At the front / Global
Filming toilets in Japan, an error of biblical proportions and a potato-based conflict.
how to live: hotel etiquette
Even a fantasy hotel needs house rules. These would be ours, writes Tyler Brûlé.
Though monocle gets more than its share of offers to open a hotel in an emerging city, a resort in a far-flung destination or a members’ club in one of our key markets, we have resisted the temptation. But we do think about who we’d hire to oversee a renovation (did I hear you say Studio KO or Studioilse?), run the bar or design the uniforms (Sofie D’Hoore, please). We also think about the house rules that would keep things civil and serene. Welcome to the Auberge Monocle.
1. Make an entrance. We worked hard on our fine fittings and flattering lighting, so get dressed up and turn a few heads.
2. Don’t photograph other guests. You know perfectly well why.
3. Light a candle. The restaurant is dim for a reason. If you can’t read the menu, we’ll bring you an extra candle.
4. Take it back to your suite. We used to say this when a couple were getting too frisky on the lounger; today we ask that you take your conference call in your room.
5. You might make friends for life by sending a bottle of rosé to the people across the terrace. It’s a nice thing to do. If they refuse, let the front desk know and we’ll ensure that we’re fully booked should they want to return.
Finally, keep your phone on silent or, better yet, leave it in your room. You’ll be surprised how much your stay improves. Merci!
A lawyer by trade, Jennifer Musisi never had plans to lead a city. But her work at the Uganda Revenue Authority, where she helped stabilise an organisation dealing with crippling corruption and systemic dysfunction, meant she was perfectly placed to head up a public authority. So when the Ugandan central government established the Kampala Capital City Authority in 2011, Musisi was a natural choice to be its first executive director, a position equivalent to mayor. She stayed in the job until 2018 and now serves on the board of c40 Cities and as a UN ambassador for sustainable development – roles where she helps to improve the lives of urban dwellers. Here, she tells us about issues facing mayors across the globe and why she loves living in Kampala.
To start, tell us about your work at the Uganda Revenue Authority.
I was tasked with bringing down corruption and building up the country’s revenue base. In Africa the tax base is small and businesses try to evade paying it. Part of my job was convincing people that the government wasn’t going to squander it but use it to build better roads and improve healthcare.
How did you end up at Kampala Capital City Authority?
My plan was to take early retirement, do some consulting and work on my art. But the president requested I come and help transform Kampala.
That’s a significant change of plans. What did you learn about local government in Kampala?
A lot of what happens in cities eventually ends up affecting the rest of the country and, as a result, local governments in urban areas offer a template for development purposes for the rest of the country. In Uganda, for example, everything begins and ends with Kampala. Here, there’s a lot of rural to urban migration, with the population growing exponentially every day. This means that there are challenges in terms of providing jobs and infrastructure, and dealing with unplanned development. But if we sort out these issues in the country’s biggest city and test solutions here, we can create templates that can be replicated in smaller urban centres.
What are some of the most pressing issues facing cities across the globe?
The big thing is working out where the money is going to come from to implement solutions. Almost every city I know is stretched financially, so national governments have to come in to support cities in their mandates. Urban areas are the financial, political and industrial centres of nations. They are everything, so they need to be prioritised by national governments.
Finally, what do you love about your home city of Kampala?
The people and the climate. The weather and wildlife are lovely. It’s paradise as far as I’m concerned.
Monocle’s global team of writers bring news of rogue beavers storming Zürich, exciting regeneration projects in Los Angeles and Tokyo, and Hong Kong’s superstar boy band.
In recent months wild beavers have been steadily advancing from the Swiss countryside towards Zürich’s urban climes. And they’re earning celebrity status. One of them, which locals have nicknamed “Bucky”, has become a big draw for urban wildlife spotters.
When in London...
Cancel your holiday in Italy: the City of London is investing £2.5m (€2.9m) to encourage tourists to visit its unheralded Roman ruins. The goal of this drive is to invigorate the somewhat soulless financial and business district outside working hours.
Regeneration work has begun on the outer edge of Yoyogi Park, near monocle’s Tokyo bureau, where an unloved chunk of land is set to be transformed by 2024. The area will have a new skatepark, running station and, most importantly, plenty of greenery.
