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Attractive cities, the revenge of the soft factors

The Middle Ages saw the emergence of the city of trade; industrial revolutions gave birth to the industrial city. Closely linked to the rules of the economic playing field, the growth of cities is explained by their ability to perform certain key functions brilliantly. A bond that is essential to their attractiveness, though its components are nevertheless evolving. We asked Lise Bourdeau-Lepage about these changes, which shed a new light on well-being.

Today, power is in the global metropolises, the alpha cities of New York, London, Paris, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore. Their ability to adapt to the major changes that have occurred since 1970 allows them to perform the primary function expected of their ranking: to coordinate complex and distant activities at an international level. Thus, “they are the most striking seal of the new spatial configuration of economic activities on a worldwide scale,” notes Lise Bourdeau-Lepage. What factors make them attractive?

They combine and feed each other, always strengthening their power of attraction. Because they are the seat of economic power, the vitality of the market, and the space where talent is located, where diversity and synergy are at their peak. They offer all the expected proximities – virtual, permanent, temporary – because they combine all the quality infrastructure: from transport to optical fibre.

Effects of overload

But, faced with an overload that is both environmental and virtual, their inhabitants express the desire to slow down, to reconnect with themselves, with others, with nature.
In response, they turn more to spaces offering these amenities, which are restaurants, cafés, associations, parks and gardens.

“As executives are more sensitive to that, companies are paying increasing attention to this. Alongside the classic factors, they are now looking for places equipped with these amenities. We are therefore witnessing a strengthening of the soft factors of attractiveness.” The movement is all the stronger as it coincides with increased ecological awareness. “This is what I call ‘homo qualitus’: he thinks about his well-being differently, putting nature and protection of the environment high on his list.”

Towards cities of well-being?

“I identify and measure what residents consider essential for their well-being,” explains Lise Bourdeau-Lepage, “so that urban developments can respond to them.” And there is no shortage of avenues. “As soon as you think of the city with people at the centre, you see things differently.” Because all the current proposals – resilient city, sober city, green city, 15-minute city, flexible city – take this desire for well-being into account.

“The health crisis has not removed the power of attraction of big cities. But it has shed light on their woes and made it possible to find new ways of thinking about them. It is possible to remedy these woes by taking the residents’ aspirations into account, to develop cities in a different way.

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