The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Wednesday 16 March 2016

Image: Hiroshi Kai

Talk of Taiwan

Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen announces her new cabinet this week and the build-up to her inauguration in May is getting the country talking. Tsai’s prime minister is Lin Chuan, a discreet and pragmatic politician who was finance minister in the last Democratic Progressive party government, and the news has had some concerned about too many parallels with the (corrupt) Chen Shui-bian era. But the public has also been charmed by new inauguration memorabilia designed by award-winning luminary Aaron Nieh, including rice wine, bottles of beer and a set of stamps emblazoned with the faces of Tsai and her electorate. Such collectables are tradition in Taiwan but this fresh design is in keeping with the sense of a new dawn for the country’s politics.

Image: Rebecca Marshall

Wise investment

Have Europe’s retail and office-property sectors reached saturation point? Not exactly. But the word at Mipim – the world’s biggest property meet-up, now into its second day in Cannes – is that as traditional commercial real estate in European cities become even pricier, niche sectors are attracting more investors; student housing, healthcare and retirement homes are all rising in prominence. PricewaterhouseCoopers and Urban Land Institute found that 41 per cent of European investors are now thinking of putting their money into these alternative property sectors in 2016 (as opposed to last year's 28 per cent). A growing emphasis on care also reflects a shift in society, as populations age across Europe. As commercial deals continue to be wrangled in Cannes, these alternative sectors are also having a moment in the sun.

Image: Oran Viriyincy

Seattle goes supersonic

Seattle unveils the latest addition to its transport network this weekend: the U Link light-rail line. Its route that begins at the University of Washington, near Husky Stadium, and ends up at Angle Lake. Seattle's Sound Transit transport body promises that the new infrastructure will slice an hour off travel times to downtown. The tunnel itself took 20 years to complete and the hope is that it will ease congestion into the centre of the city while attracting people to live, work and play in these formerly hard-to-reach neighbourhoods. Artists are giving the stations some identity: Seattle-based Leo Saul Berk, for example, has applied sheets of bold, embossed metal to the walls and ceilings in the Washington terminus.

Image: Christian Marquardt/Getty Images

Left in the lurch

Much of the media coverage of last weekend’s regional elections in Germany has focused on what it means for chancellor Angela Merkel and her “open door” policy on refugees. But there’s another angle that shouldn’t be forgotten: the elections were a disaster for Merkel’s coalition partner, the centre-left Social Democrats. The SPD held on to one region but came a distant fourth in Saxony-Anhalt and Baden-Wüttermberg – a result that centre-left parties across Europe will recognise, whether it’s Pasok in Greece, Labour in the UK or the Socialists in France. Only Italy’s Democratic party, under the leadership of Matteo Renzi, has bucked the trend. His mix of charismatic leadership and sensible policies has – perhaps unsurprisingly – proved popular.

From Monocle 24

Malcolm Reading

This week on Section D we take a look at a critically important but less visible facet of the architectural world: competitions. Malcolm Reading is head of Malcolm Reading Consultants, the leading independent organiser of architectural competitions in the UK. He tells us what makes these contests successful.

From Monocle Films

Live Design. Transform Life.

Cape Town's reign as World Design Capital for 2014 focused on the problem-solving potential of design: an approach that’s more gritty than pretty. As South Africa celebrated 20 years of independence, Gillian Dobias explored the city's design-for-social-change agenda.

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