Thursday. 7/11/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Nolan Giles

Home is where the heart is

The shade beneath the cantilevered roof of Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (Goma), with lizards scurrying around subtropical flora nearby, is a good spot to sit and reflect on the thoughtfulness of design by which Australia’s cultural institutions are marked. The quality of lead architects (and Australians) Kerry and Lindsay Clare’s design for Goma (pictured) marries harmoniously with its neighbouring 1982 modernist marvel: the Queensland Art Gallery (QAG). The much-loved design for the latter came from a local master architect, Robin Gibson, who embraced the notion of shrubbery clambering around and over a sunken concrete building.

Ever since Denmark’s Jørn Utzon threw down the gauntlet in 1957 with his design for the Sydney Opera House, Aussie architects have proven their worth in forging the nation’s finest buildings – and a major factor is their understanding of context and climate. Which is why it saddens me when I receive yet another press release declaring that a big-name international architect has been commissioned to design an important Australian building. While I’m not criticising today’s news that Japan’s Pritzker prize-winner Sanaa has broken ground on an extension to Sydney’s Art Gallery of New South Wales, I’m not particularly excited by it either.

Sydney’s track record with big-name architects includes uninspiring buildings from Frank Gehry and Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, which both feel out of place in the harbour city. As an Australian (today tasked with writing about the world's best architects) I'd still much rather back a local who’s cut their teeth working with my country’s unique – and often difficult – terrain and weather. Developers down under, who see greener grass elsewhere, might be wise to spend a bit more time with me (and the lizards) in the shade of Goma.

Aviation / Japan

Tokyo, look out below

Japan’s plan to let passenger jets fly over central Tokyo during the day from March will boost the number of international flights at Haneda Airport from the current 60,000 a year to 99,000. The plan – just in time for the Olympics – is expected to lift the economy and make Tokyo more competitive against rival cities in Asia. But residents are not entirely on board: many worry that the noise, not to mention the possibility of falling objects and ice, could drag down property values. To reassure the public, transport ministry officials are hitting the road for 60 town hall-style meetings in Tokyo and nearby prefectures over the next three months. They will explain that they’re working with airlines to increase maintenance checks and will reveal the results of a survey assessing the effects of aircraft noise on real-estate prices, while also letting residents air their grievances. Expect turbulence.

Transport / The US

Have you gone Hyperloopy?

Virgin Hyperloop One has an ambitious vision for the future of transport: pods that hurtle through tubes at nearly 1,000km/h – but even futuristic ideas need rules. According to Reuters, the Los Angeles-based company has issued a request for proposals from states, governments and academic institutions to develop a “Hyperloop Certification Center”. When built, the facility would be responsible for turning the novel technology into reality, hashing out safety and regulatory hurdles while testing the infrastructure.

Virgin Hyperloop has operated a test site in Las Vegas since 2017 but it hopes to break ground on the new facility in 2021, while completing a 10km test track by 2025. It then plans to unveil its first commercial hyperloop system in 2029 – but where that will be remains anyone’s guess.

Urbanism / Vancouver

Towering achievement

The footprint of downtown Vancouver is set to expand with a landmark development in the Kitsilano neighbourhood. The CA$3bn (€2.1bn) Senakw project will include 11 towers comprising an estimated 6,000 apartments, with most of them made available for rent. Senakw will be among the largest property developments owned entirely by an Indigenous community in Canada – the land that it’s built on is the territory of the Squamish First Nation. While that means that the development doesn’t require city approval, it appears to be a win-win for both parties: Vancouver has suffered one of the worst housing squeezes in the country and has a dearth of rental properties; while the emphasis on renting means that Senakw can ensure a long-term revenue stream, rather than the fast-buck approach often associated with new residential developments.

Culture / China

State and the art

While French president Emmanuel Macron was in China this week to make deals totalling €13.5bn, he also found time to inaugurate Centre Pompidou’s first satellite venue in the country. The Parisian art museum’s outpost opens to the public on Friday in Shanghai’s West Bund Museum; it was designed by David Chipperfield and represents France’s largest cultural-exchange offering to the nation. It’s not the first time that Centre Pompidou has opened a space abroad and won’t be the last: it launched one in Málaga in 2015 and has another planned for Brussels in 2023. In the same vein as the Louvre Abu Dhabi, such cultural institutions are building bridges but these far-flung outposts could also pose a threat to their independence: everything on display in Shanghai, for example, has to be pre-approved by Chinese authorities. In light of China’s tightening censorship of art, this is a considerable imposition – but one that seems to be worth it for France to enhance its soft power here.

M24 / Monocle on Design

Maria Cheung

The director and head of interiors at London’s Squire & Partners joins us to discuss the nuances of designing spaces for work, including her firm’s own base, The Department Store in south London and their upcoming shared-workspace project Bellefields Road.

Monocle Films / China

This is Chengdu

We land in the capital of Sichuan province in China for a tour of its delights, from spicy hotpot to leafy neighbourhoods.

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