Sunday 6 February 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 6/2/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

Setting the pace

Before you hit the city pavements this Sunday, take note of our shopping guide to Bangkok and a look at the new Ace Hotel Brooklyn – and where to eat nearby. We also hear what Milan gallerist Nina Yashar is reading and share a recipe for Brazilian pão de queijo, before a bakery entrepreneur’s thoughts on knowing when to quit. But first, some thoughts from our editorial director, Tyler Brûlé.


Tagging rights

A year and half ago, I decided to trade life in Zürich’s Seefeld district (home to our HQ, handsome apartments, sunny residents and a good sense of community) for a more village (dare I say suburban?) set-up a few kilometres down the lake. It took a little bit of adjusting but I’ve now found my rhythm and a journey of nine minutes in the car, 12 minutes on the train and tram, or 15 minutes by bike isn’t too disconnected from the “big” city. As rail stops go, there’s not much to get too excited about when you pull into my little station, aside from an unloved hut that screams “retail opportunity”. I’ve often thought that the vintage wooden structure, which serves little function aside from perhaps offering shelter from a blizzard, could make a very lovely Monocle kiosk for information and caffeine-starved commuters. I even went so far to ask SBB if it would permit an operator to take over the hut but was told that the station wasn’t deemed a priority for redevelopment at the time and pointed in the direction of other opportunities.

As I moved into the area at the height of the pandemic and most of my neighbours seem to work for banks or multinationals, which seem all too happy to have their staff working from home, I don’t know what a normal Tuesday morning at 7.30 looks and feels like. Most mornings I walk the four minutes from my front door to the train platform, greet my fellow commuters, pick up and bin some masks that have fallen out of pockets and board a usually punctual SBB S-Bahn train for the two-stop ride to my tram connection. A couple of Sundays ago, my routine was interrupted when I turned the corner onto the platform and was confronted by a station that had been attacked by a sprayer (or pack) representing Football Club Zürich (FCZ) and armed with paint markers, spray cans and stickers. Across a 300-metre area, almost every surface had been blighted with signature zigzag FCZ tags, the tunnel underneath the platforms sprayed with an incoherent blue mess, and various signs obscured by thick pen marks.

If you’re reading this in Switzerland or spend much time there, you’ll know that the country has a strange relationship with graffiti – some of it celebrated, most of it tolerated and few effective measures taken to stop it. In the absence of much in the way of violent crime or youthful mischief, I think lawmakers tolerate graffiti as it’s seen as generally harmless and the only people likely to get hurt are the little assholes who might fall in front of a train while covering a concrete wall near a main interchange. And concrete plays a big part in the nation’s spray culture as there’s no country that likes pouring gleaming stretches of concrete as part of its infrastructure and architecture as much as Switzerland. While one might argue that some graffiti is graphically and culturally interesting, mindless tagging and destruction of public and private property is rather different.

For a brief moment, my belief that I live in a functioning society returned and I was proud that the damage would not be allowed to linger.

While I waited for my train to arrive, I decided to document this attack on my defenceless little station and send it to the railway company. It’s important to point out “defenceless” as Switzerland also has a curious relationship with surveillance and this means that you’re just as unlikely ever to see video footage of an unwitting commuter being followed off a late-night train by their attacker as you are images of little thugs spraying a rail station in the wee hours of a Sunday morning. By the time I boarded the train, I’d found the security contact, uploaded my pictures and received an automated reply with a case number and a promise to be contacted. Within 30 minutes, I received a note offering me a number to call for faster service, the name of someone to speak to and another promise that the rail operator takes this matter seriously. Two days later, to my amazement, the station was spotless – signs replaced, glass scrubbed, surfaces blasted and cleaned.

For a brief moment, my belief that I live in a functioning society returned and I was proud that the damage would not be allowed to linger. On Tuesday it happened again, only this time the sprayers wanted to inflict more damage: defacing ticket machines, profanity mixed with their FCZ tags and a message that they wouldn’t relent. By Wednesday morning, to my total amazement, the station was back to its old self with new panels placed on the ticket machines and even the chain-link fence scrubbed clean. How? And at what cost to SBB and ultimately to the taxpayer? I fully applaud the strategy to fight property damage with swift repairs but when I look around Zürich, with all its property-defacing football club tags, I’d like to ask: what contribution do the clubs make to clean-up operations or to educating the little assholes who do nothing for their teams or brand Zürich?

New opening / Rosewood Villa Magna, Madrid

Warm welcome

After a 15-month refurbishment, the Rosewood Hotel Group has restored an air of historic opulence to the former Palacio de Anglada (writes Liam Aldous). Doing away with its old-hat elitism and airtight exclusivity, the newly opened Rosewood Villa Magna has flung open the freshly polished doors with flair. Behind the front desk is a tapestry by Jacky Puzey, which references Spanish motifs and icons, while also taking inspiration from tailoring giants such as Balenciaga and Oteyza.

