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Category Archives: architecture

I(Chris) spent a day in Rotterdam and walked from the Maritime Museum to the Museumpark along the street Witte de Withstraat. Part 1 covers the shops, bars and restaurants on Witte de Withstraat.

Museumpark is an urban landscaped park located between the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Westersingel, Westzeedijk and the complex of the Erasmus medical center in central Rotterdam. The Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, the Kunsthal, Het Nieuwe Instituut, Chabot Museum, and the Natural History Museum (Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam) are all located there and connected with each other by this landscaped park.

First, the establishments – the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen (see a dedicated post later)

Chabot Museum is home to one of the most important collections of Dutch expressionist painter and sculptor Henk Chabot (1894-1949).  The white villa was built in 1938 and represents a highpoint of the functionalist ‘Nieuwe Bouwen’ (New Construction) style of architecture. It was designed by Gerrit Willem Baas and Leonard Stokla in 1938 as a private residence.

Chabot Museum’s next door neighbor – there are a few more houses/villa that are built in this style in the area. But I couldn’t tell if it was built around the same time as the Chabot museum or it is a later emulation.

In Het Nieuwe Instituut – the Museum of Architecture, Design and Digital Culture – shows temporary exhibitions with a recurring theme of innovation. The museum examines the designed world and how it is constantly being changed by new technologies, new ideas and shifting social priorities. The concept is similar to that of the MAAT in Lisbon – click here for our earlier post.

Instead of a lawn, the institute has a pond covered in algae in front of it. Look carefully, it is green water.

The institute has a modern and comfy cafe

… but the bookstore (not so much a shop, but more like an open market) was closed. The stalls were all covered up.

The park was designed by Rem Koolhaas/OMA in close collaboration with the French landscape architect Yves Brunier and the designer Petra Blaisse.

The park has a very innovative design: four zones – a paved zone; a romantic zone with trees, flowers and a pedestrian bridge (just visible above); a city zone which is covered in asphalt and often used for public events; and a well-tended orchard area.

I used all my time in the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen so the Kunsthal was closed by the time I got to it.

Although it is not eye-catching like a work by Gehry, this is a masterpiece of architecture by Rem Koolhass –  read more about it here:

One of the sculptures outside the Kunsthal.

The city’s Natural History Museum is next door.

As I walked back towards the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, one can see the other side of the museum where Claes Oldenburg’s Screwarch is installed.

I read somewhere that the ponds and fountains in this park are designed to act as buffers to prevent flooding of the city.

The green and built spaces around the park are really harmonious.

I will definitely come back to have a closer look at the museums and relax with a drink at the establishments on Witte de Withstraat.








The MAAT – Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, opened its doors to the public on 5 October, 2016. I (Chris) had the chance of a private tour in October 2017. A young museum, just over a year old !

Presenting itself as a new cultural centre in the city of Lisbon, the MAAT represents an ambition to host national and international exhibitions with contributions by contemporary artists, architects and thinkers. Click here for its web site.

Our private guided tour started in the early evening and it was eerie inside.

No shopping.

I saw two exhibits. The first “Tensão e Conflito – Arte em Vídeo após 2008 (Tension & Conflict – Video art after 2008)” – 22 artists made video of their personal views on current events. The museum is turned into a number of film viewing spaces.

The second exhibit is “Shadow Soundings” by Bill Fontana as commissioned by MAAT.

It was created from the sounds and vibrations of the 25th of April Bridge (visible from the museum) and the Tagus River (just outside), and then amplified until they acquire a musical quality.

Using seven projections, the installation shows unique views of the bridge and the Tagus river, as well as unknown angles of the shadows of vehicles moving across the bridge.

The MAAT also represents an effort to revitalise the riverfront of Belém’s historic district. It was designed by the British architecture firm Amanda Levete Architects.

The MAAT also occupies the recently renovated Central Tejo power station (closed since 1975) next door which we did not have a chance to see.

The two buildings are united by an outdoor park, conceived by landscape architect Vladimir Djurovik, offering an outstanding leisure space along Lisbon’s riverbank.

If you go online, you can find photos of the museum taken from the river.  It looks like a low undulating wave.

During the day, people can stroll up to the roof of the museum via the “ramp” to view the river at a higher vantage point.

Well worth returning – for a stroll along the river and a very modern experience.



In October 2017, I(Chris) attended a conference held in Lisbon, Portugal at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown – a state-of-the-art facility for research and clinical care.

The Centre, designed by the Indian architect, Charles Correa, was inaugurated on October 5th 2010.

It is situated at the point where the River Tagus meets the Atlantic and from where the great Portuguese navigators once set sail.


… the architectural space


Our conference was held in the auditorium across a wide paved passage.

The auditorium which seats 400 has a giant elliptical window with a view of the river.

The shapes of the holes in the wall and the auditorium window echo the biological cell.

Opened in 2011 with the mission of offering high quality clinical care, primarily in the field of oncology, the Champalimaud Clinical Centre occupies most of the lower floors of the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown.

