Tuesday 27 June 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 27/6/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

OPINION / Nic Monisse

Business and pleasure

The Square Mile, London’s main financial district, could soon become a cultural hot spot. Last week, Shravan Joshi, chair of the City of London’s planning and transportation committee, announced a new “retrofit fast-track” planning approach for projects seeking to convert an office building into a hotel or cultural venue.

The announcement followed the publication of new research commissioned by the City of London Corporation and carried out by property consultants Arup and Knight Frank; it showed that while demand for office buildings with good environmental credentials is expected to rise over the next decade, those with poor ratings will struggle to attract tenants. Joshi is hoping that institutions such as museums and hotels, which don’t require the same energy-efficiency standards as offices, will take over vacant buildings. That would bring more buzz to the district’s streets but, with London amid a housing crisis, some will be wondering why Joshi isn’t pushing for residential conversions too.

The answer is that converting high-rise offices into homes would be far more challenging. Many of the buildings in question were designed to pack workers in; as a result, their interiors often lack good access to windows and natural light, and don’t meet the plumbing requirements of a residential property. As places to live, these spaces simply wouldn’t be up to scratch.

While some might be disappointed that new housing won’t be prioritised, perhaps that isn’t such a bad thing. Not every neighbourhood has to be mixed-use, combining offices with cultural and residential spaces. There’s a beauty to the focus of the Square Mile on business – one that will be enhanced by a cultural offering ensuring that its old buildings won’t remain lifeless.

Nic Monisse is Monocle’s design editor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Greece

Second chance

Greece’s centre-right New Democracy party, led by the incumbent prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis (pictured, on left), won Sunday’s second round of parliamentary elections by a landslide, claiming 40.5 per cent of the vote. As Mitsotakis was sworn in for a new four-year term on Monday, it was clear that his gamble to hold a second round of elections to secure his mandate had paid off. His main opposition, the left-wing Syriza party, won little more than 17 per cent of the vote.

In his victory speech, Mitsotakis promised that Greece would be transformed and that “major reforms” were under way. During his campaign he pledged to overhaul the country’s public administration, education, health and judicial sectors, and turn around its economy, which has yet to recover from a severe debt crisis. These were goals that, he claimed, he could not achieve during his first term as a result of unforeseen factors such as the pandemic. Now, with a firmer grip on parliament, he will have no excuse not to deliver.

Image: Getty Images


Wellington boost

New Zealand’s prime minister, Chris Hipkins (pictured), will meet China’s leader, Xi Jinping, and premier, Li Qiang, in Beijing today for discussions on expanding trade between the two countries. Hipkins’ entourage comprises trade and tourism ministers, as well as top executives from some of the Australasian nation’s largest companies, including Air New Zealand, gaming app developer Pikpok and fitness brand Les Mills International.

While these companies are all hoping to expand operations into the Chinese market, New Zealand is mindful of being heavily reliant on Chinese supply chains – and its position as a Western ally has forced Hipkins to tread a fine line. Since 2013, China has surpassed Australia as New Zealand’s largest export market for dairy products, logs and building materials. Hipkins’ decision to diversify his country’s offerings might result in a more stable economic pact.

Image: Alamy


Hitting the streets

Japan is changing its rules on electric scooters. The mode of transport arrived relatively late to the country, only being widely adopted in 2021. From July, riders will have to be aged 16 or over but will no longer require a driver’s licence. The maximum speed limit will also be raised from 15km/h to 20km/h.

One of the most visible rental operators in Tokyo is Luup, an app-based service offering mini e-bikes and e-scooters. Its ports occupy tiny patches of dead space around the city. There are currently about 3,000 ports nationwide and the company hopes to increase that number to 10,000 by 2025. Vehicle-rental operators are happy with the new regulations but there is concern that a proliferation of e-scooters could lead to collisions. Luup suspends the accounts of anyone caught drinking and scooting but considerate riding will be essential in the densely packed Japanese capital.

Image: Ferment


Good enough to eat

Ferment Kiosk in the leafy second district of Vienna – the city that claimed first place in Monocle’s Quality of Life Survey this year – is a magazine shop dedicated to independent food publications. Owned by Daniela Wiebogen, who also runs a boutique communications agency for artisan food producers, the shop offers a selection of more than 30 titles from around the world, including Eaten, a periodical dedicated to culinary history, Farta, which explores Portuguese cuisine, and Cherry Bombe, which celebrates successful women across the industry.

“The idea was born of my deep passion for print culture two years ago,” Wiebogen tells The Monocle Minute. “I started collecting food magazines while travelling across Europe. I was always a bit sad that there wasn’t a place that brought them all together in Vienna. These food titles delve into culinary subjects with remarkable depth. And they can also transport readers into new cultures from the comfort of their homes.”

To hear more about Vienna’s first kiosk dedicated to independent food publications, tune in to the latest episode of ‘The Stack’ on Monocle Radio.

Monocle Radio / The Menu

Sicilia en Primeur

We raise a glass at the Sicilia en Primeur wine fair in Taormina, visit Japanese outdoor brand Snow Peak’s flagship shop, which showcases the company’s culinary focus, and leaf through a new book on vegetarian cooking from Japan.

Monocle Films / Culture

Why Greeks live longer

Nestled in the heart of the Aegean, the island of Ikaria used to be a secluded spot with a humble and unhurried way of life. Today, a third of the island’s population lives to be more than 90 years old. We venture to the local kafeneios, wild beaches and abundant allotments to meet the bronzed seniors.


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