Leaps of faith | Monocle

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We’ll come to the pole-vaulting in a moment (it’s amazing what skills you can effortlessly attain at the hands of an illustrator). But we’re going to start at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, the topic of this issue’s Expo.

The hotel gained fame when it was used as the setting for Sofia Coppola’s 2003 film Lost in Translation, starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. Coppola knew the Park Hyatt well as she had stayed there while promoting an earlier movie, The Virgin Suicides. Its casting as the background to her melancholic and funny tale of failing marriages, jet lag and cultural confusion was perfect. On screen, the hotel looked like a secret world and its views across Tokyo were beguiling. Few could have left the cinema without wondering when the next jal flight was departing.

In real life the hotel, on the top floors of the Shinjuku Park Tower, has mesmerised guests since it opened in 1994. So the news of an 18-month closure for a makeover panicked many regulars who had come to feel that the Park Hyatt was somehow theirs. The hotel has been at pains to stress that the changes planned will not undermine its spirit of calm grandeur – but change is coming. That’s why we asked Fiona Wilson, our Tokyo bureau chief and Asia editor, to capture the hotel’s final days in its current form.

Over the years, monocle staff have often stayed at the Park Hyatt (it felt at times as though our editorial director Tyler Brûle had taken up residence). I too have woken up there many times (sometimes at 03.00, Bill Murray-style, jet-lagged), dined in the New York Grill, swam in that pool and sat in the bar marvelling at the vastness of Tokyo, so I am keen to see what’s in store.


That theme of managing change also comes to the fore in our fashion director Natalie Theodosi’s interview with Bruno Pavlovsky, president of fashion at Chanel. Fashion is often regarded by outsiders as a business that’s dependent on navigating consumers’ ephemeral tastes. But behind the beauty and the clothes, the best fashion houses are run with a view to the long term, with a depth of consideration that is often remarkable. Pavlovsky shares his take on the industry and explains how going against perceived wisdom has paid dividends for Chanel.

And the theme is there again in Claudia Jacob’s report on the refurbishment of Lausanne’s 1920s Capitole cinema, Switzerland’s largest historic movie theatre. The cinema has survived because of the foresight of its longtime owner, Lucienne Schnegg, who sold the building to the city in 2010 to secure its future. Schnegg died in 2015 but surely would have been amazed at how the technology has been upgraded while leaving the best of the architecture intact, including a vast neon sign that’s more LA than Lausanne.

There are more restorations in our Culture pages, as we report on the Venice Art Biennale and preview Art Basel. But the makeovers come in the form of a series of new arts institutions. Perhaps the most extraordinary is Kunstsilo, in Norway. It’s a former grain-storage facility that has been reshaped into a home for a collection of modernist Nordic art. The project hasn’t always had local support but the outcome is a building that, like Lost in Translation, has the power to change travel plans as people work out how to get to the town of Kristiansand. (Though if you want to see how design and politics can collide to deadening effect, read our Agenda story on Portugal and how an ambitious plan for a national branding exercise was derailed.)

Back to the pole-vaulting. The Paris Olympics are fast approaching and, in our Affairs pages, we meet some of the sportsmen and women who will carry the hopes of their nations and look at how Paris prepared for the Games. It’s a contentious topic for many French people who have opposed hosting the Olympics (too costly, too disruptive). But you get the sense that, as opening day approaches, the mood even among critics will soften. And if you’ll allow me a metaphorical muscle stretch, pole-vaulting also sums up what many of the people, cities and brands in this issue are trying to do – leap ahead with grace and precision.

If you have any thoughts or feedback, feel free to drop me an email at at@monocle.com.L

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