Posts Tagged ‘travel’


Credit: flickr/photos/nedward.org

Bored with razing 19th century buildings Swedish retailer Ikea has taken to ruining modern masterpieces.

Who would have thought that a touchy-feely Swedish company would do so much cultural damage?  Come on guys you destroyed half of Marcel Breuer’s Pirelli Building isn’t that enough?  Do you have to tart up its lonely carcass with giant advertisements?

The the sleek USS Arizona Memorial and the sunken battle-grave it commemorates will soon have a shiny new visitors center.

I have visited the memorial and can attest to the cramped conditions at the visitors center and that it is visibly sinking into the ground.  The memorial and the sailors it honors deserve better.  I have only seen one drawing of the planned building.  It looks vaguely Polynesian and contemporary but kind of themey.  Lets hope it’s more Ossipoff than Disneyland


Credit: flickr/photos/Z-everson

It’s a good time to be an old house.  According to the National Trust’s blog, the terrible economy means fewer tear downs and as a bonus the Congress’ latest housing bill bolsters preservation incentives.

It’s nothing to get too excited about.  The crappy economy also means fewer people have the money to dump into maintaining old buildings.  The NTHP blogger emphasizes that the cold housing market could provide the space and time communities need to form preservation plans though.

Looking for the latest exhibition on American architecture?  Well, pack your Urdu dictionary because you’re headed to Islamabad!

The photographic exhibition was put on by the US Embassy in Pakistan and ranges from ‘traditional’ architecture to the works of Gehry and Meier.  While you’re there you might as well soak up some of the new city’s architectural gems.  I suggest starting with Faisal Mosque.  I have always thought it looked like a Muslim version of the USAF Academy Chapel.


Credit: flickr/photos/*__*


Credit: flickr/photos/aur2899

Do you see it? Think I am crazy?  Post a comment!


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According to the Cuban website Cubarte, the oldest church in Cuba has just finished a complete restoration.


Credit: flickr/users/jorge6880

flickr/users/Barry Cornelius

Credit: flickr/users/Barry Cornelius

Parrish Church Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Baracoa in the Guantanamo province of Cuba pictured above was restored to mark the 497th birthday of the town of Baracoa.

The article is interesting, not because of the supposed restoration project, which is wonderful, but because so far as I can tell Parrish Church Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Baracoa is NOT the oldest church in Cuba.  Not wanting to publish any erroneous information I did some fact checking and it appears the less stately but still interesting Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria de la Popa is the oldest remaining church structure in the nation.


Credit: Flicker.com/users/masochismtango

It was on the coast near Baracoa that Columbus landed in 1492 and it is where Diego Velázquez, one of the conquistadors that sailed with Columbus invoked a cabildo (an impromptu city-council of conquistadors) in a power grab aimed at usurping the general authority of Columbus’s son Diego. That savvy political move lead to the founding of the first European town on the island. That doesn’t mean the Spanish Baroque looking church in Baracoa is the oldest though.  The only date I have found attached to it is 1833, more than three hundred years after the founding of Baracoa, which leads me to believe that Nuestra Señora de la Asunción was likely built on the site of the oldest church in Cuba.

Even more strange, the church pictured in the Cubarte article doesn’t even seem to be the same church.

Whichever church is oldest, Cuba remains something of a preservation supermarket.  The United States embargo to helped freeze the built environment of Cuba in the late 1950’s but the blockade has been a double edged sword.  The economic consequences of the embargo may have prevented historic buildings from being razed but they also make it difficult for preservationists, foreign and domestic, to properly caring for whats been saved.

Hopefully that will all change.  With Cuba increasingly turning to  tourism as a source of income and the new president Raul Castro slowly opening Cuba up we could perhaps see Cuba as a future leader in the preservation movement.   Couple that with the possibility of Obama presidency loosening travel restrictions to the country and who knows? Maybe I’ll be able to visit Cuba and find out where its oldest church is for myself.

Have you been to Cuba?  Do you know what its oldest church is?  Do you have anything to add?  Please click to ADD A COMMENT and let yourself be heard.

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Credit: flickr.com/photos/mrsenil/

With its twisting steel sinews and bold red seating bowl, Beijing National Stadium is a daring, modern, feat of architecture and structural engineering. It is also quite possibly the most beautiful building ever created for the Olympic Games. It is hard to say though. Just how many Olympic Stadiums can you remember? The stadiums are one of the most important buildings in the world while they’re in use but, slowly fade from collective consciousness in the four years to the next games. So, to jog your memory (or to introduce you, for those not born in 1896), I have created a list of my five favorite Olympic stadiums in the history of the summer games.

#5 Memorial Coliseum: Los Angeles 1932 and 1984


Credit: Wikipedia

I will admit it, this selection might be the result of bias. I grew up in Los Angeles and remain an ardent fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who once used Memorial Coliseum as their home field. To me its monumentality and classical details make it the epitome of the Olympic stadium. This is fitting since it is the only stadium in modern Olympic history to be used twice. It hosted the 1932 and 1984 games.

Despite doing double duty the stadium wasn’t built specifically for the Olympics. It was designed as a memorial for World War I veterans more than a decade before the games by John and Donald Parkinson the architects behind Los Angeles’s first skyscraper. Small changes were made to the moderne design after LA won its first Games. The most notable of these additions is the now iconic Olympic cauldron above the main entrance. The cauldron still finds use at USC Trojan football games and was recently lit in memoriam of the death of former president Ronald Reagan. In the years between the Games the Coliseum was host to a smattering of sports teams including the aforementioned Dodgers, after they moved west from Brooklyn in 1958.


