From Formula E to a brand-new eco district, contemporary art and gastronomy, Monaco is reinventing itself for a new generation.
Call it a concept, not an ordinary building: over by Monte Carlo’s humming Casino Square, all eyes are on the new Art Deco inspired complex of seven luminous buildings, One Monte-Carlo, designed by starchitects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Monaco-based Alexandre Giraldi. All fluid oval lines and monumental bay windows, this structure is a 646,000 sq ft (60,000 sq m) combination of 37 high-end apartments, offices with rooftop photovoltaic panels, an art gallery and 23 prestigious designer boutiques, from Louis Vuitton to Chanel and Fendi.
Certified by BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environment Assessment Methodology) for its sustainability, One Monte-Carlo is about as green as an urban oasis you can get. The luxurious, glass-covered mall’s pedestrian walkways and inner courtyards are lined with lush subtropical plants, in a scheme created by landscape architect Jean Mus. The development will also serve as the future business hub of the Principality – its vast underground conference center hosting a variety of international events.
Still, some things never change, like the sparkling blue sea or the gentle climate that has attracted an international crowd of visitors to the sovereign state of Monaco for over a century. The Principality may be the second smallest country in the world after Vatican City, yet the dramatic skyline is glutted with modern, luxury high-rises; the spectacular blue 49-storey skyscraper, Tour Odéon, which has a record-breaking $387 million (€342 million) penthouse, towers above them all. Unsurprisingly, a multitude of other soaring skyscrapers are in the works to accommodate the ever-expanding Monégasque population – around 38,000 residents squeezed into an area about the same size as New York’s Central Park.
The key developments designed to give Monaco a more sustainable future
Monaco is one of the world’s richest countries, counting over 12,000 millionaires. But its clichéd reputation – that of non-stop glamorous parties and superyachts – has always been only part of the story. And for this generation, the glittering parties are a sidenote to the real business at hand: the development of cutting-edge arts venues, the revamping of the country’s landmark hotels and spas, and an innovative gastronomic scene. The new entrepreneurs in Monaco have sustainability hardwired into all of their plans, driven in no small part by a government that sees “eco-responsibility as a principle of political action”. This stance, outlined in the official government website, includes measures that prioritize “biodiversity, the management of resources and the reduction of greenhouse gases” along with a specific policy “towards the establishment of a sustainable city”.
One of the most striking transformations in the built landscape begins at the harbour. Inaugurated in 2014, the sleek Yacht Club designed by Foster + Partners is another eco-friendly enterprise, which includes a library, an outdoor pool, a restaurant and multi-level terraces. The club’s elegant cruise-liner form overlooks the marina and out to the horizon.
Add to that the future $2.2 billion (€2 billion) Portier Cove in the Larvotto district, a man-made island that will reclaim 15 acres (six hectares) of land from the sea. Due to be completed in 2025, the project – which involves architect Renzo Piano – features a curve of luxury apartments, a landscaped park and promenade, a small marina and artificial reefs. According to French contractors Bouygues Travaux Publics, builders of the maritime infrastructure – including a seawall made from 18 concrete-filled 10,000 metric-ton chambers – minimizing the impact on the ecological environment is key. The marine plant species near the project area were transferred to nearby reserves and special submarine screens provide protection from the construction site.
How Monaco’s cultural scene is going green
But that is not all. The gastronomic scene is thriving, with new additions to the wide selection of Monégasque restaurants, among which there is a cumulative total of 10 Michelin stars. Visitors are already queuing up at Mada One, headed by chef Marcel Ravin of Blue Bay at the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort. The restaurant offers a non-stop service featuring light, flavorful small dishes, convivial afterwork aperitifs and innovative teatime pastries. Best bet: the divine signature red and white Le Munegu, a brioche-like creation filled with raspberry jam and the zest of local lemons. “It’s a kind of traveler’s cake, since the word means both Monégasque and ‘the taste of the people’ in Creole,” Caribbeanborn Ravin explains. “My concept was to offer a rainbow of chic healthy snacks that follow the rhythm of the day, with bento trays of salad, avocado and toast, or multicolored risotto.”
Only steps away, the legendary Belle Époque Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, owned by the government-run Société des Bains de Mer (SBM), which manages a large part of the Principality’s properties, is a major player in Monaco’s new act. After a four-year multimillion-euro revamp, this grande dame, once frequented by crowned heads of state and the glitterati, has been updated for the 21st century. The modern vibe kicks in upon stepping into the lobby where the fussiness of heavy gilding and stucco has been replaced by an elegant mix of soft ambers, contemporary furnishings and beguiling light fixtures.
There is also the newly unveiled inner courtyard – a palm-lined oasis for drinks, surrounded by exclusive jewelry boutiques. The most spectacular change is the entirely reconstructed 70-room, white Art Deco wing, with a rooftop wellness center and pool, and spacious, opulent sea-view suites. For the happy few, there are two colossal-sized penthouse suites with private pools, named after Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace.
