Wednesday 6 September 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 6/9/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Carlota Rebelo

Block party

It doesn’t always take big investment and mega-projects to improve quality of life in our cities. Simple steps such as reducing traffic, increasing the tree canopy and giving things a fresh lick of paint can do wonders when it comes to changing the face of a neighbourhood. That’s what Lisbon’s historic Campo de Ourique neighbourhood is hoping for. Between this Saturday and Sunday 17 September, it will be testing the concept of “superblocks” in an effort to bring life to its streets.

The centre of this superblock will be the small park Jardim da Parada (pictured), where about 90 parking spaces will be removed to increase the area of available green public space from 5,400 sq m to 9,700 sq m. With the park extended right up to buildings’ façades, businesses and residents in the affected areas won’t be able to park cars at their doorsteps. The municipality hopes that the move will translate into a reduction of noise pollution and an improvement in air quality.

Originating in Barcelona in 1860, the idea of superblocks has long been championed by urbanists as a design for the perfect neighbourhood and it inspired the more recent concept of the 15-minute city. It’s about putting people first, creating spaces where neighbours can easily meet outdoors, children can play outside their homes and shade is abundant. There should be no question of whether such a concept is good for cities but significant change never comes about easily. Barcelona is hoping to have an additional 503 superblocks by 2030. Let’s hope that this first test in Lisbon is just the beginning.

Carlota Rebelo is Monocle’s senior foreign correspondent and producer of ‘The Urbanist’ on Monocle Radio. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / Greece & Turkey

Sea change

Greece’s foreign minister, Giorgos Gerapetritis, travelled to Ankara on Tuesday to meet his Turkish counterpart, Hakan Fidan (pictured, on right, with Gerapetritis). The trip reflects the two countries’ recent efforts to improve ties and it is the first of a series of discussions that will be held every two to three months in order to monitor their bilateral relations. The talks lay the groundwork for a meeting between Greece’s prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in New York on 18 September.

Tensions between the two nations flared in 2020 when a territorial dispute in the Aegean Sea led to a naval standoff. Though relations have improved since then, territorial claims from both sides and issues relating to energy-exploration rights in the Aegean remain unresolved. Mitsotakis has proposed to draft a common agreement and to appeal to the International Court of Justice in The Hague for a solution but the idea of a territorial compromise has angered Greece’s opposition parties.

Image: Getty Images

Trade / USA & China

New chip investment

The launch of Huawei’s Mate 60 Pro smartphone at the end of August came with little fanfare. Initially available only from the technology corporation’s e-commerce site, it has been rolled out to other retailers in China over the past week. Its significance, however, is only now being understood. Powering the device is a processor developed by Shanghai’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) using a manufacturing process vastly superior to what the country was considered capable of just a year ago.

In 2021 the US commerce secretary, Gina Raimondo, announced that Washington would work with European leaders to “slow down China’s rate of innovation”. If the objective then was to ensure that China couldn’t “catch up in critical areas like semiconductors”, the West has seemingly failed. The new SMIC chips suggest that heavy-handed tactics such as the US sanctions on Huawei and export controls limiting Chinese access to American semiconductors have only spurred China’s hi-tech industries to up their game.

Image: Getty Images

Urbanism / Nigeria

Back on track

Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub, has inaugurated its metro system, which promises to ease mobility in one of the world’s most congested cities. Despite a significant reduction in the number of cars on the streets following the removal of a fuel subsidy, traffic jams are still a major issue. According to official estimates, the new rail line, which opened on Monday, could cut down the length of journeys on the same route by as much as three hours.

The first phase of the project, a 13km track called the Blue Line, linked the mainland residential area of the city to the financial district of Lagos Island. After the second phase of construction, which is likely to begin later this year, the new metro will have the capacity to carry 500,000 passengers a day. The project, initially planned for 1983, has been delayed for four decades as a result of funding and administrative issues. Let’s hope that all the officials are now on board.

Image: Let's Studio/Frieze

Art / South Korea

Capital gains

Asia’s art crowd is in South Korea this week for the second edition of Frieze Seoul, which begins today and runs until Saturday. First launched in London, the platform generated plenty of buzz last year when it chose the South Korean capital over Hong Kong for its first Asian iteration – and it seems that the decision was a smart one. As well as international exhibitors, “Frieze Week” has been embraced by galleries and museums across the capital. “The best fairs engage the entire city,” Patrick Lee, Frieze Seoul’s director, tells The Monocle Minute. He recommends Suki Seokyeong Kang’s “fantastic solo exhibition” at the Leeum Museum of Art.

International interest in South Korea’s art scene continues to grow, with the first North American exhibition of the country’s experimental art in the 1960s and 1970s, Only the Young, opening on Friday at the Guggenheim in New York. The country’s avant-garde era, which followed on from the monochromatic Dansaekhwa movement, is tipped to become the focus of the next collecting boom. With Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei and Seoul all vying for regional eyeballs, South Korean artists could be Frieze Seoul’s biggest draw.

Image: Michael Becker/Apple TV+

Monocle Radio / Monocle on Culture

Look ahead to autumn: TV, books, art

Robert Bound is joined in the studio by Scott Bryan, Holly Black and Chris Power to share what to watch, see and read this season.

Monocle Films / Design

Tokyo’s colourful community bus

An electric bus service has injected a new playfulness into a Tokyo borough in need of a revamp. We hop aboard and meet Eiji Mitooka, its creator and Japan’s foremost train designer, who explains why he puts fun at the top of his list when designing public transport. All aboard!


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