What connects people in cities and what makes cities places where you want to be? That is a question I’ve been asking myself since a long time.
Most urban dwellers consider themselves as individuals, which want to be unique in material manifestations such as clothing, goods and mindset.
However, cities play the unique role in terms of catering for everybody’s needs in the same an equal manner. A city provides spaces for the young and old members of the community as well as for disadvantaged groups.
Translating these individual needs into the public realm –the space that should provide spaces for all of us in a city – can enable liveable places. In liveable spaces everybody can celebrate their uniqueness on many places and it takes just a couple of simple mechanisms to achieve that.
1. A decent population density that can support economic viable use of infrastructure.
2. Be nice to people by providing sufficient spaces for them.
3. Design that space for the people by considering light, noise, scale and imageability.
For all the readers who may find that to abstracts please let me describe this through an simple comparison (metapher).
A person sits in a coffee shop, reads talks, enjoys good food and company. Overall most people feel quite nice once they are in them. Why, because all design components have been achieved. However, it should be noted that you need financial effort to benefit from them. First of all coffee shops are spaces for people, the scale of the establishment appears comfortable, leaves spaces for some privacy and they are considered to be very safe. The light is just right – not to strong and not too dark and the noise comes usually from other people and gentle music in the background. This noise level above 35 dbl enables a feeling for social inclusion and can help to reduce depression. Imageability can make a place unique.
Artworks, interesting structural elements, vegetation, view connections etc. are tools to allow individual imageability. Spaces that have special sense of place have some unique qualities that cannot be repeated on a large scale – the same in coffee shops. Just imagine all coffee shops would have the same artwork in them.
All these four elements should be possible in a liveable and healthy city. But even more important a coffee shop could not function without a good crowed that lives near by to fill it with live and the same rule applies to the city.
Canberra has the potential to have many of these high quality places for all members of the community if we are prepared to accept and support on our individual level the fact that we need a population higher density. This will allow Canberra to become a city for people – a healthy and more sustainable place to live it.
Other cities around the globe are already committed to create sustainable and liveable place for their people. The city of London started to ban cars in the city and applied mechanism to reduce car speeds. Copenhagen is introducing more and more spaces for active transport and is increasingly blocking spaces for cars. Freiburg new developments are people oriented developments, that are environmentally, economically and socially sustainable. All these cases have one huge advantage – most individuals accepted higher density as the opportunity to create a better future for the coming generations so that they have even better and more liveable spaces to live in.