Friday. 26/6/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Out of print

Some of the local and regional Australian newspapers that are ceasing their print operations this week might be trying to stay positive with headlines such as “Into the Future” and “Legacy Lives On” but it’s hard not to read the melancholy between the lines. In May, News Corp Australia announced that about 100 small newspapers around the country would either shift to digital-only editions or close down altogether as part of budget cuts.

Of course, being able to survive – albeit only online – is still preferable to perishing entirely. But foregoing a print edition is still a huge loss. Local papers have rightly enjoyed a renewed relevance during the pandemic as they have sometimes turned into lifelines of information for their communities. Having a print edition is part of that role: it means the paper can reach all demographics and has the gravitas and authority that comes with representing a town or region.

Spending a lot of time indoors over the past few months has taught us that one cannot live with screens alone. Print has an unmatched power to chronicle the present; that’s something worth remembering, whatever the future brings.

Diplomacy / Southeast Asia

Better together

The leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) are pressing ahead – virtually – with their 36th summit today. One of the key aims is to agree a regional post-pandemic recovery plan. Though all 10 member states are at different stages in their responses to the pandemic, the proposal includes a recovery fund to help boost economies and protect the region’s supply chains. Notably, the fund includes support from regional partners including Japan and China, even though the latter is also a focus of the summit due to tensions in the South China Sea. Leaders are also in talks about creating a “green bubble” that would allow for the easing of travel restrictions between two or more nations where infection rates are low. With a combined population of about 650 million, it’s important for Asean to agree that regional co-operation – and a unified approach – is the way forward after the pandemic.

Elections / Poland

Mutual friends

Donald Trump’s meeting with Polish president Andrzej Duda (both pictured, Duda on left) this week in Washington marked his first encounter with a foreign leader since the pandemic took hold. The choice is telling: Duda, who is allied to the populist Law and Justice party, faces a tightly contested presidential election on Sunday and appears eager for the White House’s full-throated support. Trump has hardly been shy about touting his preference for populist, anti-immigration leaders in the past and with the US elections fast approaching in November – and Trump trailing in the polls – both leaders will need all the support they can get. Tessa Szyszkowitz of UK think-tank Rusi suggests that – whether populist, democratic or authoritarian – this crisis has shown that voters will back a strong state and a functioning healthcare system above all. “It means democrats come back and [social] solidarity comes back,” says Szyszkowitz. Tune in to Monocle 24’s The Foreign Desk for more on the future of populism this Saturday.

Society / USA

No time to rest

Yesterday marked one month since the death of George Floyd. And though commemorations of the anniversary were relatively muted (a vigil was planned in Minneapolis, where he died at the hands of a white police officer who has since been charged with his murder), the fact is that demonstrations have been held daily since 25 May. The ongoing calls to action are among the largest and most effective in the US for decades: politicians are running for office in his name and “Black Lives Matter” has been daubed in giant letters on buildings around the world. In the past the US has seen promising gun-law reform movements (though clearly different) fizzle out due to inaction from leaders. For Floyd’s death to spark lasting change will require not only a more amenable president but also decisive action from city leaders and Congress to ensure that the opportunity for progress is not lost in the meantime.

Urbanism / Vienna

New leaf

Neatly maintained green spaces in our cities rarely reflect the wilderness beyond the urban perimeter but the co-winning proposal of this year’s Erste Bank Extra Value Design award, just announced as part of Vienna Design Week, will bring some real nature to the Austrian capital. Entitled Arche, the work (pictured) will create a “diverse, colourful, disorganised, wild” environment within a vacant lot in the city. The idea is to demonstrate how patches of plants need not be destroyed when a building is razed. Instead, vegetation can be moved to spots in the city that are in need of a little greening, helping to improve biodiversity in the urban jungle. This effort will be one of many social-design wonders on show at the event, which kicks off on 25 September. For an interview with Vienna Design Week director Lilli Hollein, see issue 131 of Monocle, an Austria special.

M24 / The Urbanist

Tall Stories 212: Ljubljana Castle

We visit Ljubljana Castle, a former medieval fortress that’s now at the heart of city life in the Slovenian capital. It hosts everything from award-winning restaurants to a diverse collection of cultural venues.

Monocle Films / Australia

Sydney Residence: Harry and Penelope Seidler House

Far removed from the skyscrapers and residential towers for which architect Harry Seidler became known, the house he designed with his wife is governed by Bauhaus aesthetics that are just as forward-thinking today as they were in the 1960s. Monocle Films visits Penelope Seidler in her dream home.

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