The research labs are situated on the higher floors overlooking the tropical pergola garden.

The buildings are connected by a transparent enclosed bridge. There is an outdoor amphitheater and a gently sloping walk to an area bound by an infinity pool and a “pebble beach” where one can take in the view of the river.


Another place for gathering.

At sunset, the view was magnificent. Breath-taking.

We were facing west towards the open Atlantic Ocean and the Americas on the other side. Pebble beach and infinity pool.

The Champalimaud Foundation (Portuguese: Fundação Champalimaud), a private biomedical research foundation, was created according to the will of the late entrepreneur António de Sommer Champalimaud, in 2004. It conducts research in neurosciences, oncology, and particularly blindness.

Notice the light blue paint on the tip of the concrete pillar mimicking the color of the sky. Presumably, on certain days when the light conditions are right, the pair of pillars could look as if they reach into the clouds. Nice touch !

Some of the write up here come from the official web site of the foundation. They have a video about the Centre.

What a site for a conference !


We spent a few days in Edinburgh in June. Here are some snapshots of the city.

Princess Street Garden is in the center of Edinburgh. It bridges the old (Medieval) and new (Georgian) parts of the city. View from Edinburgh Castle.

Scott Monument at the edge of the garden. Who is he?

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) was an advocate, judge and legal administrator by profession.

He was best known as a historical novelist, playwright and poet. Many of his works remain classics e.g., Ivanhoe, and Rob Roy.

The Scottish National Gallery is in the center of the Princess Street Garden.

Floral clock in the garden

Ross band stand in the Princess Street Garden

St. John’s Episcopal Church just below the Edinburgh Castle (see later post).

Scottish Parliament, at the far end of the Royal Mile (away from the Castle). Built by Enric Miralles, from the outset the building and its construction (1999-2004) have been controversial. It was over-budget and late, hated by the public and praised by academics.

“Trigger Panels” –  an abstraction of curtains drawn back from the windows of the Scottish Parliament Building

Arthur’s Feet in Holyrood Park overlooking the Parliament Building

Leith – north of Edinburgh which is a port and had a shipbuilding history

Ships that lay undersea cable (looks like its function given the giant spool) – it is pretty important for the internet.

Royal Yacht Brittania, now retired (1954-1997), berthed at the Ocean Terminal at Leith for tourists and events (we were too late to enter).

The Royal Yacht’s last foreign mission was to convey the last governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, and the Prince of Wales back from Hong Kong after its handover to the People’s Republic of China on 1 July 1997.





Almost forgot this post which we wrote earlier in the year.

We visited The former Hollywood Road Police Married Quarters, now renamed PMQ 元創方 in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong earlier this year. The buildings and grounds have been turned into a landmark for the creative industries. It is truly a great place to wander and shop as well as to soak up some local history and creative culture.

The history and preservation efforts of the site are well researched and documented here officially. Much of the writings below have been taken from various Hong Kong government sources.

In 1951, the site started as the Hollywood Road Police Married Quarters — the first dormitory for Chinese rank and file police officers. The site included 140 single rooms and 28 double rooms, with a semi-open design that allowed greater interaction between the residents. The site had been vacant since 2000.

The two buildings have been refurbished and upgraded for new uses. Residential units have been converted into design studios and shops, offices for creative enterprises and lodging for visiting designers. The buildings of PMQ are of modern style, feature a simple and clean appearance with a more utility approach for the design of space and form. This style emerged in the early 1950s when there was a great increase in population, resulting in great demand in buildings which required fast and efficient construction.

In order to cope with this, the design of building aimed at meeting the minimum requirement and standard which resulted in a simple and functional design. Buildings of this style are mainly built of strictly utilitarian reinforced concrete with flat roofs with minimal decoration.

This place turns out to be the childhood homes of both Hong Kong ex-Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and his predecessor Donald Tsang.

When the government was going to auction the land, conservationists launched a campaign, citing social historical values embedded in the buildings and the fact it was once the site of Hong Kong’s first government school offering Western-style education.

Given that nearly HK$600 million of public funds has been spent on its renovation, PMQ is seen as a major test case on how Hong Kong conserves and revitalises historic buildings.

We thought about Common Ground in Seoul (see post here) – which is also a cool place for locals and tourists to socialize and shop.  Common Ground is more commercial while PMQ is more artsy – perhaps it can afford to be so as some of the tenants are sponsored.

PMQ’s mission statement says it wants to nurture the best design entrepreneurs in town, put them on the path to commercial success and become a popular destination for tourists and locals in its own right.

On the ground and first floors, there are fancy eateries and established designers and retailers like Vivienne Tam and G.O.D. Having known designer names on the premises is vital to the sustainability of the whole project, not just because of the higher rent that they pay, but also their crowd-pulling power.

We rested our feet with a few drinks at the Tai Lung Fung which adopts a certain vintage Hong Kong eatery designs.

The style is before our time and we cannot tell if it is accurate but it looks authentic.


