Tuesday 1 June 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 1/6/2021

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Challenge accepted

Over the past year there’s been almost constant chatter about how industries and lifestyles are going to change – possibly forever – as a result of the pandemic. Travel and healthcare will not be the same for a while yet but for those who are tired of trying to figure out what, dare I say it, the “new normal” will be, it might help to know that the challenges being answered by the design industry this year won’t be all that, well, new.

Don’t believe me? For UK-based sceptics, I’d suggest making your way to the London Design Biennale, which opens today at Somerset House (pictured). Here, representatives from countries, regions and cities all over the world will present their responses to the “major challenges of our time” – the theme set out by artistic director Es Devlin. And yet, despite having the opportunity to propose installations that responded to the pandemic, almost all of the involved designers decided to move ahead with proposals that looked beyond it – much like those at the Venice Architecture Biennale that a Monocle delegation visited last week.

Take the Canadian participation in London, curated by architect Venelin Kokalov. Visitors will be encouraged to physically climb their way through its installation, which highlights how artificial heating and cooling systems are contributing to rising global temperatures. Or the entries from Indonesia, with the involvement of the Indonesia Agency for Creative Economy, which explore the inadequate public housing for indigenous people in their country. Indeed, all the exhibitions serve as a reminder that at its best and boldest, pandemic or not, the design industry can turn its focus to humanity’s most pressing challenges. And, in the case of the London Design Biennale, responding to those challenges has been turned into a series of exhibitions that are well worth a visit.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / US & Germany

Still one to watch

It was in 2013, while Joe Biden was vice-president, that allegations first surfaced of US intelligence agencies spying on European leaders. Angela Merkel was among those reportedly monitored by the US National Security Agency. And while the US never confirmed nor denied the allegations, a new media investigation published over the weekend – conducted by Danmarks Radio in collaboration with outlets in Germany, France, Norway and Sweden – has provided details of its method. The reports found that Danish intelligence was key in helping the US access the phone conversations and text messages of various European leaders. The resurfaced allegations put the US president in a tough spot. “Biden has pushed to mend ties with allies again and these headlines are detrimental to that,” Monocle’s security correspondent, Benno Zogg told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. The revived scandal suggests that “there’s even more broken china that needs to be repaired ahead of actual friendship and ties being restored.”

Image: Michael Grimm Photography

Urbanism / New York

Pier reviewed

With summer in the city approaching, New Yorkers are welcoming the opening of a new public space on the banks of the Hudson. Little Island (pictured) is a public park and performance space that will host its first events this month. The park rises above the remnants of the historic Pier 54, which was damaged in 2012 by Hurricane Sandy, leaving just the wooden piles that inspired the design of this new structure.

Created by Heatherwick Studio, the park combines greenery with a varying topography. According to Thomas Heatherwick, the studio’s founder, the elevation was chosen to augment the impressive view of the surroundings. “Typically, pier structures are flat but we saw this as an unmissable opportunity to lift the surface,” he tells the Monocle Minute. “It gives great sightlines for performing spaces, and lookout points over the river and back towards the city.”

Cinema / Netherlands

Popcorn at the ready

Fresh from hosting the Eurovision Song Contest, Rotterdam is turning its attention to the 50th edition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR). The event, a mix of in-person and online screenings, kicks off tomorrow with a romantic period piece from Mona Fastvold and closes on Sunday with Hirota Yusuke’s animated feature Poupelle of Chimney Town. Here are three other highlights:

  1. Wang Qiong’s autobiographical documentary feature All About My Sisters explores the aftermath of China’s one-child policy.

  2. Brazilian drama A Felicidade das Coisas (pictured) tells the story of Paula, a pregnant woman attempting to navigate motherhood, family and financial hardship during the summer holidays.

  3. Émilie Serri’s documentary Damascus Dreams is an ode to the Syrian diaspora. It follows Serri as she studies old family photos and film, and interviews family members and other Syrians forced to flee their homeland. Serri mixes her memories with theirs in an attempt to forge a stronger connection with her own father’s homeland.

Image: Piotr Niespsuj

Fashion / Global

Style it out

In a year when so much has changed, the fashion industry’s leading brands have overcome the demands placed on them by refining their established business models, rather than completely reworking their offerings. In Monocle’s June issue we meet the industry’s most successful players – veterans of their respective trades, from jewellery design to Japanese high fashion – who have persevered through numerous challenges. After weathering global economic crises, shifting consumer behaviour, and heightened concerns for sustainability and transparency, brands have once again had to reconsider their models in order to maintain the success of their retail operations. “We’ve gone back to a more one-on-one approach with our customers,” Bulgari CEO Jean-Christophe Babin (pictured) tells Monocle. “The result is an incredible growth in sales with local clientele.” The fashion industry is constantly adjusting to fluctuating tastes and major global events – which is what makes it so exciting. And with these talents at the helm, its future remains bright.

Image: Shutterstock

M24 / The Foreign Desk

What’s the future of US-Israel relations?

US secretary of state Antony Blinken made his first visit to Israel last week in hopes of bolstering the fragile ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas. The trip epitomises the importance of the US-Israel relationship: a diplomatic alliance that has long been critical to the foreign policy of both countries. But what do the US and Israel really get out of the alliance? Andrew Mueller speaks to David Makovsky, Sarah Posner and Anshel Pfeffer.

Monocle Films / Global

The Monocle Book of Homes

Allow us to introduce you to The Monocle Book of Homes. A guide to exceptional residences, the title is packed with beautiful photography, inspiring stories ­and few tips on making the most of your living space. So what are you waiting for? Come on in. Available now at The Monocle Shop.


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