Wednesday. 17/4/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Andrew Tuck

Paris will rise again

On the evening of Sunday 2 September 1666, a fire broke out in a bakery in Pudding Lane in the City of London. It spread rapidly, devouring thousands of homes, numerous inns and churches and also the building that for many was the heart of London, St Paul’s Cathedral. The fire raged for days and the consequences were dramatic: people dispossessed and the shape and fabric of the old medieval city lost.

Famously this is where Sir Christopher Wren enters as the architect for a phoenix city, creating dozens of new churches and the current St Paul’s Cathedral which, ever since, has stood as an emblem of rebirth, endurance and Britishness (especially when it somehow escaped the German bombing raids of the Second World War – despite a near hit).

Today as Parisians look at the ashen remains of Notre Dame it is worth remembering London, and St Paul’s, and knowing that cathedrals, cities and people have an extraordinary ability to fight back, to rebuild. Losses are counted. Emotions vented. But great cities are fighters, and in years to come Notre Dame will be the heart of the French capital again.

Soft power / China & Papua New Guinea

Smoke and mirrors

China’s foreign policy is often more associated with coercion than with deft displays of soft power. But this week there was a sign that Asia’s superpower is learning to use subtler tactics to win over hearts and minds. On Monday ground was broken for Papua New Guinea’s new Chinatown in Port Moresby. Much like its namesakes in London and San Francisco, the €367m project - funded privately by Baosen International Holding - will be a show of all things China. The two nations have been deepening ties lately, with Papua New Guinea becoming more involved in China’s Belt and Road initiative. While some have been wary of China’s attempts to build a new trade network, prime minister Peter O’Neill is a fervent advocate and will travel to Beijing later this month to represent the Pacific at the biennial Belt and Road forum.

Governance / Mexico

Empty promises?

Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (Amlo) wants to steal from the rich (or rather, the corrupt) and give to the poor. This week, the leftist leader announced that he will introduce a bill to form a “Robin Hood” institute that will see assets confiscated from criminals given back to the public to fund schools and other public facilities. While Amlo has positioned himself as the solver of Mexico’s many problems from a trenchant crime rate to inequality and corruption, critics believe that his radical rhetoric is not matched by outcomes. Richard Lapper, associate fellow of the US and Americas Programme at Chatham House says that “the problem with this government all along will be delivery”. The coming months will reveal whether Amlo can deliver meaningful progress for the nation.

Politics / UK

Law and order

The Brexit fiasco has done little to enhance the reputation of the UK’s parliament abroad. The same, however, cannot be said of John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, who is responsible for admonishing unruly MPs. The disciplinarian’s cries of “Order! Order!” have earnt him something of an international cult following, and Bercow has even been giving tips to his US equivalent, Nancy Pelosi. The acclaimed German journalist and historian, Thomas Kielinger, told The Monocle Minute: “Bercow is an unusual figure. There is no international comparison, and he reminds foreign observers that Britain is a theatrical society that respects arcane law.” Although the hardcore Brexiteers will be hoping that some foreign nation will make him a job offer he can’t refuse.

Urbanism / USA

Youthful outlook

The number of children living in Seattle has reached its highest level since 1960, according to new census data. More than 100,000 under-18s now call the city home. Recently revamped zoning laws mean that many neighbourhoods have become more family friendly; and while it remains one of the most expensive US cities to live in, those who can afford to live there are increasingly starting families of their own. Whatever the reason, it is welcome news. The presence of children in a city often quickens improvements to the urban fabric from nicer parks to a greater mix of retail – pushed on by campaigning mums and dads.

M24 / Monocle on Design

Coffee with David Chipperfield

We check in with David Chipperfield to talk coffee pots and ask how the right kind of design can help combat our obsession with consumerism. Plus: are designers under constant pressure to innovate?

Film / Australia

Perth: opportunity and regeneration

As Perth attempts to shed its reputation for being nothing more than a mining city we explore the architecture, art and hospitality initiatives that are shaping this outpost.

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