Image: Ben Roberts
Image: Ben Roberts

Australian design firm BAR Studio, which recently opened an office in the Spanish capital, has cultivated a feeling of intimacy in the shared spaces, as well as in the hotel’s 154 rooms. The boldest break from the past is visible in the building’s façade, which was masterfully designed by Spanish architect Ramón de Arana. A corrugated veneer of repurposed brass cubes and aluminium grooves, it creates a sensation of movement, volume and contrast through the interplay between light and shadow. It’s a fitting motif for a city whose energy has always been generated by a sort of revolving door separating the old and new.

Top of the shops / Bangkok

Going with the flow

Life in Bangkok gravitates towards the banks of the Chao Phraya river so, for our retail safari, we start our trip at Iconsiam, one of the Thai capital’s newest mega-malls (writes James Chambers). Head to The Selected on the second floor for a cross-section of budding Thai brands, as well as goodies from abroad, including Timo Trunks. But it’s not all about malls: architect Duangrit Bunnag’s The Jam Factory compound nextdoor houses a garden to enjoy before browsing the shelves at Candide Books.

Then take a river taxi to the east bank to visit one of Bunnag’s newer projects, Warehouse 30. Here 30_6 has something for everyone, including Praat scents and leather sandals by Rawit. Pop into nearby ATT 19 for southeast-Asian ceramics and art. Those seeking something a little different should head to Charoen Krung Road and Central: The Original Store. A modern riff on Central Group’s original site in Chinatown that started selling imported magazines 70 years ago, it now stocks clothing, books, music and more.

Image: Ketsiree Wongwan
Image: Ketsiree Wongwan

Treat yourself to an iced coffee at Siwilai Café on the first floor and take the BTS to Centralworld. Pick up a notebook from Thai brand Zequenz at stationer Studio360 on the fifth floor – it will make a good gift for the writers and diarists in your life. Finally take a taxi to Sathorn. Thailand is celebrated for its furniture and Podium Home Center’s showroom has a new line on display called Neorient, designed by Bangkok studio Atelier 2+. Investing in a cane stool from its eye-catching previous collaboration is a cracking way to round off a trip, then take a load off.

Sunday Roast / Nina Yashar

On display

Gallerist Nina Yashar has earned a reputation as one of Italy’s top design dealers. Known for combining mid-century masterpieces with contemporary creations, her Nilufar gallery is a mainstay of Milan’s buzzing design scene. Here, she tells us about her favourite Italian newspapers, her love for Carlos Santana and a penchant for Japanese whisky.

Image: Mattia Iotti

Where do we find you this weekend?
I will be in Milan, where I live. I like travelling but lately, I’ve found it very comforting and relaxing to be at home.

Soundtrack of choice?
I have a passion for Carlos Santana. His music puts me in a good mood and I love that it has so much energy.

News or not?
Always. I like to read daily Italian newspapers such as Corriere Della Sera and La Repubblica. That said, the weekend is also a time to catch up on design news while I drink my coffee.

Some exercise to get the blood pumping?
Pilates. It’s good for the body and the mind.

Lunch in or out?
I prefer cooking and staying in. Usually, I’ll walk around my neighbourhood and buy local products from my favourite shop, Terroir.

Larder essentials you can’t do without?
Dill is my favourite.

Sunday culture must?
Books, because they can take you to new places. At the moment, I’m reading a Lina Bo Bardi biography. Someone gave it to me as a gift recently and I like it a lot.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
Japanese whisky. The one I really recommend is Nikka.

Ideal dinner venue?
My home.

What’s on the menu?
Rice noodles with vegetables.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
A nice face mask by Biologique Recherche, a brand I recently discovered thanks to a friend.

What will you be wearing on Monday?
I usually don’t plan my outfits as it largely depends on how I feel on the day. For now, let’s enjoy the weekend.

Recipe / Ralph Schelling

Pão de queijo

This week Swiss chef Ralph Schelling rustles up a Brazilian favourite in the form of fluffy light pão de queijo (cheese bread). Originating in the state of Minas Gerais, these rich buns are a super snack, best served straight from the oven. Enjoy.

Illustration: Xihanation

Makes 25 buns

180ml milk
3 tbsps sunflower oil
1 tsp salt
250g tapioca starch
250g parmesan, grated
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 180C.

Bring milk, oil and salt to the boil in a medium pan. Remove from heat and add tapioca. Mix quickly with a ladle to form a firm dough.

