November: At the front / Global
Snakes on a plane, robotic delivery drivers and feng shui failures.
How to live: where next?
A few property pointers from monocle’s editorial director Tyler Brûlé for November 2021.
Is it time to take a fresh look at your real-estate portfolio? At our Quality of Life Conference in Athens there was much off-stage discussion around the question of “Where next?” While our host city is riding a wave as a potential base for companies seeking an EU foothold but also quick flights to the Middle East and North Africa, you would also have heard Naples, Rome, Izmir, Cairo and Dubai cropping up in conversation as new hubs for creativity, lower costs and year-round dinners on the terrace. You can count on these pages to do some legwork on this topic but, for now, here are a few cities that are worth a second (or even first) look.
Palma is starting to come good as a year-round business base, with many airlines beginning to serve it with increased frequency in the winter months.
2. Málaga is home to some outstanding modernism and has some of Europe’s best weather. It offers flight connections to key hubs across the continent.
3. Lisbon continues to be on a roll (see our story on the Brazilians relocating there on page 44) as a magnet for designers and others who want a surfer-friendly bridge to Africa and Latin America.
The gentle pace, well-organised airport and quality of life in Asheville, NC, make it a welcome alternative to Atlanta.
Dubai is rolling out a new visa to allow directors to work between Asia and Europe and benefit from one of the world’s biggest airports. The city has upped its game as a place to live, cover the region and improve your tennis.
Photographer Iwan Baan’s latest project, a book (published by Lars Müller) and exhibition called Momentum of Light, documents village architecture in Burkina Faso. Commissioned by lighting company Zumtobel and in collaboration with
Diébédo Francis Kéré, the exhibition is taking place at the Kunstmuseum in the Swiss town of Olten. Here the Dutch snapper discusses his approach to the craft and why architects are reluctant to show people in photographs of their projects.
Your new exhibition and book are about qualities of light. What drew you to Africa?
Outdoors you have a sun that creates harsh, 90-degree shadows and extreme bright light. Then, inside buildings it’s almost pitch black; when you enter the structures you basically can’t see anything for the first five minutes. I wanted to capture that extreme contrast.
Why Burkina Faso?
I’ve had a longtime desire to visit this very special region in the country’s south. I’m fascinated by their traditional building techniques and vernacular.
And you had your collaborator on the project join you?
Yes. I asked my friend, architect Francis Kéré, who grew up in Burkina Faso, to join me.
A highlight of the trip?
Tiébélé. It’s a village known for its houses that have really intricate patterns and graphic symbols on their exteriors and whose people dress in that way too, with patterned fabrics. Here, people, buildings and the landscape become one.
How did you end up working in the field of architectural photography?
I studied photography at art school but my initial interest was in documentary photography: people and places. In 2005 I met Rem Koolhaas by chance and started working with him. I found I could apply my way of looking at people and places to architecture, urbanism and the built environment.
So much architectural photography features buildings without any people. Your work bucks this trend – why?
Architects are always talking about people and showing renderings and models full of them but then photographs of their works always show super-curated details or empty space. I feel this comes from architects wanting ultimate control over the world they create, something they have in the renderings, drawings and models. But real life is a little bit messier. I find it more interesting to look at how people take over a place, modify it and add layers, which architects cannot plan for.
Tell us about your recent travels beyond Burkina Faso.
I’ve been back and forth between the US and Europe a couple of times. I’ve been fortunate to have good connections at embassies through clients.
Where to next?
Our man in...
From a museum celebrating the best in film to government-funded spending in Hong Kong, find out what’s new in the monocle bureaux across the world this month.
Architects have been asked to state how they would preserve the Barbican Centre by December, when applications to lead its environmentally friendly renewal close. The original designers were hailed for ambition this generation will be hoping for the same.
Renzo Piano’s Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has opened, giving Los Angeles an institution befitting its place at the centre of the film industry. As LA reopens, expect its public spaces and 1,000-seat spherical theatre to be packed with fans of the silver screen.
