“How many people live in this city?”
That is a question I recently asked a fellow urban disciple making movement practitioner who is working with a team in Romania. His answered surprised me: 8,000. Not 80,000 or even 18,000. This particular city has only 8,000 residents!
I have always defined cities by how big they are, but my friend helped me discover some new ways of looking at cities. Let me share two of them with you:
- Density of the population – a city is not about how many people live somewhere, but about how close they live to one another. In this case, people were stacked on top of each other in apartment buildings, and the only thing that separated them from another dense and much larger “city” was an invisible municipal border.
- Diversity of services – another distinguishing factor is that cities provide a full range of services to the people who live and work there (and even to some who don’t). For instance, the city I was visiting had major employers, small businesses, a hospital and private dwellings. It also had a local government that provided police, transportation, sanitation and utility services.
Looking at cities in terms of these two characteristics – density and diversity – is helping me understand my city better. But what about you? How do you look at your city?