The Monocle Minute

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The week ahead, opportunities and observations
Saturday 15 April 2017

Property

Image: Alamy

Home improvements

A heritage-listed Russian fortress is on sale for next to nothing – but buying it isn’t that simple.

Fancy a 19th-century Prussian fortress? The Grolman Bastion in Kaliningrad is for sale for just one Russian ruble (€0.02). The catch? It’s in disrepair and according to a new initiative by the Russian Ministry of Culture – under which a handful of heritage-listed properties outside Moscow have gone up for sale – investors are required to restore the property in question to its former glory within seven years. But once refurbished it’s yours for 49 years and you’re free to profit from the rent. The federal-level programme follows in the footsteps of a similar Moscow-based enterprise in which investors are required to rent ​listed sites at a sizeable cost over the course of the restoration period before gaining ownership. This had led dishonest patrons to rush refurbishments to avoid forking out too much. The federal initiative hopes to avoid that.

Culture

Image: Getty Images

Not-so-blank space

Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria is bringing together the biggest names in contemporary photography.

Unlike the subjects in Ross Coulter’s photography series “Audience”, you won’t be staring at a blank wall if you visit Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) this weekend. Coulter’s series documents figures from the city’s art world in empty galleries and is one of many shows that have taken over the NGV as part of the venue’s inaugural Festival of Photography. The event, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the NGV photography department, brings together some of the biggest names in contemporary photography, including solo exhibitions by Bill Henson, Patrick Pound and Zoë Croggon, as well as William Eggleston, the US photographer who pioneered colour photography. Eggleston’s banal images may seem at odds with local photographer Henson’s brooding landscapes and portraits but take a second look; there’s more here than first meets the eye.

Publishing

Building a picture

A new book on architecture that’s as well made as the buildings in its pages.

Buildings define the cities we live in but those of us that gawp at them don’t always consider what virtues (or lack thereof) they portray. Some structures are lofty landmarks that assert ambition and flaunt economic prowess, others are places we call home. Aaron Betsky’s Architecture Matters, published by Thames & Hudson, is a collection of observations about the social and political role that the built environment plays that is as handy, eloquent and appealing to high-minded architects as it is to dilettantes. Moving swiftly between critique and wide-eyed admiration for his subject, architect and curator Betsky reminds us about architecture’s responsibility to make things better as well as to dazzle and delight. If the book were a building it would be an understated but important one – more Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion than Burj Khalifa. And the lessons it offers are as favourable as the comparison suggests.

Tourism

Image: Getty Images

New departures

Brazil looks to boost tourist numbers with new reforms, including changes to its airline laws.

A record-breaking 6.6 million tourists visited Brazil last year but the country’s government thinks that the number should be higher. Brasil + Turismo, introduced by tourism minister Marx Beltrão this week, aims to double tourist numbers by 2022 and add six million jobs in the process. An electronic-visa system will be introduced by the end of the year to make travel from countries that include the US and Japan more efficient. Yet even more significant is the decree that Brazilian president Michel Temer signed this week, which allows foreign companies to own national airlines. The new law ends the 20 per cent cap that has been in place and, coupled with government subsidies, should not only increase the competitiveness of airlines but also expand regional airline networks and the number of domestic flights.

From Monocle 24

How to build a cinema

The Cinema Show

Why do so many grand old theatres fall into disrepair? Editor of ‘ArchDaily’ James Taylor-Foster and architects Jason Flanagan and Takero Shimazaki share the secrets to gently updating a picture palace for the modern age.

From Monocle Films

Sweden on high alert

The threat of war in the Baltic region has seen tensions rising in Sweden. We visit Gotland to see what action the government is taking to fortify the island.

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