What makes a city great?

This question is one of the most frequently asked and open ended question. Perspective and understanding of every individual varies. The whole meaning of “great city” differs from person to person as some look for place to live, some think from economic point of view while others are attracted to the facilities & services which city has to offer.


A great city is not something which is impossible to have but still only few cities are well known globally. If some of the points are kept in mind which planning and managing the city than impressive positive changes can be made. We have listed some of the key points which makes a city great!

  • Planned Development – Ever wondered what is the one common thing in all the top ranking cities in the world? What makes Auckland, Perth, Sydney, Calgary and various other cities one of the best liveable cities? They have “planned development” at their very core. A city which is a result of technology and evolution combined with planned development is one of the most preferred city. This planned developments forms the backbone of all activities taking place in the city and is responsible for their overall functioning. This helps in providing a minimum level of quality of life to its residents.

Related: Urban Planning – A largely Unknown Profession, City Branding


  • Built for people – Cities which are built for people and not for vehicles or buildings are some of the great cities. This part is getting missed in many of the cities but it need to be kept in mind that the ultimate purpose of having a city is to provide comfort, security, safety and utility to its residents. A city without people is merely a ghost town. People are essence of any city and gives life to it. Respecting humans and providing infrastructures to meet the diverse need of society is essential to make a city great.
  • Efficient – Cities are often looked down upon for their massive resource consumption and wastage. Since cities primarily serve the purpose of trade among other activities they have concentration of wealth. From this wealth cities buy and consume resources. City administrators who focuses on providing maximum out of minimum resource are the key players in making cities sustainable and efficient. Wastage increases the cost of living in the urban area and is ultimately cross subsidized among its residents. Increased efficiency also helps in providing a higher population holding capacity in most of the cases.
  • Identity & characteristic – Every city is different like humans. Each city offers something unique which other city cannot provide. Irrespective of the comparisons made between cities on basis of different parameters each remains to be unique in its own. They have a feel and identity of its own. It may be its magnificent buildings, green areas, open spaces, pedestrian friendly transport system, extensive use of ICT, architectural heritage tourism significance etc. There is something unique about each city which makes it great.
  • Rapid growth and flexible – History of cities started with the need of trade and they started growing. Growth is a indispensable part of cities and what becomes more important is how this growth is accommodated & adjusted. City should be ready to provide space to new entrants from surrounding area while absorbing its natural population growth. Cities which grow attracts talent which vice versa results in their growth. Cities which are flexible in making changes to its policies and rules stand out as they “respond” to the changing need. Change is inevitable and thus needs to be dealt carefully and accordingly.

Built for people

  • Administration – All the points mentioned above will be left useless if not adopted by those administering the city. City administrators must have a good understanding of how cities work and what needs to be done to solve a issue or prevent any problem. A good administration will be open to suggestions of its team members and public which will subsequently be incorporated in the policies. Having a good team of city administrators in must for a city to survive and flourish.


There is not only few parameters which helps in city to grow but number of interlinked and interdependent factors which governs the growth of cities and often makes them great when comparing with other cities which fails to provide such utility and experience.

For further reading and getting more information about Urban Planning you can read the following articles (all articles open in new tab/ window):

  1. Urban Planning Job Description
  2. Why political agendas never actually solve your problems whereas planners can!
  3. Planning process without planners
  4. Loss to community because of incompetent planners
  5. Planners as knowledge workers
  6. Understanding the limitations of planning
  7. Urban Planning – Largely Unknown Profession

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