Highly recommended.

After reaching our westernmost destination on our Alps-Atlantic trip at Biarritz (click here to see related posts), we came back via Bordeaux and stopped for a few days to explore the area.

The Cité du Vin is a museum as well as a place of exhibitions and academic seminars on the theme of wine located in the city of Bordeaux.

The building, meant to suggest a decanter, was designed by Anouk Legendre and Nicolas Desmazières of XTU architects.

La Cite du Vins was official opened by the President, François Hollande on May 31, 2016. So the place is not even a year old, it is brand new.

The building has 8 floors with most of the exhibition spaces and classrooms on the lower floors.

In an open exhibition space occupying more than 3,000 m², nearly twenty different themed areas invite you to take a voyage of discovery and enjoy a unique experience exploring the many and varied facets of wine across time and space.

One can spend hours watching, listening, and even smelling the exhibits. There is so much media content to be consumed.

One darkened area has several tables where visitors can sit around and watch a virtual host explain various topics – history, entertaining, food pairing.

The table is actually a screen and the image changes continuously – sometimes it is a dining table but it could morph into another image seamlessly and quickly.

There were several tables that allow visitors to discern the aromas present in a wine. A squeeze of the small black rubber bulb releases the aroma which can be inhaled from the copper horn.

This part of the exhibition was unique in that they provided many different sources of aroma.

We participated in a multi-sensory workshop where we tasted several wines, learnt about its origin (not all were French) and pairing with food around the world. It is “multi-sensory” because certain aromas were sprayed into the room to invoke a sense of a place and its food which were projected on surround screen.

The workshop was entertaining and its delivery employed state of the art technology.

There are 2 restaurants. We did not eat there. Our entry ticket include a free glass of wine to be enjoyed at the belvedere which affords a 360 degree view of the northern end of Bordeaux city and the river Garonne.

“Downtown” direction view of the city of Bordeaux.

There is a souvenir shop “La Boutique” which sells every wine-related gifts one can imagine.

Next to it is the wine store which stocks thousands of bottles from around the world. Not just Bordeaux or French, a truly comprehensive international collection.

We spent almost the entire day here. The city really did a good job in creating this museum to educate and promote wine culture, and giving adults the sense of fun that kids have in a themed amusement park.

Our first night of the 2017 Alps-to-Atlantic trip was spent in Saint-Emilion.  This small medieval village is known for its status as a UNESCO World Heritage site and extremely well known for its red wine.

Our hotel “Au Logis des Remparts” is located at the edge of the village center and was built using a part of the remaining defensive wall. The village is so small that the hotel’s location is essentially central.

There are three floors. There is an elevator for luggage but not people.

One can see parts of the rampart with a walkway on top and a stone parapet.

This village was recognized by UNESCO in 1999 and it was the first wine-making entity that was listed as a “cultural landscape”.

While our room is unremarkable, the garden is heavenly.

Geometrically-shaped trees in the middle.

We and our friends really like it and spent a good few hours lying on the lounge chairs, staring up at the trees, and falling asleep.

We had it all to ourselves.

Can’t remember the last time we had such a naturally serene and relaxing moment.

Since it was the beginning of the season, the owner was moving the sculptures around the garden looking for an optimal place to show them.

The pieces are apparently all available for sale.

The weather was perfect to be outside. But it is too cold for swimming.

The patio has the perfectly shaped shady olive tree (I think it is an olive tree).

We took our breakfast underneath it one morning.

Highly recommended.

I was visiting Bologna last December. Bologna is famous not only for its pasta sauce and several other foods but also for its porticos. In total, there are over 45 km (28 miles) of arcades, some 38 in the city center. While strolling in the historic center, I came across this bookstore which uses part of the arcade in front of its store front to display books and magazines.


Libreria Nanni is located at Via Dè Musei, 8 – under il Portico della Morte (Portico of Death) – its name arising from the nearby old Hospital of Santa Maria della Morte, which now houses the Archaeological Museum.


The bookstore was founded by the Marchesi family in the early nineteenth century became a reference point for students, scholars and bibliophiles. It was acquired by Arnaldo Nanni in 1900’s. This is the oldest bookstore in the city of Bologna.


It was just 7pm and the store keepers were closing down the store and moving some of the displayed books inside. I quickly wandered inside to look around.


Apparently, this bookstore was frequented by the well-known writer and film director – Pier Paolo Pasolini – murdered in 1975 unfortunately.


The bookstore also specializes in ancient books as well as old and rare magazines and comics – see the shelves behind the counter.


They also sell text books but it is in the back behind the wall of ancient books.


Judging by the age of the stalls, it is quite likely that books and magazines have been displayed this way for many years.


Old Architectural Digest …


comics …


… and travel magazines


If you are curious about bookstore, click here to see a renovated bookstore – Rizzoli – in a central shopping arcade in Milano.

Our next post will be about one of the newest bookstore in Bologna. Don’t miss it.

