Hop onboard as we whisk you away to a hotel and restaurant in a forest fit for a fairy tale in Germany and rustle up a comforting ode to Japanese convenience stores in this week’s recipe. Plus: a celebration of fresh craft and retail in sizzling Bangkok, a slice of a Perpignan restaurant and the luxury train-travel market gets back on track. First up, today’s conductor Tyler Brûlé. Boop boop.
If you devoured Monocle’s July/August issue during your summer break, you might have caught the spread about the new fire station that was recently unveiled in my village. It’s a handsome timber affair with superb branding (a confident, blocky set of letters spell Feuerwehr out front) and probably has way more firefighting appliances than required by such a small community but such is the one-upmanship between communities across Europe’s alpine region. The same can be said for the public schools in Küsnacht and the surrounding villages. With many looking like they were commissioned with the sole purpose of winning an international architecture and urbanism competition, visitors often ask if one of the structures that backs onto a community vineyard wasn’t originally a private bank that has been repurposed for high-school students. When I show them other schools in the area it’s soon apparent that public education functions with a different set of budgets, so much so that there is now a small discussion occurring (to be clear, not a shrill outcry) to see if schools might possibly be constructed for slightly less than CHF4m (€4.2m) per classroom. I say small discussion because 80 per cent of voters in Zürich have recently approved the CHF231m (€242.9m) budget for a new school in the Schwamendingen district that will educate and hopefully inspire 1,000 students. Consider that this does not include soft furnishings and other essentials. The very simple math will tell you that this will be a rather luxurious institution on a per-pupil basis. I often drive by Swiss schools and marvel at the quality of the campuses: the landscaping, the detailed architecture, the joinery in the corridors and the sports facilities. At the school next door to my apartment I also observe the quality of vehicles that teachers pull up in. There’s not a banger in sight. With some teachers in the public sector earning north of CHF110,000 a year (€115,000), you can see why. Teaching isn’t a bad gig in Switzerland as it tops many European rankings for public-school salaries. While there is an ongoing discussion about staff shortages and quality of education, the Swiss might be reminded to look across their borders and beyond to see what an educational crisis actually looks like.
At the same time, governments elsewhere might want to look at the Swiss model when it comes to constructing public institutions of enduring quality and paying teachers proper salaries. The system is often accused of being brutal in its segmentation of higher and lower achievers and for the lack of focus placed on the creative arts. You’d be correct in making another calculation linking the number of globally recognised Swiss architects versus pop stars or actresses. Indeed, there’s unlikely to be a blockbuster film or documentary any time soon about the Swiss version of a Fame-style academy. Nevertheless, there’s considerable value placed on turning out engaged citizens, integrating immigrants and ensuring there’s a high degree of social capital. Exercises in daily common sense (imagine!) are also part of the curriculum that sees primary school students walk or take public transport to school solo rather than being shuttled or chaperoned.
On Friday, Dominique Bernard, a teacher at a high school in Arras, France, was brutally stabbed to death while trying to protect his students and colleagues. He was killed by a radicalised, Russian-born Chechen who was under surveillance, not integrated and living outside of French society. France’s education minister, Gabriel Attal, has called for a host of new measures to protect pupils and faculty while the country enters its highest state of counter-terrorism alert. Nearly three years on since teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded by an 18-year-old of similar background, governments, and not just France’s, might want to look at how they improve the conditions and status of those on the real front line – teachers in the service of the public. Pay is a good place to start to attract top talent but commitment to the realm of better education is also at the core: buildings that inspire pride, rules that are both embraced and enforced, and codes that create cohesion rather than a free-for-all. The Swiss might have a few cues for ministers elsewhere to embrace.
The people of Perpignan flock to Baston for sourdough pizzas and natural wine but to dub this bustling space a “pizzeria” would be a bit of a misnomer. “What I’m interested in is the fermentation process of what we eat and drink,” says founder Bastien Beaudouin.
“Wine and sourdough are a perfect match in this regard.” Diners can wash down the fare with a glass of something delicious from the more than 900-strong list of biodynamic bottles. All produce is sourced from local growers, while the wine leans French but also takes in a selection from Austria, Italy and Spain. Santé.
Chanintr Craft in Bangkok is not just a multi-brand furniture showroom selling Wishbone chairs from Carl Hansen & Søn and wooden tables by Conde House; nor, for that matter, is it merely a pleasant, hidden-away café at the north end of Thong Lo, a residential area popular with expats. This purpose-built temple of calm in the chaotic Thai capital is the culmination of more than 25 years of industry experience and commitment to beautiful design by founder Chanintr Sirisant (pictured, on left). “People tend to think that doing a showroom is as simple as throwing some furniture into a white box,” Sirisant tells Monocle while sitting at a Karimoku Case Study dining table on the top floor of Chanintr Craft.
Sirisant has been importing furniture to Thailand since the mid-1990s. He currently has multiple showrooms across Bangkok and acts as an exclusive agent for the likes of Minotti, Liaigre and Bulthaup through his main company, Chanintr, which employs some 250 staff. Chanintr Craft, however, is his first standalone space, which he has built from the ground up. The result is a pair of interlinked, four-storey buildings that wrap around an inner courtyard. Initially intended to be a renovation, the project morphed into a $5m (€4.6m) new build.
Customers enter Chanintr Craft through a covered, ground-floor car park. This multipurpose shelter from Bangkok’s intense sun and rain provides a glimpse of the internal sunlit courtyard and the café beyond. “Furniture showrooms can be very quiet and still,” says Sirisant. “The café is the heart of the whole thing. It allows people to feel engaged with the lifestyle that we are presenting and experience it for themselves.”
