Thursday 27 June 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 27/6/2024

The Monocle Minute

And the winner is...

Today marks the launch of Monocle’s summery, bumper July/August issue of the magazine. To celebrate – and share the winner of our annual city survey – we’ll be sharing a special extra edition of your usual Monocle Minute newsletter at midday today. If you can’t wait, tune in to The Globalist at 07.00 London time.

The Opinion

House news / Josh Fehnert

Buildings, businesses and bus routes aren’t what make cities tick. Here’s a mini manifesto for touching up the urban social contract

Monocle remains irrepressibly optimistic about cities and their potential to help people live well. So how might a graciously deployed “good morning” affect the way that you feel on your street? What if we considered children more closely when designing public spaces? How could better housing and hospitals provide dignity for all and signal city hall’s intent?

To mark today’s launch of our city-focused July/August issue, please allow me to surmount my soapbox with a few ideas from the issue to help reweave the corners of the urban social contract that have started to fray.

Don’t idle
Engines should be turned off while vehicles are stationary: it’s better for emissions and the air quality of the people sauntering past.

Arresting idea
Rethink the Japanese koban police box for Western cities. Presence is important and places such as London sometimes feel as though they’ve given up on pursuing petty crime.

Make room
Not everyone wants to work from home. Let entrepreneurs and start-ups flourish and loosen the rules so that people who print, whittle and sculpt can be part of the streetscape too.

Get out more
Rekindle stoop culture and relax regulations so that people have space to set up a table outside their home and enjoy the street and their neighbours.

Act natural
Leave room for birds to nest and bees to buzz. Waterways and their banks are for frogs and dragonflies as well as bike couriers and picnickers.

Fill gaps
Glossy renders often reimagine neighbourhoods in supposedly sustainable ways. But surely reusing and rebuilding offers developers and architects a more interesting test?

Firm leads
What about clean-up duty for frequent foulers? Some training for those who own animals to make sure that pets are kept well and happy.

Think laterally
The linear-park movement (à la New York’s High Line) has room to grow. Snaking routes get people walking and make use of what’s already there.

Press play
Cities have become too hard-cornered. What about pavements that bounce and blacktops that encourage children to etch with chalk? Plus, wider walkways and slower traffic lights for the oldsters, please.

Embrace community
Some buildings leave people lonely, isolating them high above the streets. We need properties of various sizes (and textures) that encourage people of all incomes to rub shoulders. Smart doorbells don’t make good neighbours.

For more urban fixes, reportage, our annual Quality of Life Survey and, crucially, some optimism, pick up a copy of the issue.

Josh Fehnert is Monocle’s editor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Peru & China

Peru’s president is in hot water at home. Will a reinstated deal with China help?

A port dispute between Peruvian authorities and the state-owned China Ocean Shipping Corporation (Cosco) appears to have been resolved in time for Peru’s president, Dina Boluarte, to meet Xi Jinping in Beijing. The Peruvian government has asked to annul a decision to strip Cosco of its exclusive right to operate the deepwater Chancay Port Terminal, which is being constructed on Peru’s Pacific coast.

The concession signals just how much the South American country needs Beijing’s economic support. “Peru is looking forward to being China’s best partner in the region,” Natalia Sobrevilla Perea, professor of Latin American history at the University of Kent, tells The Monocle Minute. “The commercial relationship is part of the Belt and Road Initiative. Boluarte is unpopular in Peru and the economy is reeling, so she really needs a win from her visit to China.”

Urbanism / Dubai

Rain will no longer stop play in Dubai as the emirate sinks funds into drainage

Dubai’s ruler, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has approved an initiative to improve rainwater drainage in the city. Dubbed “Tasreef”, the project is tipped to be the largest of its kind in the region. It will inject about €7.6bn into Dubai’s historically underfunded drainage system and expand on a series of sewerage projects that have been launched since 2019. The initiative is expected to be completed in 2033 and will increase the capacity of the emirate’s rainwater-drainage system by 700 per cent, enabling it to handle more than 20 million cubic metres of water a day.

Dubai is widely considered the region’s business and tourism hub but it was brought to a standstill in April this year when the UAE recorded its heaviest rainfall in 75 years. Roads, shops, homes and infrastructure were damaged by flooding, forcing Dubai International Airport to divert flights. The new system “will support efforts to mitigate the effects of extreme weather and climate change,” Mustafa Arawi, journalist and writer in the UAE, tells The Monocle Minute. “These should support the emirate for the next 100 years.”

Hear more from Arawi on the latest episode of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle Radio.

Fashion / Copenhagen

Mandatory Copenhagen: could the new fashion fair become an industry essential?

A new trade fair for independent fashion labels is under way in the Danish capital this week. Mandatory Copenhagen unites more than 100 Scandinavian and international brands, ranging from local menswear designers, such as Another Aspect and Forét, to Milan-based Aspesi and French womenswear label Soeur. Housed in a former market hall in the Meatpacking District, the event is led by industry veterans Mads Petersen and Clara Leone, who spent years working within the city’s fashion scene and at Copenhagen International Fashion Fair (Ciff), northern Europe’s longest-running fashion event. “Copenhagen is becoming increasingly relevant to the fashion industry,” Leone tells The Monocle Minute. “There’s a synergy between food, design and fashion, which is so unique to this city.” Plus, the fair’s showroom-by-appointment format offers a more intimate and personal setting for attendees. “It’s like we are welcoming buyers into our own home,” adds Leone.

Beyond the Headlines

Evan Gershkovich in court as spy trial starts in Russia

Image: Getty Images

Q&A / Gráinne McCarthy

The closed-door trial of a US journalist is under way in Russia. What do we know so far?

Gráinne McCarthy is international chief digital editor at The Wall Street Journal. She joined Monocle Radio’s The Briefing to share how the paper has been helping its Moscow correspondent, Evan Gershkovich, who could face a 20-year sentence in Russia for espionage. His trial began yesterday in Yekaterinburg.

Evan’s trial is being held behind closed doors. What do we know about what’s happening?
Most importantly, we got to see Evan; he was present in court. His head was shaved but he looked good. He smiled and even waved at one point. After this, reporters were shuffled out of the courtroom. This is a sham trial and Evan is being afforded none of the due process that he would experience in a Western legal system.

What sense have you had about how Evan is doing?
We have only seen him periodically over the past 15 months. I always describe it as both heartening and heartbreaking. It’s awful to see Evan in those circumstances but we draw inspiration from him because he is holding up. He has worked hard at staying strong, despite being confined to a cell in Lefortovo Prison for 23 hours a day. So when we see him, it just emboldens us to make as much noise as we can.

How are Evan’s loved ones coping? Has ‘Wall Street Journal’ been in touch with them?
Absolutely. His parents are incredibly brave and wonderful people. Evan’s father described it very poignantly in an interview, when he said that it feels as though the burden has been shared. The Journal stands shoulder to shoulder with the family; we’re on this road with them.

Image: Getty Images

Monocle Radio / The Foreign Desk

Will Ukraine and Moldova ever join the EU?

The EU formally launched accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova this week. Andrew Mueller explains why the tortuous process that has left many countries in limbo might, nevertheless, be a good thing for these two nations.


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