Wednesday. 15/1/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Andrew Tuck

Dancing about architecture

Even today, Simon & Garfunkel are surely the most famous for doing it: creating a song in which a celebrated architect gets bigged up in the lyrics. Yes, we know that David Bowie sang about a few architects too (“Stomping along on this big Philip Johnson / Is delay just wasting my time / Looking across at Richard Rogers / Scheming dreams to blow both their minds”) in “Thru’ These Architect’s Eyes”. But “So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright” by Simon & Garfunkel still takes the award for best use of an architect in a song – even if it’s perhaps more about Paul Simon hinting at an impending break with Art Garfunkel, who had trained as an architect, than the work of the Prairie School’s leading figure. It really wouldn’t make sense otherwise: “I’ll remember Frank Lloyd Wright / All of the nights we’d harmonise till dawn”.

Until now this has been the star turn at many an architect’s hoedown (oh yes, they love a dance). But now a new song has arrived to shake things up. The UK’s one-woman hit factory Dua Lipa has a track out called “Future Nostalgia”. And get this for retro but on-the-money lyrics: “You want a timeless song / I wanna change the game / Like modern architecture / John Lautner coming your way”. Yes, John freaking Lautner.

Just in case you are less excited than us, Lautner was a prolific architect who mostly practised in California and built several celebrated Atomic Age houses; he also helped create the futuristic Googie style. His work gains fans every year – and Dua Lipa seems to be one of them. It’s a great song and is already a shoo-in for every architects’ ball. But we’re hoping that she’ll also do the honours for Mies van der Rohe, find a rhyme for Zaha Hadid and perhaps give a shout out to David Chipperfield too.

Politics / Mozambique

Tall order

Mozambique’s president Filipe Nyusi (pictured) will be sworn in for a second term in office today after his governing Mozambique Liberation Front party (Frelimo) secured a landslide victory in October’s election. Maintaining peace will be his number one priority; the southern African nation is facing a series of security challenges. An ongoing spat with the opposition Mozambique National Resistance party (Renamo), which alleged fraud in last year’s elections, has jeopardised a historic peace deal that the rivals agreed in the summer; the parties fought a brutal 16-year civil war that ended 1992, though skirmishes continued until last year’s accord. And then there’s the threat of Islamic State: Mozambique has counted on support from allies, particularly Russia, to fight militants who have launched attacks in the north of the country. Nyusi can only hope that allies such as Russia care as much about peace as they do expanding their regional influence.

Diplomacy / Czech Republic

Split decision

Shanghai severed diplomatic ties with its sister city Prague yesterday following a decision by the Czech capital’s bigwigs to sign a separate twinning agreement with Taiwan’s capital, Taipei. The decision comes shortly after Taiwanese elections emboldened the independence movement there and angered Chinese leaders, who claim that the self-governed island is their territory.

So what’s behind Prague’s decision? “The Czechs feel like they have been strung along with promises of Chinese investment,” Mark Galeotti, senior non-resident fellow at the Institute of International Relations Prague, tells The Monocle Minute. But it’s also a principled (and daring) stance that should resonate beyond the city boundaries. “Prague is also a very liberal city that has a proud history of standing up to authority rather than toeing the party line,” adds Galeotti.

URBANISM / SWITZERLAND

Town’s top ranking

The annual Wakker prize, awarded by the Swiss Heritage Society, goes to cities that have successfully raised the quality of urban life. This year it has been awarded to the Swiss city of Baden (known as Baden AG to distinguish it from the many other Badens in this part of the world) for revitalising its town centre. The city's administrators are credited with implementing innovative solutions that turned its traffic-congested centre into a liveable area of public spaces, parks and car-free zones. The administration is also credited with involving the local community in the consultation process. “Urban spaces shape the character of a city spatially, functionally and atmospherically,” said the town’s mayor, Markus Schneider, in a statement welcoming the award. “They have always been magnets of city life.” Baden, we salute you.

Design / Switzerland

Construction confab

From traditional 19th-century apartment blocks, replete with sunlit balconies, to Zürich’s sleek new constructions, Switzerland is home to some of the world’s smartest housing developments. For those not in the know, the best place to get the scoop is Swissbau, the country’s leading construction and property-industry trade fair, which runs until Saturday. While there are similar housing and construction exhibitions all over the world, this biennial event is the one worth visiting; more than 100,000 guests are expected to explore the 900 exhibition stalls in Basel’s messe over the coming days. Attendees can peruse construction products – from bricks to balcony balustrades – before stepping beyond the exhibition halls to join guided tours led by architects, which allow guests to immerse themselves in the city’s best-built bits. It’s this combined offer of stalls and real-world exploration that makes Swissbau such an effective building block for learning about the success of Swiss housing.

M24 / Monocle On Design

Cover stars

Monocle’s creative director Richard Spencer-Powell and culture editor Chiara Rimella join Josh Fehnert for a review of the best-designed magazines on the newsstand. Plus: Raffaello Napoleone, CEO of Pitti Immagine, on the Florentine trade show’s place on the global fashion calendar.

Film / Sweden

The secret to running a restaurant

In the latest edition of our ‘Secret to...’ series, Niklas Ekstedt opens up his acclaimed eatery – Ekstedt – and divulges some insightful tips on how to run a successful restaurant.

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