Over the long weekend, and across a couple of flights, I read Perfect City by Joe Berridge. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Each chapter focuses on a different world city, starting with the one and only Toronto. From New York to Singapore and London to Belfast, Joe hones in on what is working and what is not working.
No city is perfect.
I found myself folding the top corner of the page on numerous occasions. I did this every time I came across an interesting takeaway or stat, such as this one here: “Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, recently observed that Europe has 7 per cent of the world’s population, 25 per cent of its GDP, and 50 per cent of its social expenditures.”
However, the thread that really stood out to me is one about individuals. We all know that great things happen as a result of great teams. But as Joe profiles the various city building initiatives that he has come across throughout his work and travels, a common theme seems to emerge.
From Jane Jacobs to Lee Kuan Yew, there’s often a determined individual who is set on making something happen, or set on stopping something from happening, as is the case with Jane Jacobs and Toronto’s (proposed) Spadina Expressway.
This is not meant to discredit the value of teamwork. We all know that is essential. Instead, I think it speaks to the power of individual passion, conviction, and tenacity — all of which are ingredients required to build a perfect, or almost perfect, city. Wonderful things don’t just happen on their own.