Hong Kong and Zürich

Image credits: Ap Lei Chau Wind Tower Park, Hong Kong, Photo: Chow Zhe; Hanami, Glattzentrum in Wallisellen, Zürich, Switzerland, Photo: (c) Roland Fischer. All photos licensed under Creative Commons.

Hong Kong and Zürich: Most Liveable Cities in 2012

What makes a city ultimately a “most liveable” one? Depending on who you talk to, the criteria can vary and it has with this year’s Economist Intelligence Unit 2012 Most Liveable City survey published earlier in July. The EIU, which has been publishing their Most Liveable City index for 10 years, considers up to 150 cities world-wide based on how each city surveyed scores on stability, healthcare, culture and entertainment, education and infrastructure. Those cities at the top of the list are esteemed for their higher scores across the board in their ranking compared to those at the bottom.
Last year Melbourne topped the list beating out Vancouver in the coveted Number One spot for nearly a decade. Vancouver, for example, makes for excellent liveability; the city is located on the shores of English Bay and in the shadow of Grouse Mountain. The city’s natural landscape setting coupled with an energetic downtown is also noted for its education and business sectors, particularly regarding high-tech, television and film, trade, and its healthcare.
In the EIU’s 2011 Most Liveable City survey, Melbourne leaped over Canada’s young West Coast port edging ahead with just a 0.2 percentage point factoring in Vancouver’s increased traffic congestion. This detail is really an oversight because the EIU survey cited the Malahat highway congestion which is not near Vancouver, but near Victoria, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island. As the capital seat of the Canadian province, Victoria is not even geographically close to Vancouver. It’s only accessible by air from Vancouver and Seattle, and from a two-hour ferry crossing in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland and south of the border by ferry services from Washington State.
This year’s survey omits both Vancouver and Melbourne entirely. Together, including Vienna, these cities were the top three cities in the EIU liveability ranking. Subject to newer criteria that is collectively identified as the Spatially Adjusted Liveablity Index, Architect and Urban Planner Filippo Lovato provided seven new indicators for the EIU’s survey in a collaboration with BuzzData, a data-sharing company. In an EIU competition for generating a new ranking model, Lovato’s spatial adjustment assessment was selected as the winning choice. The Spatially Adjusted Liveability Index criteria are physical and geographical assessors that include green space, sprawl, natural assets, cultural assets, connectivity, isolation and pollution. Combined, the Spatially Adjusted Liveability Index was assigned a score of 25% or one-quarter of the total assessed score that includes the EIU standard ranking for stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure.
Hong Kong in this year’s survey tops the list with the Spatially Adjusted Liveabilty Index applied. How did Hong Kong’s ranking compare in Lovato’s survey of 70 cities? The Economist reports that Hong Kong earned particularly good scores for green space, less sprawl, natural assets and a lack of isolation. The idea regarding a city’s isolation is geographical as well as cultural. Stockholm, according to The Economist (“Hong Kong’s Best”, July 3, 2012), for example, ranked poorly on this score compared with Shanghai based on Lovato’s assertion that isolation “negatively affects leisure opportunities and the possibilities of discovering different ways of life.”
Hong Kong, as described in the EIU’s Best cities and ranking report, is a winner. “It is a very compact city that has managed to maintain its natural heritage, create a dense network of green spaces and enjoy extensive links to the rest of the world,” according to the study.
Comparatively, Monocle magazine publishes a shorter list of the Top 25 Liveable Cities in their Quality of Life survey. Available in print from their current July/August 2012 issue, Monocle‘s editors weigh in on similar factors found in the EIU survey, explaining that “the process of finding a favorite has been a global undertaking.” Topping Monocle‘s list of the Top 25 is Zürich.
Zürich’s ranking in the Top 25 is esteemed for nearly identical criteria applied to Hong Kong in the EIU city survey. Reporting for Monocle, Journalist Gabriel Leigh describes that Zürich is “a city with abundant and interconnected green space cut by rivers leading to its lake.” In an interview with David Marquardt, Founder of MACH Architektur in Leigh’s video report, Marquardt appreciates the scale of Zurich’s size as accessible by bike and notes that “it’s too big to be a small village, but too small to be a big city.” Anna Schindler, Director of Urban Planning for the City of Zürich, agrees, commenting on the city’s metropolitan virtues, scalability, infrastructure as well as its accessibility to the world. Leigh identifies another estimable factor regarding socio-economic changes in Zürich’s population demographic. He explains that the city is “becoming less conservative” owing in part to “an influx of people from abroad” leading towards a more diverse community.
Although Hong Kong did not figure in the top ten, Monocle‘s Top 25 Liveable Cities report reveals that the city appears in the Number 13 spot. In a summary about the Pearl of Asia, Monocle writes that “after years of pushing the commerce agenda, Hong Kong is now stepping up its culture game and scoring points for making life here just a bit more interesting in the process.”

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