Thursday 16 May 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 16/5/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Less is more: Nigerian architect and designer Oshinowo



Balancing act

Architects in the Global South often have to contend with a scarcity of resources, largely because the region’s materials have been relentlessly extracted to build the Global North. When I returned to Nigeria after years of working in Europe, I was struck by this situation: I knew how grand architecture could be but it didn’t seem possible for me to realise my ambitions. But the years went by and I set up my own practice. Gradually, I came to understand that good architecture doesn’t require an abundance of resources. Scarcity provides unique opportunities for innovation. This kind of limitation makes it necessary to build in balance with the surrounding ecology. For example, architects can’t always depend on reliable energy sources to heat and cool buildings. As a result, there are many solutions that are being developed in the Global South. And it seems that these approaches are increasingly being copied across the world.

Many architects across the world are adopting these strategies because they are realising that, even if they live in a country with abundant resources, there’s an increasing state of scarcity. There is a growing understanding that even local projects have global implications in a world threatened by the climate crisis. In the early 2000s, we were allowed to think that we could pick a location anywhere in the world and create beautiful architecture there. But the circumstances have changed and our approach must change with them. Once upon a time, everyone everywhere used to work with an awareness of scarcity and a respect for the environment. It’s time that we returned to that.

Tosin Oshinowo is the head of her namesake architecture and design studio based in Lagos. A longer version of this piece features in ‘The Monocle Companion: Fifty Ideas for Building Better Cities’, which is out now.

The Briefings


Move closer

Vladimir Putin will be in Beijing today for meetings with Xi Jinping. The two leaders have reasons to expand their partnership: Russia’s president remains globally isolated and wants guarantees that a long war with Ukraine won’t test Beijing’s patience, while his Chinese counterpart is facing the prospect of another trade war with the West, after the US announced a series of aggressive new tariffs this week. Though their “no limits” partnership has been awkward in recent years, Russia and China still need each other. Putin and Xi, as well as the two countries’ trade and energy officials, will be hoping to find better ways of enduring sanctions and other forms of isolation. The West might have to decide which country it wants to focus on cracking first – isolating both is bringing them closer together.

Hear more about Putin’s visit to Beijing on the latest editions of ‘The Monocle Daily’ and ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle Radio.


Life through a lens

Gallerists and artists from more than 40 cities – including New York, Paris, Stockholm, Zürich and Istanbul – have converged on London’s Somerset House for one of the world’s premier photography fairs: Photo London. The ninth edition of the fair, which runs from today until Sunday, has a preponderance of solo shows and a focus on the work of female photographers. Highlights include analogue prints by Jacquie Maria Wessels, showcased by Galerie Baudelaire, a photographic series by Caroline Tompkins entitled ‘Bedfellow’, which explores the power dynamics in gender constructs, and Siân Davey’s installation based on her Prix Pictet-shortlisted project The Garden, being shown by Michael Hoppen Gallery.

In the frame: Photo London 2024

Image: Alamy, Caroline Tompkins, Palm Studios

Big heat: from Caroline Tompkins’ series ‘Bedfellow’

Image: Alamy, Caroline Tompkins, Palm Studios

Elsewhere, photographer Andi Galdi Vinko launches the second edition of her book, Sorry I Gave Birth I Disappeared But Now I’m Back, which explores themes of parenthood and the climate crisis. Meanwhile, luxury hospitality brand Belmond, an ongoing partner of the fair, has launched a series of limited-edition art books from their exhibition Shifting Horizons, featuring the work of three female photographers: Coco Capitán, Rosie Marks and Letizia le Fur.

City at a crossroads: Bustling streets of Bengaluru

Image: Ashish Shah


On the road

As elections approach, India’s strengths and contradictions are rising to the surface in Bengaluru, a city touted as the country’s answer to Silicon Valley. Bengaluru represents what a successful 21st-century India could be: egalitarian, outward-looking and economically dynamic. Though the state of Karnataka is currently enduring its worst drought in 40 years, the residents Monocle meet seem more concerned about traffic.

“Bengaluru grew faster than its infrastructure,” says Venat K Narayana, the CEO of Prestige, one of India’s largest developers. Since 2020 the city’s population has grown at a rate of about 400,000 a year. Narendra Modi and his ruling right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are venerated here. On a visit to two of the city’s many microbreweries, Monocle didn’t encounter a single dissenting voice. The election is unlikely to be a problem for Modi but ensuring that the nation’s infrastructure keeps up with the needs of its ballooning economy will be a challenge for the BJP in the long run.

For our deep-dive report on Bengaluru’s transformation, pick up a copy of Monocle’s May issue, which is out now.

Beyond the Headlines

Q&A / Julie Wagner

Building the future

Julie Wagner is the founder of The Global Institute on Innovation Districts, a research organisation supporting the development of planned neighbourhoods that promote creativity and research through targeted jobs. She talks to The Monocle Minute about how municipalities can harness the potential of this initiative in order to improve their urban environments.

What are innovation districts?
They are areas anchored by universities and medical institutions that are thinking about how to solve some of the most wicked problems that we have. Located in the downtown areas of urban and urbanising cities, they are places where buildings, streets and parks start to transform into a living lab. The basis of their work is collaborative innovation. If you place start-ups and scale-ups near these districts, they start to change and become the centres of both discovery and delivery.

What is the philosophy behind The Global Institute on Innovation Districts?
We are a not-for-profit research organisation with a mission to ensure that districts become multipliers of growth. We have three arms to our work: empirical research into where to invest; a global network offering support; and strategic support for places in need of one-on-one time. These three things provide opportunities for a greater diversity of people taking on challenges. We are approached by governments and forward-thinking developers who come to us with the aim of turning these ideas into reality.

Did the pandemic provide you with an opportunity to revisit the way we look at cities?
During the pandemic, people wondered whether innovation districts were dead. We were talking about physical proximity and face-to-face interaction, yet we were collapsing back into our homes. We discovered that many of these districts have innovative infrastructure, very expensive technologies that you simply cannot recreate in your living room. They pulled researchers back in a significant way. While the more traditional downtowns were struggling, these districts were trying to reinvent themselves, even in the middle of a pandemic. It was fascinating to watch.

For our full interview with Julie Wagner, tune in to Tuesday’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Swingers

Monocle Radio / The Entrepreneurs

Swingers and Wag Well

Matt Grech-Smith, co-founder and co-CEO of Swingers, talks about the mini-golf brand’s humble beginnings and meteoric rise. Grech-Smith emphasises the importance of corporate density and vibrant dating scenes for scouting new locations and advises international businesses to approach the US as a group of separate countries. Plus: we head to Dog Ppl, Los Angeles’ first canine social club, to meet the co-founder of Wag Well, a line of tailored dog treats and supplements.


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