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London (The Other New York.)


The Manhattanization of London A recent exhibition at the Architecture Foundation projected London's 2020 skyline, peppered with skyscrapers nicknamed the Gherkin, the Cheese Grater, the Helter-Skelter, and the Walkie-Talkie. Meanwhile, Stateside, where are we with ground zero again?  

We know what he means.

We moved back to New York in March. Despite all its pleasures, it seemed a good time to leave London: In our years there, the legendary Radio 1 D.J. John Peel had died, Helen Mirren’s DCI Jane Tennison had tossed in her badge for the last time on Prime Suspect, and the hop-on, hop-off Routemaster bus—the great red gondola of London—had been put out of service for good. We spent our last day at the “London: A Life in Maps” exhibition at the British Library. Looking at the spidery streets from the Romans to now, we felt pleasingly small in a metropolis that’s thrummed for 2,000 years, sorry to leave before we’d even come close to exhausting its riches, but ultimately happy to return to New York, the city that still has a touch of Serpico to it, an air of Ratso Rizzo. You can’t, after all, bang on the hood of a taxicab and shout, “I’m walkin’ here!” in London. We were ready to return to the city where “we’re ourselves,” as the Beastie Boys have put it, “and electric too.”

But perhaps it’s folly to think this way, or at least evidence of the kind of blinkered self-absorption that marks both cities. The capital of the 21st century will be neither New York nor London, but Beijing.

Eugenia Bell is the author of The Traditional Shops and Restaurants of London; Matt Weiland is deputy editor of Granta.


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