For our editor-in-chief Tyler Brûlé, a carefree springtime to-do list quickly turns into a recipe for how to fix some of society’s bigger challenges.
How often do you wake up on a random Wednesday or Sunday and draw up a shortlist of the five-to-10 things you’d like to fix to improve your life? It could be you record these little mental notes while sitting on the plane and taxi-ing for take-off. Or it might be while walking through your neighbourhood, from grocery store to your apartment/townhouse/bungalow, that you start shuffling around a little list of things that need touch-ups, significant improvements or complete overhauls.
For some it might be no more than a few simple bits to assist in transforming daily life – a better place to lock a bicycle at the office, a greener thumb to keep the window boxes looking bushy or better water pressure. For others the list might be more complex – a total change of scenery in the form of a new city, a fresh seat in the boardroom or a new set of in-laws.
If you’ve been following Monocle magazine for more than two or three issues then you’ll be familiar with our occasional schemes for improving the state of the built environment, retail and travel experiences. Over the years we’ve offered up everything from our dream railway station to our perfect airliner to our ideal department store (usually available in a poster form) and in the months to come we will be adding to the list of projects we’d like to see tackled by mayors, developers, hoteliers and ballsy entrepreneurs. During the launch of our new café on London’s Chiltern Street, a subscriber was surveying the series of “perfect” posters on the wall and enquired what we were planning next. “So what comes after this?”
“After all of these posters?” I started, “Or after the café?”
“What comes after you’ve done a café?” She asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Well, perhaps there might be more cafés. Maybe some more shops? It’s hard to say,” I said. “We’re always on the hunt for new opportunities, so you never know.”
“You should really bring one of these posters to life,” she said. “Why not a hotel? Or why not an airline?”
While I explained the complexities of attempting to run a fleet of 777s and the rather difficult, though not impossible, selling job I’d have to do on my board my mind wandered off to consider the more likely scenarios for future projects. A TV station always crops up as a possible, and very natural, extension of what we do. But I quickly dismissed the idea as the barrier for entry is still considerable for a global proposition and the staffing would be insanely complex.
A department store could be an interesting angle for expansion if we mixed some of the elements we included in our April issue (see Monocle’s Perfect department store) but then I decided London was too tricky (crowded) for such a concept and I couldn’t figure out what city would be a better bet.
As I always liked the rather short-lived newspaper The Sunday Correspondent, I did a very good job of talking myself into the market for a new, English-language global newspaper. As I scanned the café and watched people lost in the pages of various Sunday editions, I was already thinking how our editor Andrew would respond (very positively) if I asked him to start thinking about how he might staff-up an international weekend paper. As I started imagining who I’d commission to build the headquarters for this new publishing venture (see the feature on Milan based architect Luigi Caccia Dominioni) I had difficulty getting past the ground floor as it suddenly made more sense to use this architectural talent for a residential rather than commercial tower. As we spend so much time looking at neighbourhoods and residential projects, the perfect apartment block has considerable appeal.
While many cities are blessed with outstanding housing stock (Milan, Barcelona and Hamburg come to mind), many more are not. When I think about my own life-improvements checklist, a better mansion block somewhere in the heart of London usually comes top of my list. (For the record, my list also includes a good bakery within walking distance, a great newsstand next door, a better UK-based international airline, a well-staffed barber shop close to the office, safer cycling, more time to play living room DJ and a better relationship with my alarm clock and early wake-ups.)
Standing only six-to-eight levels above ground (with three levels for parking and ample storage below), the building would be a complete exercise in solid construction, high-quality materials and sensible proportions. With a collection of the best and most essential retail and services at street level, the approach to apartment design would focus on creating lasting value by doing things right the first time. For the moment I’m still conjuring up the finer details but don’t be too surprised if someday we unveil plans for our new little block for better living.
If you’d like to reserve an apartment, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or my assistants Tommy and Isabel. More soon.
For more from our editor-in-chief, read his column in the ‘FT Weekend’.