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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 14 June 2018

Urbanism

Image: Getty Images

Productivity launch

Latin American mayors try to close the productivity gap on their US city counterparts.

Mid-June means the annual get-together of mayors and local officials from Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) in its unofficial capital city, Miami. The Inter-American Conference of Mayors and Local Officials, supported by Florida International University and the World Bank, wraps up this week. The summit this year tackles the conundrum of why the region’s over 7,000 cities aren’t faring as well as their US counterparts when it comes to productivity – the subject of a recent report from the World Bank. Chicago, for example, is economically much more successful than the Colombian capital Bogotá, despite having about the same population. The takeaway? A nip and a tuck in transport, education, and talent acquisition would mean an improved quality of life and increased prosperity for the cities in question. However, hosting the conference in an actual LAC city might have been a good symbolic start.

Society

Image: Getty Images

Grow up

Japan has introduced a law that will see the country’s youngsters become adults sooner than they might have expected.

Japan has come up with an inventive way to solve some of the problems presented by its rapidly aging population: make more adults. By 2050 around a third of its citizens will be eligible to draw a pension and Japan will be running low on people who can take an active role in society, so yesterday the Diet ushered in a law that lowers the age of majority in the country from 20 to 18 years old. Twenty-two laws will have to be altered to accommodate the revision in its Civil Code – the age at which someone is legally considered an adult in Japan hasn’t changed since the 1890s. Since 2015, Japanese citizens over the age of 18 have been legally allowed to vote and so the latest law – which provides other rights such as enabling access to passports and credit cards – is a logical step. What may cause some to grumble however is that while 18 to 20-year-olds are trusted to travel, take out loans and participate in democracy, they aren’t allowed to drink, smoke or gamble.

Design

Get physical

A US digital heavy-hitter is going analogue and investing in two UK industrial and product design firms.

Mergers are becoming common in the design industry and the US is leading the acquisition charge. Last year major US furniture-maker Knoll snapped up smart young Danish design brand Muuto, while this week AKQA, an international digital creative agency with more than 2,000 staff, has plunged into the industrial and product design realm by investing in two firms founded by the UK’s Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby. Universal Design Studio, an interior-architecture company, and Map, an industrial-design brand, were both founded by the British duo who are known for furniture collaborations with names such as Vitra, Flos and B&B Italia. In these US-led acquisitions the smaller brands get access to a wider project base, while the larger firms take on extra expertise that will broaden their offering. The AKQA case is particularly interesting as it shows that a top-calibre digital agency is interested in investing in quality talent as it moves its business into bricks, mortar and all things physical.

Art

Image: Art Basel

Fair play

So far there’s been buying, basketballs and bluster at this year’s Art Basel. What will the public opening bring?

Art Basel has been offering a strange, contemporary, international take on its hometown’s rolling Rhine-side Swissness since 1970. The fair, which enjoys its first public day today, is difficult to define from year to year; it’s always successful, it’s always busy and most dealers leave happy. A note on this year’s best booths: Hauser & Wirth showed (and sold) Louise Bourgeois’ “Three Graces”; Sprüth Magers showed (and sold) John Baldessari’s “Four Types of Balance (with Basketballs)”; and Mnuchin likewise with Carl Andre’s “100 Copper Squares”. Outside the main fair, Gianni Jetzer curated an impressive Art Unlimited, the remit of which is single works by one artist, often on a large scale but not necessarily new. Bruce Conner’s 1966 video work “Breakaway” is beautiful, bold and sexy; Yoko Ono’s reborn “Mend Piece” is patient, collegiate and tender, and Francis Alÿs’s video “Tornado” is visceral and terrifying – he literally walks into a twister. Outside the Messeplatz, the more punk Liste fair is always endearing and its prices are less likely to bring on Augenwässer.

From Monocle 24

VanMoof

The Entrepreneurs

Brothers Taco and Ties Carlier founded the Dutch bike brand VanMoof in 2009 with the mission to reimagine how a bicycle can function in the cities of tomorrow. The slick electric bikes they design subtly integrate smart technology, such as a theft-defence system that includes a built-in alarm and an invisible lock. VanMoof now has shops in Amsterdam, New York, San Francisco, Berlin, London, Paris, Taipei and Tokyo.

From Monocle Films

Japanese architecture: Toukouen hotel

We travel to Japan’s least-populous prefecture, Tottori, where we explore one of its most-famous hotels.

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