Hong Kongers are rushing to spend their hk$5,000 (€550) government-distributed digital vouchers, aimed at boosting consumption and going cashless. We expect much splurging on luxury brands and high-end hotels. And paying off phone bills.
Many of Toronto’s indie cinemas have reopened and upped their offering after the extended closure, transforming lobbies into upscale food and bottle shops. It means that good cheese, a full-bodied shiraz and popcorn is on the menu when watching a new release.
Things are looking up in the Japanese capital after its lengthy state of emergency was lifted, giving locals more freedom. Meanwhile, there’s curiosity surrounding new prime minister Fumio Kishida. Will the seasoned politician shake things up?
Light on time
Switzerland’s biggest city is, as it is every November, about to be lit up by “Lucy”, the nickname of the Christmas display of 23,100 lights running across Bahnhofstrasse from the lake to the city’s main station. Expect a crowd when the switch is flicked.
A mechanical whirring sets off the dogs as a pink box on four wheels makes its way up the pavement. Meet Coco, one of a number of semi-autonomous delivery robots operating in Los Angeles. Proponents point to their low carbon footprint but you have to wonder about the lack of a human touch. Restaurants don’t always want to load a vacant black box with their creations. You’ll be impressed the first few times that Coco arrives but the novelty soon wears off, unlike with a human delivery: you won’t get tired of a smile and a chat as your order arrives.
Passengers can turn an aeroplane into a flying zoo – and Australia seems to think that literally unleashing a few animals in the cabin could hardly make things worse. New aviation laws will theoretically offer non-service animals an upgrade from the cargo hold from December. But Australian airlines appear unenthused, perhaps wary of the lessons learned by their American counterparts.
In late 2020, US carriers banned all pets but dogs and cats from airline cabins after attention-seekers boarded with pigs, monkeys and miniature horses under the guise of “emotional support” animals. Where Australia of all countries is concerned, survival until adulthood depends on avoiding confinement with local fauna. Unobtrusive dogs and cats: fine. But Snakes on a Plane doesn’t need to be re-enacted – and the only place for a flying kangaroo is as a picture on the tailfin.
Taipei’s multimillion-dollar Agora Garden Tower is reminiscent of a double helix and advertised as a 21-floor, gorgeous, spiralled building lined with more than 20,000 trees. With a helipad, elevators for luxury cars and vast garden space for every unit, it was a sensation in the international press in 2018 – but only one unit has sold. While there is no shortage of multimillionaires in Taiwan who can afford the steep price tags, locals are wary of its karmic energy. In Feng Shui, spirals are a negative, unsettling omen, symbolising a giant screw that might generate a deep, dark hole in life. No one wants to risk living in a downward spiral.
Vote for simplicity
“Who will you vote for in January’s elections?” is a sentence you won’t be hearing uttered anywhere in Finland any time soon. Because while the Nordic nation will be going to the polls in just a few months, it promises to be the most uninspiring vote in living memory. It’s no surprise, therefore, that media outlets are running stories with headlines such as, “What election?” and, “You should really vote in this election”.
But, at a time when political tensions across the globe are high, why is there so little interest in these particular polls? Well, to start with, the vote is for 21 regional bodies that most Finns have never heard of, newly created by the central government in what is allegedly a bureaucratic trick to make governing more efficient.
The tragedy is that these elections are actually really important. The new electoral regions will be in charge of providing healthcare and social services to all citizens, and as such the result will have far-reaching consequences in peoples’ lives.
But the lack of interest means that it’s unlikely that the 1,379 new regional councillors will attract much, if any, star power and political parties are having difficulty in attracting candidates to stand in the elections as a result.
In addition to the national parliament, the parties also have close to 9,000 elected politicians in 309 local councils in cities and municipalities. Lost track already? So have most Finns.
Images: Getty Images, Alamy