The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Wednesday 23 May 2018

Diplomacy

Image: Getty Images

Softly does it

Political pandemonium in Venezuela has seen the pointed withdrawal of numerous ambassadors. Powerful statement or empty gesture?

Nicolás Maduro’s dubious re-election last weekend has prompted a wave of governments across Latin America to withdraw their ambassadors from Caracas in protest. Now Canada, which is a member of the Lima Group of Latin and North American nations, has followed suit. But how much effect does the removal of an ambassador have? Particularly at a moment of crisis as acute as that currently engulfing Venezuela. Arguably, maintaining a diplomatic presence in a country, no matter how disagreeable its political leadership might be, is crucial in exerting influence. Just look at the impact that the numerous ambassador-less US embassies around the world have had on said country’s clout. The symbolism of withdrawing an ambassador is certainly powerful but once it’s done, the ability to exert a positive influence is undoubtedly diminished.

Transport

Image: Getty Images

See the signs

Bangkok’s commuters have had enough of the city’s tiny bus-route font – we think it’s a perfect opportunity for officials to think big.

Bangkok’s city hall has announced it will spend up to ฿1m (€260,000) revamping the Thai capital’s bus-route boards after irate commuters complained of their too-tiny fonts. To emphasise their point, many took to social media brandishing magnifying glasses. Deputy governor Chakkaphan Phewngam has promised to update the boards with links to information online but we think this problem provides the perfect opportunity to come up with a new graphic identity for Bangkok’s streets. City officials could look to Dutch designers Studio Dumbar, who refreshed South Korea’s confusing road signage, or to wayfinding maestro Lance Wyman, who created a visual language for Detroit inspired by its architectural heritage. Bangkok’s officials might also want to give local talents such as font publisher Cadson Demak and graphic-design firm TNOP a shout.

Infrastructure

Image: Alamy

Get what you pay for

Residents in Seattle are looking forward to their new bike lanes but the soaring cost has got city hall squeezing the brakes.

Seattle, like many other West Coast cities in the US, relishes its reputation as a liberal, progressive urban hub. This extends to public transport, seen most notably through its ambitious bike-lanes programme. But now it looks like Seattle’s good intentions come with a hefty price tag. The city must create 50 miles of bicycle lanes – which voters there approved in a 2015 referendum – but its budget for the project suggests that it won’t be able to complete even half of that. The cost of constructing the lanes has skyrocketed from the original estimate of $860,000 (€730,000) per mile to a staggering $12m (€10.2m). Why the drastic spike? Everything from new traffic signs to extending and shrinking kerbs and pavements. While this may leave Seattle with a bit of sticker shock, the only way to create sustainable long-lasting infrastructure is to pay for it once.

Print media

Image: Getty Images

Silence that speaks volumes

Its fame lasted longer than 15 minutes but, sadly, Andy Warhol’s ‘Interview’ magazine is closing after nearly 50 years.

The independent magazine business is bubbling up nicely but now there’s one less iconic title to share the newsstand with: Interview has filed for bankruptcy. Founded by Andy Warhol, the large-format monthly started in 1969 and turned the pop-art pioneer's penchant for recording conversations into a brash and brassy magazine. It was known for its eye-catching covers and unpolished style of celebrity-on-celebrity interviews; a recent highlight, for example, saw Eminem being interviewed by Elton John. However, the magazine has been beset by troubles, including a lawsuit, sexual-misconduct claims against a former staffer and a peculiar episode in which staff were locked out of the company's New York office due to unpaid rent back in February. It will continue to publish for the rest of 2018 but readers enamoured with the title's chaotic style will have to look elsewhere to continue the conversation.

From Monocle 24

Why go to architecture school?

Monocle on Design

Does architectural education need an overhaul? We put the question to the heads of two leading architecture schools: London’s Architectural Association and the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. Plus: Riba’s play at creating an architecture workshop for children.

From Monocle Films

Skopje: starting again

A nation defining its identity – or architectural vandalism? We head to the capital of the Republic of Macedonia to investigate a controversial building project.

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