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Seoul’s ‘10-Minute City’ Plans That Could Change The Way We Live

Posted by on December 20, 2021 0

In 2016, the ‘15-minute city’ concept was put forward by academic Carlos Moreno, who spoke of an urban development that put all the residents’ needs within a short walk.

“Imagine a world where none of your daily trips take more than ten minutes. Your commute to work, walk to the park, or visit to your favourite restaurant: you can do all of these in the time it takes to boil an egg. 
Well, this dream is a lot closer to coming true now after city planners in Seoul unveiled plans to make the world’s first ten-minute city. Known as ‘Project H1’, it will involve transforming 125 acres of industrial wasteland into an ultra-modern development that will put convenience at the top of the agenda. But how exactly will it work?
The idea of a self-contained city has been around for some time. In 2016, the ‘15-minute city’ concept was put forward by academic Carlos Moreno, who spoke of an urban development that put all the residents’ needs within a short walk. Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo built on this idea, who put the idea of making the French capital a ‘ville du quart d’heure’ — a quarter-hour city — at the centre of her re-election campaign.
The plans for such a project have gathered momentum since the start of the pandemic, which has seen people placing more importance on time. People don’t want to travel an hour to work anymore when they can work from home. In the world of entertainment, they prefer to watch sport on TV or play in online casinos to traveling to a stadium or gambling venue out of town. The 15-minute city was intended to be a bridge between those two worlds.
However, new plans are even more ambitious: Seoul architects want to build a 10-minute city that they refer to as ‘Project H1’. It will comprise of eight residential buildings connected to co-working offices and study spaces, making an interconnected ‘smart’ village. It will offer leisure facilities for residents, including swimming pools, entertainment venues and fitness centres. 
Central to the plans are a completely car-free environment. Instead, residents will be able to access everything they need within a ten-minute walk. The focus is on prioritizing time over everything: as one of the developers behind the project was quoted as saying, ‘with time that is saved, more time is created’.
The project is the brainchild of Dutch architect firm UNStudio, who will receive backing from Hyundai Development Company, a real estate company owned by the global carmaker. You might be wondering why such a firm is encouraging a car-free environment, but many large companies see a green-friendly approach as crucial to their long-term strategy. 
‘A green-lit project’
Those wondering when such a project would turn into reality may not get a clear answer. UNStudio said that while the project has been ‘green-lit’ — or, in other words, given the go-ahead – they did not know when they could begin work. The only thing the public have to look at are several CGI-rendered images that illustrate public plazas, green roofs, and nature zones. 
We also know that the project will make use of the latest renewable energy sources, from self-generated power to rainwater storage systems. 
However, organizers have been unable to commit to a confirmed date just yet and, until that happens, the 10-minute-city will remain a dream.
A radical re-thinking
Futuristic cities such as this will offer a host of benefits to its residents, but there are potential drawbacks. Critics have suggested that the project would increase inequality by keeping wealth within these exclusive districts. The demand for such accessible and convenient areas is likely to be great, which would push the prices up dramatically, and exclude low-income citizens. 
However, some experts believe the transition to this smarter way of living is inevitable. In academic journal Smart Cities, published earlier this year, Carlos Moreno called for a ‘radical re-thinking’ into how we live at present. He talked about the ‘vulnerability’ of current cities, and how we need innovative measures to make life easier for their inhabitants. These include more accessible leisure facilities and reduced commute times. 
If the Seoul project is a success, then other cities will take note. Already, Shanghai planners are two years into a 15-minute-neighborhood plan, which focusses on improving the health of its residents through banning cars and promoting exercise. In Europe, Barcelona released a 10-year manifesto in April 2020 calling for a radical change in city planning, including the introduction of green spaces, reorganization of mobility and ‘de-growth’, a concept focussed on slowing down the expansion of urban spaces. 
If successful, these plans will put the traditional idea of a smoke-filled, noisy city one step closer to extinction, and change city living forever. 


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