Monday. 19/9/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Andrew Mueller

The mourning after

The last week and a bit of British history has been no more or less strange than it was always likely to be. The death of Queen Elizabeth II and today’s funeral in London had long been expected and the ceremonial aftermath meticulously choreographed. The plan code-named Operation London Bridge has been impressively implemented.

There has nevertheless been a noticeable sense of uncertainty about how to react. There has been genuine grief, certainly: polls consistently demonstrate that most British people are monarchists to some degree and there was widespread affection for Elizabeth II personally. And there has been a more general sense of discombobulation, not least in the surprisingly difficult adjustment to referring to a king – I’ve tripped over that on air on Monocle 24 more than once.

There has also been, in the commendable British tradition, a good deal of baleful joking. In this instance, it has mostly been an expression of the fact that, for all the time that the nation has had to prepare, nobody is certain what they’re supposed to do or not do. The online mockery of awkward corporate gestures of respect and even of aspects of the official observances has been inventive and hilarious.

The funeral is Elizabeth II’s last act as an ambassador for the United Kingdom. It is, as we discussed on Saturday’s edition of The Foreign Desk, an extraordinary diplomatic conclave. It is the focus of global attention. As a spectacle, it will be an impressive advertisement for the UK but – inevitably and, indeed, deliberately – for a somewhat old-fashioned idea of it.

Which is why it seems a shame that there wasn’t a global audience of billions for what was on BBC Parliament over this past week: a live, round-the-clock feed from Westminster Hall, where the Queen’s flag-draped coffin lay in state. Broadcast without commentary, it was a curiously mesmerising spectacle – a randomised shuffle of ordinary folk who had been moved, for one reason or another, to wait in line for hours for their moment with their late monarch.

It would be a reach to draw overly sweeping conclusions about national character from this. Even if – and this is at the upper end of estimates – a million British people queued to pay their respects in person, that means 66 million didn’t. Nevertheless, this modest, easy-going and unfussy procession would have been at least as beguiling a depiction of modern Britain as the more formal observances and a more accurate one.

Andrew Mueller is a Monocle 24 news anchor and host of ‘The Foreign Desk’.

Image: James Mollison

Industry / Italy

Burnt out

Venetian glass-makers’ furnaces burn at more than 1,000C and run 24 hours a day for most of the year, powering down only in August and early September. The break ensures that the machinery can be serviced and gives staff a much-needed summer holiday but this year some of the fires haven’t yet been relit. Of the 60 or so companies operating in the region, more than 12 have already opted to shut off their furnaces as a result of natural-gas bills increasing by more than 1,100 per cent year on year, with more expected to follow suit. “A substantial number of operators in the sector have not reopened because it isn’t financially possible to turn on the ovens,” says Matteo Masat of trade association Confartigianato in Venice. For high-end design brands that produce in the region, the closures, even if they prove temporary, mean that blown-glass lighting and accessories have become difficult and expensive to manufacture or even order. Venice’s glass-makers are running on fumes.

Propaganda / North Korea

Targeted campaign

Good design can cover up a bad brand’s sins but only to a point. Pyongyang has chosen to congratulate itself on its long-range nuclear capacity by releasing a pair of colourful posters, which are due to appear in public areas across the pariah state. The text insists that North Korea’s nuclear arsenal exists “for the boundless prosperity” of the country, “to guard national sovereignty” and “defend the national interest”.

It’s a message that likely offers little comfort to the many people struggling to survive within Kim Jong-un’s brutal, repressive and defence-obsessed regime. These posters are the country’s first to depict nuclear weapons since a low point in relations with the US in 2017. The bright side? At least this time the images don’t portray North Korean nukes ploughing into the US Capitol or crushing American GIs. So what do the pictures really show on the heels of Kim’s speech last week that enshrined nuclear weapons into the North Korean constitution? More than anything, these are portraits of paranoia.

Image: Great Green Wall

Design / Singapore

Creative problem-solving

Singapore Design Week (SDW), one of Asia’s largest design festivals, is currently taking place and will run until 25 September. Its flagship Design Futures Symposium opens tomorrow and will explore how design can tackle the most pressing problems of the near future, from the spread of disease to global warming. “We want designers to sit at the table when policies are made and the future is imagined,” Museum of Modern Art curator Paola Antonelli, who developed the symposium, told Monocle on Design. Antonelli admires initiatives such as the Great Green Wall (pictured), which aims to plant a belt of trees across Africa’s Sahel region to combat climate change. She sees the project as an example of the kind of ambitious and unconventional design required to solve the issues of the future. “The training that designers have is pragmatic and visionary at the same time,” says Antonelli. “And that’s exactly what we need today.”

For more, listen to ‘Monocle on Design’, our weekly digest of the best in architecture, fashion and craft.

Image: Suleiman Merchant

Urbanism / Global

Outdoor oases

One of the positive things that has stuck post-pandemic is the heightened value placed on access to green space across the globe. There’s now an understanding that linear and pocket parks can be inserted into our cityscapes at moderate cost and without the need to displace people or businesses. In short, trees and grass win votes. In the October issue of Monocle, which is out now, we look at two new parks that have quickly garnered public support.

At Gene Leahy Mall in Omaha, a public-private partnership has invested $325m (€326m) to transform an underused and often off-limits area that now boasts a venue for performances, sculpture park and playground. Meanwhile in Mumbai, a new park called One Green Mile (pictured) stretches beneath part of the city’s Senapati Bapat Marg freeway. It’s the work of Indian design company Studiopod and Dutch architecture firm MVRDV. “One Green Mile asks the question, ‘What if we expected highways to give something back to the cities they cut through?’” says MVRDV’s Stefan de Koning. To find out the answer to this and many more questions about our cities, make sure that you subscribe to Monocle.

Image: Shutterstock

Monocle 24 / The Global Countdown

Belgium

Monocle’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco listens to the top songs in Belgium. Well, someone has to...

Monocle Films / France

Escape to la campagne: Côte d’Azur

Nestled in the hills above Nice, Casa Sallusti is a permaculture farm and hotel that was created to show how you can still enjoy the good things in life while taking care of the planet. We visit its founder, Isabella Sallusti, and meet the young folk who are working at the farm, having decided to swap the city for slow-paced living.

/

sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now

Loading...

/

15

15

Live
Monocle 24

00:00 01:00