Sep-Oct 2014

Table of Contents
Sep-Oct 2014
Urban Issue | Liveable Cities

“Liveable cities” is an oft-heard phrase. Every year, pundits announce winners in surveys that assess cities for safety, education, health care, culture, environment, etc. The top 10 are almost always in Europe, Canada, Australia or New Zealand. The metrics of liveability, it seems, are meant to guide global businesses on where to locate their next outpost. Or—if they must choose a less liveable city—how much hardship allowance to give an employee posted there. Monocle’s Most Liveable City Index is the only one that includes in its criteria, quality of architecture and urban design, as well as access to nature.

What, if anything, do these surveys tell us on how to make a city more liveable?

We ask Herbert Dreiseitl if he would decode liveable. He says that we need new social spaces where we can feel like citizens, spaces that also offer us ways to understand the city’s processes, for instance, the conveyance of storm water. He calls this Blue-Green Infrastructure.

We look at the city of Suzhou as an example of a liveable city. Winner of the 2014 Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize, Suzhou was recognised for its careful planning and good urban management.

In this issue, we consider several other ingredients for liveability.

The first is mobility. This is the integration of public transport, private vehicles and all options in-between, like cycling and walking. Taipei is an example of how mobility is holistically planned. In other Asian cities, integration is not as easy. AK Jain, the former planning commissioner for Delhi Development Authority (DDA), speaks of the daunting challenge of reshaping cities in India.

The second is city smarts. There is growing consensus that smart cities offer a better quality of life; they are also more efficient and less wasteful. Louis White reports on this global trend. The projects supporting his commentary are in Singapore, Japan and India.

The third is food. Or rather, urban agriculture. Miriel Ko looks for places in Asia where this is taking off. She tells us that this is more than a matter of food security or ecological footprint. Farming reinstates a sense of community in places where the stresses of city living have taken a toll. Food, it seems, binds us in a way that few other things do. This community dividend is illustrated with projects in Singapore, Tokyo and Shenzhen.

The final ingredient, also perhaps the least tangible, is governanceDr Thor Kerr’s article on the recent elections in Indonesia speaks of the winds of change. Old political structures are giving way to new ideas about citizenry. This in turn will affect the way cities are designed and used.

The intersection between politics and urbanism is highlighted in our interview with the mayor of the city of Bandung, Indonesia. Ridwan Kamil is a well-known architect and planner who uses social media to forge a new relationship between citizens and city government. He suggests that cities must be likeable before they can be liveable. And likeability starts with a celebration of things already present: history, culture, and a sense of togetherness.


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