Thursday. 7/3/2019

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Josh Fehnert

Signal failure

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has a platform to create safer spaces – but it needs to be quick if it’s to avoid missing its stop. As reported below, the MTA is mulling over how to use its vacant retail spaces. On the roster of (rather drab) ideas that the MTA has mooted: making room for display advertising, plonking down vending machines or simply clearing more room for passengers on the platforms. Oh dear.

One unintended consequence of removing people from the equation is the loss of security that an extra pair of eyes offers. A key urbanism lesson is that once you begin stripping people from public spaces – and start creating purely residential areas or financial districts – it creates an uneasy vacuum after dark. It’s a scenario that lends itself to crime and vandalism, not to mention an over-reliance on CCTV cameras (usually better at decoding what went wrong rather than preventing it). The same goes for station platforms. It feels safer to be in a place where there’s a person manning a kiosk, as opposed to an empty platform with a vending machine blinking at you. Leasing these spaces to people running independent businesses (or to design students or makers) would be just the ticket for the MTA.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / UK

Nice try

There’s been a noticeable change in the two weeks since 11 members of the UK parliament left their respective parties and formed The Independent Group. Theresa May is likely to grant Conservative MPs a vote on a no-deal Brexit to avert more walkouts and has suggested that the leaving date of 29 March could be extended. But there are signs that momentum for the new party has stalled. “The Independent Group hoped that more people would have joined by now but a lot of people are holding back because they aren’t sure what they’re joining,” says Lance Price, former adviser to ex UK prime minister Tony Blair. “This doesn’t feel like a disruptive force or an insurgency – it feels like a rather soft, soggy coalition of people who just want to be nice to each other.”

Image: Alamy

Retail / New York

Substandard fare

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has decided to replace vacant newsstands in the city’s subway stations with airport-style vending machines dispensing toiletries and snacks. The MTA owns 326 such shops but has struggled to fill them due to falling spending; today about 40 per cent are vacant. Vending machines might offer a short-term solution to loss-making lots but they are unlikely to improve life on the line; investment in staffed spaces with clever offerings that commuters might need would be better. Usual subterranean fare – cigarettes, sweets and salty snacks – could be kicked in favour of thoughtfully stacked newsstands, freshly baked goods and decent coffee.

Image: Getty Images

Transport / Geneva

Driving change

As gathering Brexit storm clouds threaten the UK’s car-manufacturing industry, there are no signs of dampened spirits over at the Geneva Motor Show. Future-facing launches point to an optimistic road ahead, with automakers doing their best to emphasise the idea of mobility over automobility. One such brand is Citroën. The French company is celebrating its 100th year by unveiling its Ami One city car concept, a miniature pod-like vehicle that is 1.5 metres high, has a top speed of 45km/h and weighs in at 425kg. It would be perfect for weaving through congested streets and, owing to the fact that’s it’s classed as a “light quadricycle” rather than a car, could be driven by someone without a full licence.

Image: Yosuke Takeda

Culture / Tokyo

Broad canvas

Art Fair Tokyo 2019 – Japan’s largest international art fair – opens today at the Tokyo International Forum. More than 150 galleries from Japan and elsewhere will display a broad spectrum of work, showing established names alongside rising stars from Japan’s art colleges. The fair has developed an underdog reputation, often perceived as being outshone in Asia by the cultural heft of Art Basel Hong Kong. But this is the fair’s 14th outing and the calibre of work means that it is now snapping at the heels of Switzerland’s Asian export. The place to see the bright and the bold at Art Fair Tokyo will be the Projects section, where 12 young galleries will focus on the work of emerging artists, most of whom are Japanese. Those with a flight connection through Haneda Airport can also whet their artistic appetites thanks to a satellite show in the terminal until 10 March, when the show closes.

Uncommon Creative Studio and Halo – The Entrepreneurs

Nils Leonard is co-founder of Uncommon Creative Studio and ethical-coffee brand Halo, which sells specialty grade coffee in compostable capsules. Previously, Nils was chief creative officer at Grey London.

Roadtrip rendezvous

We introduce you to the faces and places we saw on our journey from New Orleans to New Mexico.

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