Friday 31 May 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 31/5/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Quiet place: Jonathan Tuckey’s Urban Barn

Image: Dirk Lindner

Architecture / Jonathan Tuckey

Rethinking reuse: builders should work to preserve the past, not erase it

When you walk around London, Milan or Zürich, you can feel their surrounding cultural and architectural richness. Instead of being knocked down and forgotten, the buildings that make up these great cities have been reimagined and repurposed. As a result, these places are buzzing with collective memories. Over my 20 years of practice as a designer, I have become ever more convinced that this method of city-making – known as “adaptive reuse” – is the way forward.

The value of this approach is evident: older buildings come with existing layers of history and culture. Citizens and developers appreciate a place-based narrative and in these structures, it is already present. It can provide a thought-provoking backdrop to whatever comes to inhabit the buildings; new restaurants, bars, homes or cultural centres take on a liveliness imbued by their former usage. This approach does require compromise, though. Designers must find a balance between catering for the space’s new ownership, while also accepting the building’s existing features. Time needs to be taken to understand the building and recognise the reasons why a structure was built in a particular way. What materials have been used? And, can they be repurposed and put to a different use?

It is also important to approach the project with an innovative mindset. Buildings have often remained leaky and cold because someone was trying to preserve them as examples of good architecture from a certain period. But such spaces are simply uninhabitable. There is no reason why a building can’t be radically reimagined while also staying true to its heritage.

Though we live in a throwaway culture, there is a growing sense that the gloss has come off the new. By the time new buildings are finished, they seem out of date. My idea of a nightmare is finding myself in a city built yesterday out of erased historical buildings. Adaptive reuse ensures that this isn’t the case.

Jonathan Tuckey is an architect, interior designer and the head of his namesake practice, which has built a reputation for breathing new life into old buildings. A longer version of this piece features in ‘The Monocle Companion: Fifty Ideas for Building Better Cities’, which is out now.

The Briefings


Talk turns to Gaza and the South China Sea at Asian defence summit

Today the Shangri-La Dialogue, one of Asia’s highest-profile defence summits, begins in Singapore. The annual, three-day event provides a platform for officials from Asia-Pacific, North America, Europe and the Middle East to explore urgent security issues. It is hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies and aims to aid global security policymaking, bringing senior ministers together for public speeches and facilitating closed-door, face-to-face discussions. In recent years, talks have been dominated by Myanmar’s civil war, the war in Ukraine and tensions in the South China Sea. The ongoing conflict in Gaza is expected to be high on the agenda this weekend. US defence secretary Lloyd Austin and China’s defence minister, Dong Jun, will meet for the first time, while tensions are expected to run high between China and the Philippines as a result of their ongoing territory dispute in the South China Sea. The island nation’s president, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, will deliver the conference’s keynote speech; the summit will be a valuable opportunity for both nations to discuss their differences in person.

Image: Max Miechowski


Tunis gallerists are nurturing local talent – and democratising the art industry in the process

Selma Feriani took a gamble when she decided to open a contemporary art gallery in Tunis’s commercial district of Le Kram this year, far from the city’s arts neighbourhood of La Marsa. “When you take the initiative, other people follow your lead,” says Feriani. The industrial gallery – the largest of its kind in the country – was designed by Tunisian architect Chacha Atallah and deliberately feels out of place.

It’s a bold move but she isn’t afraid to take risks when it comes to championing her country’s art. Though Tunis’s creative infrastructure continues to be hampered by political, economic and logistical constraints, there is a fresh sense of optimism pulsing through the city. The city’s biennial art festival was exported to Brussels for the first time in April. It is a clear indicator that there is a growing European appreciation for North Africa’s rich artistic offering; one that gallerists such as Feriani intend to nurture.

For our full report on Selma Feriani’s gallery and the emerging art scene in Tunis, pick up a copy of Monocle’s June issue, which is out now.

Looking fly: Aristotle Onassis

Image: Getty Images


Waiting in the wings: Athens unveils Olympic Airways monument

Athens has a new landmark: a golden-era Olympic Airways aircraft. The B727/284 Boeing, nicknamed Mount Olympus, is now on display in Ellinikon at the site of the old airport. The craft was originally part of a six-strong fleet bought by the airline’s founder, shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. After 24 years in operation, the plane was decommissioned and subsequently forgotten.

Last year, Cyprus-based Zela Aviation acquired the aircraft, renovated it and donated it to Ellinikon. For many Athenians, it is a moving reminder of the legacy of Onassis and the glory days of Greece’s aviation industry, when business opportunities were more abundant and economic growth was stronger. Though local authorities are keen to bolster tourism in the city, the move will doubtlessly serve as inspiration for future generations of entrepreneurs too.

Beyond the Headlines

Image: Reuters

Photo of the week / Claudia Sheinbaum

Mexico’s next president?

Candidate Claudia Sheinbaum campaigns in Mexico City ahead of the nation’s presidential elections this Sunday. According to the latest polls, Sheinbaum is in the lead to become the country’s first female president.

Monocle Radio / Meet the Writers

International Booker Prize 2024 winner

Announced this week is the winner of the International Booker Prize 2024. The recipient of this year’s award is ‘Kairos’ by German writer Jenny Erpenbeck and translated by Michael Hoffman, who each take home half of the £50,000 prize money. Host Georgina Godwin speaks to the winning duo and the administrator of the prize, Fiammetta Rocco, who lifts the lid on the selection process. We also talk to Granta’s Sigrid Rausing, who reveals who is buying translated literature and what sells best.


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