Saturday 6 February 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 6/2/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday


Wait and see

  1. Now, all cities want to come out of this time with something to show for the stress and upheaval we’ve experienced, but it often feels like they are all getting their reboot ideas from the same source. Perhaps there’s an e-commerce catalogue for civic leaders where they can spend their residents’ taxes. “Today at we have a special offer on make-your-own pocket-park kits. They always go down a treat with the whole community!”

One thing I am pretty sure of is that the website currently has a deal on timber buildings – even jumbo-packs are going cheap.

For the March issue of Monocle, we’ve been looking at how we can do all sorts of things better and, yes, we have some very handsome timber buildings in the mix. We all love wood for its warmth, tactile qualities and direct link to nature. But it seems that cities and their astute developers have cottoned on to the fact that if it’s made with a timber exterior (we are talking industrial CLT, or cross-laminated timber, which is all the rage because it’s strong and mostly environmentally sound), you just get an easier ride. Want a very tall residential tower to whizz through planning? Make it in timber. I am sure that if you proposed a downtown nuclear power plant made from timber people would be excited. “Really, we’ll get to live next-door to Armageddon Plaza?”

Now, wood is beautiful but only when matched with all the other essential elements – including a good architect. And you are still building a new tower; let’s not kid ourselves that this is a fix to the world’s problems on its own. And let’s also wait and see how this popularity mutates in the hands of the cost-cutters and value engineers.

A few years ago a revival of building with bricks began and cool architects were spotted hunting down the finest makers in distant Nordic clay pits. But yesterday I watched builders who are converting a 1960s block near my house as they attached wafer-thin panels, made to look like bricks, to the exterior. The panels were just one step up from wallpaper.

So let’s hope that the mayors’ catalogue also includes some timber-design collabs from the likes of Tadao Ando, an architect who knows what to do with a dead tree and understands both scale and that you need more than a nice material to make attractive places to live and work. And, personally, I’m still fond of an austere Mies van der Rohe skyscraper.

  1. How’s your nation’s vaccine programme going? Here in the UK, more than 10 million people have had the jab and the target of hitting 15 million people – that includes everyone over the age of 70, in a care home or clinically vulnerable – by mid-February is likely to be met. Once you hit numbers like this, an interesting thing happens: people lose their memories.

We may have shot down the coronavirus ravine faster than a pig in a canoe, seen more than 100,000 die and been subjected to numerous bad decisions, but because the government genuinely got the procurement bet right, that’s forgotten. Boris is rising in the opinion polls, opposition leader Keir Starmer is in a strop and Emmanuel Macron sounds a little off-colour too as he makes oddly snide comments about the UK for one usually above the fray. It shows that as the old phrase goes, it’s not over until the fat lady sings. Or, in this case, lad. Although he was spotted doing his lunges in a park this week.

  1. And on that. Not the weight issue. But waiting to see how public sentiment settles, let’s head to Tokyo for an entire paragraph. This week I spoke with Fiona Wilson, our Asia editor in the city, who explained how opposed everyone is to the Olympics taking place there. Some 80 per cent of Japanese people would like the pole-vaulters, marathon runners and jugglers (I hope they have jugglers) to stay away. But when we had the Olympics in London, the mood was also negative until it began and then, almost overnight, everyone was saying how they always knew it would be a triumph and started wandering around in leotards.

  2. And this takes us back to the vaccines. In the UK they thought the take-up could be as low as 70 per cent. It’s 85 per cent. And while there is work to do in many ethnic communities, it’s turned out that the 90-year-old early adopters have been proper influencers. Supreme should target them with a skate-come-Zimmer line of clothing.


