Monday 29 June 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 29/6/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Better living

It would be an understatement to say that the concept of “quality of life” has been getting something of a rethink this year. From pandemics to protests, our cities and mayors are having to consider new ways to answer the question of what really makes urban life desirable: how do we live? How do we commute? How do we travel for business? How do we go on holiday?

The year’s unusual circumstances mean that, here at Monocle, we felt it inappropriate to compile our annual ranking of the world’s top 25 cities. Instead we’re using our special July/August summer issue to deliver recommendations for how to enjoy the summer months in your city – and to offer advice on how city mayors and architects can remake their urban centres to fit with the times. That advice includes a series of blueprints – the perfect neighbourhood, residential development, radio station, department store and camper van – to help you lay out your own vision for what makes a city tick.

But it’s not just a conceptual exercise. We profile 20 promising urban projects – from city beaches in Stockholm to an equitable plan for public parks in Vancouver and a library revival that challenges Nairobi’s colonial past – and the people behind them.

“I dreamt of having a beautiful city,” Tri Rismaharini, the popular longtime mayor of Indonesia’s second city of Surabaya, told my colleague James Chambers. “I’ve tried to catch the energy of the citizens to collaborate with the government and build the city together.” Words for all mayors and urbanists to live by in this challenging period – that’s still filled with opportunity. Order your copy of the July/August issue, out this week.

Image: Getty Images

Elections / France

Back in the saddle

Paris went to the polls yesterday for a second (and final) round of municipal elections. Although votes were still being counted at the time this newsletter hit your inbox, incumbent mayor Anne Hidalgo (pictured) looks set to retain her post. The unexpected three-month interlude between rounds (due to the pandemic) has been used by Hidalgo to solidify her environmental credentials. The mayor, a Socialist party member whose campaign championed urban greening and a reduction in plastic waste, formed an alliance with the Green party and further expanded environmentally friendly transport initiatives. Since the initial vote, Hidalgo has overseen the rapid rollout of some 650km of cycle lanes, supporting the surge in cyclists as a result of coronavirus while solidifying her pre-pandemic plans to make every street bike-friendly by 2024. Another six years with Hidalgo at the helm reflects Parisians’ desire to become Europe’s greenest city and the best for cycling. Dutch and Nordic cities beware: the French capital is coming for your title.

Image: Shutterstock

Aviation / Global

Open air

The UK is expected to announce a series of so-called “air bridges” today, allowing for quarantine-free travel to a host of European nations. And while the International Air Transport Association estimates global airlines will lose $84bn (€74bn) this year, those carriers with the cash reserves needed for survival are busy preparing for a summer revival.

Luton-based low-cost carrier EasyJet said that it has more £3.3bn ( €3.6bn) in cash after a share offering last week and expects to be operating 75 per cent of its routes by August, while Hungary’s Wizz Air is even pushing ahead to open new routes and take delivery of 15 new Airbus planes by the year’s end. “We have been fairly optimistic and upbeat when it comes to looking at new market opportunities,” Wizz Air CEO József Váradi (pictured) told Monocle 24’s The Entrepreneurs. “We are very strong on liquidity. We don’t need to take short-term desperate measures for survival.” Positive news, even if not all airlines can say the same.

Image: Getty Images

Economy / Canada

Working knowledge

With Canadian students and young adults struggling to land summer jobs, the federal government has launched a much-anticipated plan to put money into their pockets in return for volunteer service. The Canada Student Service Grant programme, part of a larger CA$9bn (€5.9bn) relief package for young people, will see current students or recent graduates earn CA$1,000 (€650) for every 100 hours worked – up to CA$5,000 (€3,300) – in “national service” programmes. The grants are expected to create tens of thousands of placements at non-profit organisations and students could find themselves sewing masks, teaching children to code, providing translation services or creating exercise routines for the elderly. Though critics question why it’s taken the government two months to roll out the programme since it was announced, hopefully it’s arrived just in time to help students pay their tuition come autumn – and to fill some coronavirus-related resumé gaps.

Image: Getty Images

Culture / UK

Change of scene

An online, physically distanced performance of Duncan Macmillan’s play Lungs will be streamed live from London’s Old Vic theatre (pictured) throughout this week. Tickets are priced at the theatre’s usual rates and numbers are capped at 1,000 per performance (the Old Vic’s normal capacity) to imitate the going-out experience. UK theatres have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic: 200,000 jobs are at risk and 70 per cent of venues say that they will run out of money by the end of the year. So can the model be replicated? “The Old Vic was in the very enviable position of having a play that is uniquely crafted to this current climate,” says Matt Wolf, theatre critic at The New York Times. “But it’s not a model you can extrapolate from because it has everything to do with that play, those actors; it’s a perfect convergence of events.” Still, such innovative concepts do offer some hope that the show will go on.

M24 / Eureka


Luca Gnecchi Rusconi is the founder of LGR, an eyewear brand inspired by Africa. His entrepreneurial journey began during a family trip to the former Italian colony of Eritrea in 2005, when he came across several pairs of vintage Italian-army sunglasses. He soon left his job in finance and embarked on creating his own line of eyewear.

Monocle Films / Global

The future of Japanese craftsmanship

For the release of our book about Japan, we produced a film series that dives into the intriguing ecosystem that has preserved Japanese traditional skills over centuries. Meet the people who are future-proofing the age-old know-how.


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