Our editor in chief on what makes a successful travel hub and how cities can help us all go with the flow.
The plotting and planning for the 104th issue was informed by a most extraordinary setting. On the Thursday before Easter I left Zürich just after the morning rush hour and within 15 minutes I was thrown into the pre-holiday crush of thousands of people heading off for their first blast of spring sunshine in Mallorca, Barcelona, Lisbon and beyond.
Having navigated the security barricade, the X-ray lanes were orderly and moving swiftly. After a quick stop at Sprüngli to buy chocolate bunnies and eggs for friends and family I was shuttling over to the airport’s midfield terminal with my mom in tow. Upstairs in Swiss’s lounge we found a quiet corner to park ourselves but were soon tempted to step out onto the sprawling outdoor terrace to enjoy the sunshine and catch some fresh air before boarding our flight to Montréal.
If you haven’t sampled this award-winning facility (it’s secured a monocle Travel Top 50 prize), it involves kilometres of beautifully laid wood planks, locally produced park benches, plenty of shade and views across the airfield with the Alps in the background. It’s all built around the very simple idea that humankind likes to be outdoors (particularly if you’ve been on a 12-hour flight from Singapore and have another seven hours to Boston to look forward to) and is still fascinated by flight.
Where too many airlines and aviation hubs attempt to dazzle with more retail trickery and pointless technology, Zürich’s airport authorities put their investment into satisfying some basic human needs. Mastering the simple things has been at the core of our transport and infrastructure top 15 in this issue, from an urban transit interchange in Winterthur (you’ll note the Swiss pick up a couple of mentions in our list) to a masterfully executed cycling refuge in Tokyo. Here our editors and correspondents have some systems and solutions that should serve as benchmarks for cities, developers and operators looking to improve their offer to the travelling public.
We are firm believers in the multimodal city: in too many urban centres the great race to push people onto self-powered two-wheelers hasn’t considered a future that also needs to accommodate cars on well-paved streets as much as pedestrians. The latter shouldn’t be channelled onto narrow pavements because too much space has been devoted to under-used bike paths.
Enlightened mayors and planners also know that it’s not just about the corridors that connect people from home to office, or rail station to shops, but also about the services required along the way. Cities that want to encourage more pedestrian traffic should certainly spend on well-positioned navigation systems and levelling the pavement but there also needs to be a programme that includes more public water fountains, plenty of benches featuring shade or shelter, well-maintained toilets and kiosks for buying essentials or pausing for a little refreshment.
Just beyond the Swiss Alps, Italy’s South Tyrol (Alto Adige) region is a fine example of a territory that has put mobility at the core of both its urban and tourism strategy (meanwhile, our South Tyrol travel guide starts on page 101). Glance out of the window as you bomb down the highway and you’ll spy perfectly paved double bike paths snaking alongside rivers or cutting across the bottom of vineyards. Look upwards and you’ll see brightly coloured railcars darting past in the livery of the regional operator. Above the spa town of Merano you can experience one of the most elegant and beautifully maintained promenades in the world in the well- engineered form of the Tappeinerweg.
And staying in Merano, we’re happy to announce that the city is home to our summer base again this season with the lovely Linda Egger manning the shop, along with the espresso machine and the bottle-opener for refreshing sips of Forst. If you are in the area please look us up as Monocle staffers will be passing through from June till September and we’ll be hosting a little summer festival later in the season with a great line-up of guests and events. To find out more, sign up to our Bulletin at monocle.com/subscribe.
Before that however, we will be off to Berlin for our Quality of Life Conference, from 29 June to 1 July. Having secured a superb line-up of speakers (to take a look visit conference.monocle.com we’re going to be giving particular focus to topics surrounding retail and its importance in keeping communities lively. We’ll also discuss how cities can attract and retain talent and one Berlin neighbourhood’s mayor’s unique approach to immigration and integration.
If you’d like to come along en masse, have special requirements or would like to convene a separate round of meetings during those three days in Berlin, drop a note to my assistant Hannah Grundy (firstname.lastname@example.org). And if you have thoughts or tips on other topics you can always find me at email@example.com. We look forward to hosting you in Berlin or Merano over the coming months; thank you for your support.