By Paul Harrison, Art Director | London
What is your idea of a perfectly happy day in your city?
Nice morning, crisp, quite cool but sunny… Get up, go for a swim in my apartment pool downstairs, go to Battersea Park, have a bit of a walk, take my book or magazine or whatever, get inspired. I will either head up to the office and do some work there, or go up into SoHo and go to The Hospital Club and meet some clients there and do work there. At nighttime I’ll meet friends in nice place. London’s fantastic because you’ve got so many options.
Knowing your city and its citizens, what is your greatest fear?
I wouldn’t say I had a fear of anything in London. One of the downsides of London is if you’re not particularly good at meeting people you can feel quite isolated and quite alone—which I did when I lived in London when I was younger. I didn’t really necessarily have the confidence to go out and meet people and I didn’t really have the money to go to the nice places where you meet the people you want to meet as well. Unfortunately, in big cities around the world, money plays a big part in life. It’s a shame but it does. I’m not saying money’s everything but it gives you the options.
Which historical figure would do best in your city?
I know she’s not historical but Audrey Hepburn. She’d fit into the whole culture now.
Which do you admire most about your city (something from recent years)?
I’ve lived in numerous cities around the world and the best thing about it is the diverse cultures. Within an hour from my house I can go and sample any culture, any food, any art galleries–there’s everything you want. I think that’s the best thing about it for me.
Which is the trait you deplore most about your city?
Again, I think again it comes back to that it can be a very impersonal place where no one sort of acknowledge you unless you make the effort, whereas when you go outside of London people have a lot more time to relax and talk to you. There’s a lack of time to engage with people really.
What is the negative trait that others falsely accuse your city of having?
I suppose you could say that a lot of people think London people are stuck up their own backsides. But once you actually break the barriers, everyone’s the same, we’re all human beings. You’ve just got to make an effort.
Also, London was always thought to be very expensive–not even on a global basis but in the UK London was very, very expensive. But, in the last couple of years whether you drink in Edinburgh or drink in Newcastle it’s very very similar.
What is the greatest extravagance one can experience in your city?
A particular offer during the London Restaurant Festival. It involved meeting for champagne and canapés at The Savoy Hotel, getting chauffeured to the London Eye for a private after-hours drive followed by a three-course meal, with each course made by a different celebrity chef. And finally retiring to The Savoy to sleep off the hedonistic experience. The cost per person was £1,500.
What is a positive trait your city is known for that is actually false?
A lot of people say London has a great nightlife, but for me there are lot’s of options but nothing great in my opinion.
What do you dislike most about the architecture, city layout and general appearance of your city?
It’s a shame that in certain areas where the architecture’s amazing, and it all sticks together but then they’ve just plonked a new building right in the middle of it. It just doesn’t look right. You have to appreciate this amazing architecture and leave it as it is. Then you put this horrific new thing there–which is nice in its own right–but in some old square it just doesn’t look right. You have to appreciate the old things and leave them as they are.
When was your city’s hey-day?
My dad came down here when he was 17 and used to live on the King’s Road and Top of the Pops was on. He said it was just an amazing time to be in London. But I also think this year is going to amazing. Think of the future… the Olympics, Jubilee.
If you could change one thing about your city what would it be?
The cost of transport. The transport system’s amazing but it’s so expensive. When you go and visit [Continental] Europe, it’s all subsidized by the government, like a month in Italy’s 30 Euros…The thing I don’t understand about it is that the government wants people to stop using their cars and yet they’re charging so much for transport they don’t encourage people to use it.
What do outsiders (or transplants and long-time visitors) to your city generally answer to the last question?
How difficult it is to meet people in London.
What do you consider your city’s greatest achievement?
Savile Row. It’s a fascinating part of London but only a small part of the city. You realise the history behind it and how the history of fashion extended across the world from London and still does. I think that’s a fascinating part we don’t embrace enough. It’s been lost over the years but over time it will come back.
If your city was destroyed and one day its ruins discovered, what do you think they would find and/or learn about it?
One of the best structures ever–and you realize it was created like 120 years ago–is the Underground. If people were doing an excavation they would find a network of tunnels that’s 120 years old…they couldn’t build it now–how did they build it 120 years ago? It’s fantastic. The scale of it. It amazes me to this day how they built it over 100 years ago.
What is your city’s greatest artistic or architectural acquisition?
I tend to go off on walks to get inspiration, especially in the early evening when it’s light and nice–I’ll walk along up to Chelsea and cross the harbour bridge and you stand there and look at the river and see all the different bridges and you see the sun coming up at the top. You see huge buildings along the riverbank there and a lot of them are embassies. You get silhouettes with the sun behind it and all the bridges. I just think that’s absolutely stunning. I love that.