Friday 17 July 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 17/7/2020

The Monocle Minute

Image: ZTS

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Mother of invention

During a season of cancelled art fairs, exhibitions and festivals, what have you missed the most? The pleasure of perusing a gallery with your feet and not with a few clicks? The sense of community that comes with being in a space shared with people who love the same things as you do? When talking to graphic designer Marcus Kraft last weekend I realised that the answer to that question, for me, is the serendipity of discovery. His studio is working with performing arts festival Zürcher Theater Spektakel (pictured) on the campaign for an edition that is outside the ordinary.

Even though cultural institutions are largely operating close to normal in the Swiss city, setting up an event that is based around live performances and attended by a large audience is still not entirely straightforward. To work around the problem, the festival is foregoing a central venue (and a central programme) and has opted for a series of pop-up events that will take place mostly unannounced around the city. The lack of publicity should limit the gatherings of large crowds – and it will also provide an element of much-needed surprise.

The necessary rules implemented by galleries, museums and venues as they reopen around the world typically require a lot of planning: booking is sometimes necessary, paths around the artworks pre-determined. A considered and inventive approach can turn these limitations into springboards and the experimental results can be a true discovery for visitors and organisers alike.

Image: Shutterstock

Defence / Taiwan

Warning shots

Earlier this week a Taiwanese submarine launched a powerful live torpedo in the South China Sea as part of a five-day military drill concluding today. The missile was the first of its kind in more than a decade to be deployed as part of these exercises, which are used to test the island’s defences against a potential mainland invasion. Overseen by Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-Wen (pictured), these operations come as China, which claims Taiwan as its own, is exerting more pressure on its neighbours over territorial disputes from Hong Kong to the South China Sea. “China has been getting into a much more confrontational mindset, which makes these [war games] begin to feel a little more edgy,” Rana Mitter, director of Oxford University’s China Centre, told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “Taiwan’s armed forces are making sure that their capabilities are as good as they can be,” says Mitter. “It seems that the world is getting used to what is, regrettably, called a ‘new cold war’.”

Image: Getty Images

Business / Japan

Work in progress

Last week we reported that, over the past few months, more than a third of Japanese people had experienced remote working for the first time. But a new survey of 14,000 businesses suggests that longer-term change to the working environment is unlikely. It found that 26 per cent of Japanese companies have already halted remote working; 31 per cent are still practising the policy, while 42 per cent never implemented it. Reasons for the reversal were mostly technical, from a lack of security for sensitive information kept at workers’ homes to employees struggling with teleworking computer systems. While it is unexpected that technical issues would be problematic in Japan, the fact that workers are returning to offices is good news to those who operate the restaurants, cafés and shops in the business districts that have struggled without their core customers. This doesn’t mean that all of Japan is going back to the office en masse but it does signal that, when it comes to work, there is no clear picture of “the new normal” just yet.

Image: Getty Images

Urbanism / USA

Bill of health

The built environment can be an inhospitable place for wildlife, particularly for the birds who call our cities home. It’s estimated that in the US alone up to one billion birds a year die when they fly into glass structures. But change could be on the horizon. This month the US House of Representatives passed the Bird-Safe Buildings Act. The legislation, which is awaiting approval in the Senate, will mandate that all new and existing public buildings be designed in a bird-friendly manner to help reduce avian fatalities. Christine Sheppard, director of the glass collision programme at the American Bird Conservancy, cites plenty of potential fixes, such as “a sunshade structure or a building designed with a second skin”. There are also types of glass that can incorporate signals for birds, and insect screens that reduce reflection. “You can design a new building to be bird-friendly with no real increase in cost,” she tells The Urbanist.

Image: Getty Images

Fashion / UK

Unified looks

London Fashion Week will go ahead this September as a gender-neutral affair for the first time. The biannual spectacle has historically been all about womenswear, while the more recently established men’s shows had a lower profile. Now the call has gone out for applications from all designers to present on the main schedule, albeit with physical-distancing measures in place and some digital content alongside the live shows. The British Fashion Council says that this will allow designers whose production capabilities have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic to show their collections whenever they are ready. But it could also be seen as an opportunity for younger talents such as Harris Reed (pictured), who has championed a more gender-fluid approach, and menswear designers including Craig Green and Grace Wales Bonner, who have branched out into womenswear, to bring their line-ups to a combined audience of menswear and womenswear buyers.

Image: Getty Images

M24 / On Design Extra

Building to last

We look at how temporary structures can become permanent: from Gustave Eiffel’s tower and the London Eye to Melbourne’s popular M Pavilion programme.

Monocle Films / Caucasus

Nagorno-Karabakh: Limbo Land

After a recent flare-up in the Caucasus, we revisit the republic of Nagorno-Karabakh and its defiant quest for independence.


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