Thursday. 20/5/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Nolan Giles

Building back better

Though the rattling of luggage trolleys over the paved streets of Venice is practically non-existent in a place now largely devoid of tourists, one corner of the city is teeming with human activity. This year’s Venice Architecture Biennale, postponed from 2020, swung open its gates for special invitees yesterday, before a grand public launch on Saturday.

While guests wore masks, a mood of exuberance echoed across the event as architects unveiled grand designs, long conversations crackled with brilliant ideas about the event’s theme – “How will we live together?” – and Aperol spritzes were sipped with old friends in the sunshine. The organisers should be credited with being brave and pushing ahead with this spectacle; the spacious setting and sensible but subtle handling of government restrictions has made the event feel as good as normal.

For a reporter like myself, a day’s worth of walking around the surprisingly buzzy biennale reaped more inspiration and information than I have enjoyed in months. I urge everyone who can to get to Venice. The biennale, which runs from Saturday until 21 November, is a beacon of hope for our global creative industries that are craving normality. It’s also a reminder to event organisers that acting with courage can pay off.

For more on the Venice Biennale, check out our companion Monocle Minute on Design newsletter, tune in to Monocle 24 or pick up a copy of our special newspaper, available from Saturday.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / South Korea & USA

Common ground

South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in (pictured) arrives in Washington today ahead of his first in-person meeting with Joe Biden at the White House tomorrow. The broad focus is likely to be Biden’s foreign-policy pivot to Asia – and South Korea’s role within it – but North Korea will be top of the agenda. Seoul is facing calls at home by North Korean defectors to pressure Pyongyang on its human rights record – and they want Biden to persuade Moon to do so more explicitly. Biden himself is under pressure to reinstate a full-time US envoy for North Korea, a position left vacant under Donald Trump in favour of a showier (and since-stalled) brand of one-on-one negotiation. One clear area of accord is likely to be coronavirus vaccines: South Korea’s rollout has been slow, despite its successes in keeping infections relatively low. The US seems poised to help.

For further analysis of the White House meeting, listen to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Shutterstock

Economy / Middle East

United front

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians across the West Bank, Gaza and Israel went on strike on Tuesday in an uncommon show of unity. Government ministries were closed and shops and businesses shuttered in parts of Israel and its occupied territories – including a mostly deserted Old City in Jerusalem – with demonstrators gathering to chant and wave flags.

Palestinians, who make up about 20 per cent of Israel’s population, have been scattered across the region since 1948 and, given the many political divisions within the community, such demonstrations of solidarity are rare. The labour strikes – not to mention the violence that has sprung up within Israeli neighbourhoods – serve to highlight the interconnectedness of their economies and life throughout the territories and within Israel. As the international community works to broker a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel this week, it’s another reminder that ending the current crisis is in the interests of both sides.

Image: Getty Images

Energy / Japan

Catching the sun

Japan plans to nearly double its reliance on solar power by 2030 as part of its bid to become carbon-neutral by 2050. National media report that the target will be included in a new Strategic Energy Plan to be unveiled this summer. Increasing solar-power generation from the current 56 million kilowatts – nearly 9 per cent of the country’s electricity mix – to 100 million kilowatts by 2030 is part of a broader effort to double the share of renewable energy, which currently makes up a fifth of Japan’s electricity supply. The new goal will need careful planning since the amount of land required to hit the solar target is estimated to be almost the size of Tokyo. Expect the sun-lit countryside to take centre-stage and municipal governments and private landowners to work closely with energy companies. Overall it’s a change for the better but must be done in co-operation with town councils – and in harmony with the rural landscape.

Design / Iceland

March on

The Venice Biennale and Hong Kong’s Art Basel are making headlines this week but myriad smaller festivals and openings have marked a return of the cultural calendar elsewhere too. Among them is the 13th edition of Design March, Iceland’s largest design festival. Normally held in March, it opened yesterday and has turned Reykjavík into a huge exhibition space until 23 May. Open studios and cultural spaces are celebrating their national design industry, which punches well above its weight. Expect new swimwear displayed by synchronised swimmers, a ceramics line inspired by overheard conversations and an exhibit on the evolution of Icelandic typefaces, to name a few. Thorey Einarsdóttir, director of the festival, says that this year’s edition is an important milestone at an exciting time for the country’s flourishing industry. “The design scene here is so young, so they feel that they’re not restricted by traditions, which gives them this freedom,” she told Monocle 24’s The Globalist. “The focus is on the future.”

M24 / The Menu

Food Neighbourhoods 235: Recipe edition, Roberta Hall

A modern take on an often-overlooked British breakfast dish by the head chef and owner of The Little Chartroom restaurant in Edinburgh.

Monocle Films / Greece

The secret to designing outdoor space

Monocle Films sits down to talk to architect Iliana Kerestetzi and see how she goes about designing courtyards in rural Greece.

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