Thursday. 20/12/2018

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Geopolitics

Friend or foe?

The leaders of Iran and Turkey are attempting to forge closer relations – but differing views about Syria’s war might hinder their progress.

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani touches down in Ankara today for bilateral talks with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Under pressure from US sanctions, Iran is trying to shore up its trade partners: the leaders are expected to discuss a plan to increase the annual trade volume between the two countries to $30bn per year (it currently stands at about $10bn). More challenging still will be discussions about the war in Syria. Iran – along with Russia – is a key ally of Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey has supported opposition groups in recent years. Though the two countries have different views on aspects of the conflict in Syria, they might find some common ground over their shared disdain for the US.

Image: Getty Images

Transport

Slow progress

Commuters travelling through Tokyo Station will be asked to stand still on the usually chaotic escalators.

Escalators in Japanese cities are fraught with danger: commuters rush up and down them with startling recklessness and minor injuries are not uncommon. The rules on which side is reserved for walking differ depending on whether you’re in the east or the west of the country. In an attempt to end the disorder, a new edict is being trialled at Tokyo Station: stand still on escalators. From this week, until 1 February, rail operator JR East will use large signs and messages on handrails (newly painted in pink) to encourage commuters to stay put; megaphone-armed staff will also be present to shout the phrase “Don’t walk!” around the station. While the measures could make commuting safer, they aren’t likely to do much for the anxiety of commuters struggling to get to work on time.

Infrastructure

Man of steel

It might not have been the most dazzling design but Renzo Piano’s practical bridge plan is exactly what Genoa needs right now.

Four months after the collapse of the Ponte Morandi that killed 43 people, Genoa – which has been struggling to cope without this vital motorway link – received some good news. The special commission that was set up after the disaster, amid a national outcry, announced on Tuesday that a consortium called PerGenova (For Genoa) will build a new bridge, designed by Genoese starchitect Renzo Piano. Crucially this will happen by December 2019, according to commissioner Marco Bucci. Piano’s plan, which sees a 1,100-metre-long steel structure traverse the Polcevera valley with some 19 slender concrete supports, is considerably less spectacular than that submitted by Valencian Santiago Calatrava and represents pragmatism and value for money. The €230m construction will begin in March, even before the old bridge has been fully demolished.

Image: Reuters

Aviation

Blue skies ahead?

Canada is keen to make air travel a smoother ride for all concerned.

A vast and sparsely populated land mass means air travel in Canada is expensive and tiresome – but the country is looking to make the experience a little less turbulent. The government recently revealed a first draft of its air passenger bill of rights; if it passes, travellers would be compensated generously for lost bags and delayed flights. Passengers unable to board overbooked planes, for instance, could receive up to CA$2,400 (€1,550) for a nine-hour delay, while the bill also aims to improve transparency and communication between airlines and customers. While Canadian air travel isn’t getting any cheaper – and it’s likely that the new regulations will tack a few dollars onto ticket prices – it’s high time the country put its passengers first.

The Internet of Things

Monocle on Design

We ask how technology and connectedness are changing product design and transforming everything from homes to our cities. Guests include Kohler’s Mark Bickerstaffe, Ron Bakker of PLP Architecture and Sean Affleck of Make Architects.

Celebrating fashion in Oslo

After lagging behind its design-minded neighbours, the Norwegian fashion industry has finally moved out of its comfort zone and stepped up its game. We meet Oslo’s most promising fashion houses and see how they are being taken seriously on the international stage.

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