Broader horizons

The Monocle Digital Guides, available to subscribers through the Monocle website, have been a hit with both locals and lucky visitors to our favourite cities over the past year. So, we’re particularly excited to unveil our newest guide for Melbourne. It’s known for its independent shops, smart galleries, lively music venues and an unbeatable coffee culture, and this online handbook to Australia’s cultural capital is a roadmap for those looking to get the most out of the city’s buzzing scene. The regularly updated Editors’ Selection, pointing readers toward new things to do, places to go and things to see, will keep you coming back for more. As the Melburnians say: “Onya mate!”


Rogues’ gallery

In the northern hemisphere – particularly around Monocle’s Tokyo office – you can sense that spring is nearing (writes Junichi Toyofuku). The days are getting longer and the temperatures are slowly climbing. What’s more, the streetscape is changing, as the early fashion birds are readying to shed their heavy outerwear. A stroll from our bureaux in Tomigaya, through Harajuku, to Aoyama, causes me to lift my chin and scan the scene: the new-season collections are hitting the shelves and window displays of Visvim, Sacai and Beams.

Out this week, to mark this new season, is a collaboration between the Louvre and Uniqlo. Part of a the famed Paris museum’s partnership with the Japanese brand, it now comes in the form of Uniqlo’s UT label T-shirts and sweatshirts, featuring Louvre masterpieces including the “Mona Lisa” and “Venus de Milo”. Of course, Uniqlo didn’t invent this kind of collaboration. Last month the likes of Gucci and Loewe were the talk of the town for their tie-ups with Japanese soft-power icons Doraemon (the furry fellow who graced our cover back in 2015) and Totoro respectively. But here, the Japanese apparel powerhouse is not pulling any punches.

Its approach is unique, filtering established works through the lens of illustrators that the brand trusts. Shoppers have responded to the strong identity and clothes that works alone or layered with other quieter garments. Celebrated English graphic designer Peter Saville designed the Louvre x UT men’s collection, while Japanese illustrator Yu Nagaba also produced a Peanuts collection with his distinct touch for this season. Last year, Japanese art director Yuni Yoshida produced her own number with Hello Kitty for UT. The list continues. Uniqlo’s drive to collaborate with (and perhaps discover) artistic talents big and small, to create something upbeat, is increasingly attractive to young crowds. But, most importantly, it reminds us to have fun with fashion.


Flex of kin

There’s a long list of famous brothers and sisters who offer proof that sibling rivalry can help us to reach the top of a field (writes Nic Monisse). Think Adolf and Rudolf Dassler, who respectively founded Adidas and Puma, or Venus and Serena Williams, who have long dominated world tennis. Personally, I am unsure whether my sister forcing me to bark like a dog when we were children will bring success of any kind. Friendly or not, though, a shared sibling background can spur us to achieve.

The same applies to cities. For proof, look to Amsterdam and Rotterdam, which recently engaged in a “tile-popping” competition in a bid to remove paving and replace it with greenery. The two cities tracked the number of concrete tiles they were ripping up, with Rotterdam beating its older brother 47,942 tiles to 46,484.

This competitive mindset should be embraced by other cities too. With Melbourne announcing that it’s going to revive its nightlife this week, perhaps it’s a good opportunity for Sydney, which has long had challenges with its night-time economy, to launch into a contest (we’d suggest new bars per capita as a good metric). And I am allowed to weigh in: I am an Aussie.

A word of warning, however: sibling is the operative word in all of this. Such competitions are likely only healthy for cities with similar make-ups and infrastructure. After all, there’s not much point in Mombasa competing with Copenhagen for the most bike lanes, or Ulaanbaatar trying to rival Tokyo for the most extensive subway system. Oh, and one more thing: if you don’t win, there can be no crying to mummy.


Pure exhibitionism

Zürich-based historian and art dealer Larkin Erdmann founded his eponymous gallery in 2014. Its current spot on Zürich’s Rämistrasse showcases postwar and modern artists, and with a move to a larger space in the same building next month, Erdmann says that you can expect bigger and better exhibitions. A show featuring works by Jackson Pollock, Thomas Schütte and Francis Picabia is kicking off in March. Here, Erdmann takes some time out of his busy schedule to tell us how a coffee mogul was cremated and why he’s humming 2000s hits in the shower.

