The Monocle Minute

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The week ahead, opportunities and observations
Saturday 24 June 2017

Housing

Home at last

The recent catastrophic fire in London should be a lesson for the rest of the country.

There’s finally some good news for the victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, some of who have reportedly been sleeping in cars and parks since last week’s fire. By July, 68 homes will be made available to the affected families in Kensington Row, 2.4km from their old neighbourhood. The apartments are part of a luxury development by St Edward, a joint venture between Prudential and the Berkeley Group, where flats sell for millions of pounds. The fact that this move caused such controversy shows just how deep London’s inequality runs, particularly in the housing market. This was further highlighted by the news that the tower’s cladding and insulation failed safety tests, leading the Metropolitan Police to consider charges of manslaughter. In addition, just last night more than 800 homes in a Camden council estate were evacuated over fire safety concerns. The priority now should be to ensure other buildings are refurbished to stop history repeating itself and to find all victims new homes. No corners must be cut when it comes to building safe, affordable housing – for everyone – in the future.

Art

Image: Rex Features

Cultured contribution

Renzo Piano’s Centro Botín in Santander finally opens – and is a work of art in itself.

After five years of construction and considerable delays, Renzo Piano’s Centro Botín in Santander, Spain, finally opens to the public today. The gallery and cultural centre, funded by the prominent Botín family, has transformed the Pereda Gardens on Santander’s waterfront. But can the centre’s exhibitions compete with its artful edifice? Piano’s first major Spanish development is made up of two glass-fronted trapezoidal structures on seven-metre stilts, clad with 280,000 circular ceramic plates that play hypnotically with the Basque sun. While the east block is given over to cultural events and a rooftop terrace, the west wing is reserved for art. The inaugural show is divided into three parts, the highlight being 80 drawings by Francisco de Goya. But German installation artist Carsten Höller’s first Spanish solo show is also worth a visit, as is the permanent collection.

Film

Cult classic in the making

Singapore’s indie cinema The Projector is a welcome window on the world.

Singapore’s Projector cinema is a rare independent gem in the city’s chain-choked screen scene. The one thing more heartening than its refreshingly back-to-basics look is its line-up of limited-release documentaries, indie productions and eclectic flicks. This weekend is no exception and we’d suggest a screening of Kedi by director Ceyda Torun. At a whisker under two hours in length, this documentary follows the lives of Istanbul’s street cats (including a vicious dog-bothering matriarch and a tomcat-about-town). The feature charts both the city’s long relationship with its moggies – many of which arrived as rat-catchers on ships before disembarking and being left behind – and intimate biographies of the market-stall vendors, mechanics and restaurateurs who tend to them. It is at once a statement about the changing cityscape (which is limiting the cats’ prowling grounds) and a beautiful portrait of the undocumented lives lived – in secret and secluded spots – just beyond human sight.

Architecture

Modern masters

An essential tome on modern architecture for students and architecture enthusiasts alike.

According to Colin Davies, professor of architecture at London Metropolitan University and author of A New History of Modern Architecture, many 20th-century styles, including the pre-1914 beaux arts and interwar art deco, are overlooked. As he writes in this weighty hardback: “These modern but not Modernist architectures are often ignored or glossed over in surveys of this kind.” His book, soon to be published by Laurence King Publishing, seeks to redress the balance and give these under-appreciated styles their due prominence. However, this is not simply a useful reference book for architecture aficionados; it’s also an accessible introduction for lay readers, not least thanks to the hundreds of photographs of masterpieces by the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier.

From Monocle 24

Art of the title

The Cinema Show

The designers of the opening sequence of Steven Spielberg’s ‘Catch Me If You Can’ explain the importance of handcrafted originality in the digital age. Plus: ‘Slack Bay’ director Bruno Dumont takes us to the French coast with Juliette Binoche and we touch down in Vienna to rediscover the city’s favourite film.

From Monocle Films

The beauty of stairs

Staircases can trigger conversations, provide a sense of arrival and dazzle with ingenuity, so why are they often overlooked?

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