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Monocle #140

Issue 140 - February 2021

At the front
Editor’s letterThere are reasons for optimism in 2021, says Andrew Tuck as Tyler Brûlé passes the baton.

Hit play
Time to hit playWe all had a little too much pause for thought in 2020 but we think that now’s the time to change the routine, launch that new business and push on. Our February issue offers 50 suggestions to improve your life and livelihood as well as the liveability of our cities.       

01. Strike up the brandAs prime minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis is hitting play on his nation’s sunny ambitions and, after years in the geopolitical wilderness, he is seeking to renew the economy and refresh what ‘brand Greece’ means to the world. And it’s making Greece a soft-power player to watch. Monocle’s Tyler Brûlé and Andrew Tuck visit Maximos Mansion in Athens to meet one of Europe’s most dynamic leaders.

02. Make better connectionsTechnology is everywhere but our acceptance of that ubiquity has costs, to our health, wellbeing, stress and the quality of our conversations. Do we need to spend every minute glued to a screen, barking down the line or listening to tinny gibberish on a phone speaker? It’s time we all sought a better balance.

With this in mind, we’ve created a manifesto for a more dignified relationship with all things digital, from occasionally leaving our devices behind to being a little kinder and more cautious online.

So pop your phone on silent, take out those earbuds, ignore those emails and read on for some ideas about firming up the online social contract.

03. Be preparedIn Finland, national security concerns more than just the military. That’s why the country has a dedicated invitation-only course that teaches CEOs, MPs and other decision-makers how to keep society functioning during a crisis.

04. Commit to printIn a world where physical media still carries more weight, why not get your ideas down on paper? We show you how.

05. Street valueKeen to spark improvements in your immediate area? Here are some simple strategies for making your neighbourhood a pleasing place.

06. Bubble troubleGetting out of your comfort zone and genuinely listening to opposing viewpoints is not easy. But it is worth the intellectual effort.

07. Hardest hurdleBeing decisive can make the difference between an imperfect but eminently acceptable outcome and disaster.

08. Find peace in a podIn busy open-plan offices, quiet spaces are essential. Enter an Estonian manufacturer with plenty to shout about.

09. Blue-wave thinkingExercise need not be dry. Just ask Hong Kong’s open-water swimmers.

10. Animal instinctThe poorest often rely on pets as much as pets rely on their owners. Berlin’s only roving vet cares for both.

11. Nature’s callYou don’t have to launch your new business in a city. The sisters behind a Tuscan resort are proving that the countryside is where you can put down your roots and flourish.

12. Flexible friendsBendy new trams are zipping through Zürich and helping the city to stay on track for a cleaner future.

13. Sail of the centuryAn easy-on-the-eye Feadship yacht from the 1960s is a reminder of the neglected charms of simply messing about on the water.

14. Lighten your loadAn e-bicycle that successfully combines good looks and a smooth ride with the strength to handle ample cargo, Benno Bikes’ Remidemi model is the wheel deal.

15. Rapid successionWith its versatile new electric Motorrad scooter, BMW might just have heralded the next big thing in city runarounds.

16. Age gracefullyThe emotional bond we form with a vintage vehicle just can’t be replicated with a modern marque, says our doting driver.

17. Do your bitOver the past year many people have given more generously of their time – and have discovered just how rewarding that experience can be. This is how you can join the pack.

18. Balance the booksIndependent bookshops often prompt a lifelong love of reading. Now it’s time to support them, in person or through sensible online marketplaces.

19. Set the sceneMelbourne’s Sun Theatre is a prime example of how the magic of cinema can boost an area long after the credits roll.

20. Call the tuneWhether you have a song up your sleeve or ambitions to host a podcast, time in a recording studio is a sound investment.

21. Travel to the globeBy forcing its viewers out of their comfort zones in galleries, Olafur Eliasson’s Alpine installation offers an immersive perspective on our relationship with the planet and its place among the stars. It’s time to find new inspiration.

22. Own itCommissioning an artwork gives you a chance to be part of the creative process, as well as the thrill of not quite knowing what the result will be.

23. Book your ticketA children’s library housing 18,000 books has been gifted to Osaka by an architect who calls the city home.

