Friday. 3/4/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Nolan Giles

Praise the roof

The window in front of my home desk frames a view of several apartment blocks but my eyes are only drawn to one. There I enviously admire a good-looking bunch of neighbours making the most of a sprawling rooftop space – exercising, gardening and, on nice days, sunbathing. They are all keeping a good distance apart from one another but it looks liberating.

When life eventually returns to normal I can see a rooftop revolution coming – as developers realise the virtue of these spots. Semi-private rooftop terraces offer apartment dwellers a comfortable middle ground where they can come into contact with others but still feel the security of home. Of course many cities are well ahead of London in the use of these zones and hopefully it won’t be too long before places such as Paris, Milan and Madrid see some social interaction happening on their already well-loved rooftops.

Seeing small communities gathering in the confines of Milan’s many lush rooftop terraces this summer for example (before people are able to make their way back to more crowded, public piazzas) will be an encouraging sign. For now, while we’re trapped in our apartments, perhaps it’s a good time to start hatching plans to give your property manager some ideas for a rooftop revamp. I know I will be.

Defence / USA

Shot across the bows

You might have missed it given the blanket coverage of coronavirus but the US, in a bid to show that it still has an eye on the world, is ramping up its military presence in the Caribbean. The deployment of additional Navy destroyers is ostensibly an attempt to thwart drug cartels trying to take advantage of the world’s averted attention but the US clearly has one person in mind: Nicolás Maduro (pictured). Last week the Justice Department charged the Venezuelan leader with narco-terrorism and drug smuggling in the US, offering $15m (€13.8m) for information leading to his arrest. But there’s also a carrot: Donald Trump has offered to lift sanctions if Maduro and his rival Juan Guaidó (who claims to be Venezuela’s rightful leader) step aside to allow a power-sharing interim government to be formed. Trump might be betting that now is a good time to up the pressure as the Latin American nation begins to struggle with its own coronavirus outbreak.

Society / Japan

Network analysis

Line, the largest messaging app in Japan, found a smart and simple way to remotely take the temperature of the nation this week. Working with the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, it sent a simple questionnaire to its 83 million users around the country, asking them if they have any symptoms of a fever or cough and (if so) when they started showing these symptoms and whether they had travelled overseas in the past two weeks.

The anonymous survey also asks for its participants’ age, gender and postcode to narrow down demographic and geographic trends – both ongoing and potentially developing ones – in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus. As hospitals struggle to check in on the health of Japan’s population (127 million people), Line’s effort marks a great example of cooperation between the public and private sectors. There will be a second round of checks in early May.

Culture / New York

Sharing is caring

New York art dealer David Zwirner (pictured) opens the doors of his virtual gallery today to “Platform: New York”, an arts community initiative that will run for about a month. The scheme welcomes 12 small New York galleries into its online viewing rooms, where each of them will showcase two works for sale by one artist. The Zwirner Gallery won’t be charging the participating galleries or taking any form of commission as its intention is primarily to provide a lifeline for young galleries that are among the hardest hit by cash-flow problems and lack the online infrastructure that Zwirner can provide. You can expect more of these valuable initiatives to be announced over the coming weeks, including “Platform: London”, which is expected to launch in April. It’s testament to the fact that the arts industry relies on community, diversity and collaboration; without it, even the biggest players would be in trouble.

People / Spain

Farewell, friend

As Spain’s coronavirus casualties climb, the Monocle team was particularly saddened to hear news of the death this week of 36-year-old Barcelona-based food entrepreneur Miquel Àngel Vaquer (pictured) from virus-related complications. We first interviewed Vaquer almost a decade ago in a report for Monocle 24 on Spain’s growing vermut scene, in which he had a role as the chairman of his family’s winery, Casa Mariol, near Tarragona. Since then he has been a regular voice in the magazine – peppering us with insights on everything from branding to food culture and business – and he also spoke passionately at our Quality of Life Conference in Madrid last year. “[He was a] Spanish food visionary, who celebrated the simple things in life – even if that meant scoffing down a deep-fried snack once in a while,” says our Madrid correspondent Liam Aldous, who knew and collaborated with Vaquer. “The last project he was working on was a range of biscuits modelled after manhole covers but he hadn't decided on an appropriate and appetising name yet. He was always encouraging people to look at – and taste – things anew.” Vaquer’s vitality and energy will be missed.

M24 / Monocle on Design

Graphic design digest: Picturing Data

We discuss the art of data visualisation with Steven Heller, editor of ‘Raw Data’ from Thames & Hudson.

Monocle Films / Global

Mater: designed to last

Long before environmentalism became a popular concern, Henrik Marstrand created Mater, a Danish furniture company that prides itself on timeless pieces with sustainability at the core. Marstrand’s entrepreneurial spirit and faith in the circular economy is changing perceptions of good design.

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