Monday 30 January 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 30/1/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Aiming high

I was taking myself on a tour of New York’s design highlights when I first visited The High Line (pictured). While the Guggenheim, the Seagram Building and the UN headquarters were all impressive, landscape architect James Corner’s transformation (alongside Diller Scofidio + Renfro) of a stretch of abandoned railway track on Manhattan’s west flank into a verdant park struck me the most. It was a work of design so dramatically different to anything I had seen before – and the reason why the newly granted planning approval for the Camden Highline in London is particularly exciting. By 2025, north London will hopefully have a new park running along a 1.2km stretch of former railroad track.

Camden isn’t the first linear park to draw from the New York original: there’s The 606 on the old Bloomingdale line in Chicago, completed in 2015; Seoul’s Seoullo 7017, which was built on an unused overpass in 2017; and then there’s The Underline in Miami, the first stretch of which opened in 2021. The presence of these High Line tributes in cities across the globe shows the power of a singular, iconic work to spawn similar projects elsewhere. All of which begs the question: what’s the next big urbanism project set to inspire a host of copycats? Danish architecture firm Big’s skyscraper The Spiral – also in New York – seems the obvious candidate. The visual greenwashing of the super-tall skyscraper, with plants spiralling up its facade, is likely to be appealing to ambitious developers and architects looking to make a mark and grab headlines, just as The High Line did.

The difference between the two projects is the fact that, while the visual appeal of it was great, what has made The High Line an enduring success, and ultimately spawned so many similar projects, is the simple fact that it improved city dwellers’ lives. The residents of Chicago, Seoul and Miami have all benefited from the added greenspace brought on by The High Line effect – as Londoners will do soon too. The next big project to come along will need to realise that the real magic comes when people, not aesthetics, are put first.

Nic Monisse is Monocle’s design editor.

Image: Getty Images

Infrastructure / USA

Light at the end of the tunnel?

The US president, Joe Biden, visits Baltimore today as part of a two-stop tour to tout the bipartisan infrastructure bill. The visit will see him address how funds will help replace the 150-year-old Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel, a 2.2km underpass that the White House says is currently a huge commuter bottleneck. President Biden then heads to New York tomorrow, this time to speak on how funding from the law will go towards the Hudson Tunnel Project, which includes the building of a new rail tunnel, as well as the rehabilitation of the existing North River Tunnel which was damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. With the visits, Biden is looking to stress his dealmaking credentials (he has secured more bipartisan victories than any president in a generation) during a delicate time for his leadership. His approval ratings are plummeting after the classified documents scandal, so he needs to change the conversation – and quickly.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Brazil

Better safe than sorry?

Brazil’s minister of justice and public security Flávio Dino has proposed an “anti-coup package” aimed at protecting the country from anti-democratic threats. The proposal comes after supporters of former president Jair Bolsonaro stormed key government buildings earlier this month (pictured). Dino’s plan, which he will present to congress in February, includes the creation of a national guard to protect government buildings in Brasília, the monitoring of certain social media networks and harsher legal consequences for those who act against the “democratic state”. Supporters of the measure have praised Dino for acting quickly.

But some academics have suggested that the government must tread carefully when monitoring content on social media. “The more detailed the legislation is, the higher the risk that it will be [politically] biased,” Carlos Affonso Souza, a professor at the Rio de Janeiro State University told Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo. He has a point. If congress approves the law, the new administration should ensure that it heals rather than further divides the country’s still polarised political landscape.

Transport / Toronto

Shock to the system

Toronto’s mayor, John Tory, has vowed to restore a sense of safety to the city’s public transport network following a spate of separate, violent attacks on passengers and staff since the beginning of the year. In response, 80 police officers have been deployed to patrol subway stations and other points on the network – a move that has been described by critics as inadequate for a system that carries more than 1.7 million passengers every day.

A sense of unease in the city was highlighted during last October’s mayoral election when only 29 per cent of residents turned out to vote – a record low. The incidents have served as a jolt to many of those who abstained. Toronto’s political leaders, who embarked on a recent spree of cutting public-service budgets, need to urgently reverse their hands-off approach to the city’s management. It’s clearly not the right way to solve problems.

Image: William Eggleston / CO Berlin, Untitled, c. 1971–1974

Photography / Berlin

Everyday beauty

American photographer William Eggleston’s work over the past seven decades has helped elevate colour photography to the realm of fine art. His knack for capturing the beauty of the commonplace is the subject of a new exhibition at C/O Berlin. Mystery of the Ordinary includes photographs from Eggleston’s early career (influenced by the narrative documentary style pioneered by Henri Cartier-Bresson) and favourites from series such as Los Alamos alongside never-before-seen works from his time in Berlin in the 1980s.

His images of the US in the 1960s and ’70s are particularly noteworthy as they feature gleaming Cadillac bonnets, diners and stylish citizens going about their daily life. Eggleston’s visual language, imbued with mystery, light and an acute sensitivity to colour, is a masterclass that is sure to keep inspiring generations of artists and photographers to come.

Image: Sean Marc Lee

Monocle 24 / The Urbanist

Legislative Yuan, Taiwan

James Chambers ponders the next steps for Taiwan’s parliament building, a centre for the island’s strong democracy and famous for its verbal – and occasionally physical – bust-ups.

Monocle Films / Denmark

Community spirit in Denmark

Housing co-operatives are numerous in Denmark, providing residents with affordable places to live, keeping community spirit strong and cultivating samfundssind: the Danish concept of putting society’s needs ahead of individual interests. Monocle visited the Jystrup Savværk co-housing community, an hour outside of Copenhagen, to explore the meaning of the word. Discover more stories and ideas from the region with The Monocle Book of the Nordics, which is available now from The Monocle Shop.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00