Wednesday. 11/12/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Nolan Giles

Changing horizons

It’s that time of year when the news from the many, many international architecture awards begins to fill my inbox. The most well publicised was the World Architecture Festival’s awards, which named Lochal building of the year. Led by Civic Architects, the old-warehouse-turned-new-library and public space in Tilburg, Netherlands, recently took top prize at the respected Dutch Design Week awards too. Monocle’s report – in our June issue – will help you to understand why this masterwork of adaptive re-use is worthy of being called the world’s best building.

The question of which architecture awards matter most (and whether some are even worth considering) is a conversation for another day. What’s interesting right now is the types of projects winning top honours. Lochal is not sleek and it’s not built on an epic scale; in some ways the deliberate exposing of the building’s industrial past in the refurb means that its aesthetics are scrappy. It’s a far cry from when lavish skyscrapers – remarkable feats of engineering – were considered the world’s best buildings. Lochal is about thoughtful, responsible architecture – and we’re glad that this is what is carrying kudos internationally as we move into a new decade for design.

Elections / Algeria

False dawn

Algerians will head to the polls tomorrow in a crucial test for the country’s fledgling democracy – or will they? Thursday’s presidential election is the first since strongman Abdelaziz Bouteflika was ousted in April after 20 years in power but many of the demonstrators whose actions forced his demise are planning to stay home. That’s because, far from offering Salah a desperately needed fresh page, the five candidates are all seen to be part of the regime’s old guard – the two reported frontrunners have both previously served as prime minister. Election campaigning has been a muted affair as a result, marked by sparsely attended rallies and vandalised posters. Army chief of staff General Ahmed Gaid Salah, who is the country’s de facto ruler, isn’t happy, accusing those opposing the election of serving foreign interests. Blaming foreign powers seems to be in vogue these days but Gaid Salah would do well to look to his own people for answers instead.

Urbanism / USA

Trash talk

New Yorkers, say goodbye to your green-wire trash cans. While something of an icon in the city – they have remained largely unchanged for almost a century – New York has selected the winner of the BetterBin competition that was launched in 2018 to replace the city’s 23,000 bins. The winning design, from Brooklyn’s Group Projects, is easy on both the eyes and the hands. The existing ones weigh a beastly 14kg but the new design has a steel exterior with a removable 5kg plastic bin hidden inside. Its well-designed handles have made it a favourite of sanitation workers. The cans will be unveiled on Fifth Avenue before a wider rollout in the years to come. It’s high time that good design helped ease trash collectors’ heavy lifting.

Environment / Europe

Climate of suspicion

The first draft of the European Green Deal – the EU’s flagship environmental plan – is due to be released today. With the EU set to miss its 2030 carbon targets, the pressure is on to produce an effective long-term strategy to combat climate change. The plan’s proposals won’t come as a complete surprise: environmental groups have already decried a leaked version for going easy on vehicle emissions and the meat and dairy industries. But those climate activists should check their expectations, says Terry Dawson, professor of global environmental change at King’s College London. “I am deeply sceptical that anything proposed by these idealist politicians, driven by an alarmist but highly vocal ‘climate-chaos’ minority, is going to make any real impact on our climate-emissions trajectory in the medium term,” he told the Monocle Minute. “It’s the USA and China that need to take a major lead on this to make any useful impact on a global scale.”

Media / USA

Genuine article

Where do you get your news? This newsletter might be one of your sources but, according to a new report by the Rand Corporation in the US, one third of Americans knowingly rely on news platforms that they consider to be unreliable. Traditional outlets such as print, radio and television still rank among the most accurate mediums but they’re not the primary news sources for many people any more. “People who get their news mainly from social media acknowledge that it’s not the most reliable platform,” says sociologist Michael Pollard, the co-author of the report. “But it is the one they use the most.” It won’t be surprising to hear that, according to Pollard, younger generations are most reliant on social media. You know what we’re going to say to that: stay right here (and tell your friends) if you want a fun, engaging and reliable take on the news.

M24 / Monocle On Design

Design Miami

Monocle’s design editor Nolan Giles heads to Design Miami to meet some of the most dynamic talents at the annual showcase. Including Australian designers Broached Commissions, curator Alice Stori Liechtenstein, artist and designer Daniel Arsham and mayor of Miami Beach Dan Gelber.

Monocle Films / The Czech Republic

Clear vision: Czech glass

Contemporary Czech designers are embracing regional Bohemian glass-making traditions while investing in new techniques to create modern products with soul. Monocle films pays a visit to some of the country’s most clear-thinking glass alchemists.

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