Tuesday. 3/1/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Kyle Johnson

Opinion / Kathryn Gustafson

Changing places

When I first started thinking about landscapes, other architects would look at me like I was dirt. It was as though I was in the way. Architects were sure that they could do anything that I could do. Thirty or 40 years ago, perhaps they would have been right. Today, however, the knowledge base of a landscape architect is totally different. Architects often think about materials, while we focus on how we make the place: we’ve become problem-solvers, environmentally but also experientially.

My studio won the Site Tour Eiffel project in 2019 to prepare the area around the landmark ahead of the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. Our planned park and walkways extend from Place du Trocadéro all the way to the 54-hectare École Militaire site. Historical projects were never designed to be environmental and that’s a problem that I’m working on. There are about 10 million visitors a year; as a result, tree roots are being compacted. Meanwhile, people don’t have shade and sites aren’t accessible for those with mobility issues. The Eiffel Tower isn’t the only national monument that has problems like these.

I usually remind people that I didn’t invent this project. Rather, I’m trying to fix it. It’s the kind of environmental renovation that many sites all over the world need. The real question is, “Have cities gone far enough?” Should we as landscape architects go further? Right now, we’re working on the first phase of our Paris project and have stopped all the traffic on a bridge and created two new plazas, meaning that the millions of visitors who take the route from Trocadéro to the Eiffel Tower no longer have to fight against cars. Landscape architects are constantly trying to understand where culture is heading. Right now, the environment is experiencing a renaissance and that must be our guide.

Kathryn Gustafson is a landscape architect and founding partner of Gustafson Porter + Bowman. She is a contributor to ‘The Monocle Companion: Fifty Essays for a Brighter Future’.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / BOLIVIA

Down for the count

Bolivia has been in a state of political turmoil since 2019 and things remain volatile as the new year begins. Since a Bolivian court sentenced right-wing opposition leader Luis Fernando Camacho to four months of pre-trial detention at the end of December, tensions between his wealthy agricultural base in the region of Santa Cruz and the national government have escalated. Prosecutors charged Camacho with terrorism after he was arrested in connection to the 2019 social unrest that saw leftist president Evo Morales flee the country. Since then, the country has endured a wave of violent protests, blockades and calls for strikes. The latest bout of unrest follows weeks of turmoil that were led by Camacho, who was incensed by the national government’s delay in carrying out Bolivia’s population census. A new census would likely reflect his allies’ growing power and increasing population in Santa Cruz, potentially securing more tax revenues and seats in Congress. Though lawmakers across Bolivia have largely stayed silent on the issue, the international community is watching nervously and the UN has called for calm and restraint.

Image: Getty Images

ECONOMICS / JAPAN

Rising tide

Japan’s economy had a tough 2022, shrinking between July and September as a result of inflation and a weak yen, with their effects worsened by a coronavirus wave during the same period. With the global economy on the brink of recession and Japan holding the world’s highest public-debt-to-GDP ratio, you’d be forgiven for predicting a bleak year ahead for the country.

However, Japan’s economy is on course for healthy growth in 2023. Unlike the US and other countries that sharply hiked interest rates in response to inflation, Japan has moved against the grain and kept interest rates low to kick-start growth. Even as its large export markets show further signs of weakening, Japan is slowly recovering from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, with retail sales rising, border controls lifted and a government domestic travel subsidy boosting consumer demand. With 2023 beginning with rocketing visitor numbers, the world’s third-biggest economy is expecting stable growth over the next year.

Urbanism / Greece

Reclaimed space

In 2023 the largest urban redevelopment project in Europe will break ground in Greece. On the site of the former Athens International Airport, which was decommissioned in 2001, the Ellinikon Metropolitan Park (pictured, as concept image) will see 243 hectares – an area equivalent to about 340 football pitches in size – transformed into a mixed-use development. Commercial, cultural and residential buildings are planned, as well as a large coastal park, which will increase the allocation of open space per person in the Greek capital by 44 per cent.

The property company behind the project, Lamda Development, is also repurposing the former Eero Saarinen terminal building into a cultural and events centre. It’s an important move that should help to imbue the development with a sense of history and authenticity, and is a significant step in ensuring that it doesn’t feel like a large and lifeless new build.

Image: Ben Roberts

Design / Italy

Masters of making

San Giovanni al Natisone is located in the “Triangle of the Chair”, an industrial region in Italy dedicated to the production of timber furniture. Nevio Mattiazzi, co-founder of his namesake furniture factory, tells Monocle that “more than 30 per cent of chairs for the global market were produced here” in the 1970s. Nevio decided to adapt to the trend of chair-making and established the Mattiazzi factory with his brother Fabiano.

After the financial crisis in 2007, the factory was transformed into a design label and since has released 22 furniture collections with world-class creatives, including Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec. Though cut by machines, all of the pieces are high quality and assembled by Mattiazzi’s skilled craftspeople, an approach that sets the company apart from many other industrial makers. “These craftsmen are part of Italian design culture,” says German industrial designer Konstantin Grcic, who has been Mattiazzi’s creative director since early 2022. “They’re like musicians who know an instrument really well: they can improvise and break from a rule.”

For the full story, pick up your copy of Monocle’s December/January bumper issue, which is on newsstands now.

Image: Lesha Berezovskiy

Monocle 24 / The Urbanist

Best of 2022

Monocle’s editor in chief Andrew Tuck recalls some of his favourite interviews and reports from the year on The Urbanist.

Monocle Films / Husavik

Ísbíltúr: Iceland’s ice-cream road trips

We hit the road with journalist Egill Bjarnason, finding the best spots to grab a cone on a journey into the Icelandic custom of ísbíltúr. It’s one of many Nordic lifestyle concepts that can teach us a thing or two about quality of life. Discover more stories and ideas from the region with The Monocle Book of the Nordics, available now from The Monocle Shop.

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