The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 28 November 2017

Politics

Image: Reuters

Turning the screw

Ireland’s opposition party is taking aim at the deputy prime minister – at a time when the government already has enough on its plate.

With the critical 14 December European Council meeting looming and the central issue of Ireland’s future relationship with Northern Ireland still in no way resolved, there couldn’t really be a worse time for turmoil to strike at the heart of Ireland’s government. Yet today a motion of no-confidence in the deputy prime minister will take place in the Dáil (the Republic’s parliament). Frances Fitzgerald has been criticised for her handling of a police whistleblower and the main opposition party, Fianna Fáil, has seized on this and tabled the vote. If it passes, the fragile confidence-and-supply arrangement between the Fine Gael government, headed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (pictured), and Fianna Fáil could be scuppered. This is the last thing Ireland needs while it tries to define its post-Brexit relationship to the UK.

Retail

Image: Alamy

Happy shoppers

Malls in the US may be closing their doors but centres further south are thriving – for two surprising reasons.

The US’s mall meltdown is in full swing with dozens closing in the past decade. But just south of the border, business is booming. In Central and South America an estimated 100 shopping centres were built in 2016 alone and one of the largest malls in the western hemisphere is now in Panama. But is there any reason to think that these new builds won’t go the way of their northern brethren in a few decades as well? Actually, a couple of factors may point to their longevity. A lack of thoughtfully designed urban areas as well as higher rates of violent crime in many regions have made malls a desirable shopping and social environment.

Architecture

Eyes front

Herzog & de Meuron’s design for Lombard Odier’s new HQ aims to reflect the bank’s principles.

It might have been an international competition but the safe bet was always on a Swiss architecture firm to snap up the commission for Lombard Odier’s new headquarters in Geneva. Sure enough, Basel-based firm Herzog & de Meuron has been announced as the winner. In collaboration with the Swiss private bank, the firm revealed details about the project yesterday. As expected, it’s a grand design featuring 2,600 workstations but it’s also representative of the current school of Swiss architecture where democratic design and sustainability are receiving greater emphasis. One key feature is the building having no front façade. Instead, all sides are treated with equal emphasis (although the offices with views of Lake Geneva will surely be the most desired). “A stone-clad bunker would no longer be in keeping with the image of a contemporary bank,” says architect Pierre de Meuron. “We have designed a transparent, elegant and measured building; as such, its architecture reflects the vision and values of Lombard Odier.”

Retail

Image: Getty Images

Electric shock

A well-known gadget chain has come up with an interesting tactic to increase its customer base in Tokyo: fewer gadgets.

Japanese electronics chain Bic Camera is opening a new store in Tokyo today that targets teenage girls and tourists from overseas with an unusual strategy: moving away from electronics. Called Bic Camera Select, the store on Takeshita Dori – a narrow, crowded pedestrian-only street that is the centre of the city’s youth culture – will mainly feature cosmetics and other items typically sold by pharmacies, alongside toys, pillows, sporting goods, alcohol and eyewear. The company has 43 shops nationwide (and 180 Kojima and Sofmap shops) that sell everything from household appliances and laptops to cameras and massage chairs; it even runs a joint shop with fast-fashion retailer Uniqlo. But this is the first time that it’s not relying so heavily on the electronic goods that are one of its mainstays.

From Monocle 24

Make a house a gallery

Culture with Robert Bound

We head out on a worldwide exploration of houses that play home to great art collections. From Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge to an art tour of Cape Town.

From Monocle Films

Hospitality lessons

Be it an airport lounge or a cinema, feeling at ease is hugely dependent on your surroundings. Monocle films meet with the design experts crafting the warmest welcomes.

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