Urbanism - Issue 162 - Magazine | Monocle

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retail ––– London
Travel in style

There are few transit systems as instantly recognisable as London’s underground network. Managed by Transport for London (TfL), its quintessential map design, created by Harry Beck 90 years ago, circle- and-bar logo and nickname, the Tube, are all intrinsically linked with the city.

And this is precisely what makes TfL’s latest venture, a collaboration with premium UK footwear brand Mallet, a significant one for Londoners. The limited-edition capsule collection sees the launch of two styles of Mallet Knox trainers. A black pair has Beck’s design printed on its side in tonal white, while a white version is decorated in reflective grey. Branded laces, a TfL key chain and a wallet for your Oyster card are also included in the box.

“We wanted something spectacular and a design that’s usable,” says Ellen Sankey, the brand licensing manager at TfL. “Because when you look at the TfL brand, that’s why people like us: good design that works and that has a purpose.” 

As for what that purpose is, in the context of this collaboration? Well, it’s a chance for the shoe owners to wear their civic pride – and for TfL to express its own identity beyond its network of tunnels. 


urbanism ––– USA

Carlo Ratti
Director, Senseable City Laboratory, MIT
Planning for rapid urbanisation is at the core of Italian architect Carlo Ratti work. Here, he explains the issues at hand.

You focus on the intersection of nature-based solutions, artificial intelligence [AI] and technology to build a better world. How do they complement each other?
We need to bring them closer together. On the one hand, you have nature itself: using trees, greening and so on in the built environment. But on the other hand, it’s also about using AI and technology so that buildings can respond [to changes in the environment] in a dynamic way.

How do we retain the traditional ways we live while also using technology in new developments?
If you look back at the 20th century and cities that were built from scratch – Brasília in Brazil or Chandigarh in India – the feedback loop is missing. You have to test things and see what works and what doesn’t.

So we need to build in a way that allows for trial and error in the incorporation of new technology?

Yes. Sometimes architects think that the final solution is fixed. But the reality is that they might have missed a few things.

For more interviews with city leaders and architects, tune in to The Urbanist on Monocle 24 at monocle.com/radio

education ––– cape town
Learning curve


The Hasso Plattner D-School Afrika is the continent’s first purpose-built school of design. Founded and funded by the Hasso Plattner Foundation, a German non-profit, the new institution in Cape Town is set in a glass building designed by kmh Architects. Its flexible learning spaces have modular furniture and walls lined with whiteboards, and a testing room contains materials for building prototypes. “It’s a blank canvas that can be transformed into a learning environment,” says Fehraad De Nicker, the school’s communications manager.


Students work towards physical prototypes and are taught to redefine problems. “Can you design a faster queue for the aquarium?” says De Nicker, giving an example. “It’s how engineers and architects are taught.” The result is an opportunity for professionals and graduates to enhance their skills. Here’s hoping that the school leads its graduates to innovative solutions to urban problems across Africa. 

Images: Alessandro Albert, Mallet London

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