On the ground floor and lush garden terrace of the hotel, chef Alain Ducasse’s latest creation, Ômer, is making waves with power-breakfast-eating young professionals (the restaurant is open from 7am), as well as foodies who welcome an informal dining experience comprising a feast of dishes to share among friends on a balmy summer night. “We synthesized the different flavors [of the sea] to give an idea of the diversity of Mediterranean cuisine and culture,” says Ducasse. Meanwhile, his recently refurbished three-Michelin-starred restaurant Le Louis XV-Alain Ducasse at Hôtel de Paris continues to draw a faithful clientele, who come for his trademark “reinterpretation of Riviera and Ligurian peasant cooking”. In contrast, at Ômer the menu features specialities from Turkey, Spain, Lebanon, Greece and North Africa; for example, a mezze of fried anchovies, falafel and chicken livers, with main dishes including baked seabass with capers, raisins and pine nuts on a bed of Swiss chard, or saffron and baby squid, all washed down with an impressive choice of more than 1,000 Mediterranean wines from the celebrated cellars of the Hôtel de Paris.
Innovative restaurants are not the only colorful addition to Monaco’s offerings. The flourishing arts scene is stronger than ever, beginning with the annual art fair, Artmonte- Carlo, now in its fourth year and held in April. In collaboration with Geneva’s artgenève, the exhibition takes place at Monaco’s Grimaldi Forum and from this year welcomes a top-notch selection of contemporary design, as well as the works by modern masters, from Chagall and Léger to contemporary French artists such as François Morellet and Bernard Pagès. The museum Villa Paloma (part of the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco), in a remodeled turn-of-the-century white building perched on a cliff, also displays the works of artists of international renown. Its seasonal cutting-edge shows have included Gilbert & George, Duane Hanson and, recently, Tom Wesselmann.
How the stars are aligning to make Monaco more eco-friendly
“Green is the new glam” states a Monaco Government Tourist Office campaign, summing up the Principality’s widespread stylish rejuvenation and environment-friendly commitments, which have grown steadily over the past five years. At the SBM-run Monte-Carlo Beach resort, for example, the towels and table sets are recycled, while the Michelin-starred Elsa restaurant is 100 percent organic, offering ingredients sourced locally. And sure, there are elevators galore to avoid the steep hills, but the Principality’s electric bikes are all the rage, or you can cross the harbor on an electric shuttle boat. Seawater pumps fabricated in Monaco produce around 17 percent of the country’s total energy for heating and aircon, saving 15,000 metric tons of petroleum each year.
Although die-hard Formula One-lovers will always come to Monaco for the thrumming engines of fast cars, there is now a flip side to the Grand Prix: not only does Formula E take place in Monte Carlo, but Monaco-based automobile maker Venturi produces electric racing cars that are a source of pride and joy. Owner and CEO Gildo Pastor is a well-known Monégasque entrepreneur, while Venturi’s most avid supporter is Prince Albert (dubbed the ‘green monarch’), whose recent involvement with the company is test-driving the Antarctica, an all-electric polar exploration vehicle capable of operating in extreme conditions.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Monaco’s new era of rip-roaring clean fun and elegance is here to stay.
Where to be and be seen in Monaco...
The Private View
The Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation, which opened in 2014, is a non-profit institute devoted to art research and the work of this 20th-century British artist. Housed in a jewelry-box villa, the foundation has amassed a fascinating private collection of items related to Bacon, who lived in Monaco on and off between 1946 and 1950 and continued to visit regularly until his death in 1992. Visits are by appointment only.
The Luxury Spa
At the recently launched, contemporary Spa Metropole by Givenchy at Hotel Metropole, you start a treatment by choosing a scent from an array of Givenchy fragrances, which is then sprayed onto your luxurious bathrobe. One of the spa-menu highlights is a replenishing facial with Le Soin Noir Renaissance Intégrale, which is made from anti-oxidant-rich black algae extract.
The Monaco E-Prix
Now in season five, Monaco revs up for the Venturi Formula E Team race in the ABB FIA Formula E Championship in May, where (far from the high-octane pandemonium of the Grand Prix) exclusive electric vehicles, such as the land-speed record-breaking VBB-3 Buckeye Bullet car – which has reached 341.4mph (549kph) on the salt flats of Utah – whizz around the track as fans cheer them on.
The Boat Show
Come the end of September, the seasonal excitement shifts to Port Hercules where the young entrepreneurial crowd attends the annual Monaco Yacht Show, a stupendous showcase of the latest high-tech floating palaces and James Bond-inspired boat toys. Eye up over 120 superyachts and the 40 launches of newly designed models.
Lanie Goodman is an arts and travel writer based in the south of France. She has written for titles such as The New York Times and Condé Nast Traveller.
This article first appeared in the May 2019 edition of WERTE, the client magazine of Deutsche Bank Wealth Management.