Wednesday. 10/7/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Nolan Giles

Make American houses great again

There was a time when the US led the world in residential design. Yes, it was well over 50 years ago but this era of modern homes built for an aspirational generation of families, prioritising function, quality materials and nature, was revolutionary. This week eight of the buildings (four of them houses) designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the late master of US modernism, have been given Unesco World Heritage status.

Sticking Wright’s work alongside the Statue of Liberty shows its significance. His triumphs, like the 1937 Fallingwater House perched atop a waterfall near Pittsburgh, went on to influence a whole generation of mid-century architects. He changed the way homes from California to Australia were designed.

Today residential design in the US is in a shoddy state. From grotesque suburban McMansions to sky-scraping downtown apartments, its new homes are largely soulless and unnecessarily grand. Let’s hope this renewed interest in the more thoughtful work of Wright and his modernist successors spurs some architectural ingenuity in a sector that’s ripe for a revamp.

Geopolitics / The US and China

Fanning the flames

If there’s one thing that relations between the US and China could use less of, it’s tension. But the world’s two superpowers have found another bone of contention after Washington approved a deal to sell €2bn worth of arms to Taiwan. China called on the US to cancel the deal yesterday, saying that it violates Beijing’s sovereignty; China views Taiwan as a rogue province rather than a separate state. The spat could hardly have come at a worse time: the US and China are discussing ways to limit the damage of their ongoing trade war this week. Few anticipate these talks to yield fast progress; Washington’s deal with Taipei will only hinder proceedings.

Aviation / France

Pilot scheme

Air France has raised concerns about a new proposal by the French government, which suggests slapping a so-called “eco tax” on all flights taking off from the country’s airports from 2020. The proposed tax was announced by France’s transport minister, Elisabeth Borne, in Paris yesterday. She claims that it would raise €180m, which would be funneled back into France’s daily transport needs. But Air France says that the plan will dent its ability to compete with other international flag carriers and shares in French airlines dipped after the announcement. The EU has warned that aircraft emissions could soar by some 300 per cent by 2050; time will tell whether the Élysée’s move is a sensible first step in reducing damage to the environment or a knee-jerk reaction that could hurt business.

Hospitality / Hong Kong

Tourist trap

The recent unrest in Hong Kong in response to a proposed extradition bill is having an adverse effect on the economy. An increase in tourists in recent years has been a boon to the hospitality sector – though some Hong Kongers complain about overcrowding – but the mass protests have caused many to steer clear. The city’s hotels, some of which surround a key protest site in Admiralty, have suffered a 10 per cent drop in revenue since protests began in March. While the chief executive, Carrie Lam, has announced that the extradition bill is “dead”, protesters aren’t so sure. Those at the helm of hospitality firms will be hoping that she is telling the truth.

Business / UAE

Power surge

Abu Dhabi has announced that the world’s largest single-site solar energy plant will begin operations this week. The Light of Abu Dhabi has about 3.2 million solar panels. If the plant is used at maximum capacity, it could reduce carbon emissions in the UAE by a million tonnes a year – equivalent to taking more than 210,000 cars off the road. Oil-rich countries in the Gulf are taking steps to diversify their energy supplies in an attempt to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. It’s the greener choice but it appears to make commercial sense too. The Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority has highlighted the project as an example of private-investment opportunities in the UAE; it has issued tenders for an even bigger solar plant planned for 2022.

M24 / The Urbanist

Stonewall’s legacy

Stonewall is the most influential event in US gay-rights history; in 2016, Barack Obama made the site of the uprising a national monument. So why are many places that are critical to LGBT history under-documented and overlooked?

Monocle Films / Italy

Venice Biennale: art of nationhood

In our second report from this year’s Venice Biennale, we head to the national pavilions to meet the artists and curators who are raising their countries’ profiles on the world stage.

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