175 Years of Making a Place Less Liveable

This year Auckland has apparently turned 175 years old – which of course is not true

The place has been around for thousands of years, and has attracted people since around the time the sky turned red to give us Rangitoto Island and also its name

People came because the area was handy to the east and west coast, and to the north and south of the island, had good viewpoints from the many hills and great access to a valuable harbour

Not much has really changed aside from our pouring a lot of concrete. People are still attracted to Auckland for its proximity to the harbour and coasts, for the excellent landscape it provides and the many different places to live

All cities attract people for the hustle and bustle, the busyness and activities on offer, the work opportunities and the people. The best cities though are judged by how easy it is to escape the madding crowds, how easy it is to find some silence and calm – either within the city or close by, and easily accessible

Building more houses, more roads, or even more railways, won’t make a city more attractive or more `liveable’

It’s the quality of the life experience that the city provides that endears people to it. Acres of group builder suburban sameness won’t do it. Neither will bland, faceless and unimaginative apartment blocks, nor even a new transport system if it is sporadic and unpredictable. What matters is how we feel about the quality of the place, in design, service and experience

Liveable might mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but the emotional responses we have to our environment and the places we spend our time are universal amongst all people. We need to concern ourselves less with the need to respond to demand for `stuff’, and more with the quality of that response, and how people will feel in the places we make

We need to think less about designing for the things that we imagine a city consists of, like offices, shops, roads, houses and infrastructure, and more about the people that live, work and play there, and how their feelings and experiences can be enhanced by our doing things properly – for them

Otherwise we risk indiscriminately pouring more concrete and calling it progress, and spending another 175 years of making the place less liveable.

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