A decent week for Zürich


A couple of weeks ago Zürich was just another of many trending hubs in Europe, perfect for dashing in and out over a weekend to do some local shopping in the city’s Vice district. This part of Zürich that, instead of being constructed as your local Swiss bank vault, actually looks like it’s painted with colours from the vibrant streets of Berlin-Mitte.

Last week the spotlight certainly turned to Zürich. It started when they snatched the award for Best European Airport right in front of the always confident Münich airport. Which was, I think we all feel, quite an upset, especially since Lufthansas work pods ranked as Most productive place in Monocle’s Travel Top 50.

Later last week Monocle released one of the absolute highnotes of the year – The Most liveable cities list of 2009. What affected the list this year were the new metrics. First, The Zara/Starbucks index, i.e. the independence of a city’s retail. Secondly, how easy it is to set up a new small business shop. And last, planned improvements in infrastructure. This change of metrics of course meant that all previous bets were off. Frankly we had our money riding on Münich for a long time, but after this radical change of the lists fundamentals we would have put our money on Copenhagen.

But Zürich proved unbeatable this week, snobbing Münich not once but twice in seven days. We’re guessing the equally elegant as arrogant people of Zürich have been celebrating on Bahnhofstraße all week long, probably drinking large quantities of Fledschloesschen while filling up with some delightful hot chestnuts at some of the best street corners in Europe. We tip our hat for Zürich and plan on taking a closer look at the city later this year.

Introducing: The Tyler Brûlé Index

CeBIT 2008

As promised on our about page, we are set to develop a simple benchmarking system to ensure a high livability. And how better to do this than to set up a system based on the habits of TB? Enter: The Tyler Brûlé Index (TBI). After all, an index is the only fair way to measure things in life.

It’s a simple and developing system that will take into account the many brands, airlines and preferences of our fellow friend. As a reference point, we will use a business class flight with Lufthansa – this will be TBI 100. This is the standard, if you will.

Let’s take an example from the FT the other day – a clear TBI 40:

The door whooshed shut, and the crew passed around pre-take-off drinks and quarantine forms for the State of Hawaii. Our Boeing 757 then rumbled along the tarmac, and a few minutes later we were out over the Pacific.

I was utterly unprepared for what happened next. I guess that if I’d paid closer attention to the Hawaii-themed dinner menu, then it might have offered some type of warning. But I hadn’t, so I didn’t know whether to stare, laugh or despair when the cabin crew emerged from the galley accessorised in little floral sprigs and swatches of Hawaiiana.

Steward in silly, rather than skimpy, outfits. What else is to be expected from American Airlines, you may ask? A fair question considering this North American carrier is far from the likes of ANA, Cathay or Porter. The whole airline is a stretch to even make TBI 60 in total, but then I’m of course referring to seating in the front of the cabin. Otherwise it had been considerably less.

We’ll be referring to the TBI in the posts ahead. Anyone that has had a TBI 150 experience knows that it should be shared with others.

Improvable cities: Toronto

Toronto Financial District

Complacency. Such a disappointing diagnosis for a city. Tyler Brûlé´s ex-home town Toronto suffers from this badly, and we thought we should go through a few pointers on how to improve this sub-par Canadian city.

Ultimately, the responsibility for all urban development is the mayor´s. And as Mayor David Miller of Toronto refuses to incorporate the advice given by Mr Brûlé earlier, we see no reason in supporting him in his position.

And my God, when you fly over Toronto you see these vast tracts of two-car garages that jut out in front of the house, and these communities where you have to live by the automobile. It won’t be sustainable.

We demand an immediate ban on two-car garages. The madness must stop. Learn from the free bike schemes “Züri rollt” and “Vélib” in Zürich and Paris respectively. Look at Spain´s Renfe AVE first class rail development – the Siemens S103 Velaro is a more than adequate for medium range travel. Copenhagen has their Ansaldo Trasporti contracted driver-less Metro systems (that now steadily runs all the way to Kastrup – handy for the environmentally friendly pre-flight lounge hopper). The possibilities are simply endless.

We expect more from you, Toronto. If significant changes aren’t to be seen within short, we’ll have Wally Olins at your doorstep with a complete rebranding scheme before you can say “24-hour-a-day metabolism”.

Celebrations of livability: II

Treasure Island / The Island / L'île Perdu

Interviewer: – Will you be profitable in five years with Monocle?
Tyler Brûlé: – No, I already bought an island, and I did that with old media [money].

From DLD, 2009.

Celebrations of livability: I

Concorde landing at sunset

For the record, did I fly on Concorde many times? Absolutely.

– Tyler Brûlé, Guardian, 2007