What news source do you wake up to?
I am addicted to as it has some great reporters on stock gossip, which I love. I’m quite a news junkie, so I check The New York Times and Financial Times apps while I’m still horizontal.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines?
I swear by my Bialetti coffee; I’ve had the same Moka Express [stovetop coffee maker] for at least five years. I keep remembering that when its inventor died a few years ago his ashes were buried in a Bialetti coffee maker – what a way to go.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes?
You might laugh but my current thing is one-hit wonders: think “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice and “My Sharona” by The Knack. I find the culture around bands that got famous just because of one song, and never got past that song, fascinating.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower?
A one-hit wonder of course. Currently “Who Let the Dogs Out” by the Baha Men.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?
As I used to travel a lot, I was that annoying guy at the airport newsstand flipping through all my favourite magazines and then not buying a single one. But I’ve started to get subscriptions to magazines again: Apartamento by the amazing Omar Sosa, French Architectural Digest, Bilanz and the only ‘art-art’ magazine I like called Blau International.

Newspaper that you turn to?
I enjoy weekend newspapers like the NZZ am Sonntag and the FT Weekend.

Favourite bookshop?
There are some great bookshop owners out there who really excel in their craft, such as Thomas Heneage in London, Anartist run by Gordon Simpson in New York, Kunstkiosk by Bruno Rusterholz in Zürich and Ars Libri in Boston.

Is that a podcast in your ear?
I really enjoy The Daily by Michael Barbaro, even though in a post-Trump era, they seem to have nothing more to talk about.

What’s the best thing you’ve watched on TV recently?
Aside from my secret passion for Emily in Paris (my wife is French, so that might have something to do with it), I love any Tarantino or Iñárritu movie.

What’s your cultural obsession?
Museums that are off the beaten track: the Judd Foundation in Marfa, Texas; Naoshima island; The Honolulu Museum of Art; Skulpturenhalle Neuss next to Düsseldorf; the Museum Langmatt in Baden, Switzerland; the Nezu Museum in Tokyo; and the Guggenheim Bilbao.

Do you make an appointment to watch the nightly news?
Since we discovered that the 19.30 on RTS, the national channel of the French-speaking part of Switzerland, has a much more down-to-earth and yet aggressive way of presenting the news, we have been hooked on it.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off?
My favourite way to end the day is with It is a musical time machine, where you can listen to the top tunes from every decade of the 20th century, from any country in the world. Try the 1960s from Tajikistan – pure genius.


Time to shine

‘Apohrosis’, Helena Paparizou. If you’re suffering withdrawal from Eurovision’s over-the-top charm, this is for you. Greek singer Helena Paparizou won the contest in 2005 – the first and only such trophy for her home country; this is her 10th album of a 20-year career. Now also sitting as the judge on Greece’s version of The Voice, Paparizou brings us 13 songs that mix a hint of Greek folk with unashamedly 1980s-style beats – an infallible Europop recipe.

‘Die Adern der Welt’, Byambasuren Davaa. This German-Mongolian film (also known as Veins of the World) is directed by Byambasuren Davaa. It follows Amra, a boy growing up in the Central Asian steppes, who picks up his father’s fight against the mining companies that have come to upend his surroundings. The vast landscapes of Mongolia and the community’s nomadic way of life are counterpointed with the children’s fascination with Youtube videos and an ambition to appear on Mongolia’s Got Talent. This is a story of tradition versus modernity and the power of stubbornness.

‘Come To Me Without A Word’, Australian Design Centre.
There’s a strange melancholy to Australian artist Anita JohnsonLarkin’s approach to sculpture. This exhibition consists of used or broken domestic objects that otherwise would have been thrown away. Here they are reimagined and combined into surreal structures – ladders are mounted onto lasts for shoes, a violin is attached to a quilted pillow – so they get a new humble and poetic life, and evoke memories of times past.


