That's my summer sorted, then.
Granada really captured my imagination, and I’m not the first. The city’s ancient Moorish palace, the Alhambra, was brought to worldwide attention by American author Washington Irving, who stayed there briefly in 1829. Yes, that’s Washington Irving of Sleepy Hollow fame. Read more about the Alhambra’s history, starting in the 9th century, here.
After his visit to Granada, Irving wrote Tales of the Alhambra, which sparked interest in the beautiful, crumbling building complex. Fifty years later (it wasn’t the age of the internet, after all), the movement to restore the Alhambra had begun.
Nice to hear about an American writer doing something good abroad!
It’s easy to see why he was so inspired. I found myself wanting to move into the Alhambra. While the castles in northern Europe are impressive in their own right, the Moorish palace made me want to hang out on a chaise lounge, write a novel, and throw a party when the sun went down.
A good spot for a window seat, no?
This was one of my favorite views of the Alhambra (there in the distance). This tower in the foreground, we discovered, is an 11th century minaret, the only remains of a mosque that was destroyed after Isabella and Ferdinand’s army conquered Granada. As in many places, a church was built right where the mosque stood.
It seems to be fairly common that one minaret was left when a mosque was destroyed (for instance, you see it also at Seville’s cathedral). If anyone knows more about the story behind that, I’d be interested to know.
As one of the last holdouts of the Moors, the whole city of Granada has a very strong Moorish influence. The ancient Muslim Albayzin quarter is particularly fascinating, with its maze-like cobbled paths and tangle of ancient white-stone buildings. And as I mentioned before, the food was great!
I threw some more Spain pictures up on my flickr gallery, so hop over there if you like. I went gaga over the tilework at the Alhambra and at the palace in Seville, the Alcazar. Sooo gorgeous! And I kept thinking: quilts, quilts, quilts! So many ideas, so little time.
Travel Tip: if you’re interested in seeing the Alhambra, make sure you book tickets well in advance via the Alhambra website. We did book ahead but we still haDisplay Comments Add a Comment
The Wagman for performing the conversion.
Every so often it’s really useful for me to remember that while I’m here in the rural US helping people use email and scan photographs, there are some people not far away who are really finding the cool edges of the profession. I like to know what these people are up to, even as the paths we may take towards information liberation may be different. This text: Book-ish Territory: A Manual of Alternative Library Tactics by architect NIkki O’Loughlin is an exciting and interesting way of conceptualizing the idea of libraries as a public space not just for the public but by the public. I’ve had my nose in it all afternoon. Also there is a librarian petting a gila monster. One section is all about “station libraries” small libraries in private homes or businesses that existed and functioned as extensions of the public library system in Syracuse. Did you know that before 1950 many trains included a library car, with books? So much more, plus a bibliography. Go. Read. [via, via]Add a Comment
The world was allegedly created in six days (God rested on the seventh day), so why is it taking New York City so long — some 90 years, or possibly longer — to create the Second Avenue Subway?
According to the MTA, proposals to build a north-south subway line along Second Avenue date back to 1929. But it wasn’t until March 2007 — 78 years later — that the first construction contract for Phase One of the Second Avenue Subway was awarded. Tentative plans aim at a 2016 completion, although several dates have proliferated.
Perhaps it takes a God-like figure in this metropolis to get monumental tasks done. As it happens, New York City had such a being, Robert Moses, often referred to as the “Master Builder.”Moses, who died in 1981 at the age of 91, was a driven and brilliant civil servant. In a 44-year reign from 1924 to 1968, he was likely the city’s most influential figure during the 20th Century. Never elected to public office, he served as chairman of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, city park commissioner, and city construction coordinator. He also held other numerous state appointments. Moses’ power and influence was unprecedented, and during his tenure he accomplished seemingly impossible tasks.
In 1929, Moses wasn’t keen on the mass transit and therefore probably not on the Second Avenue Subway as well. The Second Avenue Subway’s slow progress is clarified by reporter William Bredderman, who interviewed Moses biographer and author Robert Caro for the online magazine Realcity. (Caro’s The Power Broker: Robert Moses and The Fall of New York — qualifies him as the uber expert on Moses.) Writes Bredderman:
“According to Caro, the city attempted to build the Second Avenue line first in 1942 and again in 1954. Both times Moses prevented funds from being allocated to the project, preferring to instead spend the money building expressways through densely-populated neighborhoods. If you’ve ever been on (or near) the Cross-Bronx Expressway, the BQE or The Major Deegan, you can thank Moses.”
