photo by Bryan Derballa

photo by Bryan Derballa

The concept of developing, developed, or under-developed country explicitly involves and includes conditions and circumstances that drive the international community and countries themselves to apply these definitions.

The characteristics they are associated with, are then represented in statistics that enable to read the quality of life the population living within those national borders enjoy (or suffer).

Groups of countries belonging to one of the sets mentioned do not only share similar numbers within the statistics (always in proportion to the population); they are similarly designed (or not-designed) and planned (or improvised). Their physical environments and shape resemble the conditions they share.

Nowadays development is not characterised by lack of industry, but by lack of responsibility and vision, compromising equality and causing low or no access to basic services:

  • Energy
  • Water
  • Sewage
  • Waste Management
  • Education
  • Information
  • Mobility (Transport)

Transport facilities, roads, rail systems, pedestrian paths, sewage channels, electrical nets, parks, or water plants, among others, shape cities and set clear statements of the quality of life they ought to offer.

Cities remarkably, shamelessly, and obviously expose what conditions its inhabitants are submitted to.

The more liveable a city is, the more services it will offer; or, to frame it from a less partial view, the more equal and well distributed it will be. A city’s quality of life is, therefore, not determined by the amount of money it has in its budget to invest, but rather by what services and how well it integrates them together to serve its inhabitants, regardless of physical location or income. A wealthy budget is, however, an advantage, but when invested in uncreative and exclusive solutions, it drives in long or short term any city to chaos, independent of geographical, economic, or cultural matters.

Remarkable is also the influence the cities’ design exercises on people. Independently of social condition, education or economic and political power, everyone behaves similarly within the public space, except when they are deliberately being observed. The most remarkable effect for the city, and the perception of it, is its personality: either friendly or hostile, active or inactive, safe or unsafe. The design of a city shapes behaviours.

If people are aware, that they all belong to an organism that interconnects them with each other; that lives or survives according to each cell it contains; and, therefore, that they all share a responsibility towards the health of this big organism, the city presents itself as friendly, and, for most of the cases, reflects a properly designed infrastructure. On the contrary, a hostile city is best represented by careless inhabitants; people whose sense of belonging to a greater organism is not awaken and, as a consequence, display no attachment to the urban environment that surrounds them. The city is shaped by its inhabitants.

Mostly due to ignorance, or, even worst, absence of strong values, people around the world justify their behavior in public spaces, and towards their most immediate environment through traditionalism and customs; meanwhile these, now quicker than before, are constantly mutating and evolving or, in the less favorable cases, devolving.

Habits and customs are mostly justified and understood as natural, and are regarded to idiosyncrasy and culture. Thus, since culture is being judged as immutable, a problem is created when new solutions or infrastructural changes are introduced. The opposition is healthy and especially necessary when it prevents abuses, but it is unaffordable, when it addresses the explicit mutation or exclusion of harming traditions and habits, whose power and cultural attachment is judged through routine and not through their benefit for the development of the community. Therefore, as long as traditions and habits are taken for granted, put at unreachable distance, and defended amongst everything, innovation and creativity will be kept on perceived as a challenge against cultural values.

A globalised world encourages influence from foreign cultures or places, and although, it can be either negative or positive, it is the most obvious proof of culture’s rapid mutability. Although extremely brutal, it tends to pass unperceived or slightly acknowledged within the society, but it is anyway quickly accepted due to the apparent comfort it brings into daily life and the glitter it brings to the material culture through visual and sensory enhancement. This is taken for granted by consumers and reinforced by massive media. This is the influence that encourages and justly justifies traditionalism. The latter, however, should not be abused as argument that defends interests of the majority; phenomenon that submerges in a deeper ignorance.

The greatest mistake most administrations are incurring in is the short term thinking and the incapacity to deal in new ways with old problems.

When any public solution will be achieved, acknowledged, or proposed it is decisive to understand that culture is not static; it mutates and it does it fluently and according to the necessities of the environment, the people, and the characteristics that shaped habits and customs. The purpose of this introduction is to realize, that no solution can be imposed from one culture to the next one, but, although radical and seemingly unfeasible, it has to be not only adapted but also properly thought through, so that it does not harm or interfere with values, but that it constitute itself into habits according to the cultural conditions the environment imposes on it. Solutions have to be set in long term and, if globally though, they should be as unique as those places that face the challenge.

"Think Globally; act Locally"