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La Pietra Dialogues On the World On-Line
Florence 2035: A Retrospective History
Chris Ryan and Michael Trudgeon, Victorian Eco Innovation Lab, University of Melbourne
La Pietra Dialogues
September 15, 2012

A major motor for modernization and innovation in Europe, during the 14th through 16th centuries, Florence has long been an attraction for international travellers who have come to the city to revel in its beauty, be inspired by its artists and intellectuals, and learn from its quality of life.

Thrust into the centre of the cultural and political energy of the new Italy in the 19th century, the city underwent another round of modernization with controversial grand public works projects that aimed to turn the city into a major European capital, fuelling an underlying tension between Florence’s reverence for its past and striving towards the future.

By the beginning of the twenty first century Florence had turned into the paradigmatic contemporary tourist city-museum: global attention had accelerated as tens of millions of tourists per year flocked to visit. A decentralization of infrastructure towards the modern outskirts of the city progressively turned the centre into a ´foreign´ territory, somewhat alienated from the lives of local Florentine citizens, more akin to a museum than a living city.

The old city was not well placed to deal with the realities of a changing climate and the rapid escalation of the costs of fossil fuels. The city was vulnerable to extreme weather events - high temperature days, water shortages and floods. Heating cooling and protecting the buildings in the UNESCO zone (and beyond) became a significant challenge, creating tensions between the preservation of its historical fabric and the utilisation of new technologies for renewable energy and techniques for insulation and energy efficiency.

The essential infrastructures of daily life were vulnerable – energy supply, water, food, transport and information.

By the 2020´s, the City had begun a program for strengthening renewable energy and sustainable transport, walking streets, cultural precincts and events and the institutions of learning and innovation. Building physical and social resilience to deal with future climatic conditions and extremes became essential if the city and its treasures were to survive and its living culture to thrive.

These strategies saw the city quickly become a new focus for international attention: the first UNESCO world heritage city to embrace the challenges of the next century. Florence became a city that could retain its past history but innovate for survival into the next centuries - a city that could draw on past achievements, on its life and philosophy as sources for creativity for a resilient future.

Now, in 2035 Florence is a city that is shared by visitors and Florentines. It is a city where a high proportion of visitors come to learn - to see and to dialogue - about resilient non-fossil fuel living; where history, creativity, inventiveness has preserved and transformed the urban fabric and infrastructure and systems of provision, for a life that visitors aspire to replicate. Florence is now a global model for a low consumption, high prosperity life based on renewable resources. A city of IDEAS for the next 1000 years. 

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