The City Matrix: Defining What Makes a City Great to Live In

City Shopping

Dream cities are real. They’re all over this planet and they’re ours. Now, this doesn’t mean they’re without poverty, blight, gentrification, pollution, or food deserts for the time being. But they are home to our dreams of how to change all that in order to live fully.

A Dream City is a place that embodies the spirit of its inhabitants while providing culture and expression and liveliness for all. It speaks of the past and opens up to the future.

My Dream City is sustainable, resilient, and alive. The thing is I don’t know where it is. It’s somewhere that has heart and soul, but room for plenty of positive growth. It’s some place that holds the following features and ideas in its mindscape. And I’m going to find it even if I have to create part of it myself. It has or will have:

  1. Access to nature and trails
  2. Safe foot & bike travel
  3. Available public transportation
  4. Avoidance of urban sprawl
  5. Public art & sculpture
  6. Initiatives to end poverty
  7. Countless cultural events
  8. Live music: free and/or often
  9. Access to organic, affordable food
  10. Available recycling & composting
  11. Air quality & cleanliness
  12. Unique style & architecture
  13. “Funky” attitude & personality

In every city I visit, I will try to find at lease one example of each attribute to see how it fits in the City Matrix.


No one can discuss this topic without the brilliant brains of Jason McLellan and the Living Building Challenge, and Wade Graham.