Justin Swan

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In your opinion, what is the greatest city in the world and why?

There are so many characteristics that make a city great. Some like to measure the greatness of a city through it's history, people, livability, citizenship engagement, economics, physical beauty, sustainability, etc.

We are looking for an assortment of opinions - in particular, we really want to know WHY you think a particular city is the greatest. We are piecing together an internal presentation and would love to have some outside opinions to help prompt thought.


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    Dec 21 2011: What a unproductive discussion. Each one here will defend your city which was not constructed by him/herself defending some a place which are a result of historic/societal evolution rather than changeble/shapeable by us. In my opnion each place respond, by human activity, differently to various different input. Each place is the best result possible in view of the existent possibilities.

    Discussing if Sidney is better then Paris or not does not make any sense. Because it is not possible to do so. I live in São Paulo and love this place, but how can I argue that it is better than frankfurt or London (I think so in my subjective way).
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      Dec 24 2011: Interesting comment and I couldn't agree with you more. The term "best" was used because the word in it's nature is vague and prompts opinion. Actually, your comment reminds me of the annual livability study done by Mercer where they rank cities across the world in terms of their livability based on numerous criteria. The surveys they conduct are completed by expatriates to try and avoid bias from emotional connections to a place.

      Perhaps the question wasn't quite phrased properly. The intent was to try and generate some feedback as to why somebody may feel a stronger desire toward one place over another. Interesting how you mentioned you love Sao Paulo. What exactly do you love about it? I just saw the documentary Manda Bala which focused, like most documentaries, on some of the more negative aspects of Sao Paulo.
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        Dec 25 2011: I have always seen the Mercer Livability study is an interesting approach to compare cities and places, however trying to compile into one sole index the quality of such different socially construct places sound to me a little strange. By putting together parameters such as safety, mobility and education one may lose the ability to compare real things and responses given by society. Sometimes it sounds a little unreal to me, but I like to study such surveys (global cities, and so on).

        Actually I work with urban planning (at AECOM), and such discussions have always got my attention. Only after living in Europe during some months (In Frankfurt), having the opportunity to know the old world a little better and coming back to Brazil I could realize how I enjoyed living in my country and specially São Paulo. I do like it because it is incredibly more modern, international and cosmopolitan than all the cities I known in Europe. In my opinion the main feature of a city is the street experience of getting in touch with the others, and the more numerous and diverse these "other" are the more exciting the urban life is in my view.

        I have never heard about this movie and after googling a little I discovered that it has not been showed in Brazil, in despite of having won the Sundance festival as best documentary. I'll certainly watch it. Everything in São Paulo, and in Brazil as a hole, is controversial and segregate. We have numerous problems and hard work to be done, but at least this place is far away more interesting than ("urbaning" speaking) than most places I know.
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          Dec 27 2011: That is true - the Mercer report is quite objective and perhaps arguably is more in tune with the 'potential livability' of a city rather than the actual livability. I'm sure we can both think of some great examples of urban "pokazukha". There are so many up here in North America - it's terrible. Ultimately it is the conviction / desire of people and communities to foster a sense of place and ultimately provide it with the qualities that make it livable. You mentioned the street experience which is a huge focus in terms of policy moving forward in North American cities, but we are plagued by relic policy that persists. Other cities around the world typically foster this concept in better regard (we could get into the impacts of the post World War 2 interstate policy framework on the US and Canada, but will leave that for now).

          Interesting that you work for AECOM. I work with individuals in this company right now and I used to work with a competitor (GENIVAR) as a transportation engineer / planner. What are some of the new concepts or methods being pushed in Sao Paulo? I have never been, but I imagine the place to have quite favourable density to acheive good street interaction. Certainly, the size of the city as well probably brings opportunities for some pretty interesting solutions to be considered that aren't in most cities. If you have a linkedin account, please consider connecting - http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/justin-swan/1a/3b0/420
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    Dec 15 2011: NYC/London/Paris 3 way tie
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    Dec 15 2011: For a time decades ago I lived in San Francisco, California. I loved it for its coastline which was cool and rugged, the exercise of walking to the top of its many hills and for the panoramic beauty there, its city parks, the trolley cars, the mild weather, the street fairs and the joie de vie just being there.

    I lived in a studio apartment on a nurses salary. I wonder if you can still do that?