Monday. 27/9/2021

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Nolan Giles

Pride of place

“Creating a sense of place” is one of the most overused phrases to describe design that encapsulates its surroundings. But one evening at the Athens home of architects Konstantinos Pantazis and Marianna Rentzou, founders of Point Supreme, was all I needed to understand this city’s urban environment and culture.

This is architecture that’s truly of its place. The couple threw their doors open to Monocle’s team and speakers at our Quality of Life Conference (Pantazis also took the stage to talk about entrepreneurship in the Greek capital). They toured us around a home that reflected everything that is fantastic about this dense urban fabric and the greenery that punctuates its tightly woven streets. The pair have converted a single-storey home into a multi-layered living environment in which staircases lead to sprawling terraces and foliage clambers around handsomely carved concrete walls.

From the rooftop we looked out onto the broader neighbourhood, much of it, just like the home, maximising the value of every square centimetre of space and designed to appreciate Athens’ finest asset: its weather. Downstairs we dined alfresco across two generously proportioned terraces, food and music filling the bellies and ears of a delighted crowd. Too often in architecture, luxury is equated to size but this design shows that, even with a small footprint, good design can convert something unassuming into a place that dazzles the senses.

Image: Getty Images

Business / UK

Truck stop

The UK faces another week mired in an unprecedented fuel shortage that has led to the closure of petrol stations around the country. Unlike most such crises, this one is not predicated on problems in far-flung oil-producing regions but rather on a dearth of delivery drivers. The Road Haulage Association, the UK’s haulage trade body, estimates that there is a current shortage of about 100,000 drivers, a statistic that has caused not only dry pumps but also empty supermarket shelves. Many European drivers have left the country due to Brexit and the pandemic has caused the cancellation of some 40,000 training tests. Business leaders in the food and fuel sectors have called for a relaxation of immigration criteria for drivers, while politicians have expressed hope that the crisis could engender changes to a chronically underpaid and insecure profession. In the short term, the government must ensure the continued supply of basic commodities – or the winter ahead could be full of political discontent.

Image: Charlie Faulkner

Media / Afghanistan

Bearing witness

While most foreign journalists and photographers fled Afghanistan as it fell to the Taliban in August, British journalist Charlie Faulkner was one of the few who decided to stay. In the October issue of Monocle, she chronicles the fall of Kabul and its aftermath, offering an enduring picture from the inside of those fateful days. She details tearful farewells with friends and colleagues – including some who would ultimately be unsuccessful in their attempts to leave – and heads to Kabul’s airport to witness the pandemonium during flight departures. Faulkner also visits hospitals, bus stations and cemeteries; she speaks to Taliban fighters and the victims of drone strikes; and shares a meal with resistance fighters in the Panjshir Valley. Her diary is an intimate portrait from the centre of a news story that has captured the world’s attention this summer. For Faulkner, it’s about the moments when she realises that, “The Afghanistan I knew is gone.”

For Faulkner’s full account, pick up a copy of the October issue of Monocle, which is out now, or become a subscriber today.

Image: Shutterstock

Design / China

Coming to life

Beijing International Design Week is running until 7 October under the theme “designing better life” and its focus on green design and sustainable urban development marks something of a change in approach for China. Helsinki is the featured guest city for this year’s event, highlighted in The Recipes for Happy Helsinki Home, an installation featuring printed textiles from Marimekko and wooden cubic walk-through spaces built from Finnish timber, representing quintessentially Finnish themes such as saunas and forests.

A four-day trade fair is also currently taking place, featuring more than 200 Chinese and international designers, galleries and brands. One conceptual exhibition, Sustainable Hutong, takes inspiration from Beijing’s traditional residential courtyards, many of which have been demolished in recent years to make way for luxury shopping centres and new flats. It’s a good example of how this year’s focus on sustainability and traditional design signals that China’s architectural community might be slowing down and rethinking its modernity-first approach to development.

Image: Getty Images

Cinema / Global

Screen therapy

A busy season for film continues this week with ongoing festivals in Zürich and Haifa, and the start of some more unfamiliar ones. Nashville Film Festival (pictured), for instance, is one of the longest-running such events in the US. Its 52nd edition kicks off on Wednesday with a mix of US and foreign titles, and a line-up featuring everything from documentaries to thrillers. Meanwhile, the Breton seaside town of Dinard, known as the “most British” of French resorts, is hosting a festival dedicated to UK and Irish film. This year’s edition features six thematic strands, including Land and Sea – about people defending their traditional way of life – and Quelle Horreur!, a selection of horror titles from women directors. By all means, go to see the new James Bond film out on Thursday but if you have more eclectic tastes, one of these festivals might be just the ticket.

M24 / The Urbanist

Placemaking, biodiversity and diplomacy

We bring you a bundle of reports from the past few days, including the London Design Festival, Expo Prado in Montevideo, New York hosting world leaders and the Al Fay Park in Abu Dhabi.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle Preview: October issue, 2021

Monocle’s October issue has all the insights and inspiration you need to get going this autumn, from a sit-down with Estonia’s prime minister to a design special on rebuilding Beirut. Get your copy at The Monocle Shop now.

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