Monday. 28/11/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Felix Bruggemann

Opinion / Mary Fitzgerald

Sea change

Today marks the newly instituted Day of the Mediterranean, so I’ll be raising a glass to the storied body of water I have spent years reporting around. In 2020, the 42 member states that comprise the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) designated 28 November as an annual celebration of the sea that links Europe, Africa and the Middle East. People, goods and ideas have crossed the Med over millennia, contributing to the diversity of its cultural heritage. Now, more than 480 million people live along its coast.

The Barcelona-headquartered UfM seeks to build on what those populations have in common in order to address shared challenges. Few are more pressing than climate change: the region is warming 20 per cent faster than the global average. Wildfires have become more frequent. Sea temperatures have risen to alarming levels, threatening delicate ecosystems.

Given all this, it was heartening to see this year’s COP 27 summit in Egypt host its first-ever Mediterranean Pavilion, which highlighted some of the solutions (both public policies and civil society initiatives) that are being developed to counteract the effects of climate change. Visionary mayors in cities like Athens, Marseille and Palermo are also playing a fundamental role: they realise the importance of collaboration with their counterparts.

In Marseille, mayor Benoît Payan oversees a Green-Left coalition which has prioritised environmental issues. This summer Payan organised a petition against cruise ship traffic that worsens air pollution in the city and called for a pan-Mediterranean effort on other shared climate threats. Such cooperation could provide a wider blueprint on how to tackle environmental challenges worldwide. Now that’s something to celebrate.

Mary Fitzgerald is Monocle's North Africa correspondent.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / USA

Run time

Early voting opens today in Georgia for the key Senate run-off between Democrat incumbent Raphael Warnock (pictured) and controversial Republican candidate Herschel Walker. While the Democrats have already secured a slim Senate majority, this race could have key consequences for the party: a win would give them 51 seats and at least one more member on Senate committees than Republicans, making it trickier for the GOP to block Biden’s agenda. Meanwhile, many are questioning whether run-offs have a place at all in modern politics. These additional ballots are expensive: twin Georgia run-offs in 2020 saw record spending of $515m (€496m) and $411m (€396m) respectively. Prolonging elections to second days also disproportionately impacts minorities and those who find it harder to access polls. Electoral reform is never a popular topic but a different model could help redress historical inequality.

Urbanism / Finland

Opened harbour

Helsinki City Hall has announced the winner of a competition to redesign the city’s Eteläsatama port terminal into a new neighbourhood, anchored by an architecture and design museum. The initiative makes Helsinki the latest Nordic capital to transform a prime spot on its waterfront with a grand cultural building.

The winning proposal, by a consortium including Swedish design studio White Arkitekter, also features buildings that will be home to cafés, restaurants, shops and hotels. The project, which is set to break ground in 2025, will open up access to Helsinki’s swimmable harbour, allowing more locals to take a dip near the city centre. It’s a positive move that will make the most of areas previously closed to the public.

Image: Alamy

Culture / Poland

Arts under threat

New York-based human rights organisation Artistic Freedom Initiative (AFI) has announced it will challenge the Polish government’s interference into its country’s cultural sector at the EU Court of Justice. The organisation accuses Poland’s ruling right-wing party, PIS, of meddling in the affairs of 23 arts institutions by appointing directors that peddle a nationalist line.

Over the past few years, there have been many high-profile cases of museum directors being hastily removed from their posts, including Hanna Wróblewska’s ousting from the Zachęta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw (pictured). “A central part of PIS’s efforts to ‘rebuild the Polish state’ is the near-complete remodelling of Poland’s arts and cultural landscape to reflect the party’s socially conservative and nationalist ethos,” said the organisation in a recent 100-page report. Despite the pressure, it’s unlikely that PIS will back down. But initiatives such as AFI’s are a reminder that freedom of creative expression is a right that still needs fighting for.

Retail / Hong Kong

Mall the merrier

Since 2019, Hong Kong retail has suffered the double blow of anti-government protests and the pandemic. But Asian players are now ready to reclaim their status as influential luxury buyers. Leading the pack is the Lane Crawford Joyce Group, which operates 10 department stores in Hong Kong and mainland China. Since taking the helm of the historic company, CEO Blondie Tsang (pictured) has made the bold decision to relocate the tired three-storey Joyce flagship on Queen’s Road Central to the more upmarket Pacific Place mall. “It was a question of revisiting the business model and shaking up our buy,” says Tsang. Her retail strategy includes stocking big names from Prada to Celine alongside newcomers such as British brand Chopova Lowena and Australian designer Dion Lee. These moves are proof that getting fresh talent involved is key to the future of retail – be it in the boardroom or on the shelves.

Image: Alamy

Monocle 24 / The Urbanist

The future of transit in California

What’s ahead for the way in which we get around in cities? We stop at Comotion LA to explore some new ideas and take a trip to San Diego to see how we can bolster the existing bus network.

Film / Global

Designing the news

How do you unpack stories in the most engaging way while building a credible and comprehensive brand? Monocle Films showcases best design for paper and screen too.

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