Observation | Monocle

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Having just returned from a round-the-world tour to launch Monocle, I’m happiest mixing it up. A little bit of London, a few days in Tokyo, a bi-monthly swing through New York and short stretches in our Zürich office suits me fine. There are many days when I question why I put up with London and its shoddy infrastructure, high cost of living and general low quality of life. In the end I usually end up asking myself what the alternatives are.

For a media brand like ours the options are surprisingly limited. While it would be great to have a Kenga Kuma-designed office in Sydney or a tower by Bünzli & Courvoisier on the shore of Lake Geneva, the reality is that London still makes the most sense – at least for now.

The UK government and the mayor’s office tell us they’re working hard to maintain London’s hub status but the hard evidence is tricky to come by. Heathrow is already a national disgrace and passengers that once swore by ba and lhr are making their connections elsewhere. The city’s public transport system has the dubious honour of being the most expensive in the world and perhaps the worst value for money. Young creative talent, one of the city’s key economic assets, can no longer afford to live anywhere close to the centre.

Somewhere in the background there is a lot of government fuss being made about developing a convention centre for the heart of London, fixing Oxford Street and building a bunch of architecturally unremarkable skyscrapers. One of the major problems is that each initiative is as mediocre as the next and there is very little to capture the imagination of the public or business.

London has done a good job of building a solid foundation for its financial community but it needs to do the same for other sectors. Its communications and design sectors need more than festivals and exhibitions to keep them based in London. The capital’s international media community desperately needs a centre of gravity to pull together everything from its Arab newspapers to its foreign tv news bureaux to its local Polish weeklies.

I’m not usually a big fan of mixed use, mega developments but a recent sneak preview of Mitsui Fudosan’s Tokyo Midtown project (see our interview on page 084) made me think about the limitless scope to do something similar in London.

Where Canary Wharf still seems detached from both London and its immediate surroundings, the Midtown development in the heart of Roppongi is fully integrated with one of the busiest urban areas in Asia.

Combining residences, a hotel, the tallest tower in Tokyo, a museum, a sprawling retail and restaurant area and a park (fully wi-fi), one of the more interesting features is a new generation Starbucks that incorporates a satellite studio for radio station Tokyo fm. With a focus on business and design informing all aspects of the Midtown project, Mitsui might want to bring a business and media theme to a new project in London.

While I don’t think anyone in the mayor’s office needs any more trips abroad, a visit to Tokyo might spark a few ideas to help London maintain its international media hub status and also encourage a more diverse base of substantial sectors beyond finance.

Finally, I would like to thank all of the readers, press, advertisers, distributors and retailers for supporting the launch of Monocle. I’d also like to extend a thank you to everyone who has subscribed and offered their feedback. If you have any questions or comments please drop me a note at tb@monocle.com.

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