Moses routinely built bridges, tunnels, and roadways that transformed the city, without an iota’s consideration for what might be lost. The result was huge gashes in densely populated working-class neighborhoods to make way for roadways and expressways. Neighborhoods were destroyed, forever. Who can drive these expressways without seeing the havoc wrought? Old timers who had once lived in these now devastated neighborhoods still curse Moses.
An early example of Moses’ disdain for mass transit is also evident in his first major public project, Jones Beach, which begun in the 1920s and opened in 1929. Almost immediately after the opening, motorists jammed the city’s parkways in a beeline to get to what is still considered one of the world’s most beautiful parks. However, accommodation for public transportation to Jones Beach was not a part of Moses’ plan.
Moses, of course had his critics, including: Caro, activist Jane Jacobs, and historian and architectural critic 0 Comments on Robert Moses and the Second Avenue Subway as of 1/1/1900
Click here to read my full review. Add a Comment
I’m an avid fan and collector of architectural ephemera, so I was excited to discover David Liaudet’s inspiring blog Architectures de Cartes Postales. Since 2007 David has used the space to explore modern and contemporary architecture through its representation in postcards. The online archive is filled with amazing examples of sculptural elements, signage, memorial buildings and Brutalist architecture from the 1950s-70s. If you have a couple of hours to spare I highly recommend a visit.
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What a hip, creative vibe Berlin has. Like a really smooth espresso—cranks you up but doesn’t make you jumpy.
I was there in July and wished I could bottle the buzz and take it with me. It made me want to write, paint, photograph, disco!
Twenty years after the reunion of East and West Germany, Berlin is still re-inventing itself. It’s bustling with construction: here’s a photo taken from the Hauptbahnhof (main train station), with a view of all the cranes going outside it:
One of my favorite spots this visit was the dome of the Reichstag, the home of the German parliament (the first shot above is looking up through the open dome).
The original dome, which was destroyed during World War II, was also glass and steel (see below), but the current one (below the original) looks like something from The Phantom Menace.
Look inside the dome in the next photo. It’s actually open to the elements, so snow and rain enter the center column (the part that looks like a mirrored tornado) and get recycled.
The glass dome is meant to be symbolic of transparency in the present-day German government. But it also struck me as such a symbol of the city and of modern Germany itself. The über-eco space-age cupola joined with the damaged historic building feels like what Berlin is all about.
The New York Times had a debate recently about where young Hemingway would go to live in 2011. Paris again? London? Two debaters (of five or so) voted for Berlin, and I’d cast my vote for Berlin, too. It’s a magnet for creatives these days in part because it’s much more affordable than other big cities.
For some fascinating photography of historic Berlin (and other European) sites, check out this post by annekata post here. She highlights the work of two photographers who specialize in merging war-time and modern photographs. The effect is mind-blowing.
(Sadly, annekata is no longer blogging, but she’s left up her posts, whiDisplay Comments Add a Comment
The faces of Pingyao.Add a Comment
At first glance, you may think the bricklayers of Lüneburg knocked back a few too many lagers before work. Many of the multi-colored brick buildings lean and sway, and some turrets are bent like trees in a hurricane.
It’s not the fault of the bricklayers but of the shifting ground in this former salt-mining town. The mining caused the ground to sink in different areas, resulting in the kooky dips in the streets and buildings. The buildings of Lüneburg are stunning examples of Hanseatic architecture, known for its intricate brickwork.
Over the course of my two-day visit there, I was so enthralled with the town that I must’ve taken 200 photos. I never knew bricks could have this much personality.
As usual these days, I’ve got patchwork on the brain when I look at anything. Like this:
Fodder for a quilt?
The contraption below seems to be for lifting items to the top floor. Note the curled brick on the right.
There were a lot of aqua doors, which I loved against the red brick. I’m into any variation of blue-ish with orange-ish.
Here below you can really see the bending. Note the rounded brick used in the little columns and arches.
I loved this sign:
And a special surprise: I stumbled upon a church sign (St. Michaelis) saying J.S. Bach had sung here for two years as a boy. Bach is my favorite composer, so this totally made my day.
