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Category Archives: architecture

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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Old Architectural Digest …

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comics …

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… and travel magazines

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Wonder truck selling BBQ and Kimchibus.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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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.”

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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Balancing Tools by Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen

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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.

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Dome by Richard Buckminster Fuller

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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A cafe with a giant painting.

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In the atrium, looking up …

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

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The main galleries are spacious.

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Tailor-made space for an installation by Jenny Holzer

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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“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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.”

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

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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”.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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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).

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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.

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

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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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Mosaics

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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 …

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 ?

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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

More stations to come.

This building in Moscow was my hotel for a few days. My host suggested it as it is within walking distance from their office.

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The Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya Hotel (Хилтон Москоу Ленинградская) designed by Leonid Polyakov, completed in 1954 is one of Moscow’s seven Stalinist skyscrapers built in the early 1950s. The Stalinist architecture abandoned modernity in favor of a mix of the Russian neoclassicalism with the style of American skyscrapers of the 1930s.

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Muscovites call them Vysotki or Stalinskie Vysotki (Сталинские высотки), meaning “(Stalin’s) high-rises”. Some were the tallest building or hotel in Europe at that time. These seven buildings nicknamed Seven Sisters which were completed include Moscow State University, Hotel Ukraina, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Leninsgraksaya Hotel, the Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Building, the Kudrinskaya Square Building, and the Red Gates Administrative Building.

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This hotel is relatively small compared to the other skyscrapers. There are 26 floors, of which 19 are usable. It was built to a similar style as the Kazansky railway terminal next to it.

Reception area

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Ceiling of the reception area

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The lobby is triple-height at least, and surrounded by marble columns and stone walls. The lobby ceiling is just as ornate.

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The ornately decorated lobby is lit in part by these lights with a translucent mineral lamp shade.

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The translucent minerals have visible veins. Eerily beautiful.

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The lobby staircase features one of the longest lighting fixtures in the world—apparently it was once in the Guinness Book of World Records.

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A dramatic space to have a drink.

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I ate a couple of meals in the restaurant. Good and convenient since there are few restaurants in the area.

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The hotel completed in 1954, was designed to be the finest luxury hotel in Moscow, joined the Hilton Hotels chain in 2008 after completing a multimillion-dollar restoration and renovation.

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My room was on one of the higher floors and looks over the three main railway stations of Moscow. It snowed for a few hours.

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Same view – different times of day

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The room and furnishings were business standard – nothing special – it is a Hilton after all.

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Recommendable.

 

 

I(Chris) visited Moscow for a few days in March 2016.  Never been to Russia before – so these posts will sound a bit touristy. Please bear with me.

St. Basil’s Cathedral is a very iconic building of Moscow, if not the entire Russia (to non-Russians). Much of what I have included here came from Wikipedia.

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The building located at the southern end of Red Square is, now a museum, officially known as the Cathedral of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat (Собор Покрова Пресвятой Богородицы, что на Рву).

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It was built from 1555–1561 on orders from Ivan the Terrible and commemorates the capture of Kazan and Astrakhan from the Tartars. The building is shaped as a flame of a bonfire rising into the sky, a design that has nothing comparable in Russian architecture.

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The theory is that Italian craftsman at the time contributed to a design based on early Muscovite wooden and stone buildings, as well as elements of the Kazan Qolsharif mosque which had been the symbol of the khanate captured by Ivan the Terrible.

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The original building, known as Trinity Church contained eight small chapels arranged around the ninth, central church of Intercession; a tenth church was erected in 1588 over the grave of the local saint Vasily (Basil).

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Basil the Blessed (Василий Блаженный, Vasily Blazhenny) is a Russian Orthodox saint born in 1468. Originally an apprentice shoemaker in Moscow, he adopted an eccentric lifestyle of shoplifting and giving to the poor to shame the miserly and help those in need. He went naked and weighed himself down with chains. His reputation quickly grew, and people saw him as a holy fool, a man of God, and a denouncer of wrong. His body is kept inside the cathedral (photo below). For more info, click here.

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Inside the church is a labyrinth of narrow vaulted corridors and low arches, marked by the heights of the chapels.

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Iconostasis

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An urban legend says that Ivan the Terrible blinded the architect(s) so that he (possibly two people) could not re-create the masterpiece elsewhere. Not true.

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The interior walls are painted in floral and geometric patterns.

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There are two floors inside the cathedral.

