Fifteen-Minute Cities, Climate Champ–Carlos Moreno, The Obel Awards

by | Jul 18, 2022 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

Fifteen-Minute Cities, plus Climate Champion, Carlos Moreno, and the Obel Awards



Here’s a noble notion: Everyone living in a city should have access to essential urban services within a 15-minute walk or bike. The 15-Minute City Project is designed to help access-focused urban transformations be what we need them to be: ambitious, inclusive, measurable and effectively implemented.

Carlos Moreno of Pantheon Sorbonne University in Paris is credited with coining the phrase, the “15-minute city.” It’s not a new concept. Most European cities were built on this foundation, mostly due to lack of space. The same goes for colonial era American-established metropolises. It wasn’t until the 20th century and the rise of car culture that walkable cities fell out of favor.

As a result, people, and therefore stores and other businesses, moved to the suburbs, which left city centers to rot and decay, which then forced city dwellers to use cars to access goods and services.

But it wasn’t Moreno who established the 15-Minute City Project at It was Dan Luscher, an urbanist and long-time San Francisco resident with a passion for making cities work for everyone. He’s adapted Moreno’s four key characteristics to create the project’s framework. They include:

  • Proximity: Things must be close.
  • Diversity: Land uses must be mixed to provide a wide variety of urban amenities nearby.
  • Density: There must be enough people to support a diversity of businesses in a compact land area. Note that Manhattan-level density is not needed, as many low-rise neighborhoods in San Francisco and other U.S. cities prove.
  • Ubiquity: These neighborhoods must be so common that they are available and affordable to anyone who wants to live in one.

How’s it working, and why does the 15-Minute City Project matter to us? In order to avoid the worst effects of climate change, it’s crucial that we decarbonize our cities. The project gives us a “north star” worth aiming for, for a future worth fighting for.

DEEPER DIVE:, Carlos Moreno’s TED Talk, RIBA Journal,



Carlos Moreno is a Franco-Colombian scientist and university professor. We know him for his work on creating the concept of the 15-Minute City. It’s an iteration of his reflections, initiatives, and applications focused on the smart, sustainable, and sensitive city.

In May 2020, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group adopted the 15 minute city concept in response to the climate crisis and the urban effects of the COVID-19 crisis. Also in 2020, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, proposed a “living smart city” initiative called the “Ville du quart d’heure” – the 15-minute city. Hidalgo won her re-election.

Moreno has indicated that he drew his professional inspiration about “smart cities” from the American-Canadian urban planning critic and theorist Jane Jacobs, author of the (1961) classic The Death and Life of Great American CitiesWhy does Carlos Moreno matter to us? His impact. It’s exemplified by the number of awards he’s received for his thought leadership.

He was awarded the rank of Chevalier of the Order of the Legion of Honour in Paris in 2010; the 2019 Foresight Medal by the French Academy of Architecture; the 2021 “Leadership” prize at the Smart City Expo World Congress; and of course he is the recipient of the 2021 Obel Award for his contribution to a better quality of life.

In March 2022 Carlos Moreno became an ambassador for the French Pavilion of the world’s largest ecological, economic and cultural gathering Floriade, which will take place in the Netherlands from 14 April to 9 October 2022 under the theme, “Growing Green Cities.”

DEEPER DIVE: C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, Paris Mayor Hidalgo,



We found out about the Obel Awards from researching the 15-Minute City Project. Carlos Moreno was a recipient of the 2021 Obel Award. He won it for the 15-minute city concept. It’s the idea that cities should be (re)designed, so that all residents are able to access their daily needs (housing, work, food, health, education, and culture and leisure) within the distance of a 15-minute walk or bike ride. This greatly reduces car traffic and CO2 emissions and increases the health and well-being of residents.

The OBEL AWARD, first awarded in 2019, is an international prize for architecture that honours recent and outstanding architectural contributions to human development all over the world. The OBEL AWARD offers an incentive to architects and other professionals to consider their obligations towards the common good. The award also aims to increase awareness in the general public of the transformative and social value of architecture.

The OBEL AWARD is presented by the Henrik Frode Obel Foundation. Founded by Henrik Frode Obel (1942-2014), the foundation is based in Copenhagen, Denmark.

So why do the Obel Awards matter to us? The foundation presents exhibitions and events in order to stimulate debate about the role of architecture and to promote the circulation of new ideas across disciplines and continents. Which in turn incentivizes architects to move us toward more sustainable buildings. Past winners include: German architect Anna Heringer and her studio, and Japanese architect Junya Ishigami and associates.

The next OBEL AWARD will be presented in October 2022.

DEEPER DIVE: Obel Awards,, YouTube