Monday. 15/6/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Nolan Giles

Get the message

Once a deluge, now just a trickle, design-industry event cancellation emails remain a feature of my inbox. So it was refreshing to receive a hyper-optimistic (and beautifully rendered) release from the Finnish organisers of Helsinki Design Week, stating that the event is good to go for September.

From “seminar halls to secret shops, from studios to showrooms” we’re told that Nordic design will be out in force across the fine city of Helsinki from 3 to 13 September. Good design, some late-summer sunshine and international industry friends descending on a city whose government is supportive of its creative industries? September can’t come soon enough.

The upbeat news was served on the same day as a much more confusing message came in from the organisers of the British equivalent – the London Design Festival. Squinting to read the almost illegible typeface, I could just about make out that the event (also scheduled for September) would try to go ahead, adjusting to the terms and conditions of the “new normal” with gatherings in “local clusters” and online. This message was unclear and confusing (something Londoners are getting used to). It doesn’t paint a sunny picture for the city’s design industry, whose members might be plotting more permanent excursions to places supportive of their craft – such as Helsinki.

Politics / UK

The value of protest

There’s been much debate in the past few weeks over the value of protests as a tool for change: US late-night TV host Trevor Noah, originally from South Africa, released a particularly eloquent video noting that there never seems to be “a right way to protest” for those who don’t believe the cause is just. But one thing should be clear: the scenes in London on Saturday, where a mix of right-wing extremists and football hooligans descended on the city centre – with no real “cause” other than to wreak havoc and clash with police – have no place in a democratic society. Nor should violent scenes on either side distract from the countless peaceful protests against racism that have taken place, in far greater numbers, in Trafalgar Square and other British cities in the last week, including a mile-long march on the seaside in Brighton on Saturday. Their cause is just – and worth protesting over.

Aviation / New York

Flying start

New York is slowly returning to normal and Saturday was one of the bright spots as the new $4bn (€3.52bn) LaGuardia terminal was opened to the public. The terminal is filled with site-specific works (pictured) made by artists Sarah Sze, Jeppe Hein, Sabine Hornig and Laura Owens, whose 2,300 sq metre mural took nine months to complete and is among the largest mosaics in the world. The lockdown helped to facilitate the completion of the project – without travellers clogging up what had become a crushing commute to an airport that had long been the butt of jokes by everyone from Joe Biden to the cast of Saturday Night Live. For now, lockdown restrictions mean that only ticketed passengers can see the art but, as most cultural institutions remain closed until autumn, you might have a better chance of seeing art here than anywhere else in the city.

Design / Liberia

Structural integrity

According to the Liberian Institute of Architects (LIA), the west African nation is marred by bad urban design, poor architecture and shoddy construction – issues that the institute has blamed on the government’s failure to enact laws to back the profession. Such conditions have pushed the LIA, which represents qualified designers operating in the country, to release a statement calling for the legislature to protect the word “architect” and bring clarity to the role. Already a member of the national Zoning Council and Environmental Protection Agency, the institute is hoping that, through better defining the profession, a strong architectural culture will develop in Liberia. It’s a reminder that recognition should be given to our design professionals. To ensure great buildings in cities across the globe we need to treat our architects – and by extension our homes and workplaces – with the respect they deserve.

Mobility / Barcelona

Progressive thinking

As Barcelona relaxes its lockdown, one of the city’s industrial giants – car-maker Seat – is opening a four-storey brand immersion space at the top of the busy Paseo de Gracia shopping avenue. “One of the reasons that we chose this location is to show off our vision on urban mobility,” says Wayne Griffiths (pictured), CEO of Seat’s sporty Cupra division. “In addition to the cars, we’re showing our electric and kick scooters and we’ll be doing presentations on new mobility concepts for cities.” Collaborations with local businesses form an important part of the initiative. For the launch of Casa Seat, the brand teamed up with Catalan lighting company Marset, which also designed a new lamp for Cupra. “We worked with the Seat Design Centre and came up with the idea of doing a portable lamp based on the old garage torches that mechanics use,” says Javier Marset, Co-CEO of the lighting firm.

M24 / Eureka

The future on two wheels

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Gunsan: building on the past

Natives and newcomers to Gunsan in South Korea are creating quirky bars, art spaces and a bright future for this charming outpost.

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