28th November 2019

The Great Debate: What makes a liveable city?

Sanjana Meka reviews the 2019 ‘Great Debate’ at the Manchester School of Art, which targeted the question of liveable cities
The Great Debate: What makes a liveable city?
Photo: Sanjana Meka

Held at the Manchester School of Art, this year’s ‘The Great Debate’ as part of Design Manchester created conversation about The Economist Global Liveability Index which announced Manchester as the UK’s most livable city. The debate brought together a panel of individuals, including architects Dr. Stephen Willacy and Jo McCafferty, principal creative Ben Young, Patricia Brown, former chair of London Festival of Architecture, and Dr. Erinma Bell, co-founder of CARISMA. 

The debate invited questions from the audience such as “who are liveable cities for?”, “what is the future of the High Street?”, and “how do you define a neighbourhood?” The debate took a structured approach to answering these questions by analysing the root cause of the issues, with a common consensus being on affordable housing and housing for all. There was a huge emphasis on bringing together and supporting local communities and having certain areas allotted just for that purpose, with a major requirement being ‘green spaces’ because of the disconnect with nature that can occur in cities.

Are there truly any sustainable steps that we can take in modifying the architecture of the city? Willacy pointed out the problem of asphalt in creating dangerous environmental hazards especially with regards to their overuse in various redevelopment projects happening in the city. Attention was also brought to the contradiction of Manchester’s goal to have zero net carbon emissions when the construction of the Mayfield Park fails to address the social issues.

Maybe there is a future for Manchester in reforming itself to match its aim. Alongside creating its own identity and acting as a powerhouse in the North, the creative industry has grown exponentially with architects realising the potential in the city as it constantly develops while still being steeped with history. Whether this development can work alongside a sustainable future is difficult to answer, as discussed in the debate, but giving local individuals a chance to have a say in this process is a start.

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