What Makes a City Attractive?

I borrowed this blog title from this video on How to Make an Attractive City?

This video presents an excellent example of “Attractive Thinking”. The producers have used one of the most important techniques in understanding what makes things attractive to people.  The video is all about using the insights to turn cities into places that people love to live in and to visit. The producers at The School of Life have identified the six characteristics that define cities where people love to hang out.

These six characteristics are what I would describe as the Power Drivers. By which I mean the most powerful attributes that characterise places that cause people to choose one city over another.  So what are these things

  1. Not too chaotic yet not too ordered. We like symmetry and order, but not too much. The best cities often have ordered buildings, squares and layouts. But not overwhelmingly mono in style. This is an ordered chaos. e.g. Paris, Rome, Bath, New York
  2. Has visible life. Whilst people claim to like privacy, we actually like to be around others and see other people enjoying themselves. We congregate in squares and streets where things happen. We do not visit sterile suburbs or anonymous business parks.
  3. Are compact. Cities are big but they have parts of cities you can get around easily by foot or public transport. These parts are not too big. They are broken up into squares and public places. People live in densely packed areas but have public parks and squares. The squares are just the right size whereby you could recognise and see someone across the other side
  4. Have orientation and mystery. Cities are big but they have places with lanes and streets where you can walk and get a bit lost and make discoveries. Alleyways feel homely and intimate. There is something to discover. We need wider boulevards to allow for mobility and fast access. But it is best when these are combined with warrens of streets
  5. Scale. Many cities make people feel small as the buildings and the transport roads dwarf them. Often the biggest buildings are devoted to large corporations and financial firms. These are not things people love. The most attractive cities have limited most buildings to 5 or 7 stories high and maintain regular sizes in any one street. When there is something bigger it is related to what matters to people, theatre, church, museums sports etc.
  6. Make it Local. Create individuality and use local materials not just another skyscraper of office tower that could be anywhere. Think of the stone in Edinburgh and Bath. The Portland stone of St Pauls, the style of Venice.

There is more in the video

The point I wanted to bring out, is that to make a product attractive to people, to make it into something people will love, you have to know the things that are most important to people. Some of that you can find out by talking to people. But some of it relies on your insight and imagination. More on discovering Power Drivers later….