The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 9 June 2016

Image: Virginia Woods-Jack

Traffic jam

National and city politicians are facing off in New Zealand. The federal government is exasperated with the city of Wellington for resisting the NZ$90m (€55m) Basin Reserve flyover that it claims would ease congestion in the capital. This week finance minister Bill English criticised Wellington for its lack of “progressive attitude” and transport minister Simon Bridges said that if community groups “muck around” the flyover will take even longer to build. The city’s mayor Celia Wade-Brown fired back, stating that it was the Environmental Protection Authority – set up by the ruling National Party government – that rejected the flyover. Though many support the city’s stance, the government is now threatening to withdraw contributions to Wellington Airport’s proposed NZ$300m (€185m) runway extension.

Image: Ben Quinton

Building the future

What are the big urban trends of tomorrow? Ask almost any urban planner and they’ll tell you about the rebirth of the suburb, healthy architecture or perhaps how blue urbanism is the new way to go green. But what about the lesser known ideas? The Academy of Urbanism (AoU) has gathered experts from around the globe for its annual Congress in London to discuss the future of our cities. “The diverse backgrounds of our speakers and the fertile urban context of east London give us an opportunity to compare international and local experience through presentations, workshops, study tours and our Saturday Honorary Academicians Debate,” says Steven Bee, chairman of the AoU. Care to join? The event begins today and runs until Saturday. We’ll be there too: Monocle editor Andrew Tuck will be chairing Saturday’s debate.

Literary device

Last week Singaporeans were introduced to a novel concept: book-dispensing vending machines. Stationed at two key cultural centres (with plans for a third) including the National Museum, the initiative was a bid by independent bookshop BooksActually to promote the city’s literary scene. Despite homegrown authors gaining international acclaim, only a quarter of Singaporeans have read a book by a fellow citizen. Institutions such as BooksActually and its publishing arm Math Paper Press are championing the city’s talent with the aim of ensuring its cultural growth. Owner Kenny Leck wants the concept to be as ubiquitous as the manga machines found at most Japanese train stations. Clad in designs by Singaporean artists and armed with about 22 genre-spanning titles available from just S$10 (€6.50), these handsome units may turn out to be the finest ambassadors of domestic literature yet.

Image: Troy Stains

In the long run

The city of Baton Rouge in Louisiana is betting on urban planning to improve the wellbeing of its residents. Plans for the Baton Rouge Health District are underway courtesy of architecture firm Perkins+Will, which will focus on “healthy placemaking” around what is now a disparate cluster of medical facilities. The plan will see several new roads in the city’s south side, which will link the medical facilities and make the hub walkable. New parks and a health trail to promote physical fitness are also in the works. The planners believe that investing in long-term preventative health through infrastructure is the best way to build healthier communities and the idea is catching on: there are plans to build a health district at the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn to improve neighbourhood access.

From Monocle 24

Image: Mary Pelletier

Tattooing the Holy Land

Tucked in a narrow alleyway in the old city is Razzouk Tattoo, a family-run institution and the oldest tattoo shop in Jerusalem. Nigel Wilson meets the latest in a long line of family members to take on the business.

From Monocle Films

Market value

Monocle Films travels to Helsinki to visit Vanha Kauppahalli, the city’s oldest waterside food market, to meet the merchants serving up the very best in Nordic cuisine.

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