Off-Beat Design Hubs: The Cities Reinventing Themselves (And Transforming Urban Living)

Off-Beat Design Hubs: The Cities Reinventing Themselves (And Transforming Urban Living)

Transforming derelict strip-clubs into boutique hotels, opening glass-bottom rooftop pools in brutalist buildings and inspiring economic change through cable cars, design is at the forefront of global development.



Palm
Springs is a mecca for mid-century
modernity. Singapore leads the way for green spaces in a
high-density city. London, Tokyo and Miami have the most attended Design Weeks and Zurich
is a lesson in public transport. But there are a host of
design-driven cities that are probing even further, questioning
existing methods, finding solutions and striving for social change
using the medium of design. Transforming derelict strip-clubs into
boutique hotels, opening glass-bottom rooftop pools in brutalist
buildings and inspiring economic change through cable cars, design
is at the forefront of global development.


Helsinki, Finland

A city built with its residents in mind, Helsinki is improving
urban living by focusing on the wants and needs of its population.
Public-transport services have been designed with the user in mind,
such a bus service running as frequently as the London tube. Using
its history of design – from the iconic Alvar Aalto’s 60 stool that
furnishes Apple stores worldwide to the Olof Bäckström’s orange
handled scissors found in kitchens around the world – design is
engrained in Finland’s DNA. The inclusive city is introducing
public service centres that combine libraries, doctors’ surgeries
and supermarkets. Helsinki Design Week is over 10 years old and
the Design District overflows with up-and-coming creators and bold
concept stores such as Lokal. In short, Helsinki hasn’t just put itself on
the global design map, it has begun to dramatically transform
it.


Toronto, Canada

Ears pricked up when Alphabet, the umbrella company that houses
Google, announced it was turning 12 derelict acres on Toronto’s waterfront into a tech community. On
this savvy plot, sensors will monitor noise levels, air quality,
energy use and travel patterns in order to ensure that residential
requirements are efficiently catered to. Ambitious plans to build
Canada’s tallest building have been laid out, and on-trend
high-rise structures covered with succulents and blooms are being
built. Toronto is changing rapidly; the last 12 months have seen an
ice-skating rink spring up beneath a highway while DesignAgency
have turned a former strip club into a playful, boutique hotel.
The Broadview Hotel combines the rustic glamour
of film noir with the youthful vibe the regenerated Riverside
neighbourhood has begun to take on.


Dundee, Scotland

A former economic powerhouse once renowned for its textile
trade, Dundee’s re-emerging contemporary fashion and arts scene,
coupled with the wealth of digital media companies that call Dundee
home, is cementing its place as the UK’s cultural and design
hotspot. The compact Scottish city is undergoing a huge revival
with a £1 billion waterfront regeneration headed by the V&A
Museum of Design. As part of the development, two new boutique
hotels are taking residence in the historic Baxter Brothers and Co
spinning mills. The newly appointed UNESCO Creative City, the first
in the UK, will continue to turn heads as they strive to eradicate
social problems such as unemployment and homelessness through
community design initiatives and their annual design festival.


Medellin, Colombia

Prepare to shatter any preconceptions of notorious narcotic
criminals and violent drug gangs as this once broken city has begun
to repair itself. It’s starting point: the Metrocable line where
gondolas are soaring into metro stations. The use of cable cars to
reach high up concentrations isn’t pioneering, but the fact that
they were purposefully built to transport some of the poorest
communities is. Striving to tackle Medellin’s most prominent urban problems,
architect Alehandro Echeverri created five public libraries
surrounded by lush greenery. The Modern Art Museum of Medellin is worth a
visit too, as the internal-external walk-able terraces mirror the
construction of the barrios that are piled on top of one another
across the steep Andes valley.


Tbilisi, Georgia

The subtropical climate is not the only reason that the Georgian
capital has topped travel charts in recent years. The government’s
firm focus on shredding the country’s Soviet past has seen
galleries revamped, colourful markets springing up and a surge in
concept hybrid stores, such as the boutique-cum-coffee-shop
O Moda
Moda
. Tbilisi’s original design hotel, Rooms Hotel
Tbilisi
, is an ode to the beginning of this revival. The
hand-printed wallpapers, rich velvet curtains and large windows
showcasing award-winning artwork in the hotel courtyard will please
even the most seasoned travel aesthete. Its sister property,
Stamba Hotel, is set to push boundaries further
with its five-storey jungle atrium and glass-bottom swimming pool,
opening in spring 2018.


Cape Town, South Africa

Creativity in Cape Town is at an all-time high. Aiming to bridge the
divide that has plagued the city, Cape Town is UNESCO’s first
African City of Design. On a grassroots level, this is apparent in
numerous craft markets and the onstant flow of pop-up galleries,
shops and creative community initiatives. Unlike other cities, Cape
Town’s design district isn’t constricted to just one or two streets
but instead stretches from the bohemian homes of Kalk Way to the
street murals of The Fringe, Cape Town’s design eco-system. The
buzz-worthy Zeitz MOCCA also opened in late 2017, the first
institution in the world dedicated to celebrating contemporary
African art. For Cape Town, design seems to be a bold statement in
South Africa’s cultural development.

The black and yellow exterior of Prospect Cottage in Dungeness, Kent

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