I was on a business trip in Seoul last August and had some free time to explore the city – in Gwangjin-gu (광진구 · 廣津區) a district that is mostly residential, but consist not of apartment buildings characteristic of the city, but of three or four-story row houses separated by small roads and alleyways.


It was dusk when I arrived in the area. There were lots of restaurants and bars, just turning on their neons. Apparently, this place is known for its night life along with Hangdae 弘大 and Sinchon 新村 in other parts of Seoul, where there are universities.


The streets were busy with cars – a major interchange is a couple of blocks away and there were lots of people, mostly locals. The metro line 2 runs on elevated tracks here and the elevated Konkuk University station 建大入口 is not far from Common Grounds.


Common Ground (커먼그라운드) is a collection of pop-up stores housed in 200 large containers which is capable of transforming into different structures or moving into different places. Web site here.


The containers were set up in a previously empty parking lot. When I looked it up online, Common Ground was not in the then current version of Goggle map Street View.


It almost seemed strange that inside the perimeter of Common Grounds, the environment is calmer than the streets outside. Perhaps I was too early – the night was still young.


In the middle is a weekend market that is held with different themes. There were also four food trucks each serving something interesting.


Wonder truck selling BBQ and Kimchibus.


Structurally, the containers are stacked two or three-storey high with footbridges linking the stacks.


There is a 1-minute time-lapse video of the construction of Common Ground here on Youtube.

Cafe and restaurants are located at the top where natural light is welcoming.


Internally, there was an atrium with stairs connecting the floors.


In addition to lots of little stores, there were quite a few restaurants. It must be a great place to hang out in the evening, being outdoors and a little higher where one can see the people in the center below and the buildings in the background.


Apparently, various events such as exhibitions and performances are held regularly. While I was there, there was an exhibition of art relating to The World of Warcraft in the Toy Republic shop/area and a performance space promoting the launch of a new version of the game.


Despite the onslaught of mega-brands setting up shops ubiquitously across the globe in shopping malls, it was heartening to see the appearance of these smaller, independent retail enterprises. We saw such enterprises inside a bookstore in our last post about Eslite Spectrum in Hong Kong – click here.


The place reminded me of another retail complex I visited several years ago also in Seoul – Ssamsagil  – it was more artsy – I did not go there this time. I will have a post about a similar set up in Hong Kong – PMQ.  Look out for it.


Last year, IT and I went to visit the Vitra Campus – located just across the Swiss-German border in Weil am Rhein. See our earlier posts about the Campus and the company’s showrooms. We joined a walking tour of the private areas of the Campus – the factories, the warehouse and the fire station.


Zaha Hadid’s first completed building is perhaps the most famous fire station in the world. The building was commissioned after a disastrous fire at the Vitra factory in 1981.


Completed in 1994, the building housed a garage for fire engines along with another wing containing locker rooms, showers and common areas.


The slanting walls are not caused by my camera, they do not meet at right angles.


The sharp-angled sculptural forms yells “emergency!’ The walls seem to glide past each other.


According to her firm’s web site, the fire station “emerges as a linear layered series of walls, between which program elements are contained – a representation of “movement frozen” – an alert structure, ready to explode into action at any moment.”


This building is a key work of so-called Deconstructivism and of late twentieth-century architecture in general.


For architecture pilgrims, the Vitra Campus is a mecca and this fire station is a high point. Since it no longer functions as a fire station, we were invited inside to sit in the conference room.


The fire station represents the earliest attempt to translate Hadid’s fantastical, powerful conceptual drawings into a functional architectural space.


This Fire House project – a complex construction of tilted and clashing planes – looks very different from her later, organic designs.


Vitra’s voluntary fire fighting team decided to co-operate with the professional city fire brigade and dissolved the factory-based fire fighting teams. As a consequence Vitra no longer needed a fire station and the building became a space for lectures, concerts, and exhibitions.


Hadid was the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize, in 2004.


She worked for her former professors, Koolhaas and Zenghelis, at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, becoming a partner in 1977.


Hadid established her own London-based architecture practice in 1980.


On 31 March 2016, Hadid died of a heart attack in a Miami. We did a post about her building in Hyde Park, London (here) shortly after her death.


Last year, IT and I went to visit the Vitra Campus – located just across the Swiss-German border in Weil am Rhein. Much of what is written below came from their web site which is very informative. They also have a great drone video of the campus here.


The Vitra Campus comprises a public and a private area. In the public space, you will find the Vitra Design Museum, the VitraHaus and the Vitra Silde Tower. The private area, where the production facilities are located, can only be accessed as part of an architectural tour (on which these photos were taken).

VitraHaus (see later post)


In 1981, a fire destroyed the majority of the production facilities used by Vitra. The resulting reconstruction provided an opportunity to produce various buildings with renowned architects. The company decided to built its own firehouse. The Vitra Fire Station was the first full-scale work by Zaha Hadid ever to be realised. See later post.


