Global Challenges & Solutions
By Greg Scruggs
Mexico’s sprawling capital city is so big that authorities aren’t even sure how many people live here. But inside the municipal government, there’s a small team of designers and architects who are committed to humanizing the urban chaos through sensitive interventions in the built environment.
The Public Space Authority, known by its Spanish acronym AEP, was born in 2009 during the mayoral administration of Marcelo Ebrard. One of the first mayors here to embrace the concept of bringing “livability” to the Mexican capital, Ebrard believed that public space could be part of a broader strategy to improve urban quality of life and even to reduce social inequality. The AEP’s mandate is to think big, even though many of its interventions – such as introducing tiny “pocket parks” into tightly packed neighborhoods – are small. Unlike traditional parks and recreation departments, AEP is not saddled with perpetual maintenance responsibilities, a huge job that can stifle creativity. And unlike traditional departments of transportation, which manage vast amounts of public space in the form of city streets, AEP has an easier time putting the needs of people ahead of the needs of cars.
For example, once a week they close a major downtown thoroughfare to traffic and allow for Sunday strolls. Bright green umbrellas and live music transform the street into a lively hangout. In a handful of residential neighborhoods, streets that meet at funny angles leave vestigial asphalt, which the AEP has turned into extensions of the sidewalk with planters and signage. In an innovative financing scheme, 30 percent of the revenues from a new parking meter system are funneled into the AEP’s coffers, reflecting the belief that streets are public spaces.
This article from Citiscope and more in our April 2016 blog.
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