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Although the building looks rather large from afar, it seemed small inside.

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In the 1950’s, Stalin wanted to demolish the church because it blocked the parade of soldiers en masse in Red Square. The architect Baranovsky protested, the church was saved but he was sent to jail for five years.

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This is the view from inside the cathedral looking out onto Red Square. On the right is GUM (ГУМ), the former state-owned department store now a shopping mall which faces the Kremelin (not shown here). At the other end of the square is the State Historical Museum.

We spent almost half a day in Daikanyama 代官山, most of the time in the Tsutaya bookstore蔦屋書店. For Chris who has been photographing bookstores (for example, Livraria Cultura in Sao Paulo, Alexandra in Budapest etc.), this Tsutaya branch is a temple for worshipping.

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In a perfect world, all bookshops near me would be like this. Opened in 2011 after three years of development, the whole site is created by the owner of Tsutaya Books with the concept of “A Library in the Woods”. We would love to live in the midst of it.

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The company, Culture Convenience Club (CCC), founded in 1983, owns a chain of bookstores and video rental outlets. It brands itself as being a culture infrastructure company in the lifestyle navigator business providing comprehensive entertainment.

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If CCC is building a real estate business on top of entertainment, it may very well be a winning business formula for the 21st century. With all this talk of creating a virtual ecosystem (think Amazon) where your customers do all their shopping and content consumption, this could be an equivalent, a real-world ecosystem where your customer lingers and even chooses to live around the site.

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Most of what we have written below here is taken from the official web site of T-site at Daikanyama. The site consists of three buildings connected by a walkway which splits the buildings into six different departments.

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The letter “T” is used as a motif which forms a laced façade on the white exteriors, echoing “T-site”. The exterior also forms a big “T” (see below). This design was the winning submission from among 80 firms in a competitive architectural request for proposals.

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Books and magazines (Japanese and Western), current and vintage are placed together in six specialty categories: Cuisine, Travel, Cars and Motorcycles, Architecture and Design, Art, and Humanities and Literature.

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Starbucks is served on the ground floor.

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We headed upstairs to Anjin-  a salon accented by rare collections of books and magazine from around the world – 30,000 vintage magazines from the 1960’s-70’s.

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There is a skylight in the salon bringing in natural light and a footbridge that connects to the other buildings.

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A short line was formed of people waiting for a table. We were gently told by the waitperson that there is a 45-minute seating limit. They needed that time limit because the place is so comfortable and people simply do not move.

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The customer is surrounded by artworks, books, old and new magazines, all for your browsing, with a cappuccino (or alcoholic drinks) and delicious cakes and snacks.

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As the line of waiting customers disappeared, we were left to stay as long as we liked (at least nobody came to ask).

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Past issues of Studio Voice (click here) – a Japanese music magazine Chris had browsed in the past (might still have them), definitely collectible (if we have the space).

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The music department is installed with hi-end vacuum tube McIntosh amplifiers and fancy speakers (cannot imagine them being allowed to operate properly in a bookstore).

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The video department is intent on offering a complete selection of everything that can be bought in Japan. For classic titles previously unavailable as DVDs, they can be burned right at the store as disks to take home. While Netflix is ubiquitous and quite comprehensive, it cannot match this place for choices.

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Outside the bookstore are a selection of retail stores, including Kitamura Camera Specialty store (where we bought an iphone accessory that adds a choice of macro and telephoto lens).

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The T-site offers multiple eateries and even a pet grooming service and a bicycle shop in the pedestrian zone which blend into the other specialty and fashion stores in Daikanyama.

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Daikanyama is a bit more grown up than Harajuku.

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According to the T-site website, “The young adults who came to us for lifestyle navigation 28 years ago are now 50-something and 60-something years old. So we decided to re-invent lifestyle navigation for these adults.”

Great concept.

 

 

 

 

 

After visiting Lake Fudoika, we came down the Kirishima mountains by taxi and came to this garden in the afternoon. Sengan-en 仙巌園, is a Japanese garden attached to a former Shimazu 島津氏 clan residence in Kagoshima 鹿児島.

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Together with the adjacent Shōko Shūseikan, it forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site that focus on Meiji’s industrial revolution. Shoko Shuseikan is a museum set in a 150 year old stone building originally used as a machine factory.

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The Sengan-en residence was built by Shimazu Mitsuhisa (島津光久), a feudal lord in 1658. The name “Sengan-en” is derived from a supposed resemblance to a rock feature on Long Hu Shan in China.

