City Life

Thinking space

Finding a special place can help you feel inspired and at peace in the city, whether it’s a park, a museum, or even your car. We take a look at the places where creative people go to think in some of the world’s busiest and most vibrant cities.

OCTOBER 2017

Yoyogi Park, Tokyo

The city park

KATE KLIPPENSTEEN, AUTHOR
Yoyogi Park, Tokyo

“Frenetic, full-on, constant sound and visual assault… that’s Tokyo and that’s what drives its residents. And that’s why it has been home to me for 30 years. But that sensory overload demands – periodically – an antidote. Sanctuaries.

“In the early days I had a flat not far from the massive Yoyogi Park and adjoining Meiji Shrine. In Yoyogi you can run, scream, throw frisbees and walk the dog, but the shrine grounds are sacred, and demand a certain respectful attitude. When the work, parties and travel became too much, I’d walk briskly to the shrine grounds and then wander through the forest, watch the gardeners raking the paths and, finally, stand at the altar.

“Tokyo’s parks are not famous like Kyoto’s but they have been my sanctuary in the city, especially the formal gardens called teien – tended gardens that reveal the seasons. You also find all kinds of animals there, from herons to snakes. In Tokyo!”

Louiza Atcheba

The car

LOUIZA ATCHEBA, MODEL BRAND MANAGER
Volvo XC40

“One of the interesting things we discovered in our customer research for the XC40 was that people like the feeling of elevation and control you get when you’re driving an SUV in the city. That comes from having a raised seating position and high ground clearance – it’s about stepping up into the car and feeling on top of things. So we made sure the XC40 gives you that feeling.

“The XC40 is definitely a car for people that thrive on the buzz of city life, although it has some features that can help you truly focus if things get hectic. The panoramic roof, for example, floods the interior with natural light to create an open, airy feel, and you can open it to let the air in. We understand that air pollution is an issue in some cities, of course, which is why the XC40 is also available with CleanZone. This innovation purifies cabin air using a filter that reduces the level of dust, pollen and other harmful particles. And if its sensors detect high levels of exhaust fumes, CleanZone automatically closes the car’s air intakes and switches to air recirculation.

“As much as I enjoy the vibrancy of urban life, I think it’s important to find a place where you can feel centred and in control in the city. The XC40 can be one of those places.”

“The XC40 is definitely a car for people that thrive on the buzz of city life, although it has some features that can help you truly focus if things get hectic”

Grand Union Canal, London

The urban waterway

ALFRED RINALDI, JOURNALIST AND EDITOR
Grand Union Canal, London

“As big and bustling as it is, London has always had these amazing places where you can go and take stock and put things in perspective. One of these is the Grand Union Canal, which was built to transport coal on horse-drawn barges before the railways. For many years, it was underused, and there always seemed to be a discarded shopping trolley peeking out of the murky water. Over the past few years, however, more and more Londoners have embraced this treasure – jogging along the towpath, cycling to work or just going for a stroll on a Sunday afternoon.

“My canal walk usually starts at Camden Lock, where a colourful mix of tourists and Londoners sit watching the world go by. A few yards on, the scene changes as you pass London Zoo and reach leafy Little Venice with its magnificent back gardens. Walk the other way, and the canal takes you to the east of the city, to trendy London Fields and beyond. But it’s the houseboats that give the canal its unique character. I’m sure there’s no better space to think than the deck of a barge on a balmy summer’s evening.”

The arts centre

LULA GÓMEZ, JOURNALIST, AUTHOR AND FILM-MAKER 
Matadero Arts Centre, Madrid 

My favourite space to think in Madrid has to be the Matadero Arts Centre. I love going there by myself to think and write, even though I usually end up bumping into a friend. Housed in a former slaughterhouse, this cultural hub has everything I love under one roof – including Cineteca, a cinema dedicated solely to showing documentaries. Right next door is the Cantina, an atmospheric meeting place that used to be the abattoir’s boiler house.

The city and its people are always providing new spaces to inspire and stimulate me – such as the lovingly curated bookshops Tipos Infames and La Buena Vida. Not only do they offer a great selection of literature, they also double up as a wine bar and a café, respectively. I’m not sure whether we get more or fewer spaces to think as the city grows. I couldn’t answer that for everyone. After all, for some, a space to think will be a park or café, for others – like my brother – it will be the saddle of a race bike.