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Urban Quality of Life according to Monocle Magazine

July 29, 2010

The July 2010 issue of Monocle magazine was about Quality of Life in the 25 World’s Best Cities ( ) and I have been curious to see how the journalists have approached such an ambitious task and the role they have given to architecture and urban issues.

Of course I am not going to judge or analyse in depth their work, one good thing about this survey is that it is not overloaded with data and their statements are not cast in stone.

I just want to highlight a couple of things that I found interesting.

  • The background of this exercise. The british magazine Monocle (“a Briefing on Global. Affairs, Business, Culture & Design”) is edited by the Financial Time Weekend Columnist Tyler Brǔlé and supported by advertising of some of the most expensive fashion&lifestyle brands worldwide (smartphones, jewels, watches, clothing, design furniture etc). Quality of life in cities seems to be among the most exciting topics for global business people. Is it really so?
  • The ranking of the 25 most livable cities in the world (Munich at the top, see the complete list at does not include any Italian city (nor in the last 3 years, but no surprise) nor any city from the eastern Europe (what a pity), but it does include Honolulu, Portland and Singapore (surprise!).
  • Apart from the top 25, they have added “five with a little more sun and sauce” which are Rio de Janeiro, Naples, Beirut, Istanbul and Taipei, out of the awareness that the parameters for a good quality of life (low criminality, good business, environment-friendly, connectivity, tolerance etc) might not be enough to make a desirable place to live. Good point!
  • Besides the ranking there are other sharp articles about the makers of success of these cities: smart Mayors, creative public officers, entrepreneurs, designers etc.
  • The role tributed to architecture and town planning in urban quality of life is farly poor. The recent work of some star architects is highlighted and the call for “more daring architecture” is advised in too conservative cities. But this is by far not enough. Sadly enough it seems that the magazine does not have any specific competence on architecture and urban issues.
  • A longer articles are dedicated to cities the are improving their profile: Helsinki, Vienna and Honolulu, describing how they manage to do so.
  • Last but not least the magazine hosts a beautiful contribution by Jan Gehl and its practice in Copenhagen. Jan Gehl is working to advance quality of  life in the cities since the seventies and since a couple of years is earning the fruits of this longstanding engagement. Gehl is becoming a star-architect, a must for each city that wants to improve its environment and quality of life, but despite his worldwide fame, he defines himself a street architect and struck us with his sensible statements and common sense measure to improve our own quality of life in the cities. Food for thoughts for architects!

You can watch the video article about Munich, the most liveable city at the following link:

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