Wednesday 22 June 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 22/6/2022

The Monocle Minute

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Opinion / Ed Stocker

Wasting away

I lived in New York for six years until the summer of 2020. The time passed in a flash and I was seduced by its pace of life and the naked ambition of its inhabitants. Personal circumstances caused me to pack up and leave the city I loved in 36 hours, heading first to the UK and then to Italy. So when I recently returned to the Big Apple last week for the first time in two years, I wondered what I’d make of a city that I had put on a pedestal since leaving during the height of a pandemic.

Beyond the joy of being reunited with friends and a still-present flutter of excitement at seeing the Manhattan skyline slide into view, there was something else. New Yorkers, normally such proud defenders of their city, were complaining about it. Rubbish, including food waste, was strewn across streets (Eric Adams, the city’s mayor, has only recently pledged to bring the collection budget back to pre-pandemic levels); much media hype has been made about the city losing its battle against rats as a result. And already high rent prices were out of control as owners of F&B spots and apartment buildings look to recover lost revenue. New York’s median rental price, up more than 25 per cent on 2021, recently topped the $4,000 (€3,790) mark for the first time.

Maybe these are just temporary issues; people argue that the high prices will have to level out. Yet the idea that New York would undergo some sort of magical cultural revival as a result of the pandemic – one in which creatives could once again live there and flourish, instead of having to work two jobs – seems like a lofty dream. To say that Mayor Adams has plenty on his plate would be an understatement; more affordable housing and better price controls would be a good start.

Ed Stocker is Monocle’s Europe editor at large.

Design / Geneva

Shedding light

Behind every great city is a canny city government. And behind every city government should be a smartly designed city hall that reflects the ambitions of the metropolis and its people. It’s with this outlook in mind that the canton of Geneva commissioned architecture studio Bonhôte Zapata to renovate its main civic building. “We want it to be a place where people will feel at home, because the idea is that this is a house for everyone,” Julia Zapata, head of the project, tells Monocle in our July/August issue. Key design moves saw the architects refit the council chamber with a multifaceted, oak-slatted structure that reaches up towards a skylight on the roof. The result is an environment that, thanks to the abundance of natural light that fills the room and the warmth of the oak, feels incredibly welcoming and set up for dialogue and diplomacy – something we hope that the politicians sitting here will respond to with enthusiasm.

For more on our tour of Geneva’s new city hall, plus plenty of lessons on what makes cities tick, pick up a copy of the July/August edition of Monocle magazine from newsstands now or subscribe today.

Image: Getty Images

F&B / Thailand

New brews

A number of high-profile social reforms currently on the cards in Thailand includes draft legislation proposed this month to finally legalise same-sex marriage – but one suggestion has received less coverage. Beer drinkers might soon be able to toast the passage of a bill that would reform the country’s archaic brewing laws and facilitate the type of craft-beer industry seen in other parts of the world.

Two household names, Singha and Chang, currently dominate the brewing industry but the Progressive Liquor Bill that’s making its way through the national parliament would make it easier for small companies to enter the market by lowering the volume of beer that needs to be brewed every year from its current minimum of 100,000 litres. The bill is sponsored by Move Forward, an opposition party that’s also behind the same-sex marriage campaign. The success of both long-overdue reforms would be historic for Thailand – and something that we can all raise a cold glass to.

Image: Alamy

Climate / Global

Come rain or shine

Scientists and meteorologists have been busy documenting our changing climate over the past few years – and predicting that more adverse weather is to come. One global group calling itself the World Weather Network now hopes to use creative storytelling to showcase the changes as they happen. Starting this week an alliance of artists and writers from around the world will share “weather reports” from locations ranging from the Himalayas to farmlands in Nigeria to Newfoundland’s “iceberg alley” and lighthouses on the coast of Peru. Creatives connected to weather stations in 28 countries will record observations, stories, images and imaginings to reflect the changes they’re seeing.

While the style of these dispatches and programmes will vary wildly, they’re united by vulnerability to the world’s warming. A corresponding events programme will bring in climate scientists and environmentalists to engage with communities over the coming year. Despite the gathering clouds, it’s an imaginative new way of humanising the climate crisis – and telling its all-important story.

Image: Getty Images

Urbanism / Malmö

Trash talk

Do you like dirty talk? One Swedish coastal city is hoping that the answer is yes: Malmö is trying to fight littering by installing smart rubbish bins that get a little bit excited when trash is deposited into them. With both female and male voices available, proper disposal of your trash will be greeted with messages such as, “Hmmm yeah,” “Ohh just to the left” and, “That was crazy good”.

The idea is part of a new clean-up campaign by city hall. After purchasing 18 of the chatty bins a few years ago, the next step was finding the right kind of humour to get the point across. So far only two have been given a sexy voice – the female one is that of Swedish rapper Joy – but there are more to come. It’s time to get sassy and bin that trash.

Image: Getty Images

Monocle 24 / The Urbanist

Tall Stories: Ørestad, Copenhagen

Christian Green visits a new town development in Copenhagen that is struggling to find a personality of its own and a sense of place for its residents.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: July/August issue

See if your city made the cut for our annual Quality of Life survey in Monocle's July/August issue, where we crunched the numbers and hit the streets to rank the world's most liveable cities. Elsewhere explore the business of language learning, brush up on the brands to help you stay sharp and see what songs should be on your summer soundtrack. Grab a copy today from The Monocle Shop.


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