Aurelia Rauch worked at the New York-based contemporary art gallery Sperone Westwater before joining the Swiss private bank Bergos in 2018, where she is now creative director. Here, she tells us about her favourite lunch spots, exercising outside and the perfect Sunday soundtrack.
Where will we find you this weekend?
In London for Frieze.
Ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
Somewhere between the two. I’m not a fan of sleeping in and like to have a coffee on our balcony that overlooks the lake early in the morning. My boyfriend and I also have a creative-writing ritual. It’s how I like to start every morning.
What’s for breakfast?
Coffee, of course. On a Sunday, I’ll also have a croissant and I wouldn’t say no to a glass of champagne.
Lunch in or out?
Out always. In the summer, we like to explore the amazing nature around Zürich. There are beautiful restaurants by the lake and the bathhouses. The wine region is just an hour away from the city, so we also enjoy having lunch in one of the villages there.
I love being outside, hiking in the autumn and skiing in the winter. I’ll also do some yoga if there’s time and go for a jog with our dog, Jambo.
A Sunday soundtrack?
Jazz. I love everyone from Blossom Dearie to Chet Baker and Billie Holiday – for me, they’re Sunday in song.
Sunday culture must? A market? Museum?
The Kunsthaus Zürich is beautiful to stroll through. When we’re travelling, we’ll pop by the markets. As an art historian, going to a museum is always high on the list.
News or no news?
I used to read The New York Times religiously. Now, I try not to ruin my mood.
A glass of something?
Champagne or Swiss wine.
What’s on the menu?
It depends on how big lunch was. If we cook, it will be a simple pasta dish, or if it’s winter, we’ll have a canapé and glass of wine at Kronenhalle.
Sunday evening routine?
We like to listen to a good podcast or watch a film. I’m really into the classics at the moment – anything with Grace Kelly in it.
Will you lay out your outfit for Monday?
I like to prepare for the day itself but not Monday’s outfit. If I had to prepare, it would be something elegant and cosy.
Shop-bought sandwiches in Japan are usually a fresher affair than in Europe or the US. Here, our Swiss chef and recipe writer Ralph Schelling recreates his favourite: a simple egg sandwich on white bread from 7-Eleven. “One of the tricks is the Kewpie mayonnaise,” says Schelling. “The taste reminds me of when I worked at Ryugin in Tokyo. I would often have the sandwiches after work at 03.00 or 04.00.”
60g Kewpie mayonnaise
½ tsp mustard
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
2 tsps cream
1 tbsp soft butter
8 slices of white bread
Set a large pan of water over a medium heat and place the eggs inside. Boil the eggs for 10 minutes and then remove from the pan. Place in a bowl filled with ice water and let cool for about 15 minutes.
Carefully peel the eggs. Separate the yolks and whites. Place yolks in a bowl and mash with the back of a fork. Then, finely chop the egg whites and add to the bowl with the yolks.
Add the mayonnaise, mustard, salt, and sugar into the egg mixture and mix together until everything is coated. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Stir the cream into the egg mixture and season to taste. Set aside.
Butter the bread. Layer one slice with egg salad and top with the remaining slice. Trim and discard the crust. Cut the sandwich in half diagonally to make two triangles. Enjoy.
About two hours’ drive southeast of the German capital lies a forest farm that seems as if plucked from a fairy tale (writes Josh Fehnert). Michelberger Farm’s restaurant and rooms, set in the Spreewald reserve, are a far cry from Berlin’s gritty Friedrichshain, where Nadine and Tom Michelberger founded the brand’s first hotel, home to late-night blowouts and after-hours DJ sets, in 2009.
Plans to renovate the sister space were laid in 2019, when Berlin-based Danish architect Sigurd Larsen scoped out a clutch of 19th-century agricultural buildings huddled around a courtyard. While one was replaced to make space for accommodation that sleeps 25 (and can be booked in its entirety), hallmarks of its past were retained and many of the old beams have been transformed into new furniture that now adorns the space.
“Making the bedrooms smaller was our way of creating the feeling of being in a house rather than in a traditional hotel,” Larsen tells Monocle. “The windows are positioned low. When you enter a room, you see a view framing only the green field outside. But as you sit down on the bed, the horizon and sky become visible over the tree canopies.” The food and seasonally grown produce from the regenerative farm, as well as nearby producers such as Gut Ogrosen and Landgut Pretschen, are central to the Michelberger mission.
The restaurant opens on Thursdays for dinner and closes after breakfast on Mondays, though drop-ins are welcome to stop by for coffee and cake on weekends too. Even with the cycling, canoeing and horse riding offered by the Spreewald, returning home to the Michelberger Farm might still be the greatest pleasure. “My favourite part about the farm is waking up in the morning and opening the door to the bedroom,” says Larsen. “You can hear the kitchen team downstairs preparing breakfast, all made using berries and crops from the field below. It’s like waking up at a friend’s house in the countryside.”
This is a remarkable portable sound system that makes the audio from a smartphone or tablet more exciting (writes David Phelan). It comes in the form of a squat lozenge with a circular speaker at either end. Held in place magnetically, these can be undocked and placed behind the listener to work as satellite speakers. The effect is highly immersive, with Sony software making it feel as though the audio is coming from every direction – even overhead. You can adjust the volume and the distribution of the sound using the buttons on the main speaker or through the Sony app. The audio output is big and powerful from the main unit and the extra units add a spectacular 3D effect. The battery lasts as long as 30 hours; a 10-minute recharge is enough for a couple of hours. Sound good?
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