Thursday, March 28, 2019

Lovability - A metric for the future

Brisbane's unique Streets Beach, a downtown public
beach with palm trees, pebbled creeks and crystal clear lagoons. 

by Mateja Mihinjac

The discussion about the quality of life in 21st Century cities often centers around livability. In SafeGrowth we encourage residents to identify livability indicators so they can improve the quality of life in their neighborhood. Livability matters.

Up until 2018, The Economist magazine crowned Melbourne the most livable city in the world for 5 years straight (Vienna taking the title last year). But what is livability?


Livability indices usually focus on statistically measurable data. For example, The Economist’s Intelligence Unit each year ranks the world’s most livable cities by five categories: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure.

Natural, and safe, sitting areas surrounded by trees in Central Park
However, residents and visitors may not relate to their cities in uniform ways as presupposed by these metrics. Instead, they may offer subjective opinions of livability more meaningful to them.

My colleagues from Melbourne, Fiona Gray and Matt Novacevski, similarly remind us that livability indices alone disregard people’s emotional connection to cities, neighborhoods and places. They offer the concept of lovability as a more meaningful measure.


The quality of life for residents transcends the five livability categories listed above. In a recent article, Fiona, Matt and Cristina Garduño Freeman state that practical aspects of the city are not sufficient. Instead, they argue that aesthetic qualities of the city are also important because they trigger an emotional reaction and foster connection to places.

Being a kid with fun and play - the emotional aesthetic of city life 
In their Melbourne lovability index project they asked residents to share what they love about their city and why. Answers included: beauty, aesthetics of the city, culture, history, tradition, diversity of activities and opportunities, and having places for people to come together to celebrate.

Some cities, such as Singapore, have already included lovability as an extension of livability focus of their city planning. Clearly, citizens must have a say in assessing the quality of their cities, including involving them in decisions regarding city planning.

Public places can offer private moments of relaxation in beautiful surroundings


In SafeGrowth we recognize the importance of emotional connection to each other and to our neighborhoods. We distinguish between “actions of the mind” (actions to create social cohesion), and “actions of the heart” (actions that create emotional connection and neighborhood identity).

Lovability, therefore, offers the potential to merge objective and subjective measures of quality of life. A resident-driven and neighborhood-focused description of city living will expand the concept of livability to make it more meaningful and long-lasting.

2 Replies so far - Add your comment

em said...

Maybe this is something to apply in Saskatoon when you are here

Mateja Mihinjac said...

Hey Elisabeth,

I don't think this is something that can be simply applied using a few techniques or strategies but we can certainly talk about options to increase livability and lovability through community input while I'm there. Can't wait!