Nicholas Grimshaw was chosen as the first architect to rebuild the Campus. As the insurance funds only covered a six-month interruption in production, Grimshaw designed a factory constructed from simple prefabricated metal elements.


The horizontally striated façade made of corrugated sheet metal bears witness to the industrial purpose of the building as well as the technological competence of the company.


The Vitra Design Museum building was designed by the American architect Frank Gehry as his first project in Europe. See later post about this museum.


Designed by the Japanese architectural office SANAA, the Vitrashop Factory Building was completed in 2012. The building has a nearly circular footprint and consists of two adjoining semi-circular concrete shells.


The flowing character of the building’s exterior is created by a white curtain façade made of undulating acrylic panels.


Although the production hall is larger than any of the other factory buildings on the Vitra Campus, the façade gives it a light, almost floating appearance.


The Schaudepot is the second building on campus by the architects Herzog & de Meuron. The new structure was not yet opened when we visited but opened later in 2016. It combines the simple appearance of an industrial building with the complex requirements of a walk-in museum repository.


Balancing Tools by Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen


The sculpture was commissioned by the children of Vitra company founder Willi Fehlbaum as a gift for his seventieth birthday. It depicts the three main tools employed by upholsters who play a central role in the production of furniture.


Dome by Richard Buckminster Fuller


Petrol Station. Jean Prouvé was an important engineer, architect and designer of the post-war era. He developed furniture and buildings based on carefully constructed metal structures produced in his own metalworking shop.


The Conference Pavilion by Tadao Ando was the architect’s first work outside Japan.


The centrepiece of the building consists of a sunken courtyard that seems to conceal the surrounding environment and lends the building an almost monastic tranquillity and intimacy.


Posts to come will cover the VitraHaus, Design Museum and the firehouse.

This blog posts will cover what we saw inside the Guggenheim museum Bilbao. An earlier post talked about the outside, click here to read. Here is another view of the Simpson-ish model of the building.


Let’s take a look around inside. There is a normal-looking, rather warm and cozy, education center.


A cafe with a giant painting.


In the atrium, looking up …


The upper floors or ceiling, if you can call it that …


The main galleries are spacious.


Tailor-made space for an installation by Jenny Holzer


There is a gallery specially designed to house Richard Serra’s monumental The Matter of Time – we will have a separate post later on it.


We saw two special exhibitions – one exhibition is about Louise Bourgeoise’s Cells series- the creator of the giant spider (Maman) outside the museum. Much of what we have written below came from the museum’s site.


Over her long career as an artist, Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) developed concepts and formal inventions that later became key positions in contemporary art; these included the use of environmental installation and theatrical formats, and the engagement with psychoanalytic and feminist themes.


Cells is a series of architectural spaces that deal with a range of emotions. a collection of 60-plus pieces of work created over two decades.


Cells present individual microcosms; each is an enclosure that separates the internal from the external world. In these unique spaces, the artist arranged found objects, clothes, furniture, and sculptures to create emotionally charged, theatrical sets.


I(Chris) found the pieces intriguing, claustrophobic and surreal … the Cells reminded me a bit of the world created by Rene Margritte’s paintings.

The other exhibition is Andy Warhols’ Shadows – created with the assistance of his entourage. It is a collection of 102 silkscreen canvas, placed side by side in an enormous space.


According to the museum’s web site, “The “shadows” alternate between positive and negative imprints as they march along the wall of the gallery.”


“Far from replicas, each Shadow corresponds to a form that reveals, with precision and self-awareness, its space, directing the viewer’s gaze to light, the central subject of the series. In focusing on the shadow to devise light—that is to say, sparks of color—Warhol returns to the quintessential problem of art: perception.”

We think the museum curator is being rather generous here.


Venturing out onto the terrace, we found Tulips by Jeff Koons – a bouquet of multicolor balloon flowers measuring more than 2 meters tall and 5 meters across.


It is nowhere as endearing as the Puppy out in front of the main entrance.





While visiting Donostia-San Sebastián, we took a day-trip to see the incomparable Guggenheim museum in nearby Bilbao. The express bus route between the two cities is well-run, frequent and comfortable. Much of what we have written below came from the official web site.

A model of the building in the museum


When the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao opened to the public in 1997 after a 4-year construction period, it was immediately hailed as one of the world’s most spectacular Deconstructionist buildings. It will be celebrating its 20th birthday next year. Click here to see the official site.


On approach, one is greeted from a distance by Jeff Koon’s Puppy – a giant West Highland terrier carpeted in flowering plants. According to the official site, “Puppy employs the most saccharine of iconography—flowers and puppies … Koons designed this public sculpture to relentlessly entice, to create optimism,and to instill, in his own words, ‘confidence and security’ … as it stands guard at the museum, Puppy fills viewers with awe, and even joy.”


We had to agree that, especially on that somewhat cloudy date, it still made us feel positive.


The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation selected Frank Gehry as the architect. The curves on the exterior of the building were intended to appear random; the architect said that “the randomness of the curves are designed to catch the light”.




