Friday 19 January 2018 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 19/1/2018

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images


Rising tide

Could Bolivia be Latin America’s next energy superpower? It may sound unfathomable given the Andean nation is the most impoverished in the region – but China has big plans. The Asian superpower has been quietly building influence in South America and in Bolivia that has led to the inauguration of a new hydroelectric plant built by Chinese state-owned hydropower engineering company Sinohydro. The plant is just one of several regional projects that China is involved in, from road construction to supplying trains to Argentina’s railways. Whether Bolivia can become an energy mecca – and lift thousands out of poverty – remains to be seen. The country is also sitting on what’s thought to be the largest lithium reserves in the world, meaning it won’t be found wanting in terms of potential.

Image: Getty Images


Building a relationship

On their annual leaders’ retreat this week, Singaporean and Malaysian prime ministers Lee Hsien Loong and Najib Razak inaugurated two skyscrapers in Singapore. With a combined worth of S$11bn (€6.8bn), the Marina One and the Duo – built on separate plots of prime real estate in Singapore’s central business district – were developed as joint ventures between the two nations. In addition to the pomp and pizzazz marking the new builds’ commercial success (the Marina One boasts big-name tenants such as private bank Julius Baer and Facebook; The Duo can lay claim to an Andaz), the developments are also a diplomatic victory. The deal was originally made in 2010 as a way to break a 20-year bilateral dispute over some Malaysia-owned railway land in Singapore – and leave both countries feeling a bit more flush.

Image: Swissbau


Timber land

Every two years the construction industry meets in Basel for Swissbau, Switzerland’s leading construction fair, on now until Saturday. “It gives you a glimpse of the future,” says exhibition director Rudolf Pfander. Alongside the industry’s digital transformation, timber construction is visibly on the rise. Switzerland’s first timber skyscraper, Suurstoffi 22, is near completion and opportunities in the field are growing. Walter Schär, the fourth-generation CEO of Schaerholzbau, sees a clear trend towards using more local wood in architecture again – something that his firm has been doing for decades. “Switzerland’s architecture evolved from its landscape and the timber chalet has become a metaphor for the nation,” he says. “In response to globalisation, there’s now a return to this tradition and the use of local wood to build contemporary chalets.” Renowned Swiss architect Mario Botta also picked up on this movement: “In the Alps there’s a resistance to globalisation and the loss of identity that it brings. People come here to find real identity and authentic architecture.”


Breaking out

The 20th edition of Toronto’s annual Interior Design Show (IDS), one of Canada’s biggest design expos, kicked off yesterday. IDS, a showcase for international and homegrown designers, has long been a barometer for the state of the country's design sectors, from furniture and lighting to kitchens and glassware. This year is no exception, as northern firms continue to make their mark internationally. Despite once being known for their restraint, Canadian designers are increasingly being recognised for their inventiveness. “For us, it’s a great time to be here,” says Jay Osgerby of London-based design firm Barber and Osgerby, one of the speakers at this year's event. “Everything we do is expansive and those ideas can only flourish in countries and cultures that have a similar mindset. Toronto appears to be in the ascendancy – it’s a perfect time for us to be here.”

Image: Alamy

Temporary urbanism

It’s not all about pop-up cafés and setting up street markets. Temporary urbanism can have a huge impact in cities, allowing planners to push their bolder and more unusual ideas through the bureaucracy of city hall.

Cruise-ship entertainers

The fort was built in 1614 by the beach where Bermuda’s first settlers came ashore from their wrecked ship, the Sea Venture. It is the largest fort in Bermuda, with huge ramparts, labyrinthine tunnels and chambers carved into bedrock. It now houses a museum.


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