Monday 17 April 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 17/4/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Andrea Pugiotto

Opinion / Ed Stocker

Appetite for design

There are standing dinners, sitting dinners and dinners in designers’ homes. There are virtual-reality experiences and every conceivable gallery and studio cocktail event. The bandwagon that is Milan’s Salone del Mobile furniture fair starts tomorrow and runs until Sunday. Judging by the number of emails that have landed in our editors’ inboxes – and the hundreds of thousands of visitors, designers and journalists expected to descend on the city – this year’s fair will be bigger and better than ever.

Navigating Milan during the week of Salone can be overwhelming, even for those who live here. Beyond the ticketed trade-fair element (or “Fiera”) northwest of the city, there are myriad other events (known collectively as “Fuorisalone”) across the city. Top names in Italian design (from Flexform to Poltrona Frau and Dedar), international big hitters and smaller brands seeking to make an impression will host events, product launches, experiences and talks. (Monocle Radio has a pop-up at House of Switzerland in Casa degli Artisti and talks with V-Zug.) And it’s not strictly about industrial design: companies such as Google and fragrance brand Byredo are part of the proceedings this year.

Milan is undergoing enormous changes and its property boom has nudged two of this year’s most interesting events to places that are awaiting redevelopment. The first is the Alcova space, staged annually in disused buildings, which focuses on independent and emerging designers. Last year’s Alcova (pictured) was in a military hospital; this time it’s in Porta Vittoria’s former macello (abattoir).

The second is the design and architecture space Drop City, which will open properly next year. In a series of vaulted warehouses near Milano Centrale train station, it will host two lectures a day throughout the week, with the aim of pairing international designers with new Italian talent. Whether you’re planning your itinerary or keen to get the best from afar, pick up a copy of our dedicated Salone del Mobile Special newspaper, which is out now, for a full rundown. The only thing that I’m worried about is my waistline after all those dinners.

Ed Stocker is Monocle’s Europe editor at large. Tune in to Monocle Radio all this week for Salone del Mobile coverage – and don’t miss our dedicated Salone newspaper, on select newsstands from today.

Image: Tony Hay

House News / ‘Spain’ book launch, New York

Monocle in Manhattan

Want to meet the Monocle team and buy a copy of our latest book? Our chairman, Tyler Brûlé, editor in chief, Andrew Tuck, and members of the team are in New York next week to celebrate the release of Spain: The Monocle Handbook. Join us at the new McNally Jackson bookshop at the Rockefeller Center on 26 April for a chance to pick up our latest release, meet the team and raise a copa di vino. Hasta pronto!

RSVP essential. Please contact Hannah Grundy at if you would like to attend. Click here for more information.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / USA

Loyalty test

In a pivotal moment in US politics, the Senate returns after recess today for a vote that will reveal just how much support Donald Trump has within the Republican party. A resolution introduced by the Democratic Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer (pictured), will ask members to denounce Trump’s call to supporters on his Truth Social platform to “defund” the FBI and Department of Justice (DoJ). The Democrat sent a letter to colleagues last week informing them of his move. “The former president and his allies in Congress must not subjugate justice and public safety because of their own personal grievances,” wrote Schumer. Trump’s outburst came as he pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan courtroom to 34 counts of falsifying business records, despite the fact that neither the FBI nor the DoJ has any involvement in the case against him. The number of Republican senators who vote against the resolution will give an indication of how many Trump loyalists there are within the GOP ahead of the 2024 elections.

Image: MGM

Gambling / Japan

High stakes

Japan is preparing to roll the dice as it approves plans to build its first casino on a reclaimed island in Osaka Bay (pictured as a render). Casinos have long been banned in the country but its parliament paved the way for the development in 2016 when it passed legislation to allow the construction of “integrated resorts” where people can play card games, such as poker and baccarat.

Japan’s population is divided on the matter. Opponents argue that the introduction of casinos will exacerbate the country’s gambling problem, which affects about 2.8 million people, according to a 2021 government survey. But the casino’s operator, MGM Resorts International, and its local partner, Orix Corp, have put their money where their mouth is: they are expected to build Osaka’s $13.5bn (€12.29bn) complex by 2029, complete with a casino, hotels, shopping malls and a helicopter pad. The decision is a win for casino operators, which have long had their eye on the Japanese market, but it’s a gamble in the court of public opinion.

Image: Shutterstock


Watchful eyes

El Faro, one of El Salvador’s most widely read publications, announced last week that it will relocate to Costa Rica. Since its founding in 1998, the digital newspaper has built a reputation for its long-form investigative pieces and in-depth political analysis. However, its editors claim that, since Nayib Bukele (pictured) became president in 2019, government threats, cyber attacks and increased surveillance have significantly affected their ability to work freely.

A recent report by The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto showed that 35 Salvadoran journalists and civil-society figures, most of whom worked for El Faro, had suffered more than 250 cyber attacks between 2020 and 2021. Other journalists in the region, in countries such as Nicaragua, Mexico and Guatemala, continue to grapple with a media environment that Reporters Without Borders has described as “increasingly toxic”. A solution remains out of reach. “The global human-rights community has proven itself to be fairly powerless,” Christopher Sabatini, senior research fellow for Latin America at Chatham House, tells The Monocle Minute. “People are just bravely documenting the cases.”

Image: Getty Images


Trash talk

Rome has a rubbish problem. In an effort to tackle the uncollected waste piling up in the streets, the city has struck a deal with authorities in Amsterdam to send it on to the Netherlands by rail. Rome will begin by sending 900 tonnes of it a week, priced at €200 per tonne.

Not everyone is convinced. Swiss politicians have objected to the idea of rubbish-loaded trains using their country’s publicly funded AlpTransit, a rail network that moves goods through the Alps using a series of tunnels. Bruno Storni, a member of Switzerland’s National Council, derided the plan to send Rome’s waste to Amsterdam via the Rhine-Alpine Corridor as absurd, saying that it would increase freight traffic and place a significant burden on the network. Meanwhile, some Dutch politicians have argued that fumes produced by the incinerators would affect nearby farmers. It is not yet clear how long the collaboration will last but Rome is already working on the construction of a new incinerator, expected to be operational by 2026. The upside is that the energy produced from burning waste will be used to power homes in Amsterdam.

Image: Alamy

Monocle Radio / Monocle on Design

Chatsworth House and Toronto

We visit a stately home in northern England for an exhibition marrying historic architecture with contemporary artworks. Plus: the signs that define Canada’s biggest city and a conversation with the show and set designer bringing lyrics to life onstage for Alicia Keys and hip-hop artist Loyle Carner.

Monocle Films / Greece

Athens: urban inspiration

Athenians have a knack for injecting pockets of greenery and a sense of innovation into their ancient city. Their urban interventions are aimed at cooling down this dense metropolis and safeguarding its sacred sights as much as the neighbourhood life. We climb its seven hills to get a fresh perspective on the city’s charms.


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