Located next to the Nervion River, the building uses primarily titanium, limestone and glass as the construction material.


It has been characterized by architectural critic as “a fantastic dream ship of undulating form in a cloak of titanium,” its brilliantly reflective panels also reminiscent of fish scales. Frank Gehry’s work has often been associated with the fish form – see our post on Gehry’s Berlin conference center – Axica here.


It is possible to walk all the way around the Museum, admiring different faces from each perspective and also a number of artworks installed outside.


One can’t miss Louise Bourgeoise’s Maman – a giant nine-metre-tall bronze, marble and stainless-steel spider, created in the 90’s.


The museum cost $89 million to build. The museum was opened as part of a revitalization effort for the city and it became a popular tourist attraction helping to generate millions spent on hotels, restaurants, and shops. The city collected taxes from tourist spendings which are more than what it paid for the building cost.


The interior “is designed around a large, light-filled atrium with views of Bilbao’s estuary and the surrounding hills of the Basque country”.


Inside the Hall, visitors access the atrium, the heart of the Museum with curved volumes and large glass curtain walls that connect the inside and the outside.


The atrium is flooded with light and covered by a great skylight. The three levels of the building are organized around it and are connected by means of curved walkways, titanium and glass elevators, and staircases.


See our next post on the artwork exhibited inside the museum.


Continuing with our posts on the bookstores we come across …, Libelle mit H&B is a high end, second hand bookstore (antique bookseller) in Basel, Switzerland. Click here to see their site.


It has a perfect location – a block from the city’s main thoroughfare –  and situated at just the bottom of the cobbled-stoned street that leads up to the boutiques on Spalenberg.


IT was looking for some old books on accordion or ballet, I vaguely recall. I was not looking at the books instead, I was admiring the interiors.


There are two rooms on the main floor at the street level. It is not a big place –  a basement, a main floor, and a first floor.


The stairs that hugs the perimeter of the space and connecting the three floors is a masterpiece – modern, minimal, functional.


The stairs allows access to literally the books on all four walls. One stretch has rather deep treads that allow a customer to remain on a stair step while browsing the books.


At the top of the stairs is a gallery that allows one to look down onto the main floor.


Another notable feature is the lighting fixture on the vertical part of the bookshelves. So minimal as it occupied little space, and functional that it provided light where it is needed.


The lighting fixtures also provided visually a vertical element in the space, contrasting the horizontal stair steps and bookshelves.


The store gave up one half of the street-facing shop window but retains the front of the first floor.


There is a small traditional library with places to sit and read as well as space to laid out maps and prints.


There were books in German, French and English, probably Italian too.


This is a version of my dream home library if I am going to have one.


Sometimes I wonder, I seem to enjoy collecting books more than reading them as there is not enough time to read them all.

Foro Italico, formerly Foro Mussolini, is a Fascist-era sports complex in Rome, Italy. I(Chris) saw this as a part of a tour of modern Italian architecture.

The forum was built between 1928 and 1938 as the Foro Mussolini (literally Mussolini’s Forum) under the design of Enrico Del Debbio and, later, Luigi Moretti (according to Wikipedia).

foro italico-2

At the foot of Monte Mario, it is home to numerous sports venues, such as the largest sports facility in Rome, the Stadio Olimpico, Rome’s 70,000-seat football stadium.

foro italico-6

From the main road, an open, broad parade ground paved with mosaic tiles lead up to the stadium.

foro italico-8

There were some damages to the tiles. I believe they were not treated as a first priority as repairs go because there is some tension among the Romans about what the stadium represented.

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Benito Mussolini who ruled the kingdom of Italy from 1922 to 1943 is il Duce (the leader). He ruled constitutionally as the prime minister until 1925, when he dropped all pretense of democracy and set up a dictatorship.

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He developed a cult of one-man leadership that focused media attention and national debate on his own personality. Towards the end of World War II, he was captured while trying to escape, and executed by communists.

The tiles are organized to repeat fascist slogans. I can imagine the sight of athletes or soldiers marching in formation over these mosaics.

Duce a noi = Leader to us

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Molti nemici molto onore = many enemies, much honor

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The ornate Stadio dei Marmi with its running track is surrounded by 60 marble nudes, each donated by an Italian state.

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The stadium was inaugurated in 1932.

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It has marble steps lined by marble statues in classical style portraying athletes that perform various sporting disciplines.

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The adjoining building is the seat of the Italian National Olympic Committee (originally built for the purposes of the Fascist Male Academy of Physical Education).

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The forum remains much as it was originally conceived.

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I don’t know what the sport portrayed by this statue is – taming a wild cat ?  – it has no modern day equivalent.

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Foro Italico has hosted important events, most notably the 1960 Summer Olympics.

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The entrance is marked by a huge obelisk, 17m high, made of marble from Cararra.

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Spectacular architecture by fascists, that’s in the past.

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The stadium can stay but we all hope the ideology never comes back.

