Rahaf Mohammed, the Saudi teenager who barricaded herself in a Bangkok hotel room to avoid being forcibly returned to Riyadh, gave her first press conference yesterday since being granted asylum in Canada. Her case is the latest chapter in the rolling stand-off between Canada and Saudi Arabia, and Ottawa has sought to make much of her arrival (Canada’s minister of foreign affairs, Chrystia Freeland, was there to greet Mohammed at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport when she arrived on Saturday). The high-profile case won’t ease diplomatic tensions between the two countries following Riyadh’s dramatic response to Ottawa’s criticism of its human-rights record last year – which saw all new Saudi investment in Canada halted. But by standing firm, Canada is winning the argument, says Dr Bessma Momani, a political scientist at the University of Waterloo. “The relationship between Ottawa and Saudi Arabia has hit rock bottom already so this is a win-win situation for Canada; the Trudeau government has played it very well.”
Shortly after being sworn in as Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro signed an executive order that many fear will jeopardise his nation’s forests. Signing over control of these protected areas (not to mention the fate of their indigenous inhabitants) to the nation’s resource-hungry agriculture ministry could spell disaster for the vulnerable ecosystem. One architecture firm, however, is championing these regions and their inhabitants by providing schools, markets and infrastructure to indigenous communities in a way that’s sustainable, honours their traditions and protects their homes. “It’s important to understand the distance to the sites; to arrive into communities [such as these] can take 24 hours,” says Gustavo Utrabo, co-founder of Aleph Zero, the winner of last year’s Riba international prize for architectural excellence for a school building in the Amazon. “We try to use local material and share local knowledge.” Brazilians need to recognise the value of their forests as cultural rather than financial, before it’s too late.
The annual IMM furniture fair, which is being held in Köln this week, is the place to identify upcoming trends in the design industry – and 2019 is shaping up to be all about outdoor innovation. We can expect patios, gardens and balconies to get a shade smarter over the coming months, with high-profile furniture companies – including Italy’s Cassina and Denmark’s Muuto – banking on the success of outdoor pieces that they are debuting at IMM. With updates to upholstery and new colours, Cassina has revamped classics from its LC Outdoor collection by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand. The Linear Steel Series, Muuto’s first range of garden furniture, offers tastefully coloured powder-coated pieces that are compact enough to perch on a city-apartment balcony. As our desire to disconnect and get back to nature grows, we’re pleased that the often-overlooked design of garden furniture is getting its time in the sun.
Asia’s art crowd is heading to Taiwan this week for a new fair called Taipei Dangdai. The capital is looking to establish itself on the international art calendar alongside other hubs such as Hong Kong, Seoul and, increasingly, Shanghai. The fair’s organisers have a strong pedigree. Director Magnus Renfrew has teamed up again with his collaborators on Art HK, which they started in 2008 before selling to Art Basel six years ago. Several new landmark buildings are also adding to Taiwan’s cultural cachet, from the Mecanoo-designed National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts unveiled last year to OMA’s Taipei Performing Arts Center, which is nearing completion. Taiwan may look increasingly isolated politically but it’s still a regional heavyweight in the arts.
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