How do you define and measure a city? Is it by population or geographic size? Or, is it determined by the functional amenities and efficiencies it offers such as schools, freeways, housing and jobs? We’d like to offer a different perspective by considering the most important output cities produce.
For thousands of years, cities have been the centre of human invention. Athens gave us the concept of democracy. The crowded coffee houses of Vienna produced new thoughts on psychology and literature, London helped shape many of the fundamentals of capitalism and Toronto has become the definition of an accepting multicultural society with its neighbourhoods of the world vibe. And today, as people have more freedom to choose where they live and work, we can’t help but think that we are entering the era of the mid-sized city.
Cities, regardless of their size or shape, are created when transactions and functionality are combined with emotions such as sympathy, empathy and social bonding. Cities elevate citizens from primarily being concerned about survival into being creators, inventors and humanitarians. Given our current and unprecedented need for all these things, it is time to start thinking of cities as the true habitat of the human spirit. We need to reprioritize what we invest in from a city building perspective. As the need for invention increases, infrastructure projects that inspire inclusion, collaboration and joy are going to become the true measure of a city’s social and economic success.