Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Monocle's City Survey

As I write London is enjoying a heatwave, which brings out a whole new dimension to the city, with people able to relax outdoors in a park, or sip a cappuccino at a pavement cafe. It is at times like these that you remind yourself of what it is you enjoy about living in the city that you do. Having lived in the Netherlands, where things appear to be so much more organised and smoothly run, it was during my time there that I realised how much I missed the 'chaos' element of London. Waking up in the morning, this is certainly a city where you can never quite predict how your day will turn out, hence most people's relationship with London is very much on the 'love-hate' spectrum, myself included. On the days when it works (not just when the sun is shining, although that helps) it really feels like the best place to be.

Which brings me to the focus of today's post, which is Monocle magazine's annual 'Liveable Cities Index', which has just been published in the July/August edition of the magazine. Perhaps unsurprisingly, topping the list is Munich, followed by such other cities as Copenhagen, Tokyo, Zurich, Helsinki, Stockholm, Vienna, Madrid, Berlin, Barcelona, Oslo, Auckland, Singapore, Portland, Lisbon. Aside from Tokyo, many of these cities are all, medium-sized, walkable cities, with good transport links etc. So far, so predicable... ( Although surprisingly, Amsterdam doesn't make the Monocle list, though given the constant digging up of the city centre for the new metro link to Noord, this is maybe understandable). In my own research on city cultures, and specifically creative city culture, it would seem that aside from Tokyo Berlin, Lisbon, Barcelona and Madrid, many of these cities, at least on the surface, are missing the element of 'chaos' that appears to be one of the key ingredients in forming a creative city culture. Traditionally, artists, musicians and other creatives are the first to move into an area that is earmarked for potential gentrification. Intriguingly, in the same issue of the magazine, the cities of Beirut, Istanbul, Naples, Rio de Janeiro and Taipei are also highlighted as potential places you may want to set up home. One of the key elements of all of them is the sense of 'un-finishedness' that all of these cities seem to posses, the idea that these are all cities that are 'works-in-progress', which is the very antithesis of the famous treatise on Brugge (Bruges) entitled 'Bruges-le-morte' (Bruges-the-dead). Perhaps what this survey misses out most of all is that different people hold different values, and thrive in different environments, which in part may be conditioned by where or how you were brought up. For some a calmer, quieter location and environment is required, where everything is in its place, and everything works (more or less) as it should. I for one, however, would miss the chaotic element, and while the grim, grey carpets at Heathrow are hardly welcoming, and the delays on the Tube are infuriating in their inexplicable-ness, on some days I wouldn't wish it to be any other way...

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