Monday. 24/8/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Tomos Lewis

Hard act to follow

The Republican National Convention (RNC) gets underway today and, putting politics aside for the moment, the Democrats’ convention last week has given the Grand Old Party a tough act to follow. It was the first to be staged entirely virtually and the absence of the usual roaring crowds, balloon drops and flurries of ticker tape served the Democrats well. It meant that the gravity of every word uttered during addresses by the likes of the Obamas, the Clintons – and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris themselves – hung in the air and was allowed to speak for itself.

Secondly it enabled unsung characters, who represented the US in all its diversity, to shine through. The brothers of George Floyd, for instance, who called for racial justice; or the 13-year-old old boy who was given advice on how to overcome his stutter by Joe Biden in New Hampshire earlier this year; or the official delegation from Rhode Island, who took their moment in the spotlight to showcase the simple joys of a heaped plate of deep-fried calamari.

Many details of the Republican National Convention were not released until the last minute. We know that Donald Trump will accept his party’s nomination at the White House on Thursday and that some past heavyweights – George W Bush and Mitt Romney – will be staying away. The lesser-known characters on stage reportedly include heroes in conservative circles who stood up for “law and order”; a St Louis couple who brandished guns in front of their homes as demonstrators marched by; a Parkland, Florida, school-shooting victim’s father who stood up for gun rights. “My guess is [that] you’re going to hear a lot of anger at the Republican National Convention,” says Linda Chavez, a former White House official who served under Ronald Reagan. “They’re going to flip the tables and be more in the mode of a challenger than an incumbent.” The competing visions shaping up from the two parties ahead of November’s vote could not be starker.

Society / New Zealand

Judgement call

Last year’s Christchurch attacks cost the lives of 51 worshippers in two mosques, shocking the world and marking an affront to liberal values. New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern (pictured) responded with grace and dignity, urging the media to forget the shooter’s name and focus on the victims – and tightening gun laws. This week the attacker is due to be sentenced. Some want the shooter to be repatriated to his native Australia, saving the cost of his incarceration. But perhaps New Zealand’s judiciary can learn from Norway: when extremist Anders Breivik was sentenced for his 2011 attacks that killed 77, the country refused to compromise on its belief in restorative justice, handing him the state’s maximum sentence of 21 years. “We made sure that hatred and revenge weren’t the [key] thoughts,” Norway’s prime minister Erna Solberg told Monocle shortly after the Christchurch attack. It’s not enough that justice be served: the values the shooter sought to attack must also be upheld.

Economy / USA

Money talks

In recent months, central bankers the world over have been the calm, apolitical operators who’ve been organising relief efforts behind the scenes of the coronavirus pandemic and injecting trillions into the global economy in an unprecedented bid to help keep bank loans cheap and money flowing. This week, US central bank chiefs will host many of their global counterparts in an online version of their annual symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

It’s a rather wonkish meeting that’s typically used to compare and co-ordinate global monetary policy approaches – something that governments have struggled to do in this pandemic. It has also been used to hint at looming policy shifts: this year the US Federal Reserve chief, Jerome Powell (pictured) is set to lay out a long-awaited review of the central bank’s monetary policy, which could result in it taking a more relaxed approach to inflation. Investors will be watching closely for signs of the next steps in the global recovery.

Design / Dallas

Current thinking

For decades, Dallas’s Trinity River has been one of the city’s most underused assets, thanks to the infrastructural barriers impeding access to the waterway. Among them: the Jesse R Dawson State Jail, which was closed in 2013. Announced last week, the prison will be transformed by New York design studio Weiss/Manfredi into a community hub and gateway to the highly anticipated Harold Simmons Park. Designed by Michael van Valkenburgh Associates, the $200m (€170m) riverside park (pictured) will offer 200 acres worth of public and recreational space, while also linking the city’s downtown to its western and southern quarters. Exactly how the prison fits into the new landscape will be determined with the help of conversations with community members regarding their needs, the first of which took place on Friday. The park is the first in a series of projects that the Trinity Conservancy, the non-profit behind it, hopes will transform Dallas’s river into a pillar of city life.

Urbanism / France

Civic pride

Beginning this Friday, Marseille will play host to the 13th edition of Manifesta, Europe’s nomadic urbanism biennale, which runs until 29 November. Its organisers are seeking to integrate creative discussion and interventions within the social, cultural and political fabric of the metropolitan region, creating a better city in the long run – and not just happy memories for attendees. To inform a programme that’s reflective of this ambition, Manifesta has run a comprehensive pre-biennale study led by famed urban designer Winy Maas and summarised in a lengthy 1,200-page report named “The Grand Puzzle”. Maas says that the study highlights “the potentials, necessities and beauties of Marseille”. Suggestions include new designs for hiking trails through the city, improvements to housing and the removal of cul-de-sacs – work that will influence the talks and discussions at the biennale. This report, and the event, will provide concrete suggestions to guide both Marseillais and Manifesta attendees to realise their city’s potential. Here’s hoping that they do.

M24 / On Design Extra

‘The Ark Re-imagined: The Expeditionary Pavilion’

The Iraq pavilion curator Rashad Salim shares what would have been in store for the 2020 Venice Biennale of Architecture.

Monocle Films / Armenia

Yerevan’s open doors

We shine a spotlight on entrepreneurship in Armenia. Yerevan’s boulevards are lined with magnificent Soviet architecture but venture beyond the imperious façades and you’ll find a busy start-up scene and well-funded art centres. Armenia shows how a small nation can benefit from building strong ties to its powerful diaspora.

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