Monday. 3/10/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Esteban Schimpf/The MAK Center for Art & Architecture

Opinion / Christopher Lord

Second act

The West Hollywood home that architect Rudolf Schindler built for himself and his wife is so in tune with its surroundings that I totally missed it. I used to live just down the road from the Schindler House (pictured), which set the benchmark for so much of Southern California modernism, but it’s only recently that I went inside for an evening to mark its 100th anniversary. Right now it’s just an exquisite wooden shell, a base for the MAK Center for Art and Architecture, which has been seeking donations to safeguard the place and uses its bare interiors to stage exhibitions.

During a Q&A that evening, a member of the audience raised his hand: should the house not be returned to how it might have looked when the Schindlers lived there, he asked, with modernist furniture around. It’s an interesting question. Do we preserve an incredible house as a facsimile of what it was or find new uses as a way to reimagine it?

By contrast, I recently went to the former home of designers Charles and Ray Eames, a mid-century architectural masterpiece on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. It has been left almost as though the couple walked out that morning, with cups in the kitchen, artefacts on the walls and their old Ottoman lounger. There’s a balance to be struck. We can appreciate incredible roof lines and how a house foregrounds nature but ultimately a home is a portal into a life lived. I don’t mean like something you’d find in a theme park but a gentle evocation using furniture, textiles and objects that can endear and enliven these structures for years to come.

Christopher Lord is Monocle’s US editor, based in Los Angeles.

Image: Getty Images

Society / France

Resistant to change

Emmanuel Macron’s newly named Renaissance bloc will begin talks with other parties and trade unions this week in an attempt to reform France’s bloated pensions system. Macron is hoping to generate a draft bill – a key pillar of his campaign in both of his election victories – by Christmas. He says that the move is essential to restoring the nation’s public finances but his second attempt to do so has already taken a dent: he’s had to push back his promise to raise the retirement age by three years to 65 following protests last week. Macron also wants to do away with special retirement ages for certain sectors (some rail workers are currently able to retire at 50); it’s a move that is proving to be contentious. If the president wants to get his way, he’ll have to tread lightly.

Image: Reuters

Politics / Thailand

Still point

The long-running political drama in Thailand came to a temporary halt when a ruling at the end of last week decided that prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (pictured) has not exceeded his maximum eight-year term. At issue was whether his tenure should be calculated from when he seized power as army commander in the 2014 coup or after the 2017 constitution.

While the news isn’t much of a surprise – Thailand’s courts have frequently upheld the political status quo – many in the country are furious, with some pro-democracy activists dressing in black as a symbol of mourning. Though Prayuth can stay in office for now, he shouldn’t get too comfortable. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for next year, when the real reckoning happens.

Image: Alamy

Transport / Karlsruhe

Meals on wheels

While short-distance freight trains might be considered somewhat antiquated, a quirky locomotive initiative in the southwestern German city of Karlsruhe has got them back on track. The Hofladentram concept is looking to revive the regional rail network by repurposing trains as mobile farm shops. The concept will see them travel around the local network, stopping for an hour to sell its products and encouraging a more sustainable supply chain.

A section of the trains will be for freight, allowing high-quality produce to be distributed between farm shops; areas as far as 50km from Karlsruhe have been identified as potential retail outlets. It’s full steam ahead for this innovative student-led project, which is reinvigorating both transport and food retail in one smart move.

Image: Sofia Negron

Design / Austin

Making a marque

The Brand New Conference, a talking shop and gathering of key voices in visual identity and logo design, kicks off today in Austin. The event, which started in 2010, grew out of the longstanding online resource Brand New, a reliably sharp and refreshingly cutting critique of rebrands. The conference opens with a talk from Alex Center, who is best known for designing the no-nonsense labels on Vitaminwater, and culminates with New York’s Porto Rocha talking through its back catalogue of campaigns for the likes of Nike.

Branding design is experiencing a “brave new world” according to the conference’s co-founder Armin Vit. He tells The Monocle Minute that after two years of upheaval, the industry is “adjusting how we see the world and how we can help our clients have a more positive impact”.

Image: Alamy

Monocle 24 / The Global Countdown

Brazil’s election special

Monocle’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco looks at the top songs in Brazil during the last five presidential elections.

Monocle Films / Skelleftea

Inside Sweden’s electric flight school

A new electric flight school in Sweden is inspiring a future of emission-free aviation. Monocle takes to the sky, tries out the first fully electric plane to be approved for use in Europe and hears how Skellefteå has become a hotbed of green start-ups. Read more in the June issue of the magazine.

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