Remote control

Set in the English Channel, 15km from the coast of Normandy, Alderney is home to a quintessentially British slice of life. Little appears to have changed in decades, thanks to its population of just 2,000 and limited passage to the outside world – a weekly boat from England delivers provisions and a small plane flies to and from Southampton on the mainland, and another Channel Island, Guernsey.

“It’s like living in a village in the 1950s,” says Dougal Bohan (pictured), manager of Quay FM, a radio station on the island. Launched in a space above a garage in 2000, the station has since moved to a fully fledged studio and established its place in the community as a reputable source of news, providing announcements on health, food shipments and transport links. It also has some fun: as well as the island’s world-beating vaccination effort, we hear from Bohan about poultry prizes and a song that just won’t stop.

What’s the big story this week?
On Saturday I received my first vaccine [against coronavirus] – and I’m not alone. We’ve had 800 people vaccinated already, which means we might be among the first to have vaccinated all of our at-risk population. Many here are of an older generation, so it’s very good news.

Do you have a favourite radio segment?
We run quizzes every day, such as “What’s on the Box?” For that one, we play the theme of a television programme for 30 seconds or so and then ask people to call in. We usually have a prize that’s been donated by a local business: in the past it’s been anything from a £10 [€11] voucher for your next electricity bill to a live chicken.

Any memorable bloopers?
We once had Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” on for hours on a loop. Eventually someone called in to let us know and we sorted it out. The next day though, one of the island’s postmen called in to make a song request: it was “Don’t Stop Believin’” all over again.

What’s the next big event you’re covering?
The station’s birthday on 12 February. It will have been six years since we went full time in our coverage. We have 30 volunteers who have come in every day to keep the station going all this time – so it’s well done to all of them.


Terminal velocity

When Berlin’s Tegel airport (pictured) closed last year after several eventful decades as the city’s primary aviation hub, it marked the end of a favourite transit experience for many. The terminal, built in 1974, had a smart design that broke from the tradition of airports having central halls and long corridors to every gate. Instead, its hexagonal shape allowed passengers to get from building entrance to waiting lounge in just a few steps.

For those wishing to keep the memories alive (or who are just desperate to recreate their old lives nipping through airports), peruse the lots of Troostwijk Auctions’ sale, TXL (the airport’s code). Here, successful bidders will be able to pick up benches that once graced Tegel’s terminal. Going for more than €150, the tubular steel-framed seats will make a bold addition to your home (and the perfect perch for imagining you’re putting shoes back on after a security check).

A coffee roaster (from €4,000) is also up for grabs. And, for the more adventurous, the snow ploughs that were used to clear the runways are also available. Although these will certainly have a more niche market than the benches, those on the hunt for a smart Mercedes-Benz snow-removal vehicle (bids currently exceed €13,000) now know where to look.


Tome after tome

Much-loved Berlin bookshop Do You Read Me?! has opened its first outpost outside the German capital, in Helsinki (writes Petri Burtsoff). Located in the design-savvy Punavuori neighbourhood, the cosy shop offers a well-chosen collection of books on art, design, architecture and contemporary culture. All are picked by Mark Kiessling, co-founder of the Berlin shop, who says that Helsinki was the obvious choice for the new store after trialling a successful pop-up in the city with Finnish design brand Artek.

“Helsinki’s vibrant art scene, as well as its design culture, make it a unique and interesting place at the moment,” the Helsinki outpost’s owner and former Artek CEO Mirkku Kullberg tells Monocle. Finland’s successful approach to the pandemic means that shops such as Do You Read Me?! can operate without restrictions, making the opening of a new bookshop less risky in this nation of avid readers. Top recommendations from Kullberg (pictured) include Naomi Klein’s On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal and Formafantasma by designers Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin.


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