No need to call an urban planner to notice that a city full of modern condos, chain stores, barista’s cafes, designers and celebrity neighbors don’t contribute to a city’s greatness. And some might even blame the gentrification for making perfectly fine quiet blocks into commercial purgatories.
The most captivating cities in the world have been so for ages, so we tried to find 5 of the common advantages of living there.
Most great city have what is called “Mixed Land Use”, which means areas that serve more than one function and thus attract more than one type of person.
Urban developments that can combine residential, commercial, cultural, institutional, or industrial uses with pedestrian connections favors the diversity and stronger neighborhood character. Diverse neighbourhoods are more healthy and tolerant and have less occurrences of mental illnesses among their residents.
You can find this mixture in most European cities where single-use zoning came centuries after their creation.
That`s another trait easy to find in small, suburban cities, that enhances the quality of life for its residents.
Jane Jacobs states in The Death and Life of Great American Cities that “death” in urban areas is caused by the elimination of pedestrian activity from urban streets due to new highway construction and large-scale urban development. In this book, Jacobs states that a person feel more secure and safe if used to walk the street and make acquaintances from neighbours, in contrast to alienated cities full of strangers. Who doesn’t want to feel safe in their own city?
This is a correlation to the 2 first qualities, because a diverse population with high interaction make any city thriving and lively. Far beyond commercial development, in a density city you will most likely find better and more cultural development, schools and entertainment.
But beware, when urban density reaches the highest levels result in more expensive real estate, greater road congestion and more localized air pollution.
Not only focused on design, the buildings should be mixed in age and form, to ensure diverse economic activity. A variety of building types will allow for a diverse range of jobs, that promotes innovation. And some level of preservation of older constructions -with the needed upgrade and remodel to guarantee safety- also represents the legacy of the city.
Think, about the importance of parks and outdoors, too. Open spaces -like sidewalks- promote human interaction while might provide contact with nature in green areas.
Sustainability and green living
And last but not least, sustainability and green living makes any good city in a great city in the years to come. At the architectural level, sustainability focuses on design, build, operate and maintain green buildings according to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards.
But a real whole sustainable city should be the natural consequence of the first 4 qualities numbered, because it has to take in consideration economics, politics and culture, in addition to ecology. These factors are covered by the movement of New Urbanism, that begins in the early 1980s in our country and evolved til today.
“We stand for the restoration of existing urban centers and towns within coherent metropolitan regions, the reconfiguration of sprawling suburbs into communities of real neighborhoods and diverse districts, the conservation of natural environments, and the preservation of our built legacy.”
Cities can be more environmentally sustainable than rural or suburban living, because proximity can reduce traffic congestion by encouraging the population to ride bikes, walk, or take the train. As a whole, high density urban areas are more energy efficient overall than disperse ones.
And most of all, a great city is the one that give us the best living experience and gear us with the nicest memories, so forget about the bling of real estate commercials and just focus on these 5 qualities to chose the one to settle.
Do you recall any city that has the whole 5? Leave it in the comments.