At the front / Global
Our editor in chief on why developers should be seizing the opportunity to build apartments that people can spread out in.
The commissioning phase of this issue involved us looking at a lot of floor plans. Not because we’re moving out of Midori House (at least not yet) or launching our property-development business (it’s something we think about all the time) but more as a research exercise to gauge the state and quality of housing development.
Despite the fact that developers, cities, regions and entire nations all converge on Cannes to tout their wares and show models of inspired living, it’s both alarming and more than a little depressing to see how little consideration is given to the very people that these developers and their investors are trying to target. With so much emphasis given to the quality of schools, short commute times and nearby amenities, it’s clear that new residential projects in Seattle, Copenhagen, London and Singapore are talking more to an international investor base than they are to locals. And even though international buyers might well put their new purchase on the rental market, there’s an equally strong chance that this new residence will be let to someone who’s attached to a multinational, has lived in a variety of major cities and has a good idea of what makes for superior apartment living. The problem (and opportunity) is that very few developers have bothered to canvass the opinion of such mobile, international citizens and ask them what they’d like from a residence before it comes off the drawing board.
If I crane my neck and look at two new developments just beyond my office window, the problem is already apparent on the façades of these structures. The brochures might have sold residents on balconies or loggias but some are so tiny that you wouldn’t be able to place a spindly chair beyond the threshold and stretch your legs, let alone enjoy breakfast for two in the sunshine. At other developments going up across the capital you’d be hard-pressed to keep an extra Rimowa suitcase or back issues of this magazine – storage beyond basic wardrobes and slimline cupboards is not part of the floor plan. Ask most people what they’d like to see more of in new developments and it usually comes down to workable, efficient storage – a walk-in cupboard for recycling, winter coats and extra wine glasses; a pantry for baking supplies; and a lock-up in the cellar for skis, flea-market finds and annoying relatives.
It took a jump over to Munich to see Stefan F Höglmaier’s latest project and its ample storage solutions to recognise that in some corners of the world smart features aren’t a selling option but more a basic human right. When Herr Höglmaier showed me a floor plan and I asked if the large walk-in storage unit inside the apartment was the only one in there he thought I was being rude. “No, no,” he said. “We’ve also designed large storage units close to the underground car park so that you can go from your car and drop things off that you may not need in the short term and then take a lift directly to your apartment.”
The perfect apartment would incorporate key elements from buildings found in Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, Australia and couple of grand classics in Brazil. Smart developers would also be wise to work beyond established floor plans in their local market and dare to mix things up a bit.
Staying with Germany and mixing things up, I’m happy to announce that our annual Quality of Life Conference is back and that Berlin is our host city for 2017. The Monocle team and colleagues from our sister company Winkreative will be on hand in the German capital from 29 June to 1 July to host you and your collaborators for a busy three days of discussions, benchmarking, shopping expeditions, guided running tours and a Friday full of exceptional speakers touching on topics surrounding better city building, mobility and inspiring media. As with other years the sessions will be brisk but we’re also adding new components to appeal to delegates who want to hear from interesting businesses in which to invest as well as one-on-one interviews with influential figures.
While we thought about getting closer to the Med this year with our host city, we feel that Berlin has more to offer in terms of cultural and diplomatic leadership. We hope that you’ll join us for some currywurst, fine cocktails and a few late nights. You can find more details about this year’s event on: conference.monocle.com and if you have any specific questions or requests you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or alternatively contact my assistant Hannah Grundy at email@example.com.
Next month’s issue is all about transport and smoother tracks between points near and far. All good story tips can also be sent to our addresses. Thank you for all your support.