city more attractive, estimated changes in Moscow and shared Milan experience in construction and solving transportation issues.

— You have already been to Moscow. How has our city changed since your last visit? What impressed you the most?

I have been here every year, starting 2013. In my opinion, the city has changed a lot. In terms of specific solutions, I was surprised at the way several parks changed, e.g. Gorky Park. And the city center now has a pedestrian area. Investing in pedestrian area expansion, you invest in the development of trade, restaurants. It has a positive influence on economics and quality of life.

Photo by Yulia Ivanko,

— According to Boston Consulting Group (BCG) research, Moscow has joined the top 3 of the most attractive world megapolises. What factors make a city attractive for people, in your opinion?

Jobs and involvement of young people is the most important, because every developing city now puts focus on this. Every developing megapolis needs young people. If you involve the youth, you lay the basis for success of the whole society. If I were into investments, I would invest in developing universities.

— The new aim of cities is to become comfortable for people. How can one achieve that?

I believe that many cities, including Moscow, are developing under a specific strategy. Quality is the focus of attention for both Moscow, and Paris. The new concept implies proximity of quality infrastructure to home. We are engaged in creating new parks, public gardens, new pedestrian areas, new services which would be located 15-20 minutes away from home. Quality must be affordable for everyone, not just for the rich.

Photo by Maxim Denisov,

— Cities population continues to grow, and low-rise residential development gives place to skyscrapers. What is the way to fit new buildings into the existing architectural concept and keep the city attractive at the same time?

It’s an important question, because I believe that the future lies in cities. One can imagine people who will live in them. For certain places, construction of higher buildings may be a solution. But this does not apply everywhere, nor should one build something because there is a need.

The concept of development should be the cornerstone of building a certain area. The magic of such cities as Moscow and Milan lies in combination of new fantastic places and old houses, traditional building along with the space for public gardens and green areas. It deserves respect.

Photo by Yevgeny Samarin,

— Which building in Milan can serve as an example of new construction concept for other cities?

There is a project called “Vertical Forest” by Stefano Boeri which has been successfully implemented. (A residential complex consisting of two towers in Porta Nuova where trees and bushes grow on balconies. — ed. note). It’s impressive, because the project shows that one may pay attention to greening while constructing a building. I guess, it’s an interesting idea which can be repeated in many parts of the world.

— Many cities still face a major transportation problem. Which Moscow solutions in the sphere of transportation caught your interest most of all?

I noticed that in last decades Moscow saw many attempts to solve the transportation issue. I remember parking charge was introduced eight years ago. It was a strategic innovation. In my opinion, development of the public transportation system is important, but reducing the number of cars only is not enough. You can use the car if you need, but it shouldn’t be your main way of getting around the city. There should be an area for pedestrians, for cyclists.

Milan, like Moscow, consists of ring roads. We actually have fewer rings than in Moscow. Ten years ago, a tax levy was introduced to enter the second ring of the city, the inner part of Milan. And that way the traffic was reduced by 30 percent. It worked for us.

Carsharing is another element of the mobility revolution. I want to see what we achieve next year, as we are moving more and more into electric cars and unmanned cars. I guess changes in carsharing will be related to that. A trend may appear, when you share your car not with everyone, but only with the residents of your house or acquaintances, if someone needs to go to a restaurant or out of town.

— The coronavirus pandemic has greatly affected citizens and their lives. How might the effects of the pandemic affect urban planning?

We don’t know whether it is a temporary or permanent issue. But we shouldn’t complain, we need to adapt to the situation. Sometimes it's an opportunity to reconceptualize certain spaces.

Of course, we all miss the crowds at concerts where we could jump and shout together. Now restrictions are an absolute necessity, but later they can be viewed as a new opportunity. If we take social distancing, we can shorten the distance whenever we want, but why would we want to go back to the office desk? Now we have more space for ourselves.


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