Wednesday. 6/3/2019

The Monocle Minute

Image: Felix Odell

Opinion / Andrew Tuck

Building balance

Designing healthy cities should stretch beyond the provision of adequate cycle lanes and parks for dawn runs. Urbanists, architects and designers need to consider our mental wellbeing too. We already know that access to greenery – or even just a view of it from an apartment window – has a positive psychological impact. That view has even been found to help patients recover faster from surgery and require less medicine than people left in a bed facing a green-free landscape.

We are just beginning to understand how natural materials and rich tactile experiences can make us feel better. And one of the key materials that’s coming into focus – proving you can see the wood for the trees – is timber. As the designer Ilse Crawford told Monocle, “touch is our first and last sense; it has a direct connection to our emotions.”

So the spread of large-scale timber projects (see below) brings with it not just a more intriguing skyscape but also delivers a beneficial boost to our mental health too. Timber towers have the potential to soothe our city lives.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Montenegro

One-man band

Protests have gained momentum in Montenegro’s capital Podgorica as citizens rail against president Milo Djukanovic, calling on him to resign for alleged corruption and abuses of office. Residents are also irked by the duration of Djukanovic’s rule. For the past 28 years he’s governed the country in the guise of either prime minister or president, or by proxy through a political stooge (he has taken a few breaks recently to fight the odd international corruption charge). The country is a Nato member and wants to become part of the EU – but should a de facto one-party state (let alone a one-person one) have a place in the union?

Image: Getty Images

Aviation / Hong Kong

Cleared for take-off?

Hong Kong’s de facto flag carrier Cathay Pacific confirmed yesterday that it is in talks to buy low-cost airline Hong Kong Express (HKE). While there is no agreement yet, the move could help Cathay take advantage of Southeast Asia’s growing budget-travel market. The deal won’t just be about snapping up the name and the planes: Cathay could also take HKE’s runway slots at the oversubscribed Hong Kong International Airport. “Cathay always maintained that it didn’t want to create a low-cost offshoot,” says Peter Morris, chief economist at aviation consultancy FlightGlobal. “But with a competitor performing well on its doorstep, it appears that the time is right.” And what’s simpler than buying out your rival? The bigger opportunity now is to reposition Hong Kong Express as a lean, boutique offshoot of Cathay Pacific and its regional sibling, Cathay Dragon. The Lufthansa Group points to the success of its Zürich-based leisure carrier Edelweiss Air as a model for its Eurowings subsidiary. Hong Kong and Switzerland are similar markets in terms of scale and wealth – so Cathay has a ready-made model to follow. Headline: smarten up rather than dumb down.

Architecture / Toronto

The right materials

Plans for a new addition to Toronto’s busy skyline have been announced this week – and it’s notable because it could well provide a template for how to build at scale with wood. The austerely named T3 Bayside features two 10-storey office buildings on Toronto's quickly developing waterfront. Designed by Copenhagen’s 3XN, which has form in creating waterfront complexes, it would be the largest wooden office building in the world. The plans are an interesting blueprint for how timber-architecture is evolving: by keeping the storey count low and focusing on the volume of space within instead.

Image: Getty Images

Transport / Austria

Slowly but surely

While the airline industry in Europe continues a race-to-the-bottom dogfight to get passengers to places cheaper and faster, Austrian rail is quietly expanding a statelier travel solution by ordering 13 new trains with sleeper carriages. ÖBB already spent €40m buying 42 sleeper trains (and a further 15 with seating that can be converted into bunks) from Deutsche Bahn in 2016 and currently runs 26 overnight routes to destinations such as Rome, Zürich, Venice and Warsaw. The latest order – along with the success of its Berlin-to-Vienna route, which launched in late 2018 – shows that speed and thrift aren’t always the ticket for certain travellers.

Meeting Stefan Sagmeister

Monocle on Design

We visit New York-based graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister to talk about growing up in Austria, his big break in album art and why taking sabbaticals is so important.

Munich: the best of everything

We take lessons in liveability from the winner of this year’s Monocle Quality of Life survey. Join us for a tour of the Bavarian capital, where we cover everything from improved infrastructure to new clubs.

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