Tuesday. 20/7/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Hester Underhill

Past glory

In 2016 I swapped Bristol for Berlin to become an exchange student at the city’s Humboldt University. I moved into a Plattenbau building (a drab prefab high-rise) in Kreuzberg and cycled to lectures at the campus on Unter den Linden, a thoroughfare in Mitte between the City Palace and Brandenburg Gate that’s dotted with grand Baroque churches and vast neoclassical museums.

There was one building in particular that would always catch my eye on the commute: the Humboldt Forum, a partial recreation of the 18th-century Prussian royal palace that had once stood on the site. During the postwar era, the original building was replaced by the GDR’s parliament, which in turn was demolished after the fall of the Berlin Wall, making way for the €680m reconstruction that was slated to open in 2019. Museums always have a tricky job in confronting German history but I could never understand the decision to produce a costly facsimile of the original instead of building something new to represent the regeneration of this ever-changing city.

Five years on (and two years behind schedule), the Humboldt Forum opens its doors to the public today and its first exhibitions include one on the subject of the ivory trade. The opening has already sparked controversy around its decision to display various items seized during Germany’s colonial era, including the looted Benin Bronzes from present-day Nigeria. The broader question is what exactly this new museum can add to the mix: Berlin already has a stellar array of cultural spaces. Time will tell whether this costly investment pays off and the Humboldt Forum attracts the three million annual visitors that it’s anticipating. Success will depend on this reconstructed palace reflecting on the past in an interesting, new and educational way.

Image: Alamy

Society / Japan

Home stretch

Retailers of electronic goods in Japan are reporting impressive last-minute surges in sales of big-screen televisions now that spectators have been banned from almost every event at Tokyo 2020. It means that Japanese sports fans, like the rest of the world, will be watching the Olympic Games in their front rooms and it seems they have decided to splash their cash on some serious goggleboxes. Last year the home-electronic sector’s takings were boosted by the government’s ¥100,000 (€775) handout to everyone in Japan and this summer is proving even better. The biggest sellers are top of the range, room-dominating 65” OLED TVs, which cost anything upwards of ¥100,000. Shigeru Omi, the government’s top coronavirus adviser, will certainly be in favour of all this as he had been pressing for a spectator-free Olympics. “Normally we would all love to cheer for our athletes at the venues,” he said last week. “But under the current circumstances I ask that you cheer at home with your family.”

Image: Getty Images

Politics / USA

Poll fault

Opinion polling has struggled mightily to capture anti-establishment sentiment in recent years – and it turns out that predictions are getting worse. A new study of November’s US presidential election finds that, while most pollsters correctly predicted Joe Biden’s victory, they underestimated support for Donald Trump by 3.9 per cent nationally and 4.3 per cent in statewide races; that’s the highest discrepancy in 40 years. Why? Speculation includes that Trump supporters were more reluctant to answer researchers’ calls and that a surge in first-time voters went undetected. Rather unhelpfully for onlookers, there’s no definitive answer. “Identifying conclusively why polls overstated the Democratic-Republican margin relative to the certified vote appears to be impossible with the available data,” reads the report by the American Association for Public Opinion Research. Bad polling shouldn’t undermine trust in the certified election results. But with faith in US democracy in danger, there’s too much at stake for pollsters to leave this enduring problem unanswered.

Business / UK

Making work

The future of co-working spaces has been uncertain for much of the past year but the UK’s relaxation of coronavirus restrictions this week could not have come at a better time for The Mills Fabrica. First launched in Hong Kong in 2018, the London expansion of Nan Fung Group’s business incubator opened its doors last month in King’s Cross (pictured). Set in a three-storey Victorian warehouse opposite the international railway station, it includes a membership-based co-working space, a retail area and café. “The Mills Fabrica is all about trying to bring sustainable innovations to scale,” Christian Layolle, the company’s UK head, tells The Monocle Minute. The Mills supports a mix of businesses in the fashion and textiles, technology and agriculture sectors; it’s refreshing to see a platform focused on making things well and growing them sustainably. But the real challenge will be how the space can become part of the warp and weft of the neighbourhood.

Media / Global

Fit to print

Several print titles are turning over a new page this summer. New York-based watch magazine Hodinkee published its new issue, complete with a fresh redesign, and the recently relaunched Wax Poetics, a cult music title focusing on vinyl records, is being produced for the first time since 2018. But the news that a UK version of Rolling Stone will be published every two months from late September represents perhaps the most prominent reinvention. Publisher Darren Styles, whose Stream Publishing also owns Attitude, is adamant that this is the right time to launch something new. “It’s an interesting time across the magazine business,” he says. “Editorially, Rolling Stone is very much of its time with its mix of music, entertainment and politics, not forgetting its strong tradition in photojournalism.” After a challenging year for print publications the world over, we welcome the competition.

For more on the summer’s magazine redesigns and our interview with Darren Styles, tune in to this week’s edition of ‘The Stack’ on Monocle 24.

M24 / Meet the Writers

Lisa McInerney

Georgina Godwin talks to Galway-born Lisa McInerney about her work and career, in which the city and people of Cork seem to have captured her heart. Her latest book, ‘The Rules of Revelation’, is the third in a series focusing on a range of loveable characters, each trying to find their way with the odds stacked against them.

Monocle Films / Corsica

Keeping the faith

Nestled just in from the Corsica coast sits Le Couvent de Pozzo, a converted monastery that has been brought back to life as a tranquil guesthouse by owner Emmanuelle Picon. Monocle Films stopped by to enjoy breathtaking views over the Tyrrhenian Sea and tuck in to some of Picon’s delicious French cuisine.

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