Archive for the ‘architecture’ tag
Here’s the view from the alleyway near Veranda restaurant looking east. The juxtaposition of the old temple and the modern, glass Blue Sky building is a bit cliche. Plus, this framing creates an overly stylized (and romanticized) depiction of the city’s grimy and chaotic urban transformation.
Still, the truth is there always seems to be some new structure under construction in Ulaanbaatar. And this time of year there’s a big rush to get as much work done as possible before the bitterly cold (-40 degree) winter weather sets in and outdoor building becomes impossible.
Possibly due to this haste, the nearly completed, $500 million Shangrai-la Hotel, recently suffered a major inferno just as the finishing touches were being applied.
Thankfully, no one was hurt.
The massive square in downtown Ulaanbaatar was re-named Chinggis Khaan Square, but like many other people I’m still in the habit of calling it Sukhbaatar Square. One local said to me, “We don’t have to name every place after Chinggis Khaan. There are other important people in Mongolian history“.
The square needs to be broken up and softened with trees and other organic design elements, in my opinion. The Brutalist, Stalinist-style architecture is cold and uninviting. And why, in Mongolia of all places, does the central square so thoroughly seek to obliterate any relationship to the beauty of the natural landscape?
But as with so many things, beauty and ugliness are two-sides of the same coin.
Walking through the space, it is easy to become disconnected from your surroundings and fellow citizens — and maybe this was the goal of communist architecture. The weight of the nation state feels heavy on one’s psyche…and a feeling (bordering on melancholy) arises upon the realization that mankind’s desire to produce something grand and transcendent has fallen short.
Yet there are other times I walk this square and its Cartesian vectors, carved from the dense and chaotic urban environment of Ulaanbaatar (itself carved from the eurasian steppe’s montane grassland and scrubland ecozone), place the human mind, and it’s role in the evolution of the universe, into sharp resolution.
And for that I am grateful.
Staying with the Italian theme from yesterday’s post, I bring you this architectural wonder currently under construction in Milan.
According to the Financial Times, it is “the most exciting new tower in the world“. Read more at Stefano Boeri Architetti.
Wikipedia’s architecture notes:
Outside, San Xavier has a white, Moorish-inspired design, elegant and simple, with an ornately decorated entrance. No records of the architect, builders, craftsmen and artisans responsible for creating and decorating it are known. Most of the labor was provided by the local Indians, and many believe they provided most or all of the artisans as well. Visitors entering the massive, carved mesquite-wood doors of San Xavier are often struck by the coolness of the interior, and the dazzling colors of the paintings, carvings, frescoes and statues. The interior is richly decorated with ornaments showing a mixture of New Spain and Native American artistic motifs.
The floor plan of the church resembles the classic Latin Cross. The main aisle is separated from the sanctuary by the transept or cross aisle, with chapels at either end. The dome above the transept is 52 feet (16 m) high supported by arches and squinches.
Featured Comment by Laura: “My grandmother Dorothy, who lived near Tucson for many years, was a devout Catholic, had her children educated by the Jesuits, and especially loved San Xavier. After she died, I made a pilgrimage and fell in love myself. She would have so enjoyed these photos! I especially like your St. Francis statue picture. Also, the word “squinches.”
Nathan replies: Yes, squinches. This was a new word for me. All I could think of to relate them to were the flying buttresses used in Gothic cathedrals, but apparently they serve a different function.
On a recent bike ride, I ended up at perhaps the finest example of Spanish mission architecture in the United States.
- Constructed in 1692 (under the auspices of the Jesuits);
- Raided continuously, then finally destroyed by Apaches in 1770;
- Turned over to the Franciscans and re-built from 1783-1797.
Above, the obligatory bike portrait (with more pictures to come).
In the early evening, right before a rain, this small garden-park had a palpable feeling of serenity and harmony. Lingering here, I felt calm and more connected to nature — the plants, the stones, and the slight breeze.
I’m sure Tucson is full of little parks like this; I just happened to stumble upon this one (which was completely empty for some reason).
A zen rock garden — Tucson’s own Ryoan-ji?
Many professionals would object to the word “zen” in describing a traditional Japanese dry rock garden. The publisher of this delightful, bi-monthly journal is especially disdainful of the term.
Either way, the journal (I am a subscriber) is probably the best source of practical information on Japanese gardens and architecture around. Plus, it’s very easy to read!
Let the wind speak. That is Paradise. — Ezra Pound, Canto CXX
I’ve fallen in love with some of the trees scattered around this historic military base. I will post a few pictures soon.
Meantime, here’s a picture of a cyclist cutting through Fort Mason, probably on her way toward the Marina neighborhood.
Note: that’s a Metlife blimp slipping behind the chapel’s bell tower in the image above.
These are vistas from near The Warming Hut — a touristy, but perfectly located place to stop for a snack (at either the picnic tables or at the cafe).
I didn’t try their coffee, so I cannot comment…Perhaps next time.
Beyond the bicycles, a little of the San Francisco skyline is visible (note the gold dome of the Palace of Fine Arts).
Being a camera nerd, I’ve begun to notice a proliferation of videos featuring a distinctive photo processing technique using implied tilt-shift camera movements and time lapse photography. The results are videos like these which appear to show itty-bitty scale models of cities. Here’s a tilt-shift tutorial for the uber tech-savvy and the website of Ken Loutit, who helped popularize the genre with his bathtub series.
I recently discovered a fantastic blog, Tokyo Green Space, which examines ways that biodiversity and urban form coexist in Tokyo. It inspired me to take a closer look at the dialogue between nature and urban design in my own backyard.
On a lunch time bike ride to the Civic Center, I made these pictures of the ground floor garden inside Wright’s famous architectural commission.
An earlier post included images of the outside of the building.
After cruising north to the Civic Center during a week-day lunch break and finding no bike parking out front, I brought the Ebisu inside and, of course, made a quick picture. Here are a few more:
Show on map (note the view of Mt. Tam)
After reading the first few chapters of David Byrnes’s Bicycle Diaries, I’ve become hyper-aware of the aesthetics of the local suburban landscape. Byrne writes about the underlying paradox of this landscape in the book:
My generation makes fun of the suburbs and the shopping malls, the TV commercials and the sitcoms we grew up with — but they’re part of us too. So our ironic view is leavened with something like love…These suburbs, where so many of us spent our formative years, still push emotional buttons for us; they’re both attractive and deeply disturbing.
I also enjoyed this bit from the Talking Heads co-founder on the joys he experienced after switching to a bicycle as his main mode of transportation around New York City:
As I got a little older I also may have thought that cycling was a convenient way to get exercise, but at first I wasn’t thinking of that. It just felt good to cruise down the dirty potholed streets. It was exhilarating. That same sense of liberation I experienced in New York recurred as I pedaled around many of the world’s principal cities. I felt more connected to life on the streets than I would have in a car or in some form of public transit: I could stop whenever I wanted to; it was often (very often) faster than a car or taxi for getting from point A to point B; and I didn’t have to follow any set route. The same exhilaration, as the air and street life whizzed by, happened again in each town. It was, for me, addictive.
I had a similar epiphany when I starting riding my bicycle again after a long lay-off as a graduate student in Berkeley.
- If you’ve heard of either of these cult sci-fi films, especially THX-1138, it’s time to face the facts. Ready? Let’s say it together: You are a nerd!
- And if by chance you’ve heard of both Gattaca and THX-1138, I can confidently predict you also know a few things about D&D.
Btw, the Civic Center has a farmer’s market every Thursday and Sunday year-round.