Academics add to recognition as Chester is named world’s most beautiful city.
As Chester is named the most beautiful city in the world, the University’s academics have shared more about what makes it special, its long history of accolades and look to the future.
It is no surprise to staff and students at the University of Chester that the city is number one in a new study analysing which cities have the highest percentage of buildings that align with the ‘golden ratio’.
With 83.7% of buildings matching with the ratio, Chester was ahead of Venice which was declared second place, London third, Belfast fourth, and Rome fifth.
The golden ratio (1:1.618) reflects a set of proportions that have intrigued and been studied by mathematicians since ancient times.
The ratio is often found in the natural world, including in flowers and shells, and for reasons that cannot entirely be explained, humans find objects that unfold with this ratio inherently beautiful.
In the ‘Eye-Catching Architecture’ study by Online Mortgage Advisor, researchers scanned Google Street View for front-facing photos of hundreds of streets and more than 2,400 buildings in historical cities worldwide.
They plotted points at the corners of each building to calculate the ‘proportion of the longest and shortest lengths of its dimensions’. Those proportions were then compared to the ratio to see how well they aligned.
Colin Potts, Programme Leader for International Tourism Management at the University’s Business School and Chester’s former Tourism Manager, said: “To some Chester people this new accolade might come as a surprise but it really shouldn’t as the city’s built environment has been the main draw for its millions of visitors, for hundreds of years.
“A huge visitor survey conducted over five years when I was Tourism Manager in the 2000s always had architecture, buildings, historic character and the Walls at the top of the list of things that impressed people most.”
“The only subject that rivalled these was walkability – visitors enjoying being able to see so many fabulous buildings so close together.”
“I think that sometimes its beauty is taken for granted here, when really it is the main driver as to why people choose to visit, live and invest in the city – then discover more including its people, history and culture.”
“At a time when the national economy is in trouble, Chester’s townscape will play a big part in helping it do better than other places, providing we invest in and polish it until it gleams. We must make the most of our golden ratio.”
Dr Rebecca Andrew, Senior Lecturer in History, further explained how Chester had long been recognised as a beautiful destination for tourists, featuring in numerous 19th and 20th-century guides, as the railway attracted greater numbers of visitors.
She said: “Almost 100 years ago, Britain’s leading travel writer HV Morton, wrote about visiting the city, in his phenomenally popular travelogue In Search of England.”
“He described the uniqueness of the city and its buildings; ‘there is nothing like it in any English town – the Chester Rows’.”
“Morton was fascinated by these structures, their history, and how fortunate Cestrians were to live in such a place; so rich is Chester with beautiful, ancient buildings, he noted, that ‘no-one considered it strange’ to drink coffee in a medieval crypt.”
“The crypt Morton wrote about, belonged to the famous Browns of Chester department store, often referred to as ‘the Harrods of the North’.
“Located on Eastgate Row, the shop frequently celebrated the city’s ‘historically renowned’ buildings, and what a special place it was to visit; ‘Chester is unique, unique too, is Browns of Chester’. ”
“It was hard to argue with this line of advertising; ‘where else’, as they put it, ‘could you find a 13th-century crypt restaurant in a Department Store’?”
Neuza Morais, Visiting Lecturer in Interior Design and Creative Practices in Education, Doctoral Student, Architect Educator and Research Manager at Storyhouse, added that Chester’s buildings were one of many of the city’s attributes that deserved recognition.
She said: “This is an interesting study and it wasn’t a big surprise to see that Chester was considered the most beautiful city in the world according to the golden ratio, but a city can’t be seen nor assessed merely by its beauty.”
“Beauty is good for tourism, which is a great consequence, but that is not what makes it live, evolve and thrive; a city is a living organism and Chester is much more than beautiful buildings, it is vibrant, creative, friendly, safe, and with a strong sense of community; Chester has a soul.“
“I have lived in several countries and several cities in the UK, and Chester was the one in which I chose to live, work and raise my daughter.”
“There is still a lot of work to be done, but I believe that through collaborative partnerships we can make Chester number one in multiple other categories. We have all the ingredients here.”
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