Friday 15 September 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 15/9/2023

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Architecture / Nic Monisse

Shore-fire success

Landscape architecture often receives less attention than its more conventional counterpart. Perhaps it’s because the spaces between buildings, such as parks, plazas and promenades, tend to be less flashy than new concert halls and skyscrapers. Few, if any, landscape architects are household names. It’s an issue that this year’s Obel Award has sought to redress by naming Kate Orff as its 2023 recipient. The landscape architect and founder of US-based design studio Scape was picked as the winner of the €100,000 award for a built project that responded to the theme of “adaptation”.

Shifting tides in New York

Image: WMI

Floating an idea

Image: WMI

Due for completion next year, the Living Breakwaters project is the product of a decade-long slog by Scape to create nearly 1km of biodiverse breakwaters along the southern shore of Staten Island. Orff has overseen the installation of a mix of stones and ecologically enhanced concrete units close to the shore in order to calm the tides, protect the beach and prevent erosion. The breakwaters also double as a habitat for oysters, which enhance the structure’s protective quality in a natural way, helping to transform it into a reef teeming with aquatic life. “It not only protects humans and revitalises the coastline of New York but also restores lost marine biodiversity,” said jury chair Martha Schwartz. “This is a visionary project that tackles the full task of adaptation.”

The win will surely set Orff on a trajectory towards landscape “starchitect” status. But more importantly, spotlighting her work might inspire a host of similarly ambitious architects to serve people and the planet too. While cities across the world are seeking urban solutions to combat extreme weather challenges, maybe this less-acclaimed branch of architecture holds some much-needed solutions.

Nic Monisse is Monocle’s design editor and host of ‘Monocle on Design’ on Monocle Radio. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.


Looking fly in Cairo

Diplomacy / USA & Egypt

Give and take

Official US government documents revealed this week that Joe Biden’s administration is planning to withhold some of the country’s military aid to Egypt and redirect it towards Taiwan and Lebanon. The US claims that Cairo has failed to meet human-rights standards in the treatment of political prisoners. Egypt’s government, under its president, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, has made some efforts since 2021 to clean up its act but critics claim that these changes were merely cosmetic. That might also be true of the US’s latest decision.

“Withdrawing $85m (€79.2m) of an overall annual amount of $1.3bn (€1.2bn) is just a symbolic move,” Yossi Mekelberg, associate fellow with the Middle East and North Africa programme at Chatham House, tells The Monocle Minute. “The real question is whether the US can develop a consistent approach when it comes to sending foreign aid but also upholding human rights.”

For more on the US decision to shift part of its military aid from Egypt to Taiwan and Lebanon, tune in to ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle Radio at 07.00 London time.

Image: Getty Images

Economy / Sri Lanka

On the charge

Representatives of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are on a two-week trip in Sri Lanka to review the country’s loan programme. The nation is in the midst of the worst economic crisis in its history and received a $3bn (€2.8 bn) bailout from the IMF earlier this year after it defaulted on its debts in 2022. High inflation and shortages of essential goods have caused widespread unrest, forcing prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to resign in May last year.

The first $330m (€309m) instalment of the loan came in March this year and though the support is vital, it is no silver bullet. The causes of the current crisis are multiple, from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic to a misguided ban on chemical fertilisers and general economic mismanagement. Analysts have expressed concern that the IMF-guided restructuring plan is not rigorous enough to solve Sri Lanka’s debt issues and prevent another collapse.

Literature / Kenya

Write of passage

Today marks the start of the Macondo Literary Festival in Nairobi, which runs until Sunday. For this year’s iteration, organisers aim to bring together African authors writing in Arabic, English, French, Portuguese and Spanish for the first time in its history. “The festival is about African confluences,” Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, co-founder of the event and an award-winning Kenyan author, tells The Monocle Minute. “It’s a convergence of people drawn from the continent’s diverse imagination streams, who meet like-minded individuals for a few days of talks.” Macondo follows a recent run of literary events in the capital, including the Afrika Redefined Indie Book Prize, the Nairobi Literary Festival and the forthcoming Nairobi International Book Fair. With more events on the horizon, Kenya seems to be cementing its status as a major literary hub in Africa.

Beyond the Headlines

Picture of the week / Morocco

Making a mark

Artists for Morocco is a collective of 27 Moroccan creatives led by GQ Middle East international editor Samira Larouci, photographer Anass Ouaziz and designer Ismail Elaaddioui, who joined forces this week to raise money for earthquake relief. The proceeds of a newly launched print sale set up by the artists will be donated to local NGOs and charities working to provide aid supplies to victims as well as ground assistance to those stuck in remote villages. The artists’ work offers insightful snapshots of Moroccan life.

‘At the swimming pool’ by Ilyes Griyeb

Image: Ilyes Griyeb, Iman Zaoin, Hanane El Ouardani

‘On the way to the cemetery, Mouna picks some poppies’ by Iman Zaoin

Image: Ilyes Griyeb, Iman Zaoin, Hanane El Ouardani

‘Unpeeled sunflower seeds’ by Hanane El Ouardani

Image: Ilyes Griyeb, Iman Zaoin, Hanane El Ouardani
Image: Sanna Lehto

Monocle Radio / The Entrepreneurs

Finland Special: Kyrö and Sees

Meet Miika Lipiäinen, co-founder of the award-winning Kyrö Distillery Company, which he launched with his friends after hatching the idea in the most Finnish of locations, the sauna. Plus: how the Fukushima disaster inspired Elisa Koivumaa, founder and CEO of Sees, to start the household cleaning-products and cosmetics brand that uses all-natural ingredients.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00