Friday. 10/7/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Nolan Giles

Rearranging the furniture

Italy’s design industry might have to cut its traditional August holidays short this year as it gears up for a September showcase in Milan. Although the global furniture and creative industries’ biggest annual gathering, Milan Design Week, could not be held as planned in April, a new government-backed event, Milano Re-Design City, is now set to run from 28 September to 10 October, with various brand-led happenings throughout.

“The idea of Milan Re-Design City is a great opportunity to relaunch the city of Milan after this tough moment, so that every furniture player has the chance to present all the ideas that were meant to be introduced this year,” says Roberto Gavazzi, CEO of Boffi De Padova, a leading player in the global furniture market, which will join many of Milan’s biggest design names in participating.

Whereas the traditional annual Salone del Mobile is about design companies and furniture brands attempting to outshine each other in front of a global audience – while fighting with the budgets of non-design brands out to capitalise on the yearly marketing moment – this September outing will be an opportunity for a much purer, design-focused Italian experience.

“It’s not only an opportunity for the industry but the whole city,” says Luca Fuso, CEO of Cassina, which will show off the company’s 2020 collection across its sprawling showroom. The news is also positive for international buyers and press who have become tired of virtual releases and are keen to plop themselves on some new physical, well-made furniture in Milan, preferably with a negroni in hand. We’ll see you there.

Elections / Singapore

Cruise control

The People’s Action party (PAP) always wins general elections in Singapore and in today’s poll it wants to win big. Prime minister Lee Hsien Loong (pictured), the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore, has appealed to voters for a strong party mandate as he prepares to hand over to his anointed successor, deputy prime minister Heng Swee Keat. Singapore’s ruling party won almost 70 per cent of votes in 2015; anything less this time around will be seen as a failure. Although the PAP is used to getting its way, this year’s general election, taking place in the midst of a pandemic, has been like no other. Mass rallies were banned and election events moved online. During a virtual rally earlier this week, Lee described his party as a loyal dog. After 36 years in politics, the PAP leader will be hoping for a final pat on the head from equally loyal voters.

Trade / Global

Three’s company

The World Trade Organisation on Wednesday closed nominations for its top job – and the trade winds are blowing in Africa’s favour. No figure from Africa has ever led the WTO, which is currently managed by Brazilian diplomat Roberto Azevêdo, but three of this year’s eight nominations are from the continent: specifically from Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt. Each candidate, including Nigerian economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (pictured), must now seek to sway enough of the WTO’s 164 member nations during a two-stage selection process but there is concern that the continent has split its chances with three nominees. “The best route would be for Africa to unite behind one candidate,” says Alex Vines, head of Chatham House’s Africa programme. If two of them were knocked out in the first selection round, this would make things easier. If not? “Then the African Union is going to have to wise up soon and come together” for the second stage, says Vines, or risk losing its best opportunity.

Media / Portugal & Brazil

Language bond

From this week Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo and Portuguese daily Público are selling a special combined subscription package for their digital versions. It’s a wise partnership and an idea first suggested by the team behind Público, after seeing the number of Brazilians living in Portugal surge by nearly 50 per cent last year. For Brazil’s Folha, which also has a limited English-language version, it’s a great way to get access to a wider audience as the Portuguese are following developments in Brazil increasingly closely – not just politically but also culturally. Both lusophone papers published an editorial in yesterday’s issues stating their aims: “We intend to create bonds and bring Brazilians and Portuguese closer together as heirs of the same language and a similar cultural background, mobilised by their attachment to the values of democratic co-existence that are being threatened today more than ever.”

Urbanism / New York

Put out to grass

New York is slashing the number of Urban Park Rangers in the city: it emerged this week that 50 of its 95 rangers did not have their contracts renewed on 30 June. It’s a short-sighted cut that will save the city just $10m (€8.85m) from its overall $88.2bn (€78bn) annual budget. The rangers’ official role is to help New Yorkers explore the city’s “natural world through environmental education, outdoor recreation, wildlife management and active conservation”. In practice this means leading family-friendly classes in outdoor activities such as archery, astronomy and canoeing. They can also be found offering park-goers spontaneous insights, sharing the story of a particular cherry blossom or pointing out a hawk’s nest atop a floodlight. Such a role might not seem essential but their absence will make city parks a less welcoming place at a time when they act as a haven for responsibly distanced socialising and exercise.

M24 / The Urbanist

Tall Stories: Berlin’s Tegel Airport

We stop off at Berlin’s Tegel Airport to learn about its colourful past and uncertain future.

Monocle Films / Portugal

Surf haven: Ericeira

Ericeira, a small fishing village north of Lisbon on the Portuguese coast, is also a world-class surfing town. People come from as far away as Australia for great waves, good seafood and a relaxed “old Portugal” feeling that persists even as its popularity grows. Monocle films paid a visit.

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