The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 27 May 2016

Soft-power show

The Venice Architecture Biennale is always a display of soft power for the participating nations just as much as it is an architectural show. All the more so this year thanks to “Reporting from the Front”, the socially minded brief set out by director Alejandro Aravena that has each nation confronting different community issues. For Germany it is an occasion to reiterate the public perception the country has shaped for itself. By creating new passages through the outside walls of the permanent pavilion in the Giardini the architects have fashioned an open, welcoming space that echoes the main theme of their exhibition: Making Heimat: Germany, Arrival Country. “What we were looking for was a very direct translation of openness because I think the most important aspect of an arrival city is accessibility,” says architect Elena Schütz of Berlin-based studio Something Fantastic, who designed the German pavilion. Inside, the exhibit highlights the German neighbourhoods that have made ideal landing points for refugees – despite the political backlash the country has grappled with over the influx. The Biennale opens to the public tomorrow and runs until 27 November.

Image: Adrian Wyld/PA Images

Man with a plan

Canada’s former prime minister Stephen Harper may have been more or less a quiet figure in parliament after being booted out of Langevin Block – home of the PM’s office – last November but that does not mean he’s been sitting around licking his wounds. Rumours are circulating that Harper is planning to evacuate his MP seat before the legislature reconvenes this autumn – but not to retire. Instead the 57-year-old has already registered his eponymous consulting firm Harper and Associates Consulting Inc and will likely have his pick of corporate boards to join. After more than 30 years in politics it seems that Harper’s rolodex will be his most prized possession leaving Ottawa.

Image: Alamy

Reviews are in

Russian cinema is in a quandary: take away its cutesy, inexplicably popular animations and the majority of homegrown productions fail to break even at the box office, with only the faintest appeal abroad. The industry is reliant on the state’s annual spend of €80m and this week the Russian culture ministry released a list of movie themes that will take priority for state funding. In an eerie echo of the days of the Politburo, films that depict “heroes of modern society” doing battle with crime, terrorism and extremism will be first in the line, while films that emphasise Russia’s grand past – and its continuation – can also expect a piece of the pie. The arthouse, one of the few aspects of Russia-on-screen that grabs international attention, will likely be left in the cold.

Shopping in Siam

Anyone thinking Bangkok’s heaving Siam shopping district already had retail covered was not at the re-launch of Siam Discovery last night. The luxury precinct has been given a dramatic overhaul led by Japanese design firm Nendo, whose visionary founder Oki Sato has distilled his distinctive whimsical touch into six towering floors of retail. He describes the end result as a hybrid between shopping mall and department store with a vast array of design-led sections. While the design certainly commands attention it’s the pioneering Thai brands on show here that set this mall apart. Men’s streetwear label SSAP NYC, which creates fashion-forward clothes using ancient indigo-dyeing and hand-weaving techniques, is just one example of the harmony of old and new that these exciting labels are projecting.

From Monocle 24

Image: Fr Maxim Massalitin

Timothy Beatley: Blue urbanism

When we think about water in our cities and how to manage it, we often overlook our oceans. And despite the fact that we live in an increasingly urban planet, cities and oceans seem to be profoundly disconnected. We look at how to connect residents with all things maritime.

From Monocle Films

Liquid courage

In Mexico a new breed of entrepreneurs is building brands around family-produced mezcal and distributing it to the world’s capitals. We visit Oaxaca where this spirit is being given new life.

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