An ordinary looking city with bland buildings

The Ordinary City

Oct 11

A handful of cities attract most of the world’s attention. Some are old, some are relatively new, but they’re all massive. They’re intensely competitive. They’re people magnets and money machines.

One common theme we heard from you, whether you were born in Hobart or chose to move here, was an aversion to the globalised city.

You don’t hate big cities. You simply choose to live somewhere else.

Why? Big cities are dirty. They’re expensive and exhausting and alienating. They can be dangerous. People can be indifferent or unkind to one another. If we want a house in a big city, we spend a frightening percentage of our short lives in traffic. It takes days to plan and execute a three-hour weekend bushwalk.

The bigger point you made is about globalisation. In recent years, ordinary cities have become bland and homogenous. Despite their differences, in language and architecture, something about the vast global city feels the same.

There is an easy pattern for Hobart to follow, to become one of those cities: an economic model, a social model, a model of design. And you don’t want it.

Despite your diverse backgrounds you’re united in this: you are deeply anxious about losing what you most love about this city. You’re not against growth and change. You’re against growth and change that does not retain Hobart-ness.

If we are attracted to Hobart because it’s unique, isn’t it dangerous to erode that uniqueness? Can we not preserve and enhance it instead?

Whether it’s through good luck or bad, Hobart has developed into a different sort of city. Nature plays a huge role in our lives. So does history. There is a spirit in this community that inspires unusual behaviour. We encourage and protect our kooks and rebels. We want fine food and culture without sacrificing tranquillity or the grit that keeps us real.

You know this is a ridiculously difficult balance to keep in a growing city. The world is beginning to notice Hobart and it keeps us up at night. Random decisions and political bickering won’t get us where we want to go. We can’t say yes to everything. We can’t say no to everything. We need a strategy even though we distrust strategies.

Almost no one we met wants Hobart to become an ordinary big city.

What special aspects of Hobart should we preserve, to avoid becoming an ordinary big city? What should we avoid?

What aspects of the big global city should we avoid as we grow, to retain what makes us special?