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What makes a city great

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The best cities usually just happen when people are encouraged to have a strong sense of communal ownership, says Syerleena Abdul Rashid.

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the same goes to reasons people may choose when they are asked to identify what makes a city great.

There can never be any measures of greatness nor touchstones to point out what people should look out for. More often than not, a city’s unique feature may turn out to be both a good and bad, depending on your perspective.

As society becomes more complex and more intertwined with technological changes that come with the 21st century, we begin to redefine our need for space and our understanding of community.

We become more attached to our experiences and demand more from our cities. This displays the interactions between social and cultural activities and commercial relationships that make a city great.

Trying to understand the connectivity between space and communities can be quite confusing, simply because there isn’t anything solid that can pinpoint what makes a city a pretty darn good place to live in.

Such notions may change due to the various expectations one may possess at later stages of one’s life.

Sometimes, a person may have different opportunities and outlook of life in the city. One may choose the convenience of having everything close by, and there will be those who would rather prefer to be surrounded by space and lush greenery.

Some may prefer to be close to entertainment outlets but may not want to live too close to one of the major shopping malls which often cause traffic congestion. Then there are those who want to partake in great employment opportunities but can’t fathom paying sky-high prices for property and, hence, are willing to commute kilometres to work on a daily basis.

But let’s be honest: although, societies require so much – there will probably never be that perfect place we envision. However, this does not mean that there will never be places where people can live happily ever after.

Think of this as a word of advice to those who think they are capable of making cities great.

We need to understand thoroughly the local economy and get to know local champions and their preferences – the people, the food, the environment, the architecture, the thriving arts and cultural scene, public transport.

As we explore deeper, we will come across other degrees of improvement and development that will enable us to advocate better policies for the people and the city.

Cities are like spontaneous institutions – constantly evolving and always organic. This is made possible by human influences and our achievements.

A great destination, which could be a city, a township, a province or even a village, will have reasons people would be drawn to it, reasons that make people return over and over again to build memorable experiences.

We are frequently told that infrastructure, form of space and the overall visual beauty appeal of a city are important aspects.

Indeed they are, but we shouldn’t disregard the magnitude of organic reasons that may be quite difficult to spell out.

Maybe it is this that really makes them great, too. Perhaps it is time for us to admit that the best cities usually just happen when people are encouraged to have a strong sense of communal ownership – what is mine is also yours, and it is our responsibility to take care of what we have.

Source: themalaysianinsider.com

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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