Image: Copenhagen Harbour Bath by BIG + JDS architects. Image: City of Copenhagen
Does this mean that a good city is a global and competitive city?
“No, not necessarily. There is a huge difference between Scandinavia’s largest urban development project in Copenhagen's North Harbour, and the new master plan for the Municipality of Lolland in Denmark. The conditions, qualities and potentials of the two city areas differ greatly. There is also no guarantee that the cities scoring highly on the Global Cities Index (fig. 2) are also home to the happiest people. There is a clear indication that people expect more from their cities than commercial activity alone. The point is not competitiveness at all costs, but rather that cities with high levels of social, cultural and professional interaction, clean air, safe streets, and short travel times provide the best conditions for people and therefore the highest quality of life,” says Dominic Balmforth.
He provides an example: “At the moment, cities like Beijing (nr.14 on the Global Cities Index) and Shanghai (nr.21 on the Global Cities Index) score well on economic activity, but lower on human capital, cultural experience, and political engagement. They will encounter problems in the long term if they do not address this imbalance.”
Copenhagen as international role model
Copenhagen is at the very top of the international Green City Index, and the concept of “Copenhagenization” has become synonymous with a good quality of life. The excellent facilities provided for cyclists always receive particular attention. According to Ramboll experts, the success of Copenhagen goes deeper than the widely utilised cycle paths.
“The Scandinavian city model, as we know it from Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo and Helsinki, is at the top of all international rankings for sustainable cities. This is because it delivers urban living of a very high standard. When we offer our expertise to cities around the world, we present the different layers of infrastructure that has made Nordic cities the most sustainable. When we talk about infrastructure, we not only focus on roads, drains and cables, but also on the economic, social and cultural infrastructure – all the things we need in order to give people a happy and stimulating life,” says Dominic Balmforth.
Can you give an example?
“It is about measuring and acting upon the qualities we value most. To this end, we are currently developing new economic models which show the value of say, high-quality public space, revealing long-term improvements to people’s health and daily well-being. In this context, it is noteworthy that Copenhageners value their time and their physical environment equally to their own economic prosperity.”