The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 23 November 2015

Image: Martin Wölfle

Well connected

Phuket’s picturesque beaches may be perfect for unwinding but navigating the island's congested streets is often a stressful affair. Thus it was welcome news this week when the Transport Ministry green-lit the development of a 60km-long tramline that will connect Phuket Airport to 23 stations across the city. Currently it can take up to three hours to get to the airport from the urban centre. The finer details of the THB23.5bn (€60m) project will be finalised soon, with Chinese, European and South Korean companies busy preparing their bids. For now residents and holiday-makers will still have to bear the traffic as the tram network is slated for completion in 2021 – and construction delays are nigh on inevitable.

Image: Alamy

Full mast

Flying the flag could take on new meaning for New Zealanders who have begun voting on a new one. A referendum on a new national symbol has voters choosing between five designs; the winner will then go head-to-head with the existing flag in March. Critics of the current flag say its small Union Jack is an outdated symbol for the country; others complain its red stars are too often confused with Australia’s. A well-designed flag, according to Ted Kaye’s book Good Flag, Bad Flag: How to Design a Great Flag, features simple design, meaningful symbolism, two or three basic colours and distinctiveness. While most of the new designs follow these rules – featuring New Zealand’s informal national fern emblem – it’s possible none will sway voters: a recent poll found that 65 per cent of New Zealanders are likely to stick with the existing one.

Image: Alberto Garcia

Cosy home

China is set to host the G20 Summit in 2016 and the country has chosen Hangzhou as the location for the annual meeting. A modest city that is home to 8.9 million people and located 180km southwest of Shanghai, Hangzhou will benefit from a refurbished exhibition centre, which is to be developed for the summit next to the picturesque West Lake. The decision to hold the meeting in Hangzhou not only follows the trend of recent summits – like this year’s in Antalya – to move outside a capital or major city but also indicates China’s own shifting development pivot towards second- and third-tier striving cities.

Image: Wilkinson King Architects

Concrete bonds

The Royal Institute of British Architects – Riba to its friends – is currently warming up to announce the winner of its House of the Year award and there are truly glorious properties in the mix (you can see them all at architecture.com). But here’s the intriguing thing: at first glance they all look as though they were designed by the same practice. There’s a shared vernacular of large windows at jaunty angles and a plethora of timber cladding; low-rise, boxy shapes rule the day and embellishment is banned. Luxury is expressed in materials. It’s evident that British architects are as tight a set of people – in vision at least – as, say, the YBAs were a couple of decades ago. Like the houses of the 1930s or 1960s, they are inspired by common ideals and references. These properties will be rightly admired for generations to come and eventually we will be able to see them for what they are: pinnacles of domestic architecture in a very specific moment in time.

From Monocle 24

Image: Daniel Chapman

Paula Zuccotti

Tune in to The Weekly to hear about Argentinian-Italian creative Paula Zuccotti’s latest project, a book called Every Thing We Touch. She has photographed objects used by people from different walks of life during the space of one day.

From Monocle Films

Italian industry special: The fabric mill

From cotton fields in Egypt to state-of-the-art laboratories in Bergamo, our search for quality “Made in Italy” textiles focuses on the fifth-generation Albini Group.

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