Friday 7 October 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 7/10/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Walls come tumbling down

Residents in Detroit and Oklahoma City have, in recent days, woken up to find some of their most famous architectural structures being demolished. In Michigan’s biggest city, the Packard Motor Car Company plant is being razed. Albert Kahn’s 1903 structure, which pioneered the use of reinforced concrete, was abandoned and became a hub for the city’s underground rave and music scene in the 1990s, before being left to ruin and blight. In Oklahoma City, meanwhile, the famous First Christian Church (pictured) was also torn down. Dubbed The Egg because of its striking modernist design by local firm Conner & Pojezny, it was a much-loved community gathering place and, after the church moved out, some proposed that it be transformed into a cultural building after some repairs.

But while both cities are losing architectural heritage, the responses to the two demolitions have been markedly different. The Packard plant’s destruction has been celebrated, while The Egg’s ending has been met with an outpouring of grief and anger. This, I think, provides an answer to the perennial preservation question: how do we decide which of our architecturally significant buildings to save?

Unless buildings are in a total state of disrepair, as in the case of the Packard plant, every effort should be made to conserve structures that have architectural value, are beloved by the people who live around them and have the potential to serve a contemporary purpose. Such renovation can be a win for design enthusiasts, developers and the communities that those buildings serve. In Oklahoma City, The Egg could have formed the centrepiece of a grand mixed-use project, adding appeal for potential buyers and investors. Instead, the site will most likely be another cheap and soulless modern development that’s lacking character and a place in citizens’ hearts. If it is, then the site’s owners will have demolished its own reputation.

Nic Monisse is Monocle’s deputy design editor.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Europe

United front

EU leaders will meet in Prague today to discuss Russia’s war in Ukraine, energy prices and the continent’s economic challenges. While EU ambassadors agreed on Wednesday to implement a price cap on Russian oil in retaliation to Vladimir Putin’s threats of nuclear attack, it is still unclear whether sanctions and other economic measures are having any effect on his decision-making process. Speaking to Monocle 24 at the Warsaw Security Forum, General Philip Breedlove, a retired four-star general who served as the 17th Supreme Allied Commander Europe of Nato, expresses his scepticism. “The sanctions are hurting Russia and the Russian economy,” says General Breedlove. “The regime of sanctions is causing enough unrest that, in addition to Putin’s mobilisation, might have the effect of deposing him. But sanctions alone have never changed Putin’s actions; we need to develop tools that will.”

To hear more about the war in Ukraine and Europe’s response to it, tune in to ‘The Foreign Desk’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Media / Canada

Hold the front page (for a day)

Media company Saltwire has announced that it will drop the Monday editions of four of its daily newspapers on Canada’s Atlantic coast, starting later this month. Saltwire is the parent company of 20 small publications, many of which are the only local news outlets in their areas. While the loss of advertising revenues to technology giants has led to the closure of more than 450 publications across Canada since 2008, the latest wave of inflation means that even more outlets are now feeling the strain.

“We’ve had at least six price increases this year,” Ian Scott, chief operating officer of Saltwire told CBC earlier this week. The firm’s decision follows a similar announcement last month from Postmedia Network, which owns major newspapers such as the Calgary Herald. Cutting Monday editions might lower costs but Saltwire’s plight is testament to the importance of a diversified and dynamic business model in journalism today.

Image: Khadija Farah

Business / Kenya & Iran

From the outside in

Iran’s 1979 revolution turned the lives of ordinary Iranians upside down. That and the fact that Iran was the most sanctioned country in history until 2022, spurred the dispersal of its global diaspora. The Ehsani family left behind a comfortable life in Tehran after facing religious discrimination for being Bahai. They had only meant to stop over in Kenya on the way to Australia but Hamed Ehsani (pictured) stayed and set up two hotels, Tribe and Trademark, as well as a sprawling shopping centre, Village Market.

“We eventually came to the conclusion that you have to let go of the past,” Ehsani tells Monocle. “You cannot constantly worry about what you lost; you just have to start again.” While Kenyans themselves saw the Ehsanis’ business ideas as far-fetched, the family say that being expats gave them a fresh perspective. With several wealthy countries currently experiencing labour shortages and stagnant growth, governments should remember the benefits that immigration can bring to their economies.

For the full story and to read about other diaspora communities in Africa, pick up your copy of ‘The Entrepreneurs’, which is on newsstands now.

Image: Chris Killip

Culture / UK

In the frame

A retrospective of work by pioneering reportage photographer Chris Killip, who died in 2020, opens today at The Photographers’ Gallery in London. The influential photojournalist set out to record the lives of people living and working in the north of England during the 1970s and 1980s. His pictures of miners, shipbuilders and fishermen capture the quiet dignity of those who worked in industries in decline; Killip once said that he had unknowingly photographed the deindustrialisation of the UK.

The exhibition shows more than 140 of his most iconic images, many of them printed by hand by the photographer himself. Some show men riding on horseback to gather coal from a beach next to a mine – a sight that’s hard to imagine now. But looking at the arresting portraits from Killip’s seminal book In Flagrante, it’s easy to appreciate the way in which his work bears witness to otherwise forgotten communities. In an age of unlimited photos, this show is a reminder of the importance of quality over quantity.

Image: Shutterstock

Monocle 24 / The Foreign Desk

Lebanon and Israel’s sea mediation

Lebanon and Israel seem to be close to striking a deal on a disputed border in the Mediterranean. Andrew Mueller explains why this is surprising and why we shouldn’t see it as the beginning of a peace negotiation.

Monocle Films / Paris

Swimming in the Seine

As Paris embarks on a project to clean up the Seine ahead of the 2024 Olympic Games, we look at the process of readying the city’s river for its water-seeking dwellers, explore how it could affect the city and meet the guerilla urban swimmers who welcome the move.


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