Friday. 28/8/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Civic partnership

Pop-up urbanism has taken its place in the spotlight in recent months, as communities across the globe put pressure on their civic leaders to install temporary bike lanes, small parks and outdoor dining. But a word of caution from someone who’s championed such projects as a citizen in their hometown (please do enjoy the leafy fruits of my labour on Oxford Street in Perth, Australia) and also worked with community members on behalf of a city hall. I’ve seen firsthand what can happen when enthused residents build infrastructure without proper advice from professional city-makers – think parklets left to gather rubbish on uninviting streets and unprotected bike lanes installed on major roads.

Which begs the question, what’s the best way for active citizens and city hall to work together? Buffalo, New York (pictured) might have just provided the perfect model. This week the cycling activist group Gobike began to paint its own pedestrian crossings and other markings on streets already earmarked by the city for infrastructure development. Though the move was driven by frustration with the city government for not following up or funding its own strategy, it’s still a move that builds on the carefully considered work of Buffalo’s urban planners. The result is a pop-up project that’s appropriate for its context and also serves the long-term ambitions of the city.

The message here is that, for citizens looking to take action, the best place to start might be by building on your own city’s existing plans. These are more likely to receive support and might even be the tipping point that gets your mayor moving. Let’s hope that’s the case in Buffalo.

Conflict / Iraq

In other news

The UN’s counter-terrorism chief warned this week that about 10,000 Islamic State militants remain active across Iraq and Syria. Vladimir Voronkov’s bleak assessment would normally get huge international attention but the story has largely been left on the cutting-room floor by journalists who have become fixated on both the US presidential election and the coronavirus pandemic. “The world’s focus has been elsewhere and that has provided Islamic extremists with an opportunity to regroup,” Paul Rogers, author of Irregular War: Isis and the New Threat from the Margins tells the Monocle Minute. “Covid-19 is still in its very early stages in the Middle East and the Sahel,” he adds. “But we are starting to see terrorists use the disruption caused by the pandemic to increase their support.” In other words, it’s time for the world, and not just the Iraqi army (pictured), to start paying attention again.

Media / Hong Kong

Creeping clampdown

Despite promises to the contrary, it seems as though Hong Kong’s national security law might be starting to have an impact on its independent media. This week Aaron McNicholas, an Irish journalist already based in Hong Kong, was denied a visa to start his new job as editor of the Hong Kong Free Press. It’s an incident that follows on from earlier this month when the offices of Apple Daily, a newspaper owned by pro-democracy media magnate Jimmy Lai, were raided. The Hong Kong Free Press has previously been criticised by chief executive Carrie Lam (pictured), leaving many journalists wondering whether the grey areas of the national security law have been applied in McNicholas’s case. In July, Lam reassured journalists that those who do not commit offences would not be troubled. But the warning signs are there that independent journalism will be scrutinised going forward.

Society / Wisconsin

Protect and serve?

Nestled on Lake Michigan, with Chicago to the south and Milwaukee to the north, Kenosha has big-city attractions nearby but retains “a small-town feel”, Anthony Kennedy, alderman for the city’s 10th district, told Monocle 24’s (The Briefing)[https://monocle.com/radio/shows/the-briefing/2297]. But there are challenges too, he says, such as a distrust of police that, until this week, stemmed more from experiences of police brutality in Chicago than in Kenosha itself. Kennedy notes that the state of Wisconsin, where Kenosha is located, requires independent investigations of police shootings, which should give people “a little more faith in the system”. That’s why the shooting of African-American Jacob Blake by police on Sunday, two blocks from where Kennedy lives, was all the more shocking. “It didn’t correlate with the image that I have when my police department responds to the needs I ask of them,” he said. “I hope we engage in ways that allow people to get to a point where we can see policing as a community asset, not a liability.”

Retail / France

Shutting up shop

France has long had an uneasy relationship with the US-style hypermarchés and commercial centres that ring the peripheries of its principal cities. The so-called “artificialisation” of land by these mega-projects – where natural ground that could be given over to agriculture or forestry is instead used for man-made construction – is deemed to be a threat to green space. Now the country’s prime minister, Jean Castex, is promising to get tough on these developments. French newspaper Les Echos reports that the government will introduce a law before the end of the month that would result in a moratorium on new commercial centres, of which some 3,000,000 sq m are constructed every year. The industry responsible for building these vast outlets isn’t happy. And while we at Monocle do tend to prefer independent shops over mega malls, perhaps a more nuanced approach, on a case-by-case basis, would be better than a one-size-fits-all centralised response.

M24 / On Design Extra

‘Playgrounds: Artefacts for interaction’

Felipe Ferrer, the curator of the Peruvian pavilion, tells us what would have been in store at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale.

Monocle Films / Tasmania

Tasmania: buoyant business

Monocle Films visits a world-class ship-builder that’s staying afloat despite being adrift in far-flung Tasmania. Incat’s prized vessels have set records for speed but it’s the island’s skilled workers that keep the company on an even keel.

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