In our design special, Andrew Tuck explains how sometimes the most interesting pieces are right under your nose (or, occasionally, your posterior) and how a new look and feel is giving us the space to tell broader stories.
It’s hardly a stroke of genius but for ages I have wanted to do an Expo that was simply about people and their favourite chairs. Our senior editor for design, Nolan Giles has a very amiable way of resisting me sometimes but he finally agreed to get this on the story list. His trusty partner-in-pages, Nic Monisse, then said that he would start pursuing a hit list of designers, furniture-brand owners, gallerists and museum heads with handsome perches. And while it might be a modest idea, it has turned out a treat.
There are lots of reasons why I wanted to do this story but perhaps key is that it’s hard to think of another everyday piece of design that has such an impact on how we feel. Good chair designs can put you at ease, be good for your posture, be amusing or austere, and offer places to either socialise or hide away. And these items also often come with a layer of meaning that perhaps you would not guess on first glance – or even on the moment your bottom hits the seat. Lilli Hollein, the director of the mak – Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna, for example, chooses a chair by Friedl Dicker from 1927 – a piece of beauty created in a time of calm by a woman who would go on to perish in the Holocaust. The Neuchâtel-based architect and creative director Ini Archibong, meanwhile, chooses the joyful Togo chair by Michel Ducaroy for Ligne Roset. Archibong’s one now sits in his daughter’s bedroom and is where, of an evening, you can find him reading a bedtime story to his daughter. Just a chair – but look how much meaning design and time can add to something so simple.
When Nolan puts together our design-themed issues, we of course want to show you great new projects but also design and architecture that has already endured many decades. Because as we all grapple with what sustainability really means, one thing is clear: products and places that go on and on being used are good for everyone. So come, as we visit the villa designed by Gio Ponti in the Paris suburb of Garches that is now being opened to the public, or as we walk around the gently aged homes of Montauk. This is architecture made to last (hopefully just like a nicely constructed magazine).
As you know, last month we made some changes to the design of monocle. It has been great this month to see the changes really bed in and for us to start using the new freedoms this elegant renovation has afforded us. We wanted to carve out space for more expansive reporting and this month sent our transport correspondent Gabriel Leigh to Greenland to see how the country is trying to become the new Iceland for tourism, exploit its mineral-rich soil and protect its strategic significance. Gabriel was even taken with the idea of living in Nuuk, the capital. Read the report (click here) and he’ll explain why. I will be sticking with warmer waters.
We also want our design changes to allow us to do deeper dives into complicated subjects: read our story about concrete (click here) and the attempts to make it less environmentally challenging, and our feature on the men and women whose careers as crime reporters expose them to often terrifying dangers (click here). Then there are our new Agenda pages in which, this issue, we look at how Kabul’s luxury hotel, the Serena, is still checking in an eclectic mix of guests and even welcoming Taliban fighters for breakfast by the pool (click here). Such a rich mix of reporting is why sitting in the editor’s chair of a magazine is one of the best gigs in town – though, sadly, Nolan and Nic didn’t ask me to be in the Expo.
Before we let you explore the pages, a reminder that The Monocle Book of Entrepreneurs, a handbook for anyone wanting to start or improve a business, is now available – head to monocle.com/shop to find it. Also, look out for signings and events with the team in the weeks ahead, including in the US.
As always, feel free to drop me an email with comments and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a good month.