After canvassing the views of the global design community, the art world, fashion industry, architects, creative directors and opinion formers, a distinguished international panel of judges has named London as 2012's City of the Year at the annual Wallpaper Design Awards.
'No city can do both "penthouse and pavement" with quite the style of London'
The judges offer awards for design ideas, products, architecture, hotels and restaurants but the most eagerly awaited result each year is the name of the metropolis crowned City of the Year.
Previous winners have included Istanbul, New York, Paris and Los Angeles; last year's winner was Rio de Janeiro. With the Olympics just six months away, this year the panel was in no doubt which was 2012's top city.
And the greatest sporting event in the world won't be the only thing London's visitors can look forward to, the panel points out. A string of imaginative celebrations are planned to mark the Queen's diamond jubilee, while the British capital is the best shopping city in the world, accommodating all moods and tastes from the chic and sophisticated boutiques of Mayfair's Mount Street (Balenciaga, Roland Mouret, Louboutin, Lanvin and Hayward) to the youthful, edgy Redchurch Street in Shoreditch (Hostem, Caravan, Sunspel and APC).
In 2012, no city can do both "penthouse and pavement" with quite the style of London, they add. Art lovers will discover that London has "fully emerged as an artworld hub" with St James's and Mayfair regaining much of their former lustre with impressive world-class galleries such as Hauser & Wirth in Savile Row and the diminutive Sprueth Magers in Grafton Street.
© Susannah Ireland
To the east, E2 has its new contemporary art district of Vyner Street while Hoxton Square now has a global reputation.
And, at long last, London's design gallery scene (for so long a Parisian staple) has taken off. There is the ever-growing success of the city-wide London Design Festival each September, and The Pavilion of Art and Design in Berkeley Square in mid-October, while art and design galleries such as Carpenters Workshop (3 Albemarle Street, W1) and Gallery Libby Sellers (41 Berners Street, W1) have been joined by David Gill (3 Loughborough Street, SE11 and soon in Mayfair).
The panel praises the public infrastructure that surrounds this summer's Games. An estimated 5.5 million visitors will pour into London for the Olympics and Paralympics (July 27 to August 9 and August 29 to September 9). More than half a million extra visitors will be looking for places to stay overnight.
On a walk around London they will be confronted with Renzo Piano's 310 metre-high Shard, due for completion in May, which will emerge as Western Europe's tallest building. Herzog & de Meuron's £215 million Tate Modern extension is set to open later in the year and Anish Kapoor's landmark 115-metre Orbit observation tower will be unmissable at the Olympic Park in Stratford.
The judges say the world's best architects and designers are now working and living in London - and name David Chipperfield, Zaha Hadid, Amanda Levete, David Adjaye, Carmody Groarke, Marc Newson, Tom Dixon, Jaime Hayon, David Collins, Martin Brudnizki, Tara Bernerd and Ilse Crawford, though the list is far longer.
© Channel Four
Thanks to an unprecedented infusion of new and refurbished hotels, oligarchs and Bollygarchs have the pick of the poshest suites in The Savoy; 45 Park Lane; the monumental St Pancras Renaissance; The Corinthia in Whitehall and the Bulgari Hotel in Knightsbridge, to name but a few.
The foodie boom has produced a string of world-class chefs and restaurateurs led by stalwarts Heston Blumenthal (right), Jason Atherton and Marcus Wareing and young Turks Nuno Mendes, Stevie Parle, Russell Norman and José Pizarro.
Ten years ago, London's claim to be one of the world's greatest cities was far from convincing. Now it is truly the global city.
The judging panel
* Grayson Perry: the UK's favourite storytelling ceramicist, currently the headline act at the British Museum.
* Rafael Viñoly: the Uruguayan-born, New York-based architect with seven offices on three continents.
* Simon de Pury: Swiss art auctioneer and co-founder of Phillips de Pury who thrills bidders with his Jagger swagger.
* Gerd Bulthaup: Head man at the German kitchen manufacturer, Bulthaup - the darling of top chefs worldwide.
* Jean-Paul Goude: French photographer/illustrator who made an icon of Grace Jones.
* Read the full list of winners in the February issue of Wallpaper, out now