Thursday. 3/12/2020

The Monocle Minute

Image: ACC Naturale Architettura Cristiana Catino, Negozi Blu Architetti

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Green grocer

The Farinetti family will open a five-floor shopping centre focused entirely on sustainably minded brands in Turin this month. The complex, Green Pea (pictured), is modelled on the family’s internationally successful global supermarket chain Eataly. It’s a bold move and one that is a little counterintuitive in its timing: many department stores and large high-street retailers are struggling.

Green Pea has raised more than €50m ahead of opening. The shops inside the mall – operating under a concession model – will sell everything from fashion and furniture to electric cars. And the building itself was designed to be easy on the environment: it will be powered in part by geothermal wells and solar panels.

Yet perhaps most interestingly (and surprisingly), the company has announced that Green Pea won’t sell online: there will be a website, sure, but you won’t be able to buy anything from it. Given the prevailing narrative that online retail is essential, this is a courageous decision but it speaks convincingly to the project’s green credentials: deliveries and returns are notoriously bad for emissions. And given how much people have rethought their relationship to nature and consumption this year, is it really such a crazy idea?

Image: Getty Images

Health / Europe

Cure and simple

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) yesterday became the world’s first such body to approve the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and Biontech for distribution. Some cynics might suggest that UK regulators took shortcuts to approve the vaccines before the EU but the reality is that the approval is undoubtedly good news. Chris Smith, consultant virologist and lecturer at Cambridge University and Monocle 24’s health correspondent, is positive. He notes that, before the UK left the bloc, the MHRA was typically the key agency responsible for making such decisions for the whole of the EU. Europe’s health regulator relocated from the UK to Amsterdam in 2019 and is going through its own approval process. “The Europeans have got to consider the entire European bloc, whereas the UK can now be a bit more agile,” Smith told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “That’s why the UK has been able to be more fleet of foot.”

Image: Getty Images

Motoring / South Korea

Next generation

Hyundai Motor Group announced yesterday that it will introduce its own electric-vehicle-only platform by early next year. It’s a clear statement from the South Korean marque, which, together with sister company Kia, is aiming to become the world’s third-largest electric vehicle seller by 2025. The move could mean significant savings: going electric-only means that the average number of components needed per vehicle could be cut by 60 per cent.

Hyundai's announcement comes as more than a dozen countries have pledged to ban sales of petrol- or diesel-only vehicles in the coming decades – Boris Johnson recently moved the UK’s dealine forward to 2030. Billions of dollars are also being poured into battery development to get ahead of a demand that will grow by necessity; market leader Tesla recently announced a plan to halve its costs on batteries by bringing their production in-house. Though diesel and petrol rule the road for now, car-makers still not taking electricity seriously are in for a shock.

Image: Jack Hardy

Hospitality / UK

Staying on track

The Nobu Hotel London Portman Square opens its doors for the first time today as England emerges from its second lockdown into a tiered system of restrictions. The new opening is the 13th outpost from the fast-expanding hotel and restaurant brand, which has properties from Miami Beach to Manila, and its second in London. Opening during a pandemic has been a challenge. “How the hospitality industry has been spoken to by the government and getting guidance the day before [you need to act] is not helpful, especially when you’re managing teams,” general manager Grant Campbell tells The Monocle Minute while sitting in the David Collins Studio-designed lobby to a chorus of drills wielded by the workmen finishing the first-floor ballroom, which opens in 2021. “You need to know whether you’re going to empty your fridges of £5,000 [€5,520] of stock; you need more warning.” For now, though, the 200-cover first-floor restaurant, the separate bar and lounge spaces and many of the 249 smart rooms and suites by Make Architects are, mercifully, now open for bookings.

Image: Shutterstock

Arts / Japan

Flower power

Takashi Murakami, whose artwork is highly coveted worldwide, has been trying to put a brave face on things. His latest work is a 10-metre-high shining golden sculpture now on display outside Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills development. But the execution of his Flower Parent and Child sculpture (pictured, with the artist), which features his signature smiley flower motif, didn’t come easily. “When I was creating the sculpture, there was a chance that the project would have to be discontinued, which left me greatly distressed,” says Murakami. “Most people mistakenly take it that my character, and my production sites, are cheerful and happy because of the smiling characters that appear in my artworks. But creating this dream has also been an anguishing experience.” Funding art and culture projects has slipped down the list of government priorities but a balance needs to be found so creativity can still blossom.

Image: R Boed

M24 / The Urbanist

Tall Stories 235: The American suburb

Monocle’s Henry Rees Sheridan explores how we define the American suburb with Jed Kolko, chief economist at Indeed.

Monocle Films / Los Angeles

All around the table: big screen in Los Angeles

Under the starry sky in Hollywood, we meet Rooftop Cinema Club founder Gerry Cottle Jr to talk about the enduring appeal of simple get-togethers and how public spaces in busy cities can become our living rooms.

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