What makes a city great?

The world is preoccupied with rating the city. From the towering skyscrapers of New York to Tokyo’s colourful neon and Melbourne’s amiable public spaces, it seems there’s a way to grade every aspect of the modern metropolis.

Economists, sociologists and even politicians pick apart our cities, presumably ranking them so we might best select a place to live. What is unquestionable however, and it was the focus of BlueNotes’ MetropolisNow series, is human life is becoming inexorably more urbanised.

Sydney, despite its shortcomings of urban sprawl and increasingly insufficient infrastructure, typically features on these lists. Indeed, such global status seems to matter to a rising global star like Sydney, even if the varied experiences within a city can be far less glamorous.

Of course, rankings differ based on the parameters. Some define great cities by their economic output or the number of job opportunities they create, while others are more concerned with culture or quality of life.

Consider Singapore which routinely scores well for its economy. It generates $US51,149 in economic output per person which makes it one of the richest and most developed nations in the world, according to the Martin Prosperity Institute (MPI) at the University of Toronto.

With the rapid rise of its creative middle class, it follows Singapore must be a great a place to do business.

Meanwhile, consultancy Mercer ranks Vienna, Zurich and Auckland as the three most ‘livable’ cities in the world, based on factors such as their political and social environments, economics, housing, transportation and the natural environment.

These cities apparently offer an array of enticements for prospective newcomers, which is the basis of the study’s undertaking.

Further still, the United Nations defines a ‘prosperous’ city as one that’s productive, provides adequate infrastructure, has a good quality of life, offers equity and social inclusion, and is practicing environmental sustainability.

The tally of these factors is called the city prosperity index and scores each city out of 100, with Hong Kong notching 57, for example, against Jakarta’s 51 and Sydney’s 66. (Notably, Auckland scored just 35).

But does all of this equate to greatness in a city?

Originally Published by ANZ Blue Notes, continue reading here.


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