Chiara Lissandrello, Sébastien Bruyère

August 21, 2022

What makes a city liveable?

More than half the world’s population dwells in urban areas today, rising to 6 billion people by 2041. Our liveability experts explain why nature, culture, and human welfare are all needed to make cities liveable. 

Liveability, a sustainability buzzword, describes the conditions for a decent life for all inhabitants of cities, regions, and communities, including their physical, social, and mental wellbeing. The concept is concerned with optimising the performance and the integrity of human life. Yet there are many different opinions and priorities about what makes a city truly liveable. Three of Ramboll’s urban liveability experts who live in three unique cities, share their insights:
1. How do you define a liveable city?
Chiara Lissandrello – Lead consultant (Rome): A liveable city is founded on balancing society, environment, economy, and culture. It’s the actual implementation of sustainability at the urban level. While the exact combination will always vary, and economic elements are constant, a strategy for liveable cities should always seek a sustainable balance of all these components.
Sébastien Bruyère – Senior consultant (Marseille): The liveability of a place depends on the people within it, a bit like a weighted formula in mathematics. Professionally, I localise urban solutions to meet the liveability needs of specific communities. Personally, for liveability, I need a city to provide a variety of diverse opportunities.
Leonard Ng Keok Poh, Country Market Director (Singapore): A range of factors make places liveable. Liveability is measured by quality-of-life factors, such as access to fresh water, food, housing, transport, health care, education, and a safe and stable built and natural environment. But liveability of a place is also based on social and psychological factors, like emotion and perception.
2. How does nature influence the liveability of a city?
Chiara: Liveable cities give priority to natural capital. Liveable cities provide both organic and well-maintained green areas to help mitigate or reverse climate change risks and impacts, as well as to promote the psychophysical well-being of their citizens.
Sébastien: Nature and natural resources perform nearly endless ecosystem services [i.e. the varied benefits to humans provided by the natural environment and from healthy ecosystems], in addition to increasing the accessibility to public services. This is why integrating nature into long-term development strategies helps cities meet social, environmental, and economic goals.
Leonard: Traditionally, cities are developed using grey infrastructure while turning away from the natural environment. We know now, to improve liveability, we must be inspired by natural ecosystems when designing urban spaces. It is hard to imagine people enjoying a community void of nature.

“We must stop seeing nature and open space as luxuries — everyone deserves access to nature and open space.”

Country Market Director (Singapore) Henning Larsen

Chiara Lissandrello – Lead consultant

Sébastien Bruyère – Senior consultant

3. How do social services affect the liveability of cities?
Chiara: Liveability is human-centred. This means communities must offer provisions of high-quality services such as public transport, health centres, community centres, kindergartens, public schools, and social services to enhance the quality of life for all. All cities must promote the arts and education as fundamental components of its and its citizens’ progress.
Leonard: Providing social services sheds light on what cities say they care about the most – people. Residents need to feel safe, socially connected, and included—meaning easy access to affordable and diverse housing options linked via public transport, walking, and cycling infrastructure to employment, education, local shops, public open space and parks, health and community services, leisure, and culture.
Sébastien: Cities are in a great position to help fight social inequalities by providing access to housing and infrastructure, equal rights, and participation, as well as jobs and opportunities. Liveable human ecosystems are best created in inclusive cultures with collaborative processes and open government policies.

"Cities are in a great position to help fight social inequalities by providing access to housing and infrastructure, equal rights, and participation, as well as jobs and opportunities."

Senior Consultant

4. How does culture affect the liveability of communities?
Chiara: Cities, like Rome, are world-renowned as cultural capitals. Such cities’ cultural values often outweigh their unsustainable aspects. However, a liveable city should not rely solely on its history but keep seeking continuous improvements to guarantee a high-quality life for all its current and future citizens.
Sébastien: My favourite liveability feature of a city must be culture. Marseille, for example, has always been known to not follow traditional country values. Being seen as somewhat of a reject, however, shaped and strengthened the community’s identity. Now inhabitants feel very much part of that misfit identity. Even with the city’s large scale, this identity makes everyone feel at home. The culture is what helps me, and other residents, to stay patient about the slow development of other liveability dimensions.

"Its unquestionable that cities around the world are overwhelmed with cars. A liveable city is first a city with no cars!"

Lead Consultant

5. How does access to transport options affect liveability?
Chiara: Its unquestionable that cities around the world are overwhelmed with cars. A liveable city is first a city with no cars! De-focusing on cars supports a positive urban transformation in the medium- and long-term, with the possibility to rethink more human-centred spaces like parks, playgrounds, pedestrian routes, and bike lanes.
Leonard: Transportation was, is, and always will be a community service. But for a city to develop to be more liveable, it should offer digital, clean, intelligent, autonomous, and intermodal mobility options, with more walking and cycling spaces.
To contact the editor of this article, email: Mercedes Beaudoin, Senior Copywriter, Ramboll

Want to know more?

  • Chiara Lissandrello

    Managing Consultant

    +39 06 452 1440

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