In July there will be anthems galore when Hong Kong’s government marks the anniversary of its return to China 25 years ago. However, we expect more passionate singing at the Coliseum when boy band Mirror perform 12 sold-out shows at the Cantopop arena.
It’ll be a dry summer in Toronto – and not due to warm temperatures. The council has, once again, refused to lift a ban on drinking alcohol in parks. But public pressure is growing and city hall might not be able to bottle making a change to the law for much longer.
On the waterfront
A scheme to put the Los Angeles river to better use has been approved. For inspiration, city planners should look to the Frogtown neighbourhood, where a cycle café and small businesses have already given their stretch of the river a fresh lease of life.
Few typographical errors are as legendary as a glitch in a 1631 British edition of the King James Bible. The text omits the key word “not” from the seventh commandment, thereby instructing readers, on the highest authority, to commit adultery.
Perhaps 20 copies of the so-called “Wicked Bible” are still intact and have, inevitably, become more coveted than any neighbour’s ass, fetching five-figure sums at auction. One has now surfaced in New Zealand and is being cared for by the University of Canterbury in Christchurch.
The perpetrators of the error received worse punishment than most sub-editors who miss a trick: they were stripped of their printing licence on the order of King Charles I of England. Anyone who has worked in publishing will have been party to a misprint – they’re easily done, if rarely as amusing as this one. That could be why the Almighty carved his edicts into stone.
First flush of film-making
What do German film-maker Wim Wenders, Japanese architect Tadao Ando and one of Japan’s most celebrated actors have in common? The answer: public toilets. Wenders has announced that he’s making a film about The Tokyo Toilet, a project that saw Ando and a host of other starry Japanese architects design beautiful, clean public loos in Shibuya. The film’s hero, a toilet cleaner, will be played by Kôji Yakusho, an appealingly self-effacing actor who starred in Babel. With a global release expected in 2023, we’re hopeful that Wenders’ film might encourage other cities to build cinematically inspiring toilets of their own.
A new state-run programme in Bolivia is offering early release to prisoners who improve their literacy while behind bars. Which other countries are easing pressure on their penal system by offering similar incentives?
In Minas Gerais state, prisoners can pedal stationary bicycles that charge nearby street lights. The bright idea sees sentences reduced with three eight-hour shifts in the saddle.
At Yerwada Central Prison, cons can take part in a yoga programme to get months taken off their sentence. How’s that for a flexible release?
Thai inmates can fight for their freedom in a Muay Thai match against foreign opponents. If they win, they can earn an early release date.
The US-Mexico border is one of the world’s most fraught, thanks largely to conservative American politicians inflaming fears of immigration across it. But it is not widely appreciated that Mexico has concerns about what travels in the opposite direction – specifically, potatoes. In May a shipment of American spuds crossed freely into Mexico for the first time in more than 25 years. Due to Mexican pettifogging, US potatoes had previously only been allowed to be sold within 16 miles (26km) of the border. But following a decision by Mexico’s Supreme Court, American taters can now be sold everywhere.
Quality of life
I have a go-to walk on summer nights in Paris that always leads me to the same place: La Palette. On rue de Seine, in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Près, this bar has long been popular among the staff and clientele of the neighbourhood’s galleries. Its painting-lined interior spills out onto a buzzing terrace. I sit down in my usual spot with a good view of the entrance. Sometimes I read; sometimes I write. Mostly, though, I people-watch: the most entrenched of Parisian pastimes.
But why La Palette? Well, this is a place to linger. It’s where the beau monde – France’s fashionable set, from artists to politicians – gather and debate late into the night over bottles of wine; former president Jacques Chirac was a regular. Here, business meets pleasure as local gallerists exchange gossip about recent finds at estate sales and auctions. Couples clink glasses and friends share a planche laden with cheese and charcuterie under the evening sky.
In his essay “Les vraies richesses” (“True Riches”), French author Jean Giono praised the simple life of fresh air, food and wine shared with friends, objects made with care, and time in nature. Although Giono was writing in the 1930s, some things have not changed: our quality of life is still largely shaped by our ability to eat well, laugh among friends, relax outside after a long day’s work and, in Paris, people-watch too. As dusk falls over La Palette, I will raise a glass to that.
Illustrator: Leon Edler. Images: Alamy