Tuesday 28 July 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 28/7/2020

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Find the Wright place

The streets of Chicago’s North Shore neighbourhoods were treated to a rare sight last week: a Frank Lloyd Wright home sitting on the back of a truck. In a move that’s likely to delight enthusiasts of the modernist master’s canon, Booth Cottage, which was built in 1913 as a temporary house for Wright’s lawyer, has been saved from demolition and is instead being relocated to a nearby park.

But it’s a plan that will disappoint architectural purists who believe that moving a building for the purposes of conservation undermines its heritage value. Normally I’m inclined to agree: good architecture should be tied to place, taking cues from its context and responding to it. At it’s best, it should become an irreplaceable part of the landscape; imagine Wright’s Fallingwater (pictured) anywhere other than at its plot in rural Pennsylvania, replete with creeks and streams, and it loses its majesty.

Despite all this, the decision to move Booth Cottage could be a good thing: removing and relocating a building in appropriate surroundings could turn it into an artefact of sorts. (That’s an idea worth keeping in mind for the ongoing discussion over what to do with controversial statues). So plans to turn Booth Cottage into a museum at its new location seem apt. In terms of what to display inside, I’d suggest drawings and photographs of significant buildings lost to the wrecking ball: Wright’s W Carr Cottage in Michigan and Lockridge Medical Clinic in Montana would be a fitting start.

Image: Getty Images

Media / Russia

Taking a newsstand

A group of senior journalists who quit respected Russian business broadsheet Vedomosti last month has announced that they will be forming a rival media outlet. VTimes, the new online publication, will cover similar themes to the team’s former news-sheet, while reporting on forward-facing topics such as the environment, health and workers’ rights too. It will also serve as a fierce champion of Russia’s free press. The resignations came after Andrei Shmarov was appointed acting editor in chief in March; Vedomosti has since allegedly attempted to censor negative coverage of Vladimir Putin. “VTimes offers strong expertise in top-level political and economic coverage,” says Alexander Gubsky (pictured), the paper’s former deputy editor in chief. “We want to bring our readers something that is transparent and serious. We are not the enemy of the state – but nor are we propaganda.” It’s a reminder to the establishment that independent media cannot be so easily quashed.

Image: Getty Images

Transport / Japan

Paranoid android

Mindful of its challenging demographics – an ageing population and shrinking workforce – Japan has been hard at work developing robots that could potentially fill the labour gap. East Japan Railway Co yesterday unveiled an impressive new line-up of autonomous robots. The one that attracted the most attention – inevitably, in these germ-phobic times – was the Clinabo CL02, a solid unit that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and three-dimensional cameras to move around train stations spraying disinfectant on benches and handrails.

Other robots are designed to carry luggage, serve food and drinks, and transport people from platform to platform. The unmanned robots were unveiled at Takanawa Gateway, the newly opened hi-tech station in Tokyo, where AI robots are being trialled to give out information and detect suspicious packages. Robots won’t be replacing all human staff in the near future – we’d miss the teams of cleaners on the bullet trains – but this is a timely unveiling when people are (sadly) seeking to minimise human contact.

Image: Alamy

Urbanism / Berlin

Streets ahead

Cities around the world are busy rethinking the role of their roads following lockdowns. London’s Soho neighbourhood, for example, has been closed to cars to allow for pop-up beer gardens and restaurant terraces, while Oakland has converted almost 10 per cent of its roads into dedicated space for bicycles and pedestrians. However, as is often the case, Germany has been leading the way when it comes to finding practical solutions. Not only has Berlin already introduced 22km of pop-up bike lanes but, last weekend, Danneckerstrasse (pictured) in Friedrichshain was transformed into a pop-up park or Klimastrasse (climate street). Twenty trees in planters have been placed along the newly pedestrianised zone, creating an inviting space for Berliners to exercise and socialise. Now more than ever, creating and improving the access that space-starved city-dwellers have to these kinds of public amenities is crucial. It’s a small but promising step for other cities to follow; with any luck, pedestrianised pop-up parks will be coming to a street near you soon.

Image: Warner Bros

Cinema / Global

Bigger picture

European cinephiles will have been buoyed by the gradual reopening of cinemas across the continent in the past month. But there’s a catch: as most US cinemas have delayed reopening, major production companies have put new releases on hold. Many of summer’s most eagerly anticipated blockbusters have been pushed back, including Christopher Nolan’s Tenet (pictured) and Disney’s Mulan. Domestic US audiences usually enjoy Hollywood’s offerings before anyone else, so these films might not appear in other countries for a long while yet. As a result, cinemas outside the US might find themselves relying on local fare. South Korea has posted strong box-office numbers since its cinemas reopened and France had a reasonable weekend after audiences were welcomed back in June, thanks to re-releases of French features. But in Spain, for example, about 80 per cent of box-office revenue hinges on US productions. The solution is to diversify and the opportunity is there for the taking: if European distributors and cinemas join forces, they could encourage cinema-goers to enjoy a wider range of films.

Image: Shutterstock

M24 / The Foreign Desk

Abe’s plans for Japan

The Olympics were supposed to have started on 24 July. The Games should have been an opportunity for Shinzo Abe to present Japan as the major world power he believes it should be. What vision does the country’s longest-serving prime minister have for its future?

Monocle Films / Helsinki

Market value

Monocle Films travels to Helsinki to visit Vanha Kauppahalli, the city’s oldest waterside food market, to meet the merchants serving up the very best in Nordic cuisine.


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