Tuesday 17 May 2016 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 17/5/2016

The Monocle Minute

Image: Hans Punz/Getty Images

Slanging match

Political commentators in Austria started their week analysing the televised debate on Sunday evening between the country’s two presidential candidates: the populist Norbert Hofer and the left-of-centre academic Alexander Van der Bellen. Private broadcaster ATV sat the two opposite each other and gave them 45 minutes to battle it out without any topic suggestions – or even a moderator. The unstructured and chaotic discussion quickly descended into what the Wiener Zeitung described as an “aggressive and below-the-belt” affair, while political commentator Thomas Hofer (no relation) stated simply: “Both disgraced, the office damaged.” But part of the blame should surely lie with the broadcaster for turning the debate into a spectacle rather than ensuring it became a useful discussion for the electorate. With a week to go before the crucial 22 May run-off vote, this debate did nothing to educate voters or encourage interest and turnout.

Image: Tom Morgan/PA Images

Blossoming idea

In the frantic rush to build, many Gulf Cooperation Council cities have forgotten about the simple stuff, whether that’s making shade for pavements or providing ample space to stroll. Too often parks have also fallen by the wayside, with a lack of trees, soil and leafy spots to while away a humid Saturday afternoon. Doha has been trying to turn this around with an extensive park-building programme and 60 so-called smart parks that will open across the Qatari capital over the next five years. With a focus on solar-powered lighting systems and foliage that can better withstand the desert sun, the new parks are on the hunt for innovative ideas so that these inner-city oases don’t cost the earth to maintain.

Image: FDC

On a role

If film festivals are intended to be all about discovery, renowned Swiss critic Edouard Waintrop is doing a fine job keeping the Cannes Festival International du Film true to its roots. Since taking over in 2011 as artistic director of the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs, or Director’s Fortnight, Waintrop has combined some of today’s most established film-makers, including Paul Schrader, with newcomers worth watching such as Shahrbanoo Sadat, the director of Wolf and Sheep. “We have no real connection with the official section,” he tells us from his office inside the beautiful La Malmaison on the Cannes waterfront. “But we believe that if the competition is not at the highest level, all of the film festival will be in danger.” The festival’s 69th incarnation comes as the industry faces more questions over distribution platforms than ever before. Waintrop believes that the increasing appetite for franchise films and straight-to-streaming titles isn’t all good news for the cinematic artform: “The movies have always been a mix of art and business. The problem is losing the specificity of this art.”

Driving design

Food trucks – be it the humble Imbisswagen or its cool cousin parked in organic markets – have long been a fixture of city life. Furniture trucks, on the other hand, probably only bring to mind the tribulations of moving house. That’s not the case for the Craft Kiosk: set in a compact metallic trailer, this itinerant interiors shop will start off its journey this Thursday from Stockholm’s Östermalm and tour the country until 25 May with stops in Gotland, Göteborg and Norrland. On board furniture and interior accessories will be for sale, designed by up-and-coming Swedish creatives such as Erika Emerén and Dennis Graben, all manufactured in small studios and workshops around the country. Stockholm-based product-design student Matilda Beckman created the project to give space (however pint-sized) to small-scale production: “I saw the lack of platforms in Sweden that sell experimental handicraft and studio-produced design,” she says. “I am hoping to reach out to people to start a discussion about handicraft and design.”

Melissa Harrison: A walk in the rain

Melissa Harrison is the author of a new book published by Faber and Faber called Rain: Four Walks in English Weather. We meet her on a damp Tooting Common in southwest London with her dog Scout and hear about her relationship with nature and why it is so important that writers are beginning to turn to the natural world again in their writing.

The Building – Toronto city hall

Take a look inside Toronto’s iconic city hall and discover how its creation 50 years ago signalled the start of a modern metropolis.


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