The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 19 November 2015

Image: Getty Images

Full steam ahead

China’s ambition to play a leading role in Southeast Asia’s developing transport infrastructure is apparent: in quick succession a Thai-China railway deal has been approved in Bangkok; a €5.9bn joint venture with Laos to beef up its rail network was given the green light; and an ambitious high-speed link in Indonesia is in the works. How these growing networks can boost trade may be a subject of discussion at this weekend’s Asean Summit, where China joins Southeast Asian nations in high-level talks. But while optimism surrounds developments on land, territory disputes in the South China Sea remain a stickier issue. Vietnam and the Philippines will head into the meeting with the ink still drying on a deal that ensures deeper security for lands claimed by China.

Image: Getty Images

Shop on

American retail is alive and well but not quite as we know it. A new survey from Harris Poll on behalf of CIT Group has reaffirmed the move towards online shopping causing brands like Gap and J.Crew to suffer. According to the US survey, 72 per cent of retailers believe that mobile phone sales will increase; 60 per cent believe the same for online sales. The report comes on the eve of Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and one of the country’s most frenzied retail days. So are we witnessing the death of traditional retail? Not quite: people still value walking into a shop. "Traditional bricks and mortar will always be here,” says Burt Feinberg, CIT commercial and industrial finance president. But the companies that take digital commerce into consideration “have a better shot at success”.

Image: Getty Images

Going up

For years Torontonians debated whether to bury, repair or simply raze the elevated Gardiner Expressway that cuts across the city’s downtown and stands in the way of its waterfront. The repair side has largely won the debate but this week city officials announced plans to transform one 2km stretch beneath the expressway into a multi-purpose corridor of park, performance and recreational spaces, using the five-storey-high overpass as both a canvas and canopy. “We see this huge explosion of people coming into downtown and the need for more public spaces and civic amenities,” says philanthropist Judy Matthews, whose CA$25m (€17.6m) donation is making the project possible. “We need to nurture and expand those places we all share.”

Image: Courtesy of Carpenters Workshop Gallery

Second act

A new lease of life for a remarkable building is always something to celebrate. The Carpenters Workshop Gallery’s newest space – recently opened in New York – can be found on the top two floors of the historic Takashimaya building. The 20-storey postmodern structure on Fifth Avenue was once home to the Japanese department store that was shuttered in 2010. The penthouse of the building is the perfect spot for the Carpenters Workshop, which is owned by Parisian duo Julien Lombrail and Loïc Le Gaillard. “When the opportunity of the Takashimaya building came up we didn’t hesitate to go for it,” says Le Gaillard. For their inaugural exhibition the gallery is showcasing works by Random International of Rain Room fame, Rick Owens and Ingrid Donat.

From Monocle 24

Image: Unique Camp

Unique Camp: California

Tune in to The Entrepreneurs to discover what unplugging from the outside world truly means at Unique Camp in the mountains north of Los Angeles.

From Monocle Films

Making scents

A centre of perfume-making for centuries, the town of Grasse in the south of France is holding on to its reputation as fragrance capital of the world by developing new technology alongside time-honoured traditions.

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