Since I had limited time in Moscow, I went to one museum – the Tretyakov Gallery on Krymsky Val (Третьяковская галерея на Крымском Валу) – a branch of the State Tretyakov Gallery.

Entrance to Park Kultury (Gorky Park)

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The main gallery State Tretyakov Gallery is a huge complex, very popular, and shows Russian art from the 11th to the early 20th centuries. The gallery’s building on Krymsky Val houses the only permanent exhibition of 20th century Russian art in the country. Click here for the main gallery’s web site, from there you can navigate to the page about the Krymsky Val branch.

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The Krymsky Val branch of the gallery is located in a park of arts – Muzeon (МУЗЕОН) – between the Park Kultury and the Oktyabrskaya metro stations.

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I walked from Oktyabrskaya, passed the entrance to Gorky Park (Park Kultury as the locals know it) to reach this park next to the Moskva river.

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It was a sunny but chilly March day. There were lots of people about because the building that houses the gallery also has a wing that serves as an exhibition hall. And there was something going on  –  ? – they would let me in if I sign some form to order a magazine and give them my email address … not worth it.

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The building is a huge rectangular box.

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Main entrance

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The lobby is very spacious, open and sunny.

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The gallery has a small coffee area and book/souvenir shop – really quite small relative to the amount of art the gallery is displaying. It seemed like a communist effort in commerce when one compares it with the shops in museums in the west.

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The gallery management was also very particular as to what can be carried inside – the rule was strictly enforced by the docent.

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However, photography without a flash is not prohibited. Hence, I will use a few later posts to show some Russian art that are not easily seen outside.

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On the first floor before one goes further upstairs to the gallery is this familiar model/sculpture by Vladimir Taltlin for the project for the Monument to the Third International (1919–20). It was a design for a grand monumental building in St. Petersburg that was never built.

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Models of this hypothetical building have been erected also in the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the Musée National d’Art Moderne at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and the Royal Academy of Arts, London.

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This branch of the Tretyakov Gallery displays works by Russian avant-garde masters from the 1900s-1920s who are famous all over the world, such as K.Malevich, V.Kandinsky,  M.Chagall, P.Filonov and L.Popova.

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More artwork to come in later posts.

If you have been following the blog, you would have read about two Moscow metro stations – Komsomolskaya and Mayakovskaya – as well as the exhibition Subterranean Monument at the museum of architecture. Click on it to read.

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As I did not really have a chance to explore many of the interesting stations during my several days in Moscow, I tried snapping pictures wherever I can.

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Despite the palatial design and decoration of the stations and platforms, the metro carriages themselves are pedestrian, beige and brown color scheme, nothing special … it could have been the metro of any 20th century city.

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The facilities for electronic ticket processing are highly variable depending on the station. The stored value RFID-based fare card is known as Troika (Тройка), like the Oyster in London, or Octopus in Hong Kong.

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These looked as if they are taken from a 50’s sci-fi movie.

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Below are a collection of photos (that I think) will give an impression of not only the beauty in the metro system’s designs and decorations but also the scale and diversity in its implementation across the capital city.

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Wall and ceiling decorations

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Light fixtures

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and heros …

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If you want to see more stations, goto this link on CNN.

Mayakovskaya (Маяковская) is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the Moscow metro system. The name as well as the design is a reference to Futurism and its prominent Russian exponent, the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky.

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The station was built as part of the second stage of the Moscow Metro expansion, opening on 11 September 1938.

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Dushkin is the archeitect who proposed the use of a special kind of steal elements which allowed metal to be used to support a large amount of load acrosss the full width of the station.

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Located 33 meters beneath the surface, the station became famous during World War II when an air raid shelter was located in the station. During World War II, Stalin took residence in this place.

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The station has two rows of columns serving as support for the three arched vaults and each section formed by the arches opens into a small oval-shaped dome.

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On the ceiling of the station, inside each dome is a mosaic.

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Photo from 1938 at the Moscow Metro Exhibition, see that post here.

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There are a total of 34 mosaics, all by Alexander Deyneka with the theme “24-Hour Soviet Sky” – four sections have been created –  morning, afternoon, night and morning again.

In this mosaic, the planes are lined up to form the letters “CCCP”.

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In 2005 a new second north exit was built, along with a new vestibule. The ceiling was decorated with a mosaic composition from Mayakovsky’s poem “Moscow Sky”.

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Parts of the poem is also displayed.

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A bust of the poet himself.

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This station is the middle of Moscow.

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Think of it as an Oxford Street tube station or 34th Street Herald Square subway station.

In case you missed it, part 1 of this post is here.


The Shchusev State Museum of Architecture is presenting an exhibition of the original plans and photos of the Moscow Metro (Метро, March 17, 2016 – August 14, 2016). It will close in less than a month’s time. So go see it or click here to visit the museum’s web site.

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The Shchusev Architecture Museum is celebrating the magnificent Moscow underground system with an exhibition called “Moscow Metro. Subterranean Monument.”

