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The Comment
aviation ––– uk

Up in the air

David Hodari visits Farnborough International Airshow and finds an aviation industry pondering the future.


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At the Farnborough International Airshow, you’ll spend a day buffeted by global economic forces, bleeding-edge technology and military flypasts. Unfortunately, on what turned out to be the hottest recorded day in UK history, those crosswinds were only figurative. The heat lent a dizzying quality to proceedings and more questions than usual were unanswerable to my journalistic brain. Questions such as, why are there only a handful of café kiosks for thousands of delegates? What would everyone wear if the event’s organisers banned blue shirts and chinos? And when will the aviation industry finally go full throttle on climate change?

That last question nagged at me as I traipsed between the airless conference hall and scorching runways. According to the oecd, aviation accounts for 3 per cent of global carbon emissions and that figure is forecast to rise. This sat uneasily with the glossy optimism on show at every well-funded stand. The industry is making some progress: there’s an exciting electric flight school that recently opened in Sweden (see issue 154) and a slew of major airlines have signed well-intentioned net-zero pledges.

In contrast, a Boeing strategist with very white teeth told a room that airlines will need 20,000 new aeroplanes over the next decade. He gave me a pitying look when I asked where electric flight figured. The idea of anything more significant than tiny electric planes taking a couple of dozen passengers on short-haul flights seems fanciful in the short term. On a day when wildfires were breaking out down the road, this hardly felt fast enough.

One brighter note for the sector is the emergence of sustainable aviation fuels (saf), synthetic and biological chemicals that mimic kerosene but produce a fraction of the emissions. But building production capacity will take years – iata expects sustainable fuels to meet just 2 per cent of the industry’s demand by 2025 – but they’re a potential bridge to zero-emissions flight.

Plenty of companies are making money from sustainable fuels. Zero Petroleum announced a partnership with the UK’s Royal Air Force (raf) at Farnborough. Paddy Lowe, the company’s co-founder, told monocle that Zero Petroleum’s fuel “can be made anywhere; it can be made in-territory, potentially, eventually in in-field operations”. “It’s also scalable,” he added before being drowned out by a nearby f35 taking off.

Meanwhile, supersonic business jet company Boom wants to produce an saf-fuelled Concorde with greater comfort and lower fares. Concerns remain that fuel-intensive supersonic flight could also waste limited saf and some attendees questioned whether Boom’s Overture business jet can compete with regular airlines’ Business Class prices. As with the industry line on the environment, some of Boom’s promises seem too good to be true.


start-ups –––– Brazil
Brolly good

When sales director Nathan Janovich got caught in a rainstorm on the way home one day, a passing rental bike sparked an idea. Janovich and Freddy Marcos launched Rentbrella, a system that lets users borrow an umbrella from a vending machine for 24 hours free of charge, in their hometown of São Paulo in 2018.

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Rentbrella now has more than 400 stations across the city, with 40,000 umbrellas in circulation at any one time – and it’s expanding at a rapid rate. The Brazilian company launched in New York late last year and recently arrived in London, where users can withdraw brollies for free but accrue a small charge if they are not returned after a day’s use. Fuelling plans to launch in 10 other European countries over the next two years is the €7m the start-up has raised in private and venture-capital funding. Rentbrella also relies on sponsorship: in São Paulo, umbrellas bear the logo of Unimed, the country’s biggest healthcare provider, while Deutsche Bank was a recent sponsor in New York. “Imagine a rainy day and thousands of coloured umbrellas,” says Freddy Marcos, who co-founded the brand with Janovich. “They are like walking billboards.”

The company’s brollies, which are made from recycled plastic bottles, are designed to match each new market: UV protection for tropical São Paulo or wind resistance if its user is caught in the British drizzle.
rentbrella.com


architecture ––– global

Hot desks

As the world picks up where it left off, businesses bringing workers back to the office might have more luck if it’s an inviting, clean and well-lit space. Here are three of monocle’s favourite new offices from around the world.

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1

Foster + Partners, Los Angeles
At the far end of Foster 1 Partners’ new Los Angeles outpost is a huge door onto a terrace above Venice Beach. “The space we’re brainstorming in can be just as important as the idea,” says senior partner Marc Guberman. 

The office is already lined with maquettes for projects in the works, including the transformation of the area around the historic Beverly Hilton hotel. “Ninety-five per cent of our work is in California while the other 5 per cent is not on Earth,” says Guberman, pointing to a table of Mars habitat models. Their neighbours are mostly small businesses, including a fashion company and a team of graphic designers. “The office doesn’t have to be flashy but it does have to be uplifting,” says Guberman.

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2

Six N Five, Barcelona:
A workspace created by architect Isern Serra is a calling card for any design-conscious young company. Serra has been hired by beauty brand Rowse and advertising agency Fuego Camino Conmigo to transform former industrial spaces into slick monochromatic offices. His latest project saw him create an HQ for design studio Six N Five.

“I love to host people, so I wanted it to feel welcoming as well as functional,” says founder Ezequiel Pini. A key part of this is the open kitchen next to the central workspace, with a table for informal meetings, staff lunches, hosting parties and client dinners. There’s also a small café at the entrance to the office, run by artisan roasters Three Marks Coffee, which encourages locals to drop by, giving the office the convivial feel of a neighbourhood hub.

3

Unitex, Tokyo:
Machida-based Unitex offers software, hardware and data storage. When Emi Kosugi took over the family company in April 2021, she embarked on a makeover of its headquarters. “I wanted our office to be open, warm and bright,” says Kosugi. Unitex’s engineers once worked upstairs behind closed doors but now they can also be found on the wood-lined, light-flooded ground floor.

t2p designed the desks and stools with Unitex’s “X” logo, while Kosugi selected furniture from Karimoku, Conde House and Ligne Roset. There is a bar to entertain guests and two basement floors were combined into a hall with staircase seating. “The open space stimulates conversations,” says Kosugi. “In life, the amount of time we spend at work isn’t short. I wanted to create a workspace that my staff are proud of.”


ILLUSTRATOR: Dirk Schmidt

Image: Boom Supersonic

PHOTOGRAPHER: Salva Lopez

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