The Monocle Minute:
Weekend Edition

A round up of design, fashion and quality of life

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Saturday 21 January 2017

Fascinating foundations

Zaha Hadid’s death last year yielded all manner of retrospective rumblings about the architect’s career, drawing praise and ire in equal measure. It's strange to think, then, that between setting up her office in 1977 and building the now-fêted Vitra Fire Station in Weil-am-Rhein in 1993, she didn’t complete a single structure. Instead she drew, painted and pondered. This productive period is the subject of a show at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery (itself designed by Hadid) in London’s Hyde Park called Zaha Hadid: Early Paintings and Drawings. Many of them were submitted as actual propositions – to understandably bewildered clients. “She had the foresight and sensitivity to predict an aesthetic of computer-generated images,” says Amira Gad, exhibitions curator at Serpentine Galleries and the show’s organiser. It offers a fascinating portrait of the polarising firebrand’s formative years.

Faultless performance

Image: Courtesy of Merci

Parisian concept store Merci’s subversive design exhibition Imparfait, Nobody’s Perfect opened this week, just in time for the start of biannual furniture fair Maison et Objet. In an age where many people strive for perfection, the Merci showcase curated by artistic director Daniel Rozensztroch explores faulty or damaged objects, from clothing to crockery. Not only is Merci presenting these defective pieces, which would otherwise have landed in the bin, but it's also offering repair workshops where visitors can get their treasures restored. The result is a singular show that not only promotes cutting waste in a creative way but also demonstrates that an imperfect item can be even more appealing and surprising than the original.

Winding down, building up

Few people tend to stick around for the final day of a trade fair. Not so at Munich’s BAU: the biannual showcase of building materials and technology ends today after a six-day run but it’s only now that many architects from the city and beyond will finally grace its halls, at the end of their working week, for some scoping around and research. “This is a platform where architects and engineers can talk to each other and meet with craftsmen – this brings the business down to earth,” says exhibition director Mirko Arend. The building industry, distributors and contractors may still make up the bulk of visitors but architects draw a lot from BAU too. The glass hall is a particularly popular attraction: “I am most interested in new technology when it comes to super-sized windows,” says Berlin-based architect Jan Rösler. “I’m especially looking for high-quality detailing and materials.”

Grassroots approach

Pierre L’Enfant’s 1791 masterplan for Washington might be one of the least popular city designs in the US; it is wide, winding and confusing to the average American accustomed to the traditional grid pattern. But the National Mall, where the presidential inauguration is hosted, is one of the city’s most beloved features. And after its wide grassy plain was destroyed by the footfall during the Obama inauguration, the National Park Service invested $40m (€37.5m) to refurbish the Mall with new turf in time for Donald Trump’s inauguration yesterday. The Mall was covered with about 50,000 translucent panels (the equivalent of about nine baseball fields) borrowed from sports stadiums across the country. Acting like mini greenhouses, the panels are honeycombed at the bottom and have small cells that protect the grass crowns from being crushed.

Radio. Have you heard?

‘Jackie’ and the 1960s

A year before the US lost its president in 1963, Hollywood lost its most famous film star. We discuss Natalie Portman’s new film ‘Jackie’ and bestselling author Dana Thomas reflects on a decade of Marilyn, JFK and Jackie.

Film. Have you seen?

Typisch Deutsch

Punctual? Rigorous? Romantic? What does it mean to be typically German? Rolf Sachs, a half-German, half-French artist and designer with a wry eye and a scarf made from dusters, explored the clichés that form his notion of a nation in a 2014 exhibition at the Makk, Köln’s Museum of Applied Arts. Culture editor Robert Bound went along to sort the ‘schadenfreude’ from the ‘sehnsucht’.

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