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Visitors can retrace the history of this symbol of Moscow in the exhibition halls of the Architecture Museum and be convinced once again that the metro system is not just public transportation, but a living museum.

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Because it came out of research in their archives, “Moscow Metro. Subterranean Monument” focuses on the first four stages of metro construction, between 1935 and 1954.

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The drawings of such renowned architects as Ivan Fomin, Alexei Dushkin, Dmitry Chechulin, Alexei Shchusev and Vladimir Gelfreikh are exhibited alongside photo chronicles from the TASS news agency, photographs and documents from the Shchusev Museum and the Moscow Metro Museum.

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Not only are the designs fantastic, the draftsmanship on display is superb.

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The exhibition presents the Moscow metro as an architectural and artistic wonder, an important part of Russia’s history and development. The curators hope that the exhibition will aid them in their efforts to include the main stations on the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.

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“We want to draw people’s attention to unrealized plans and the many variations of architectural design, and we hope that Muscovites and visitors to the city will appreciate our exhibition and see its value.”

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Stations such as Sokolniki, Teatralnaya, Mayakovskaya, Kropotkinskaya, and Komsomolskaya are presented in their first paper incarnations, and you can compare the original ideas to what was eventually constructed. You can also see structures and details that were torn down and lost.

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Many Metro stations and pavilions were erected as the result of architectural competitions, although winning projects were often altered in the building process.

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Particularly valuable in historical terms are original versions of Moscow Metro station plans and decoration designs that noticeably differ from their present-day appearance.

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Unique station projects entered in competitions but never implemented are exhibited here for the first time.

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These rare architectural drawings are complemented by photographs from different years, as well as photographic records of structures that no longer exist and are now lost to posterity.

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Beside baroque and neoclassical styles, the more recently proposed stations are modern and exude an uniquely Russian aesthetics, utopian and futuristic.

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The drawings are behind glass, hence some ghostly reflections in the photos.

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Although there were some English explanations on the wall, I wanted to buy the exhibition catalog. But the catalog was not yet ready.

This youtube video is a true gem – not only are the photos bright and vivid, showing so many of the stations, including the lesser known modern and hi-tech ones, the accompanying lounge-y music soundtrack is also superb. Don’t miss it.

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Going underground …


The Moscow metro system (Московско метро) is truly fascinating – essential for the citizens and a must-see for tourists. I(Chris) have always been interested in exploring bus and train transit network, especially the maps and stations. So, this is exciting for me.

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Opened in 1935 with one 11-kilometre (6.8 mi) line running from Sokolniki to Park Kultury and 13 stations. As of 2016, it has 200 stations and its route length is 333.3 km. The average distance between stations is 1.7 km. 44 of the stations are national cultural heritage sites.


It was one of the USSR’s most ambitious architectural projects and the artists and architects worked to design an infrastructure that embodied the ideological and technological success of socialism. With the reflective marble walls, high ceilings and grand chandeliers, this palatial underground environment reminded riders that their tax had been well spent.


It was pure luck that on the weekend when I was there, the Shchusev State Museum of Architecture opened an exhibition of the original plans and photos of the Moscow Metro. Some photos of architectural drawings were taken from the exhibition which will have its own blog post later.


This was my stop – the Komsomolskaya (Комсомо́льская) station which is noted for its being located under the busiest Moscow transport hub, – Leningradsky (St Petersburg, Estonia, Finland), Yaroslavsky (western terminal of the trans-Siberian railway) and Kazansky (Kazan, Yekaterinberg) railway terminals. How does the real platform compare to the artist’s impression ?



The station and the square in front of the station vestibule was called Komsomolskaya to commemorate the Komsomol (All-Union Leninist Young Communist League) members who helped build the metro.


The square was also named in 2003 as Tryokh vokzalov (Square of the three train stations). The capitals of the columns are decorated with the Komsomol’s badge “KNM”.


I can certainly testify on its level of activity – even after 11pm, there were a steady flow of riders – many heading for the late night long distance train departures to far flung corners of Russia.


Apparently, the station was designed to separate passengers leaving and arriving at the station.


Hence, two galleries are built along the walls over the tracks with bridges spanning the station hall.


One part of the station was opened in 1935 being one of the “first stage” stations.


Designed by Dmitri Chechukin, he won the highest honor for workers in science and arts, the Stalin prize grade 1.


At either end of the exit of the station are panels illustrating the labor of the Komsomol metro builders.


The second part (Ring line station) was opened in 1952 and designed to impress first visitors of the capital city arriving at one of the three train stations. 34 arches resting on octagonal columns covered by blue grey and pink marble.


Think of it as a subway station under a combo of Paddington+Euston+St Pancras railway stations or Grand Central + Penn stations.


The station’s decor is based on Moscow baroque motifs used before the revolution in the Kazan railway station above it. Lenin bust at one end of the platform.


So much history and artistry in the metro system, not to mention cleanliness and efficiency.


This station has its own video with lounge music on the a Moscow Metro youtube channel.

More stations to come.