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.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Budapest CPTED - the beginning of a beautiful friendship

The national government buildings in Budapest
by Gregory Saville

Like so many countries today facing political questioning and turbulent change, Hungary is in rapid transformation. In that context, it’s fascinating to watch the launch of a new movement in a place with progressive-minded people seeking a positive future. Moments like that teem with excitement and hope. Such was the case in Budapest, the enchanting capital city on the Danube River where I attended a conference two weeks ago launching CPTED in that country.

Sporting the tagline, “The Role of Conscious Architectural and Environmental Design in Crime Prevention”, the conference was one in a series of similar events this year aimed at introducing CPTED to different sectors of the Hungarian community.

Budapest features a modern (and deep) subway system
- the first electrified subway in Europe

Organized by the dedicated folks at the “kulturAktiv”, an NGO dedicated to helping young people understand the built environment, (with the Hungarian National Crime Prevention Council and the Lechner Knowledge Centre), the conference was meticulously organized with an international group of speakers and local experts.

I have attended such events many times over the years but rarely have I seen such thorough preparation. The Hungarians have read, studied, and attended CPTED events, such as the International CPTED Association conference in Calgary a few years ago. They came prepared and they knew their stuff! Their workshops showed the depth of knowledge about CPTED, 2nd Generation CPTED, the role of children, and CPTED in high rise housing.

For some quirky (and charming) reason, Budapest features a statue of
Lt. Columbo, the 1970s TV detective 
I was immensely impressed with the presentations, from Istvan Molnar’s session on whether CPTED should be compulsory or recommended (I favor the former) to Anna Szilagi-Nagy’s presentation, A matter of opinion – whose task is CPTED? (I vote for everyone).

They have done their homework! I wish we had that kind of foresight and commitment in North America, where too much CPTED is mired in the “design out crime” of the 1970s - locks, lights, territorial control and 1st Generation CPTED!

Thank you to our new Hungarian friends for your commitment to your community. That commitment, above all, is the mark of exceptional people. As the protagonist in a famous film once said; “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Recreating spaces, not demolishing them

Art in the community - display near the Brisbane Powerhouse
by Tarah Hodgkinson

Beautiful places inspire us to create, think differently and feel connected to the past. Or at least that is what I heard at a lunchtime talk on beautiful places and why we need to protect them. The speaker discussed how, rather than tearing down older, unused buildings, we could repurpose them for new uses. These buildings would retain their original character and provide an environmentally sustainable way to maintain a connection to the past.

I heard this talk about four years ago. This is a well-known urban planning field called heritage planning, of which one of our SafeGrowth Advocates, Carl Bray, is a recognized expert.

The deck of the Powerhouse

It all came rushing back to me as I stepped onto the property of the Brisbane Powerhouse. The Powerhouse on the Brisbane river was a power station in the 1920s. However, it went unused for decades and fell into disrepair. There was much debate over what to do with it because it would have cost over a million dollars to tear it down.

Additionally, it took over ten years to get support from politicians to repurpose the building. However, rather than tearing it down and destroying the character of the massive building, in 2000 the Powerhouse was recreated as an arts centre.

Powerhouse box office

In 2018, over 680,000 people visited the Powerhouse and it now hosts over 1200 performances annually. Almost a thousand emerging local artists have presented their work on the walls of the Powerhouse. It has two restaurants and bars which allow it to serve the public both on and off show days and hosts weddings year round. In short, it has become a cultural hub, supporting the Australian performing arts market which takes performances out to the entire community.

What are the takeaways? One is that beautiful places (even old ones) are often inspiring. The Powerhouse marries the old and the new to create a place for everyone to enjoy. There are environmentally sustainable and creative ways to make old buildings new again and bring new life to our neighbourhoods.

Front of the Brisbane Powerhouse

Another lesson is that change takes time. The artist society fought for ten years before it successfully repurposed the Powerhouse into an arts centre.

In neighbourhoods that are trying to make changes, it can be daunting to realize that change can sometimes take a decade. However, it is also a testament to the perseverance and the power of a small group of concerned (and well organized) citizens.

We discuss Liveability Academies as one part of the SafeGrowth method. Teaching local residents how to create a vision and to organize for what they want is an important part of neighbourhood governance. And, as the Powerhouse demonstrates, it can result in amazing, and beautiful, changes.