Tuesday 28 March 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 28/3/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Alexei Korolyov

Haunted house

Can a building be evil? Should we erase the dark parts of history or keep them as a reminder of humanity’s past failures? These are questions that many Austrians are grappling with due to one of the nation’s most controversial structures: a terraced house (pictured) in Braunau am Inn, near Austria’s border with Germany, which was briefly the home of the newborn Adolf Hitler. In some sense the “Hitlerhaus” is a bit of a misnomer: the building never belonged to the Hitlers and the future dictator only lived there for a few short weeks after his birth in 1889. In the public imagination, however, there’s no escaping its grim symbolism.

It’s easy to argue that it might have been better for all concerned if it had been destroyed in the war (many Nazi-linked sites were), not least because it’s become an unpleasant site of pilgrimage for neo-Nazis. However, some maintain that its survival is a useful – albeit painful – reminder of the horrors of what came to pass, and of Austria’s own complicity in them. The reminder is a timely one. Earlier this month the far-right Freedom Party, founded after the Second World War by former Nazis, entered the regional government of the country’s second most populous state, Lower Austria.

Before the Austrian Interior Ministry acquired the building in 2016, it had been many things: a school, a bank branch and a centre for disabled people. In 2020 the ministry announced that it wanted to “neutralise” the site and turn it into a police station – a proposal that lacks logic and taste given the Austrian police’s track record of racism and xenophobia. Whatever the plan, the Interior Ministry must decide how to turn this disheartening monument into a place of memory and reconciliation. Leaving it unmarked and its future in the air creates an unsettling sense of ambiguity.

Alexei Korolyov is Monocle’s Vienna correspondent. You can hear a report on this subject on ‘The Urbanist’.

Image: Alamy

Transport / Japan

Steering clear

Japan’s railway companies are confronting the country’s shrinking labour market by moving ahead with automation. Central Japan Railway has been testing an automated system on its Tokaido Shinkanse, the bullet train that runs from Tokyo to Kyoto and beyond, since 2021. The company announced last week that it will be introducing the system to the high-speed service on its newest N700S (pictured) trains in 2028. A driver will still be present to start the train but speed adjustments and station stops will be made automatically. Back in the capital, the Tokyo Metro has announced that it will be testing automated trains on the Marunouchi Line from next month with a view to introducing the system in 2025. A conductor will still sit at the front of the train, ready to deal with emergencies, but mechanical operation of the vehicle will be done by an automated system. An unsettling thought to some, perhaps, but one that the Japanese authorities seem intent on speeding ahead with.

Image: Getty Images

Society / Lebanon

Syncing feeling

Lebanese citizens woke up on Sunday to find their country riven by a new kind of disorder. The government announced its intention to delay the implementation of daylight savings until 21 April but Lebanon’s influential Maronite Christian Church decided to ignore this decision. Cue mass confusion as the small nation suddenly found itself operating on two different time zones. Christian organisations, schools and some media channels were running an hour ahead of their Muslim counterparts while Lebanon’s national flag carrier, Middle East Airlines, announced that departure times until 21 April would be advanced by an hour.

While no official explanation was given for the change, local media has suggested that the move might have been to please the Muslim majority, who would be able to break their daily Ramadan fasts an hour earlier. After a chaotic Monday morning in Beirut, the government announced that the clocks will go forward on Wednesday night. Time well spent.

Image: Getty Images

Media / Argentina

‘Herald’, the return

The Buenos Aires Herald, an Argentinian English-language paper, has reopened more than six years after it closed for financial reasons. The paper, founded by Scottish immigrant William Cathcart in 1876, was revered as one of few opposition voices during the military dictatorship of the 1970s and 1980s and famed for its coverage of the junta’s extrajudicial killings. “The Buenos Aires Herald can proudly say that it has played a fundamental part in that process of promoting democracy,” said the paper’s new editor-in-chief, Estefanía Pozzo. “We, as a team, are fully committed to our past and will continue to honour it in this new stage.”

The paper’s journalistic rigour will be essential as Argentina builds up to an unpredictable general election in October. “For the moment, we’ll be publishing as a news website,” the Herald’s managing editor, Amy Booth, tells The Monocle Minute. “But we’re hoping to incorporate more formats, including print, as the project grows.”

Retail / USA

Buy the book

Could New York’s Midtown be undergoing a retail renaissance? The arrival of bookseller McNally Jackson’s latest outpost in the Rockefeller Center marks the start of a new chapter. “The idea of Rockefeller didn’t seem fitting at first,” says founder Sarah McNally. “But when I moved to New York in the 1990s, there was a tradition of these beautiful, iconic Midtown bookshops, such as Scribner’s, Brentano’s and Rizzoli, that have all gone now. The idea of reinstating that kind of business in the area was exciting.”

Image: Bill Gentle
Image: Bill Gentle

This follows a rough patch for the neighbourhood, as the pandemic saw millions of office workers no longer commuting to the area. But a shake-up of the Midtown property market has prompted creative solutions, such as converting empty offices into apartments and improving street-level retail offerings. The Rockefeller Center has become an unlikely focal point for retail. “It just started feeling nice up here,” adds McNally.

A longer version of this piece features in the April issue of Monocle, which features our annual Retail Survey. It is out now.

Image: Shutterstock

Monocle 24 / The Global Countdown

Music markets

Following the release of last week’s Global Music Report, Monocle 24’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco looks at the world’s top five music markets.

Monocle Films / Global

Welcome to the Auberge Monocle

Monocle has so far resisted the temptation to open a hotel – but that doesn’t mean that we don’t spend time thinking about who we’d hire to oversee a renovation, run the bar or design the uniforms. With this in mind, here are the six house rules we’d strictly enforce to keep things civil and serene around the pool, in the lobby and on the balcony.


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