Seismic news stories are encouraging focused designers, civic leaders and even train builders to pick up speed as they seek to transform our future for the better. Andrew Tuck introduces an issue filled with wise plans, handsome solutions and a special rescue dog.
The cross-currents of global news have moved at terrifying speeds in recent months with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine making stock markets volatile, inflation take flight and, of course, insecurity about energy, especially in Europe. The latter issue has, in some quarters, even prompted calls for new coal mines, the abandonment of climate targets – anything if it will help keep the lights on this winter.
But. Well, there are more measured voices who see in this moment a chance to break the dependence on Russian oil and gas, and push forwards with clean solutions to this crisis (while perhaps also turning the dial down on the heating just for now). It’s this friction – stick or push on – that is the focus of the lead feature in our Affairs pages this month that asks who, with the aid of wise planning and good design, will be keeping the lights on this winter?
The pressures and possibilities of this moment were evident when monocle attended The Prague Summit of the Cities in late September, a gathering that saw mayors gather in the salons of the mayor’s residence to discuss how they could help their Ukrainian counterparts as well as deal with the energy debate – and all with Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, in watchful attendance.
Here’s the good thing: it turns out there is a lot already in play. In Prague, for example, the city now runs a one-stop service for people who want to add solar panels to their buildings – from viability to fitting. In Helsinki, they are pressing ahead with replacing street lighting with leds. In Vilnius they have a green vision that updates Soviet-era housing with sustainable alternatives. So while it’s easy to get pulled along by the riptide of events, have faith that there are lots of people using this moment to not lose focus but instead to go faster and design better.
Also pulling up beside this report is our dispatch from Innotrans, the world’s leading rail fair, that has just been held in Berlin. Here again you see how industry is moving apace to make the most of the challenges coming down the track. At this year’s event, the first Innotrans since 2018, there was a focus on hydrogen-powered trains but also an elevated approach to the growing popularity of monorails, which are easier and cheaper to insert into many urban landscapes.
This focus on the power of good design is stamped all across this issue – well, it is a design issue. In our Design pages we look at how the mighty furniture group MillerKnoll is adapting to a world where people increasingly find themselves needing office furniture in their homes and visit standout new residences in Japan and Australia. And then there’s our Expo, which features the only domestic commission completed by Carlo Scarpa outside Italy. This gem of a home also reminds you about another place where care for the world we live in and considered design can intersect: if you build well the first time, you will never have to change a thing.
This month we also follow up on a small footnote from the diary we ran last year on the fall of Kabul (see issue 147). Our writer, Charlie Faulkner, mentioned in passing how, in the chaos, the rescue dog that had been her companion had been lost. Well, a year later, they are reunited. And, while it’s a tiny triumph in the sea of loss, the story of “Finding Nebo” is also a good example of how you can experience joy in the most trying of times.
Now, there’s lots on the horizon for monocle. We are heading to Dallas for The Chiefs conference (hear about leadership and seeking opportunity from chief execs and chiefs of staff) in November (you can buy tickets at monocle.com/events). Then we have the first book in a new travel franchise that’s just dropping now. Portugal: The Monocle Handbook delivers all you need to know about the country, whether you are heading there for a few days or to put down roots. Plus, we are working on The Forecast – come on, make sure your subscription is up to date.
As always, feel free to get in touch by sending me an email at email@example.com (or, better still, come say hello in Dallas). Have a good month and thank you.