Let mixture cool slightly (about 3 minutes), then add the grated parmesan and egg, and mix well in the pan.

Spoon out 25 walnut-sized balls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake the balls for about 20 minutes until light brown and slightly puffed, and serve lukewarm.

Weekend plans? / Ace Hotel Brooklyn, New York

Block party

In a brutalist building with black-framed, factory-style windows, the Ace Hotel Group’s newest outpost slots seamlessly into downtown Brooklyn (writes Mary Holland). At its entrance is an alcove adorned with a ceramic mural and a dangling light fixture inspired by those of the Okura Tokyo hotel. The lobby is all warm lighting, plywood panels and sculptural beams, while in the lounge, guests sit chatting in leather seats near a retro bar.

Ace Hotel had long planned to expand into Brooklyn. “We’ve seen the borough renew itself several times since we started working on Ace Brooklyn,” says Brad Wilson, the brand’s president. “That’s part of what made it so attractive. Its conversation is constantly evolving.” While most chains would have chosen the ever-hip Williamsburg, Ace decided to base the hotel on the edge of suburban Boerum Hill. “It’s a conduit to almost everywhere in the city,” says Wilson. Indeed, it’s close to some of the borough’s buzziest neighbourhoods, such as Fort Greene and Cobble Hill, while Manhattan is a short train ride away.

Image: Max Burkhalter
Image: Max Burkhalter

For the exteriors and interiors, Ace tapped New York-based practice Roman and Williams, which incorporated design elements influenced by the area’s shipyards. The 287 guest rooms are simple, spartan and compact; think plywood beds, muscular rocking chairs and earthy, green flooring. In some rooms, floor-to-ceiling windows look out towards Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.

Brooklyn address book

This northern-Italian restaurant is a neighbourhood institution.

Gage & Tollner
A steakhouse in a gilded hall.

Mile End Delicatessen
Classic bagels and reubens on pumpernickel bread.

Grand Army
A great spot for craft cocktails and the neighbourhood’s go-to for oysters.

The Primary Essentials
A sleek space that offers a covetable range of home goods.

Book club / ‘Building Utopia: The Barbican Centre’

Concrete vision

Even the most loyal admirers of the Barbican may turn grey and stony when they see yet another book dedicated to the polarising pebble-dash edifice in the City of London (writes Thomas Reynolds). But while we are aware of the tower of books focusing on its unique architecture, Building Utopia: The Barbican Centre provides a look into the construction, the ambitions and, more importantly, the artistic programming that kept the building contemporary for more than just a fraternity of architecture nerds.

Released this March to chime with the 40th anniversary of the Barbican Arts Centre, the book includes a foreword by Irish actress Fiona Shaw and essays on visual art by creative director Tony Chambers, film by author Sukhdev Sandhu and theatre by critic Lyn Gardner. The institution’s managing director Nicholas Kenyon sets the tone with the statement that any humane vision of the future must have the arts at its heart. The core of the famous structure houses an art gallery, theatres, concert halls and cinema screens, making it the largest multi-arts centre in Europe. After much fawning adoration of the Barbican, this edition offers a thoughtful take on the radical vision that its architects laid out for culture and the arts.

Parting shot / ‘The Entrepreneurs’

Fresh start

To celebrate the ‘The Monocle Book of Entrepreneurs’, which is out now, we’ve selected a smattering of inspiring advice, ideas and bright business folk to spotlight. This week, entrepreneur Ruth Barry tells us about how the failure of her Berlin bakery business gave her the inspiration to get going and try again.

“In 2021 I closed my Black Isle Bakery in Berlin. I remember how I felt starting out in 2012: I’d found purpose after years of feeling inadequate and it awoke an unyielding determination in me. I was ready for hard work but later on I felt trapped in what I’d created, turned loose from everything that I loved about baking. Something needed to change. I asked myself what I was prepared to accept in order to be free from it all. I was ready to accept insolvency. I hadn’t paid myself for almost a year; I had little left to lose. I realised that the spirit of the bakery lay in me. Even if my shop closed, I would find another way to continue to share what I do. There was a time when I thought that the world would stop turning if I lost my business. I never imagined the sense of relief that would come in the end. I now know what matters to me and I’m using that to map out new ideas. I believe that knowledge is for sharing, so I’ve started writing a recipe book and will soon set up a digital channel where I’ll publish tutorials, recipes and other meanderings. I’m closing the door on this chapter but I’ll let my curiosity inspire me and my experience guide me as I write the first lines of a new beginning.”

For more inspiring start-ups, tips, advice and provocations about making your passion your vocation, pick up a copy of ‘The Monocle Book of Entrepreneurs’. Have a super Sunday.


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