Unpacking urban beauty

Cities have recently been assigned various labels by scholars and practitioners aiming to guide urban planning and design in desirable future directions. Popular examples of these labels include eco-city, age-friendly city, smart city, sharing city, compact city, creative city, and the list goes on (Khan & Zaman, 2018). Surprisingly, the idea of beauty has no traction in current discussions on city improvement (Postrel, 2003). In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find the word beauty in most planning visions and documents because it is loathed by many city-building professionals (Toderian, 2007). The relative lack of serious engagement with beauty in cities — from hereon, urban beauty — is unfortunate and problematic because concern for this ‘elusive, yet universal concept’ (Calafiore, 2020) has proven effective in contributing toward better-loved cities characterized by high levels of community satisfaction (Florida et al., 2009).

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All content presented in this report is part of an Erasmus University-initiated traineeship project conducted by MSc “Sociology of Culture, Media, and the Arts” student Merit Zimmermann, who teamed up with Raphael Gielgen, Vitra trendscout future of work, life & learn, for the second time following the 2020 report “Mapping the Universe of Remote Work”. The idea behind this report on urban beauty emerged from discussions about leading paradigms of urbanism and the lack of beauty within them.