Lüneburg is not far from Hannover—about an hour by car or by train. I can’t believe it took me this long to check it out, but I hope to go again soon.
For another great short trip from Hannover, check out Celle.
*Information for this post was gathered from wikipedia.
Kim Murton which I must get round to sending.
This Day in World History - One of the twentieth century’s most recognizable buildings, the Sydney Opera House, officially opened on October 20, 1973. The Opera House, situated on the shores of Sydney Harbor and with a striking roof line, has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the comment that the building “brings together multiple strands of creativity and innovation in both architectural form and structural design.”Add a Comment
The Frog, died. I did loads of sketches of him over the years; he would rant for hours and I would draw, occasionally interjecting bon mots. Only a few drawings were a good likeness; however when viewed together you get some idea of the guy.
Buildings are like books with stories that last
They tell us our present and also our past!
The outside of a building says quite a lot.
About setting, about character, and even about plot.
Beloved Children’s Author Gives Advice to Parents of Budding Architects
National Building Museum Online sat down with Isabel to discuss her work and her advice for the parents of budding architects.
National Building Museum Online (NBM Online): As an urban planner and architectural historian, what motivated you to create books for young children?
Isabel Hill: Quite honestly, I was inspired to write my first children's book, Urban Animals, by my own daughter, Anna. When Anna was younger we used to take walks in Brooklyn where we live and I would always point out architectural details. One day, as we were wandering around our own neighborhood, I stopped to point out an interesting floral detail on a building and Anna interrupted me saying, "Mama, there is a dog on that building!" So my wonderfully-observant 5-year old daughter gave me the idea to create books for young children about architecture.
NBM Online: What was the inspiration behind your latest book, Building Stories?
Isabel Hill: For many years I worked as an urban planner in an old industrial neighborhood in New York. I walked by a building with spectacular, yellow, terra-cotta pencils on the outside and just had to find out why they were there. I researched the building and discovered that it was the Eberhard Faber Pencil Factory, famous for making those yellow, Number Two pencils that were used for generations all across America. Fast forward to two years ago: as I began to brainstorm about a second children’s book on architecture, the Eberhard Faber Pencil Company Building came to mind and inspired the book.
NBM Online: In Building Stories you look at the details of a building as being the characters, plot, and setting of a story. Have you always thought of buildings in this way?
Isabel Hill: No, this was a new concept for me but I think it works extremely well. Buildings do have stories and, when you think about it, what goes on inside can be mysterious as well as educational. Sometimes a building can have many plots and characters depending on what goes on inside and who is involved with the building.
NBM Online: What advice do you have for the young readers who enjoy your books?
Isabel Hill: I am so excited about these books and want them to be the catalyst for walking around one’s own neighborhood and observing all the interesting architecture that surrounds us. My advice would be to go out, walk the streets, take the books as your guides, but find your own architectural treasures. Photograph them, draw them, write about them, and share what you find with other children and adults.
NBM Online: What advice do you have for parents of budding architects?
Isabel Hill: I think it’s great for parents to read the books out loud, to help their children tackle some of the harder words, and to ask their children what they see in the books that relates to what they see in their own neighborhoods.
NBM Online: As an architectural photographer, what is your favorite city to photograph?
Isabel Hill: I must admit I love the city I now call home—New York—because it is so vast and has so many different kinds of buildings, architectural styles, and fantastic details. But Washington, D.C. is the place I used to call home, and I have a huge affection for the beautiful choreography of scale, m
The Crystal Cathedral of “Hour of Power” fame is the subject of my latest New York Times Magazine mini-column. Not so long ago the most lavish symbol of U.S. Protestantism, the building sold in bankruptcy last month to a Catholic diocese.
Although the congregation has agreed under the terms of the deal to vacate the premises after three years, pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman, daughter of founder Robert H. Schuller, assures her flock, “lest you think that it’s too late for a miracle, I want to reassure you and remind you that it is not too late. There is still time for God to step in and rescue Crystal Cathedral Ministries.”
Bonus reading: Joseph Clarke’s “Infrastructure for Souls,” on the “parallel histories of the American megachurch [including the Crystal Cathedral] and the corporate-organizational complex.”Add a Comment