Coming from the Latin term (civis) meaning citizen, cities are places that are centred around its people. Since the beginning of time, mankind has strived to find ways to enhance the beauty of large settlements, which in turn addresses the activity of its inhabitants. An expertly constructed city is innovative in aesthetics, sustainability, and architecture. All these elements rely on a great amount of planning and expert execution of the design. But what constitutes an exceptionally designed city? Here are five examples from across the world which have various answers to that question.
The largest city in Northern Spain, Bilbao, provides a model that UNESCO wants more cities to follow. The architectural approach to transform declining industrial areas to modern service sites perfectly matches their vision for cities to create “major cultural facilities contributing to the economy’s wealth creation, employment and social well-being”. This is most prevalent in the old port area where the beautiful Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry, has stood since 1997. The construction of the building is marked as being a significant moment in architectural culture, because of its innovative design and wide critical acclaim. ‘The Guggenheim Effect’ is now a term used to describe the reclamation of derelict areas to help tourism infrastructure.
Singapore City, Singapore
Perhaps nowhere in the world made for a more unlikely location to build a city than the island of Singapore. Originally a patch of swamps and wetlands in Southeast Asia, the island is now internationally renowned for its’ innovative architecture and designated green-spaces which thrive amongst the dense city metropolis. The city has pioneering ways of managing rubbish and sewage- the suburbs around the city are self-sustainable, and a large amount of the city’s rubbish is used to build Pulau Semakau, an island just off the coast of Singapore. The design of this new island is so expert that people visit it to take a break from the city - it has scenic views and is completely free from smell.
Designed by the renowned French architect Le Corbusier, Chandigarh is considered one of the best cities in India. The design is based upon the concept of the human body with each sector having an individual purpose that contributes to the overall function of the city. Chandigrah’s ‘head’ is the capital, its ‘heart’ the city centre, its ‘lungs’ the open green spaces, and its ‘circulatory system’ the network of roads and cycling paths. Its unique aesthetic beauty, innovative architecture, and urban design have given the city a charm that has brought in tourists that leave in wonder.
Often labelled as being the best city for transport in the world, Zurich is Switzerland’s answer to eco-friendly efficiency. The buses, trains, and trams in the city provide the most frequent service in the world, which is perhaps why just over half of all the journeys in Zurich are taken on public transport. The success of the transit system means there is less pollution, fewer accidents, and no more obtrusive parking lots, caused by vehicles in other cities. Zurich is also a leader in climate protection and it funds large amounts of research for renewable energy and places importance on green recreational areas for its citizens.
This last one is a slight cheat in the sense that it’s not a city, but due to its incredible uniqueness that it had to be featured on the list. Auroville is an experimental town in South India with a meticulous spatial design by architect Roger Anger. The layout of the town exists as a spiral - the residential buildings are on the outside curves, community buildings (such as the Town Hall) on the inside curves, with its ‘peace zone’ building, The Matrimandir at its centre. The aesthetic beauty of Auroville is outstanding – aesthetically speaking, the township could be the set of the latest sci-fi blockbuster. The town is also a social experiment in which people from all countries, “are able to live peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities”.
These five examples go some way to prove that whilst innovative design is vital to a well-designed city, there remains a decision on the way this will best benefit its citizens. Whether it is for ecologic progression, economic rejuvenation, or spiritual harmony, these five cities prove that the ways in which expert planning and pioneering architectural design affect our everyday lives are constantly evolving.
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