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Hub Culture 2008 Zeitgeist Ranking

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18th Sep 2008

A historical analysis looked at the Zeitgeist centre of the universe idea from 1973 to the present, and the 2007 ranking drew both acclaim and derision. Drawn from conversations around the world with Hub Culture members along with other arbitrary and non-scientific influences, the list seeks to measure the moment. The 2008 list reflects a growing tilt toward the East - namely Tokyo, Moscow, Beijing and Hong Kong, which is not to say other cities are less hot, just that these places are hotter than ever, especially given the economic uncertainty rattling the West:

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L.A. 12/07 - Credit crunch hits Southern California
1. Los Angeles (2007 Rank: 1)

Strikes. Fires. Reality fatigue. Economic Disaster. The indicators for LA's hold on the No. 1 spot argue for a dip in the city's zeitgeist fortunes, but the fact remains that Los Angeles remains the most important driver of the current moment, if only by a whisker. In some ways, the doom and gloom LA has experienced recently has presaged the general red alerts now being felt elsewhere - from environmental crisis to economic lapse, LA seems to have arrived in the shits just before everyone else.

2. Berlin (2007 Rank: 2)

Berlin remains strong. Culturally, the city gathers strength, and over the past year has only done more to solidify its position as leader of the global underground while economically holding steady . As the cutting edge vibe in London wanes, Berlin continues to draw the young and the restless, and its ties to a resurgent East (i.e. Moscow, Warsaw) are really showing dividends.

3. Mumbai (2007 Rank: 3)

Even as Mumbai gridlock threatens to become a 24/7 state of affairs, India in general and Mumbai in particular continue their assault on the global consciousness. It's hard to argue against Mumbai, especially with so many new innovations popping up here. That includes the arrival of the TATA Nano, which will soon change the economics of transport across the developing world. Add in booming hotels, real estate and a stronger rupee, and Mumbai holds the course.

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Centre Stage: Beijing's 'Bird's Nest' Olympic Stadium
4. Beijing (2007 Rank: 7)

2008 is Beijing's year, and not just because of the Olympics. The financial meltdown occurring in other capitals has cast Beijing in a new light as the Chinese continue to show fiscal reserve while strengthening their own position. A new confidence, dare we say 'smug factor' permeates the city, and this summer's coming out party has already paid dividends. With 11.5% growth, much of the action is in Beijing, and its underground culture is blooming with so many new arrivals.

5. Tokyo (2007 Rank: 14)

Tokyo is steaming! A combination of low prices, an awakening in the real estate sector, smart yen plays and new innovation in the music scene have breathed new life into Asia's sleeping Godzilla. Tokyo remains relentlessly foreign, but has become easier to handle, a magnet for those seeking relief from the doldrums in other markets. Add in the bailouts and partnerships with Western financial firms, and suddenly even Tokyo's waning financial sector looks hot.

6. London (2007 Rank: 5)

Overpriced by any measure and past the crest in nightlife, London seems to have dulled in line with the smaller bonuses being handed out in the City. New tax penalties for foreigners and la general sense of foreboding may have stalled the party for late arrival Amy Sacco, but there is no doubt that London remains the place to be for international finance and media, driving a cultural life that leaves a wistful sigh on the face of many New Yorkers.

7. Buenos Aires (2007 Rank: 6)

So its looking a little tattered - Buenos Aires is still booming thanks to earlier structural adjustments. The new Puerto Madero district is taking shape as an international golden standard, and rises in commodity prices (especially food) are lifting all boats. BA has problems, but Argentina's cheap prices are attracting legions of globalized people, especially financial types looking to make investments in everything from wine to hotels. BA remains the place to be in booming South America.

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Hydropolis, the worlds 1st underwater hotel, Dubai
8. Dubai (2007 Rank: 8)

People are flocking to Dubai, and the little Emirate that could continues to can. Global investment capability and a city awash in cash and construction make Dubai one of the world's few economic bright spots in 2008. Dubai may be crass and the culture may be in need of some urgent refinement, but its hotter than ever. If you can't handle the heat, just wait until Hydropolis, (the world's first underwater hotel) opens next year.

9. New York City (2007 Rank: 9)

A spate of new hotels and relatively stable real estate testify to one fact: the foreigners are holding up New York. While not great for the locals, that makes for a wonderful hub moment in the city: a bargain for visitors and a place more remarkably open and international than it has been for a long time. A sense of ease amid turmoil seems to have taken root in New York, partly because it is the most globally outward looking city in the US - leaving it well positioned to weather the coming year.

