The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 9 March 2017

Design

Image: Amanda Mustard

Better together?

The battle of the furniture fairs kicks off in Southeast Asia – but wouldn’t they be better off together?

International furniture fairs have kicked off in Bangkok, Manila and Singapore this week. With all three Southeast Asian cities greasing their elbows to attract furniture designers and enthusiasts to their shores over the next few days, the question is: which city will open more doors for designers? “Singapore has an edge because the city’s infrastructure and accessibility draws in more buyers and international exhibitors,” says Philippine designer Ito Kish, who returned to Singapore to present his new collection. “That’s important for a designer such as myself, who started just five years ago.” Shadowed by Milan’s upcoming Salone del Mobile in April, these design showcases may fare better by sticking together rather than competing with each other. Asean Furniture Fair anyone?

Business

Image: Getty Images

Picking up the tab

One of Japan’s biggest parcel-delivery companies raises its prices for the first time in more than 25 years.

Yamato Transport Co – one of Japan’s biggest parcel-delivery companies – has made headlines in Japan by announcing that it might have to raise its prices for the first time since 1990. The boom in online shopping combined with the average Japanese customer’s expectation that parcels will be delivered (and redelivered) both cheaply and promptly, at specific times, has made it increasingly difficult for the firm. The industry has changed rapidly since the company’s last price hike. As Yamato struggles to find enough drivers to deal with the volume of goods being shipped around the country, it is looking at ditching the 12.00 to 14.00 delivery slot (to allow for drivers’ lunch hours) and broadening the popular after-work 20.00 to 21.00 window. Regardless, the distinctive Yamato black cat and kitten logo will continue to be a feature in the streets of Tokyo.

Culture

Image: Getty Images

Arts review

The City of Lights announces plans to open a new cultural centre by 2020.

Paris is getting a new cultural centre. That’s what Bernard Arnault (pictured), CEO of the LVMH Group, announced at a press conference in the company of French president François Hollande and star architect Frank Gehry yesterday. Gehry has been tasked with transforming the former Musée national des Arts et Traditions Populaires (MATP), which has been falling into disrepair for the past 12 years, into La Maison LVMH/Arts, Talents, Patrimoine by 2020. Located on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne near Arnault’s Louis Vuitton Foundation, the project is estimated to cost €160m and is set to house event spaces for exhibitions, a restaurant with views of the city, as well as ateliers and an academy of crafts, in a nod to the MATP. LVMH will pay the city an annual fee of €150,000 for its 50-year lease.

Urbanism

Image: SOM

Down by the river

A new riverfront renovation project is giving Detroit residents a reason to put their hands up.

Chicago architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) is revamping Detroit’s East Riverfront. The former industrial area, which overlooks the Detroit River (itself the subject of a recent clean-up), is currently filled with abandoned warehouses and fenced-off blocks. According to SOM’s anticipated masterplan, created in consultation with the public, green spaces will be expanded; freshly-paved, well-lit walkways will improve access to the waterfront; and the streets surrounding the district will be made more accommodating for cyclists and pedestrians. The warehouses are going to be renovated rather than razed and replaced with glass towers. It’s a worthy plan by Detroit’s authorities and promises to retain the area’s character while giving people a reason to flock to the waterside.

From Monocle 24

Second nature

The Entrepreneurs

The green revolution has made its mark in offices, with science supporting the idea that greenery boosts wellbeing, but gyms are yet to catch on. This week we meet Matt Aspiotis Morley – whose fitness brand Biofit uses natural materials, lots of plants and zero technology – and find out how he plans to attract customers in a crowded market.

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