Wednesday. 26/6/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Nolan Giles

Now you’re talking

“London is the design capital of the world.” That’s what Margot James – the UK’s minister for digital, culture, media and sport – suggested to me and other delegates at a London Design Biennale summit yesterday. An odd statement when you consider that it was made from the UK base of US technology giant Google, which was hosting the event.

Alongside folk from creative industries, staff representing numerous international embassies attended a forum that aimed to spark conversation around the 2020 Biennale – overseen by artistic director Es Devlin (pictured) – and its theme of “resonance”. Some nodded knowingly as James boasted about the globally iconic nature of UK brands Penguin Books and Mini but others – me included – were less convinced. Mini is, of course, now German-owned and the last major creative UK brand to be a clear world-beater in the industrial-design stakes was probably Dyson, which is in the midst of shifting its HQ to Singapore.

So Brexit-beleaguered London is not the design capital of the world but that’s not to say that it doesn’t have a whole lot to offer. Besides its globally beloved fashion brands, design companies and architecture firms, it certainly makes the case for being the world capital of conversation surrounding the topic of creativity. After James’s welcome, engaging discussions tackling climate change, technology, politics and much more resonated around the room among industry leaders such as Danish architect Bjarke Ingels and British industrial designer Jay Osgerby. We’ll welcome further conversation when the London Design Biennale kicks off in London at much finer (and far more British) digs: Somerset House, next September.

Sport / Italy

Winter winner

Who ever said that summer was the best time to visit Italy? Certainly not the International Olympic Committee, which yesterday announced that Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo will be the joint hosts of the 2026 Winter Games. The event will be held between the Lombard capital and the Dolomite resort in the Belluno province – more than 400km away – after the Italians saw off the Swedes on the home straight to scoop the prize. Cities are increasingly wary of shouldering the spiralling costs of Olympic events (just ask previous hosts Sochi and Rio de Janeiro). But Italy can be quietly confident: the 2015 Milan Expo and the annual Salone del Mobile show that the city can handle crowds and offer visitors a good time.

Business / China

Sound investment?

China’s plan to build a vast trade network across the Indo-Pacific region now faces stiff competition. This week Japan, the US and Australia agreed to offer loans of about €900m for a liquified natural gas project in Papua New Guinea. It’s the first big announcement from said trio since last November, when they declared they would jointly fund infrastructure across the region as a counterbalance to China’s Belt and Road initiative. All three are expected to finance projects worth billions of euros in an area of the world that extends from the South Pacific to the eastern edge of Africa. For now, however, it’s too early to tell whether the big sums will have the desired effect.

Geopolitics / Bahrain

Notable absentees

Officials gathered in Bahrain yesterday for the two-day Peace to Prosperity workshop, part of Donald Trump’s so-called “deal of the century”, which aims to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict. The plan proposes investing €44bn in Palestine and neighbouring economies to develop infrastructure, which would create more than a million new jobs in the West Bank and Gaza. There is, however, one glaring issue: neither Israel nor Palestine is attending. The Palestinian leadership says that a political solution – rather than a monetary one – is the answer. Yossi Mekelberg, professor of international relations at Regent’s University in London, agrees. “This is a conflict that is more than 100 years old and mainly has a political aspect to it,” he says. “You need to deal with the essence of that problem instead.”

Technology / Toronto

Street smarts

We now know what the world’s first fully smart neighbourhood – being developed in Toronto – will entail. Earlier this week Sidewalk Labs, the company owned by Google’s parent firm Alphabet, published its masterplan for the area. It promises investment of CA$1.3bn (€870m) in commercial and residential developments, 40 per cent of which will include affordable housing alongside public spaces. But the development has already raised concerns about whether information collected from residents and users of the area’s new transport infrastructure will be used by Google for commercial gain (something Sidewalk Labs refutes). Neighbourhoods cannot avoid the technology march forever – but whether private businesses should be leading the way is a concern that Sidewalk Labs has yet to fully allay.

M24 / What moves you?

Leading lights

Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby of powerhouse design firm BarberOsgerby, tell us how their tireless schedule shapes their practice. They share insights into the most remarkable of their recent trips and how they see travel as an opportunity for holistic enrichment. Osgerby discusses his epic trans-Siberian odyssey and we take a closer look at the famous rail route, talking to an architect about his designs for a bespoke range of cabins to be placed alongside the railway.

Monocle Films / Global

Vital signs

From traditional calligraphy to rare gold-leaf techniques, hand-worked lettering is back in demand. Monocle Films meets three sign-painters whose eye-catching signs lend character to cities – and help businesses stand out.

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