10. Hong Kong (2007 Rank: 18)

Hong Kong is like a see-saw, swaying between its connections to NY-LON and China, depending on which one it needs more at any given moment. That's an advantage as the city continues to balance booming growth with ever tighter global integration. The scene remains predictable, but predictably fun, and Hong Kong's leadership in fashion and Asian pop culture is steady - even if everyone is increasingly obsessed with Korean daytime TV. New entertainment areas and a redevelopment of the harbourfront bode well.

11. Istanbul (2007 Rank: 4)

Istanbul has dropped from last year - not because it is any less hot, just because other locations are now taking up more mind space. As the Islam threat feels like its cooling Istanbul continues to set the leadership example for the region while integrating ever closer to Europe. Its fun, it sizzles, its still here.

12. San Francisco (2007 Rank: 13)

San Francisco continues to punch above its population weight, mostly because it continues to reinvent itself. From the technology space it is now leading the global green charge, spearheading investments and opportunity in the sector. Culturally, SF seems to be preparing for higher consciousness, as talk of shifts and awareness dominate conversations. Add in nearby Facebook, and SF is on the rise - yet hampered by that pesky dollar.

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São Paolo Police guard a recovered Picasso painting
13. S o Paolo (2007 Rank: New)

This city is on roll: Brazil's macro success is manifesting in booming design, nightlife, and real estate in South America's largest city with a young, increasingly educated, party population. S o Paolo is benefiting from energy - biofuels and petrodollars are loose, watering weeds as diverse as cabaret and condos. But crime and inequality continue to weigh on the city, which suffers from greater inequalities than neighboring BA.

14. Shanghai (2007 Rank: 11)

Shanghai continues to gather strength and remains a magnet for young people looking to make it in the global economy. The city has recently blossomed and is now genuinely a fun place to live, filled with interesting people, a cosmo scene and true cultural innovation. Downsides include the air - nasty; and a temporary shadow as Beijing steals the spotlight this year. Overall, still happening.

15. Moscow (2007 Rank: 18)

Putin was named TIME's Man of the Year for a reason: Moscow continues to grow its sphere of global influence, and instead of saber rattling the new vogue is suitcase rattling: as in suitcases of cash. The luxury sector here remains strong, and a unique air of sophistication continues to develop. New nightlife investments and a period of relative stability are drawing more attention than ever, but Moscow remains the ultimate insider city.

16. Madrid (2007 Rank: new)

Sunny Madrid is benefiting from stability and language. As South America continues to do well, Madrid benefits back in Europe, and a continuing influx of Northern Europeans adds to the cultural mix. Add in some of the best nightlfe in Europe, a hot art scene and lower living prices than other regional hubs, and Madrid looks ever more enticing.

17. Singapore (2007 Rank: new)

Singapore may appear boring, but it certainly packs some punch. Whether stepping up to the financial plate globally or announcing another outlandish designer building project, the tiny city state continues innovation at the macro level, providing economic security and iced whipped chai for its people in an ever more turbulent world. Not a bad place to hide when things get rough.

18. Sydney (2007 Rank: 16)

Sydney is the terrycloth towel of urban hubs - rich, beautiful and soft enough to feel comfortable. In a land aloft in buoyant commodity prices and closer ties with the economic engines of Asia, some would argue Sydney never had it so good. Sagging real estate and a diminishing world role argue otherwise, but its still hard to imagine anyone there is really that worried. Sydney charts its own course.

19. Mexico D.F. (2007 Rank: 20)

The worlds largest city remains a study in contrasts, but times are so good that Mexican immigrants are even returning from California to seek opportunity in Mexico City. The city elite are still preoccupied with gringonomics to the north, but local growth and development auger well. Add in the city's super young vibe, and one gets the feeling anything is possible. One step forward.

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Ziptrekking at Whistler outside Vancouver
20. Vancouver (2007 Rank: new)

Vancouver gets this year's wild card, in the spirit of No. 10 Geneva last year. A combination of factors are benefiting this coastal hub, ranging from preparations for the 2010 Winter Games in nearby Whistler to an avalanche of business in the film industry on the heels of LA woes. Clean and pristine, Vancouver sums up the new environmental feel, and that strong Canadian dollar has Vancouver strutting its stuff in a newly confident way, from Seattle all the way to Shanghai.

Slipping under: Seattle (US blahs), Rome (no buzz), Seoul (just barely) and Geneva (authenticity eclipsed by economy)

Bubbling up: S o Paolo, Singapore, Vancouver, Madrid