Rewriting the future of our cities: the CEO of Fiat and a world class architect shared their vision…

From left to right: Stefano Boeri, Silvia Boccardi and Olivier François

On World Environment Day, Olivier François, CEO of the Fiat brand and CMO at Stellantis, and the architect Stefano Boeri, whose firm is engaged in urban forestation projects all over the world, featured in a conversation for World Environment Day 2021 on the cities of the future.

They addressed the themes of urban mobility and sustainable architecture to make cities healthier and more livable, by improving air quality and therefore quality of life.

This focus on the future city, and more specifically this sharing of values of sustainability both for urban life and mobility started began over a year ago: in its vision of a utopian city, demonstrated and hinted at by Leonardo DiCaprio in the launch advert for the New 500, Fiat drew inspiration from the green architecture created by Boeri in several locations around the world.

Read all about it further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A new renaissance for (mega)cities…

At their meeting, François and Boeri analyzed the opportunities for a “New Renaissance”: they looked at photographs of the current situation in cities and even more so to the images of the ongoing changes. They also took a long hard look at the societal trends and the increasing interest of urban dwellers all over the world for environmental issues. Then they discussed the urgency of taking action, and the major opportunity of inspiring change.

That inspiration for change must be rooted in attention to aesthetics, in architectural beauty, but also inspired by the certainty of the need to improve the quality of the air we breathe and to reduce pollution levels in the cities we live in.

Boeri’s vertical forest in Milano.

Both men came to the conclusion that the combination of architecture like Boeri’s Vertical Forest – its 27,000 plants and millions of leaves contributing to clean the air by absorbing CO2 – and cars like the New 500 offering zero-emissions mobility can no doubt contribute to improving air quality in our cities.

The all electric 500 steps already in the new era…

In the words of Olivier François, Fiat CEO and Stellantis CMO: “The decision to launch the New 500 – electric and electric alone – was actually taken before Covid-19. Even then, we were already aware that the world could not take any more “compromises”.

In fact, lockdown was only the latest of the warnings we have received. At that time, we witnessed situations that would have been unimaginable until then, for example wild animals roaming the cities, proving nature was taking back what was rightfully hers. Plus, as if it had still been necessary, we were reminded of the urgency of taking action, of doing something for the planet Earth.

We have an icon, the 500. An icon always has its cause and the 500 is no exception: in the 1950s, it opened access to mobility for all. Nowadays, in this new scenario, it has a new mission – our mission – to create sustainable mobility for all.

It is our duty to bring to market electric cars that cost no more than vehicles with an internal combustion engine, as soon as we can in line with the falling costs of their batteries. We are exploring the territory of sustainable mobility for all: this is our greatest project.

Between 2025 and 2030, our product line-up will gradually become electric-only. This will be a radical change for Fiat.  Meanwhile, in the near future, only a few months from now, I am proud that we will see the conversion of the legendary track on the roof of the former Lingotto factory in Turin into the largest hanging gardens in Europe, hosting over 28,000 plants. A major, meaningful – and once again sustainable – project, due to revitalize the city of Turin, our home.”

Urban planning for the future…with more plants and trees.

Then Stefano Boeri, architect, urban planner and founder of the Stefano Boeri Architetti practice, gave also his views: If we consider that cities are responsible not only for the emission of over 70% of CO2, a phenomenon at the origin of global warming, but also for the emission of pollutants which are the main cause of diseases and mortality from respiratory problems, it is clear that cities are the first places to intervene with a profound change.

The Covid pandemic has shown us how fragile our lives and our bodies can be and highlighted the importance of improving the environment and above all the air of the cities in which we live.

“La Pista” 500, soon a reality on the rooftop of Lignotto, in place of the iconic oval track.

In addition to absorbing CO2, reducing energy consumption and urban heat, increasing the biodiversity of living species and making cities more attractive, trees drastically reduce fine dust pollution.

Let’s not forget: plants and trees are the only way we have to absorb the pollutants already emitted. I believe that the time has come to promote, with all our strength and resources, a great campaign to clean the polluted air of our cities, that microparticulate of substances harmful to the health of our lungs that has certainly accentuated in some particularly polluted urban areas the intensity of spread of the COVID 19 infection.

We already have several solutions available that can help us: protect and increase the permeable and green surfaces by creating new parks and gardens, in and around our cities; transform city roofs into lawns and vegetable gardens; promote community gardens and urban agriculture; use tree roots to decontaminate polluted soils; create a network of green corridors to connect parks, forests and green buildings. “

More electric mobility in the urban environment is imminent…

In Fiat’s vision, the penetration of electric mobility will rise, as more and more barriers are overcome. The topics under discussion in the talk included the need to improve access to electric cars, by means of innovation and new financial products that can lower the bar of entry; the need to increase the number of private charge points at apartment buildings, requiring a rethink of the infrastructure of the apartment buildings of the future, but most of all by adapting existing buildings; the need to raise visibility of charge points in cities and increase the penetration of fast charging stations.

That will entail a rethink of urban planning, a challenge that requires the involvement of a wider range of stakeholders. This is the stimulus and message Olivier François and Stefano Boeri wish to put out as their contribution to World Environment Day – held by the United Nations every June 5th, the message of which this year is “TOGETHER WE CAN BE #GENERATIONRESTORATION”.

Question time…

At the question time after the presentation, your servant asked CEO Olivier François to elaborate a bit more about the dialogue which existed between Fiat and these stakeholders in shaping the city of the future and its mobility.

Besides public bodies and municipalities, I was also keenly interested in how the dialogue unfolded with Fiat’s supplier firms like Bosch, Siemens, etc, who also perform extensive research in these fields. CEO Olivier François then trusted the answer to his colleague who maintains this dialogue with these external firms.

In his answer, he focused here mainly on the oil firms, which propose also future-oriented solutions, ranging from alternative “clean” fuel to renewables, and he saw the big oil companies also gradually transform themselves into suppliers of energy in all its forms, i.e. becoming “energy” supplying firms in the widest sense of the word. He pointed out that the boundaries between electricity suppliers and the oil firms will become increasingly blurred. The dialogue is indeed active and is indeed widened to all forms of energy. Energy supply and CO2 reduction remain the crux of the matter for all, he concluded his answer.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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