In inner cities, plagued by horrible traffic jams and pollution by cars and lorries, we dearly await at least the one day per year without this nuisance. Mobility can be organized differently. Brussels demonstrates this in an exemplary fashion. Many families gear up for this one day to teach kids how to cycle technically without the dangers of the fight for space, speed and breathable air. Older persons also feel much more save then and walk or cycle longer distances than they usually do. So many winners and only a few forced to not use their cars during 10 hours. Massive health benefits for the whole city, especially on too warm a day in autumn 2023. All these kinds of ideas were already discussed before the COVID-19 crisis on a mobility fair in Brussels. It is not the ideas that are missing, but the political will and courage to try new ways forward. Learning that walking and cycling in cities do not hurt you, prepares the readiness to go further along this path. Just do it. And do it faster than in the past. The planet needs it, people seem to really like it, too. Enjoy.
1900 marks the year of the 5th world exhibition in Paris. The Eiffel tower, built for the 4th exhibition in Paris remains the iconic attraction despite the new architecture that is added to Paris as the Petit and Grand Palais as well as the 1st Metro line. Art Nouveau style adds to already impressive architecture in and around Paris. With the planning horizons of several years in advance of events, urban planning with all its facets of urban infrastructure and architecture becomes much of a defining scientific discipline for decades and for most of the time of the century. Grand urban architecture and design constitute just another form of competition between nation states. Most of them want to show off their imperialist acquisitions and, what they define as “curiosities” at the time.
Habib (2005, pp.502) singles out Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche as “heterological thinkers” who coin major thoughts in the late 19th century that shall influence the beginning of the 20th century right from the year 1900 onwards. “The world should be formed in your image by your reason, your will, and your love! And truly, it will be to your happiness you enlightened men!” (Nietzsche. Thus spoke Zarathustra 1978, p.110). In retrospect from the 21st century we shall doubt this overly positive approach to human intentions and their will to form the world according to their abstracting ideas only. Tensions between technology and society became visible and it took many decades before society became conscious that it is up to society to choose technologies they preferred.
The planning for the Brussel Expo 1910 started right after the previous Expo 1905 in Liège. Protests in Brussels accompanied already the choice of terrain for the Expo, but the governors and shareholders of the enterprise decided 1906 for a site near the “forêt de Soignes”, where trees had to be cut for access to the construction site and for future visitors under local protest. Women workers were present to exhibit the low pay of women in industries. Child labour was documented with shocking images. Around the globe labour movements started to raise attention. In the U.S. the National Women’s Trade Union League (1903) was founded as well as the National Child Labor Committee (1904). “Bloody Sunday” in St. Petersburg (1905) saw the killing of peaceful protestors in front of the Zsar’s palace, which ignited the Russian Revolution of 1905 and the creation of the Russian Parliament. Some of these issues (child labor) keep returning to our social agenda well into the 21st century.
Einstein’s publication of the theory of special relativity (1905) as well as challenges from social philosophy reflects the huge discrepancy between advancement of the sciences and the living conditions of the masses. Social theories and science advances foreshadow the violent turbulence throughout the 20th century.
(Sources: (1) Max Welch Guerra et al. (2023). European Planning History in the 20th Century: A Continent of Urban Planning. Routledge. (2) St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide: Major Events in Labor History and Their Impact, Neil Schlager (2004). (3) Images from I. Van Hasselt(1980) Bruxelles Expo 1910: l’incendie / de brand. J Stevens.