Tuesday. 17/1/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Carlota Rebelo

Foreign exchange

“There’s a cosiness about the snow that you can’t really replicate elsewhere,” one of the attendees of the World Economic Forum (WEF) told Monocle as our team arrived in Davos yesterday as the first flakes in weeks began to fall. This year’s WEF, its first in-person winter annual meeting since the pandemic began, is all about bringing people together to discuss – and hopefully attempt to solve – the big political, economic and environmental issues facing the world.

But it’s not just Davos’s roads that need to be taken with a pinch of salt. The theme of this year’s WEF is “Co-operation in a Fragmented World”. As ever with this sometimes lampooned event, it’s vital that the worthy words spoken inside the Congress Centre turn into action in the real world. “Being here is not like being in any other country,” Alexandre Edelmann, head of Présence Suisse, the body responsible for the country’s public diplomacy, told The Monocle Minute. “Attendees trust Switzerland to provide a platform that allows for discussions with not always like-minded countries.”

As flashy motorcades drive up the Swiss Alps with foreign delegates, the lack of deep snow should be a clear call to action. Climate change remains the defining issue of our times and if those with the resources to actually do something about it can’t be convinced, it’s difficult to imagine what else could do the trick. If Davos ever loses its snowy cosiness, it will surely be too late.

Carlota Rebelo is Monocle 24’s senior producer-presenter. Listen to Monocle 24 throughout the week for our coverage and live programmes broadcasting from the WEF.

Image: Getty Images

Transport / Japan

Driving change

When we talk about Japan and ageing, we’re usually referring to its population. But that’s not the only thing in the country that’s looking increasingly elderly: take, for example, its expressway infrastructure, much of it the product of the postwar building boom. Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism estimates that 63 per cent of its bridges and 42 per cent of its tunnels will need repairing within a decade. In 2005 the government decreed that expressways would charge a toll until 2050 (a seven-day pass costs about €145), after which they would become free. Now, however, to ensure that there are enough funds to pay for the mounting repair bill, the government plans to extend the deadline to 2115. A revision to the road construction law will be submitted in parliament next week. Japan’s government says that its plan is the only way to ensure that crucial infrastructure remains fit for purpose. Toll payers have a long road ahead.

Image: Reuters

Culture / Turkey

Speaking truth to power

Turkish podcast Kisa Dalga is bringing independent news to a country where censorship is rife. Broadcasting investigations and interviews with blacklisted opposition figures to about 40,000 listeners per week, the podcast (whose name means “short-wave” in Turkish) has become a bastion of free speech in a country where hundreds of journalists have been jailed over the past decade. “Controlling podcasts is more difficult,” editor in chief Kemal Goktas tells Monocle.

For the most part, it’s harder for censors to scan audio compared to text and the financial might of Spotify and Apple means that the Turkish government struggles to remove content on the platforms. Goktas and his co-workers say that this enables them to reach the right audience. Interestingly, his listeners also tend to be young – a key demographic in June’s crucial general election. “When we started, our primary aim was not to reach a wide audience but the right audience,” adds Fatih Aker, co-host of Odadaki Fil (Elephant in the Room).

To read more about this story, pick up a copy of Monocle’s February issue, which is out on Thursday.

Aviation / Zürich

Flight attendants

Yesterday marked the start of one of Zürich Airport’s busiest weeks of the year in terms of air movement, as more than 2,700 politicians, executives, bankers and academics began to descend on the World Economic Forum. The annual meeting takes place in the town of Davos in the Swiss Alps but Zürich is the nearest hub for international arrivals.

Image: Marvin Zilm
Image: Marvin Zilm

The airport has prepared for 1,000 additional flights over the coming days and, to the delight of plane spotters, it has also extended the opening hours of Observation Deck B from 10.00 till 17.00 to 08.00 till 20.00. “Arrivals of private jets tend to be secretive and hard to spot on flight maps; that’s why we are here,” plane spotter Mathias Scheidegger tells The Monocle Minute. “There are also many foreign plane spotters here because you can get great pictures and are allowed to listen to the tower’s radio messages.” After landing, most delegates make their way by helicopter to the mountains, which is pleasing for those more interested in whirlybirds.

Image: Alamy

Fashion / Milan

Sharpening focus

The biggest conversations at Milan’s menswear fashion week, which wrapped up yesterday, revolved around the changing of the guard at Gucci. The Italian luxury fashion house returned to the event with its first stand-alone men’s collection in three years (pictured) – this time without its former creative director Alessandro Michele, who left the company in November. Gucci has since been trying to establish a new identity, going for a more classic repertoire while also introducing an eclectic range of references, from rock’n’roll to vintage sportswear.

The week’s most noteworthy moments came from those who delivered consistency and a quiet confidence, including Silvia Venturini at Fendi with an elegant line-up of floor-length coats, capes and feather-light knits in every shade of grey. At Prada the focus was on slim tailoring and staying grounded. “The most honest thing that we can do is create something useful for people to face reality in,” head designer Miuccia Prada declared backstage.

Image: Benjamin McMahon

Monocle 24 / The Menu

Recipe edition: Luke Farrell

Chef Luke Farrell shares an easy stir-fry recipe from his Thai-inspired, London-based restaurants.

Monocle Films / Vienna

Design tours: The best public housing?

The world is urbanising fast. But how do you accommodate people in cities in a way that offers dignity, affordability and a sense of community? Vienna may have a solution. Explore the enduring legacy of the city’s Gemeindebau apartment blocks in the latest episode of our Design Tours series.

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