Wednesday. 28/9/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: IPR Prague/Jan Maly

Opinion / Carlota Rebelo

Standing together

“More than policy, it’s important for us to also feel that we are not alone and that we have friends,” said Vitali Klitschko (pictured, centre), the mayor of Kyiv, as he thanked his European counterparts at the Prague Summit of Cities on Monday. Klitschko’s words were a reminder that, while offers of aid, building materials and defensive equipment have been game-changers for those living in the shadow of Russia’s war, simple solidarity is valuable too. That was on full display in the Czech capital, where mayors and government representatives had gathered to discuss assistance to Ukraine, postwar rebuilding and co-operation.

The summit coincided with the annual meeting of the Pact of Free Cities, a network started in 2019 by the mayors of Prague, Bratislava, Warsaw and Budapest to defend democracy and fight corruption and populism, as well as to share best practices in urbanism. On Monday it welcomed six new members, including Kyiv, bringing the total to 33. “Cities are the last defenders,” said Zdeněk Hřib (pictured, right), the mayor of Prague, at the signing ceremony. “We need to co-operate to defend our values and overcome all crises: coronavirus, energy, refugees and [the war in] Ukraine.”

But solidarity does not run in every direction. While images of young Russian men fleeing their country have flooded social media since Vladimir Putin declared a partial mobilisation, Jaroslav Kurfürst, the Czech Republic’s deputy foreign affairs minister, told the summit that it wouldn’t be prudent to grant these men humanitarian refugee status. “Are they fleeing because they are against Putin’s war in Ukraine or because they don’t want to go to the front line?” he asked.

Monocle last saw Klitschko in July in his office in Kyiv (see our September issue for the full report), wearing a military uniform and dealing with the aftermath of yet another night disrupted by air-raid sirens. Meeting him again here in Prague two months later – and seeing him this time in a suit and tie – was a welcome experience. But it was also a sign that regardless of the attire and location the message remains the same: Ukraine is fighting not only for itself but for Europe and democracy.

Carlota Rebelo is Monocle’s senior producer and presenter. To hear the full report from Prague, listen to this week’s ‘The Urbanist’ on Thursday at 20.00 BST.

Image: Getty Images

Security / Vatican City

Safety in numbers

The Vatican’s Swiss Guard (pictured), which has been an integral part of the city-state’s security since the 16th century, needs a new home. Its current residence is almost 200 years old and too small for the 110 guards who are now stationed there. Though the building is within the Vatican, Switzerland will have to foot part of the bill: its federal government, cantons and private organisations are working together to raise the CHF55m (€57.8m) needed for a new, modern building. True to Swiss federalism, attitudes to the project vary from canton to canton. Valais, for example, has pledged the most money so far, while several of the 26 cantons have said that they won’t contribute at all. There’s clearly a mixed reaction to the idea of funding an expensive building on foreign soil.

Image: Sun Entertainment Culture Limited

Film / Hong Kong & Taiwan

Caught in the frame

Cheang Pou-soi’s Hong Kong crime thriller Limbo (pictured) has picked up the most nominations at the 59th edition of the Golden Horse Awards, which are often dubbed the “Chinese Oscars”. Though Limbo is up for 14 gongs, including for best film and best director, the question of whether to attend November’s ceremony might be a dilemma for its makers. The Hong Kong Motion Picture Industry Association has written to its members urging them to think twice about walking down the red carpet amid rising tensions between Beijing and Taipei. Mainland Chinese directors and actors already boycott the event and their counterparts in Hong Kong are under mounting pressure to follow suit.

In recent years the Golden Horse Awards have become a platform for speaking out against Beijing and shining a much-needed light on films that fall foul of Chinese censorship. Last year, Revolution of our Times, director Kiwi Chow’s definitive chronicle of the 2019 protests, won the best documentary award – but the picture wasn’t screened in Hong Kong and the city’s police chief later said that watching it could be a criminal offence.

Image: Shutterstock

Rights / Cuba

In the affirmative

Cuba’s recent legalisation of same-sex marriage is a significant moment for the Caribbean nation. Yet the victory for “” was perhaps unsurprising, given that all of the island’s billboard advertising relating to the new “family code” urged citizens to vote in the affirmative.

The legislation was signed into law at the start of the week after about two thirds of the population gave the green light to a range of measures including same-sex marriage, gay adoption rights and permission for surrogate pregnancies, as long as no money is involved. It’s a big step in a country that sent LGBT+ people to work camps in the 1960s and 1970s. However, many analysts believe that Cuba still has a long way to go. “What should be a basic human right shouldn’t be put to a referendum,” Christopher Sabatini, senior fellow for Latin America at Chatham House, tells The Monocle Minute.

Image: Mutina

Design / Italy

Night on the tiles

Italian ceramics brand Mutina has unveiled its impressive new headquarters (pictured). This week it has been hosting guests, including Monocle, at its new space, designed by Spain’s Patricia Urquiola in collaboration with the Mutina Project Division, in Fiorano Modenese. It features a central hangar where tiles are hung like works of art; there are also partitioned smaller “mood rooms” where tiles are mixed up to show off their potential.

Elsewhere, the HQ is filled with contemporary art from CEO Massimo Orsini’s collection and there is tasteful furniture from the likes of Artek and Vitra. Alongside the tiles, there is also a chance to see Mutina’s objets, produced in collaboration with international designers such as Vincent Van Duysen and Urquiola, who has come up with a fun ceramic wolf. Despite acting as a backdrop for Mutina’s wares, the HQ demonstrates that showrooms can be inviting, design-led spaces in themselves.

Image: BIG

Monocle 24 / The Urbanist

Quito’s skyscrapers

Lucinda Elliott is in the Ecuadorian capital to see how a new swath of skyscrapers by a group of international starchitects is changing the city.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: October issue, 2022

Monocle’s October issue is all about making an effort, whether that’s designing a distinctive uniform for your business, decking out your apartment so that hosting is easy or sharpening up your autumn style. We cover it all. Plus: will Brazil stick or twist as election day nears?

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