24. Go where the art isFor those seeking to take their creative flair seriously this year, we heartily recommend taking the plunge and enrolling at one of the world’s finest design schools.

25. Lights, pleaseYou’ve filled your places with beautiful furniture – but something doesn’t feel right. Lighting, which is key to creating atmosphere in your living space, is often overlooked. But getting this vital design tool right can work wonders. So our team of in-house specialists have pulled together a seven-step guide to help you switch to better lighting.

26. Naturally inclinedWhat better way to nurture your relationship with outdoor space than from the comfort of a handsome lounge chair? Add some premier alfresco kit for the perfect lazy afternoon.

27. Counter cultureThe residents of a Melbourne suburb have helped this high street to thrive. Your city should do the same.

28. Set your alarmGetting fit in the new year? Swap the calorie-counting and lunchtime gym sessions for an early start on the open water.

29. Morning gloryWhether you’ve barely slept a wink or slumbered soundly for 10 hours, your morning routine sets the tone for the day. So choose a select soap, terrific toothpaste and refined radio. Sound good? Let’s make a start.

30. Perfect pitchAn essential piece of kit for all budding Suomi soldiers, the Savotta sauna tent should be hot property for any civvy too.

31. Seat at the tableThe true joy of creating your perfect home comes when you share it with others. So plan that dinner.

32. Taste the classicsGreece’s wine is just as varied and tasty as its renowned food. It’s time to pop the cork.

33. Rich pickingsA little time spent learning a recipe will yield fine food and new skills to sate even the fussiest of friends.

34. In good handsRural retreats don’t have to be stone cottages. There’s room for sophisticated buildings that complement their surroundings too. Seeking inspiration? Barcelona-based architecture firm Mesura will have you breaking new ground.

35. Make your shop singExtraordinary retail is rooted in strong design that showcases products rather than sidelining them. Interiors firm founder Teo Yang explains what makes an inspiring shop.

36. Happy mealsGreat dining is about more than food. Intimate acoustics, fine furnishings and considered colours help to make a restaurant a place you’ll want to return to. We take some tips from specialist interiors studio OEO.

37. Have a lookSettling on a personal uniform gives you a sense of confidence – and saves you time in the morning. Just don’t forget to refresh it now and then.

38. Making the caseIt’s time to pack your bags (in a good way) and Japan’s Masumi Hono has just the design to get you moving.

39. Step to itDurable, desirable shoes can’t just be cobbled together. The team at Glent knows that every footprint is unique and crafts its loafers accordingly.

40. Check-in timeHotel The Mitsui Kyoto is opening a new chapter in Japanese hospitality, marking a foray into luxury hotels where foreign marques have reigned unchallenged.

41. Go clubbingHong Kong’s newest private club, Carlyle & Co, is making a splash on Kowloon waterfront.

42. Picture perfectThe Darling is a new, single-occupancy hotel in Copenhagen that has captured a moment when guests value privacy – and brought in art.

43. Hop to itGo on a journey, take your time, slow down, feel the sea breeze.Here’s how.

44. Open booksMake this the year that you write that novel – or at least a good letter.

45. Super soakerYou might not be looking to clean up in the Japanese bathhouse game yourself but what the revival of Tokyo’s ‘sento’ shows is that some old ideas are worth considering anew. This fresh generation of baths is proving relevant to a new audience of bathers seeking community spaces and a place to have clean thoughts.

46. Let there be lightHomeware brand Trame is out to add hits of colour to our homes and bid farewell to a life of beige.

47. Live togetherThe past year has made us reconsider the meaning of home and how much we value connection and community. We recommend reverting back to a housing model devised by Jews at the turn of the 20th century.

48. Get some perspectiveStart the day with a proper hike. Fill your lungs with clean air, leave the city behind you and find a different outlook. This is the regular reset we all need – no crampons required.

49. Lead a merry danceWelcome your guests, pour a large one and find your groove – let’s make yours a party to remember.

50. Fill it upTo compile our 50 ways to hit play in 2021, we sent our correspondents all over the world. But the simple joy of pulling up a chair in a favoured bar or restaurant is universal. Our Hong Kong bureau chief James Chambers was able to do just that at Carlyle & Co, where he kicked back with a martini. In that spirit, we’d like to finish by toasting all our readers and wishing you plenty of happiness in the year ahead.