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The Shimazu was one of the families of Edo period daimyō (lord) to have held their territory continuously since the Kamakura period, and would also become, at their peak, the wealthiest and most powerful family.

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There were mandarin orange trees in the garden (above photo).  I (Chris) know these small oranges are known as satsuma in England. Apparently, the name came from the Satsuma (薩摩) area owned by the Shimazu clan which fought a war with the British that was trading in 1863 (Anglo-Satsuma War 薩英戦争).

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Due to the proximity, China had quite an influence in this area. In 1736 Shimazu Yoshitaka (島津吉貴) added a kyokusui (曲水) water feature and moso bamboo, obtained from China via the Ryūkyū Kingdom.

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Bamboo forest

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“Big bonsai” – we called it.

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The Shoko Shuseikan and this area of Japan were fundamentally important in the modernization of the country. It was here that Western industrial technology was introduced, studied and used in the creation of modern factories. We did not spend much time here but it was one of the more interesting museums we visited.

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Some of the small old houses are converted into shops, selling all kinds of souvenir, handicrafts and snacks.

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A stream runs through a part of the garden – the stream barely visible in the picture below. But a tradition -Kyokusui no En – is renacted here at least once a year.  It is an elegant poetry game originating in ancient China in which small cups of sake are floated down a winding stream. Participants dressed in traditional clothing sat along either side of the stream must write a poem before the cup passes in front of them. On completing their poems the participants take the cup from the stream and drink the sake.

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Apart from the main buildings, there were also little shops scattered in the garden selling crafts – very low key.
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The garden has a direct view of Sakurajima – an active volcano – they sell many postcards of the volcano spewing smoke and lava. It was not active while we were there – just clouds.

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There is even a shrine dedicated to cats here !

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The garden is beautiful, touristy but not tacky. It was fun to have a driver for a day.

Click here to see the lake in the Kirishima mountains.

 

A short break at the La Biennale Giardini site (56th International Art Exhibition), near the shop, we found this cafeteria.

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We were, by that time in late afternoon, quite tired from all the walking and gawking. It was a welcoming sight even it looked totally chaotic at first.

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While the patrons and their snacks and coffees were discernible, the counter was harder to see.

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Stripes and bright blocks of colors – nicely done.

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A cubist painting was created by the faceted mirrors that produce in real space a fragmented graphic effect.

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The cafeteria was designed by Tobias Rehberger in 2009, titled “Was du liebst bringt auch zum Weinen” (what you love also brings cry).

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The design reminded us of objects from Ettore Sottsass’s Memphis movement.

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Filled with bold and colorful motifs, the entire space was graphical.

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We relished our caffeine break and foot-resting … and then continued our tour of the nations’ pavilions in the Giardini.

 

 

Wandering back and forth on the Grand Canal is one way to experience the “Invisible Cities” described in Italo Calvino’s fiction (1972). It would have been sublime if we could read it leisurely and try map the literal to the physical.

Here are more photos of the Grand Canal. We have obviously spent some time touring/commuting on a vaporetto. To see part 1 of this post, click here.

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One end of the canal starts near Piazza San Marco and the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute (one with the domes).

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The photo below shows one of the exits of the Grand Canal at the other end (top of the inverted “S”).

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The name “Salviati” on this building may not legible in this photo. It is a family of very successful glass makers and mosaicists who started in Murano – we will have a post about this island later. Apparently, the Salviati family constructed the building at 235 Regent Street in London which houses the Apple Store now.

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More mosaics here.

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These buildings, near Piazza San Marco, have been converted into fancy hotels, each having a private canal-side entrance.

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Guests can be picked up from Marco Polo airport and dropped off directly in front of the hotel.

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Or one can walk onto a gondola from the hotel lobby.

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Many people go to a restaurant by boat.

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Church of San Simeone Piccolo

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Venice’s palaces, churches, and buildings are supported by thousands of wooden pilings that date back hundreds of years. As long as they’re submerged, the pilings do not rot -but when they come in contact with the air when the canal is being cleaned, deterioration could begin.

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Apparently, the Grand Canal does not need much dredging because of the tides that sweep silt and sewage out to the Adriatic sea. But the narrower ones need the cleaning once every few decades otherwise the canal becomes too shallow even for gondola and a foul odor develops.

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The Grand Canal is indeed magical.

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We will come back later with photos of the boats on the canals of Venice.

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