Amsterdam, the second best city of the world to live in!

Second best city of the worldAmsterdam was named the world’s second best city to live in according to a new ranking that focuses on spatial characteristics. “It is because of this indiscriminate effect on all residents that I chose to give spatial characteristics the highest weight of all categories: it is an aspect of city life that can be enjoyed by all and escaped by none.” (Filippo Lavato).

The Economist Intelligence Unit EIU has published city rankings for many years. As with any city ranking there is always debate about which factors make a city most liveable. As an innovative experiment to improve the index, the EIU partnered with BuzzData (a firm that lets users share information) to run a contest encouraging people build upon the ranking. The winning method looked at seven new indicators related to “spatial” qualities that influences the liveability of a city.

The competition was won by Filippo Lovato, an architect and urban planner, who produced an additional category based on “spatial adjustments”. With his additional category, called the Spatially Adjusted Liveability Index, architect Filippo Lovato looked at seven characteristics of cities, such as: green space, urban sprawl (or lack thereof), access to nature, availability of world-class cultural assets (measured by counting the number of U.N. World Heritage Sites nearby), connectivity (how easy it is to reach the rest of the world), isolation (measured by the number of other large cities nearby) and pollution. 

Practically, this means proportionately reducing the weight of the five categories of Stability, Healthcare, Culture and Environment, Education and Infrastructure (EIU Index) to 75% and adding in a sixth category (spatial characteristics, Spatial Adjusted Index ) that carries a weight of 25%. Compared with the EIU liveability ranking, the spatial awareness ranking has some notable absences.

Because of these new category of cities’ spatial charecteristics, Amsterdam rises from the 8th (according the EIU Index) to the 2nd best place in the wold to live in. Amsterdam responded very well to the addition of spatial characteristics to the liveability index:
The top 10 Cities Spatial Adjusted Liveability Index RANK -Spatial Adjusted Liveability Index RANK -EIU Liveability index (from city sample used) Change in ranks
Hong Kong   87,8 1 10 9
Amsterdam   87,4 2 8 6
Osaka   87,4 3 3 0
Paris   87,1 4 5 1
Sydney   86 5 2 -3
Stockholm   86 6 4 -2
Berlin   85,9 7 7 0
Toronto   85,4 8 1 -7
Munich   85,1 9 9 0
Tokyo   84,3 10 6 -4

A summary of the Seven Indicators (score 1=best – score 5=worst)
Green space: they counted the public green spaces available in the city (parks, squares, gardens but excluding golf courses).

Sprawl: sprawl, or the excessive spreading out of the urban fabric, has a negative impact on the quality of urban in myriad ways: it decreases accessibility, encourages private car use and makes public transport networks more costly, and degrades the quality of the natural environment around the city.

Natural assets: access to nature is a key factor in the quality of urban life. To measure the natural assets available to residents of a city, they checked the natural features available within a radius of 100km from the city centre (sea, river, lake and mountain over 500m) and the calculation (using GIS) of the surface of all categories of protected areas in a 75km radius around the city centre.

Cultural assets: the availability of world-class cultural assets is crucial to liveability.The number of World Heritage sites within it or in its vicinity was count.

Connectivity: liveability also depends on how easy it is to reach the rest of the world. Two measures of connectivity is the total number of other cities than can be reached by plane from the city and the average number of daily flights leaving from that city.

Isolation: isolation negatively affects leisure opportunities and the possibilities of discovering different ways of life. Two criteria: the number of other large cities (over 750,000 inhabitants) in a 200km radius and the population living in those other large cities.

Pollution: pollution is linked to myriad serious health issues and is thus crucial to any measurement of quality of life. The indicator selected was the concentration of particulate matter of over 10 micrometres (PM10) in the air.

City Spatial Adjusted Liveability Index   Green Space Sprawl Natural Assets Cultural Assets Connectivity Isolation Pollution
Hong Kong 1 1,2 1 1,3 4 2,3 1,3 3
Amsterdam   2 1,7 3 1,3 2 1,3 4,3 1,5
Paris   4 1,2 3,2 2,3 3 1,3 3,8 2,5
Berlin   7 1,3 4,5 1,7 1 2,5 4,8 2
London   12 1 4 1,7 2 1 4 1
Madrid   13 1,8 2,3 1,7 4 1,8 4,3 2
New York   16 1,3 4,3 2,3 4 1 2,3 1,5
Athens 29 2,1 3 2,3 4 2,5 4,8 2,5

via Best city report – Which city is the best place to live? – Economist Intelligence Unit (download report here). © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2012


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