His second term as leader of Taiwan is drawing to a close – presidential elections take place in January 2016 – but Ma Ying-jeou is finally about to achieve one of his main goals: a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. The historic talks, the first since Taiwan and China parted company in 1949, are due to take place on Saturday on neutral ground in Singapore. The get-together is largely symbolic since no statement will be released and no agreement signed. Cross-Strait relations have improved under Ma but his drive for closer ties with Beijing has not gone down well with the electorate: his successor is likely to be the Democratic Progressive party’s Tsai Ing-wen, who names the US as “Taiwan’s most important strategic partner”.
What good is a free-trade region if people (and things) can’t move around seamlessly? With only about a month to go before Southeast Asia’s free-trade region – known as the Asean Economic Community – is set to kick in, the member states’ transport ministers, along with their Chinese, Japanese and South Korean counterparts, are still in talks in Kuala Lumpur, finalising details of a 10-year Transport Strategic Action Plan. Freer skies and seas are being forecast but the key challenge remains figuring out a way to keep planes flying, ships sailing and trains chugging along without putting too much strain on the environment; the transport sector is responsible for almost a quarter of the region’s greenhouse-gas emissions.
For all their wealth and extravagance, football teams don’t tend to invest in good design. Their stadiums, often hulking steel behemoths located in residential parts of city centres, are usually a blight on the landscape (although Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, is a notable exception). So we welcome the news that Real Madrid has commissioned Madrid-based firm Rafael de La-Hoz Arquitectos to design the team’s new corporate headquarters in Valdebebas on the outskirts of the Spanish capital. The judges praised the balance of the design, which incorporates two huge rectangular structures with floor-to-ceiling windows that flood the workspaces inside with light. More sports teams should follow Real Madrid’s example and use their money and the goodwill they have in their hometowns to invest in world-beating architecture.
The Industry, an experimental opera company in Los Angeles, is letting patrons get up close and personal with performers. Hopscotch takes its viewers on a journey around LA by performing inside a series of moving vehicles as well as in civic spaces, meant to mimic the unknown destination of the characters. The performance is in line with a host of theatre companies, such as Punchdrunk, that have found success involving audiences in unexpected ways. Theatre lovers in LA are onboard: Hopscotch has sold out, although additional tickets will be made available for its now extended run. For those who can’t get in the performance is also being shown live at LA’s Central Hub, part of the Southern California Institute of Architecture.
What do you hear when you travel around a city? Traffic in the streets, chatter in cafés, a bustling souk with hawkers selling their wares or ear-shattering construction works overhead? Many despise these sounds while others crave them. We report on what it is we hear when we stop to listen to the city.
Who needs paper in a world dominated by technology? Kenji Hall finds out as he visits Kakimori, a small stationery shop nestled in Tokyo’s Kuramae neighbourhood, which has been bringing customers joy over the course of three generations.
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