Credit: flickr.com/photos/scpgt/

The site became a National Landmark on July 27th, 1984 the day before the stadium’s second Olympic Games. The games were given to Los Angeles again after the United States boycotted the previous 1980 games in Moscow. One assumes this decision was because of US pressure on the IOC. Whatever the reason, Memorial Coliseum provided an Olympic tested, ready, solution to the need for a stadium. It remains in use to this day and very recently was the site where 115,300 watched the Los Angeles Dodger’s 50th anniversary game. That number set the single game attendance record for Major League Baseball.

#4 Olympisch Stadion: Amsterdam 1928

I have never been a huge fan of the Dutch. I think their language sounds silly and I have never really appreciated their off-kilter sense of humor. I don’t even really care for the color orange. I have to hand it to the nation that gave us Rem Koolhaas when it comes to architecture though. The Netherlands are home to two of my favorite contemporary architecture firms (UNStudio and MVRDV) and appropriately, to one of my favorite stadiums of the Olympiad.


Credit: Wikipedia

Olympisch Stadion in Amsterdam broke ground in 1927 not to long before the city hosted the 1928 Games. The ’28 Games were the first to to include the now familiar Olympic flame and relay. The inclusion of the flame required that a cauldron be included in the stadium design. The basin and its tower became the most prominent element in architect Jan Wils design, the Marathon Tower. The brick clad spire with dusty blue accents looks like a giant art-moderne light pole and is beautiful example of the Amsterdamse School style. According to Wikipedia the Dutch call it “the KLM Pilot’s ashtray” (there is that sense of humor). The tower is complimented well by the smooth, curved brick facade of the actual stadium beside it. Both take brick into a realm of expressionism, not usually seen in masonry, and I appreciate the move away from purely classical details and the use of a local design ethic. The Olympics are after all a nation’s chance to show itself off to the world.

Despite its understated beauty the stadium was nearly torn down by the city in 1987. Concerned citizens stepped in to save the structure and it is now a tourist attraction and is the centerpiece of a recent mixed-use development.

#3 Olympiastadion: Stockholm 1912


Credit Flickr: jaimesilva

At first Stockholm’s relatively small Olympiastadion is unimpressive but with closer inspection and time you begin to realize; it is oh, so cute. The merlon topped towers, brick clad walls and red tiled roofs make it appear like a small medieval castle. It feels permanent but homey not overwhelming.

The original plan for the stadium was an unremarkable wooden structure designed to be dismantled after the close of the Games. Instead, Troben Grut designed an unmovable looking brick masterpiece that ended up being used twice in Olympic competition when it held the 1956 equestrian events instead for the Melbourne ’56 Games. Australian quarantine rules were too stringent and required the rider’s beasts be taken elsewhere.

Sweden, always a leader in the green movement, built the stadium entirely from local materials. Both the structural stone and the cladding around it were quarried from genuine Swedish towns with lots of A’s in their names. Those stones remain in use today where the stadium is used as a soccer arena and venue large summer concerts.


Credit: Wikipedia

#2 Olympiastadion: Helsinki 1952

flickr gloel

Credit: flickr gloel

Helsinki’s Olympic bid got off to a rough start. Olympiastadion broke ground in anticipation of the 1940 games which were then awarded to Imperial Japan (right after the games were in Nazi Germany, good job IOC). The Japnese then lost the Games when the invaded China starting the second Sino-Japanese War. Helsinki, the runner up, was the awarded the games only to have them canceled soon after due to the escalation of the Second World War


Credit Flickr: greinarr

It wasn’t until 1952 that the modern, gleaming walls of the stadium made their Olympic debut. As with Amsterdam’s stadium, the tower is the most striking part of the complex with its wide, smooth face. The pronounced coil-binding like spiral-staircase that rises to the top of the tower surely made for a dramatic conclusion to the Olympic relay as the 1952 torch bearer climbed round and round to the height of the cauldron and deposited the flame. Despite the prominence of the tower the stadium itself more than holds its own with gorgeous stair-stepped white walls that surely compliment Nordic winters and look striking against a bright blue summer sky.

The stadium remains in use today and hosts several rock concerts a year for the Metal-loving Finns, including Iron Maiden just last month.

#1 Panathinaiko Stadium: Athens 1896


flickr: obafrompoland

Panathinaiko Stadium is not only first on my list, it was the first in Olympic stadium in history. Even in its current form it actually predates the modern Olympics and is built on the site and from the 2500 year old ruins of the arena that hosted the first games. The Greeks call it Kallimarmaron which means “beautifully marbled” referring to its completely white marble composition which was excavated and refurbished in 1870 for Greek national games that preceded the modern Olympiad. The success of those games inspired their founder Evangelos Zappas and Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin to create the modern, international, summer games which first took place in April of 1896.

The structure as it stands today is massive, seating 80,000 on its beautiful but not likely comfortable stair-step, marble seating. The large size is partially the result of the long hairpin style track it surrounds, a throw-back to the ancient games. Sadly, this oddball track may have been why the stadium was not the main venue for Greece’s second Games in 2004. Olympic planners that year did put it to use as the archery venue (taking advantage of its long narrow dimensions) and as the finish-line of that year’s Olympic marathon. I cannot imagine a more appropriate and beautiful place to end.


flickr: wallyg

Feel free to comment with your favorites or even criticisms of mine. It can be a difficult process choosing as even the ugly-ducklings have a certain monumental splendor to them. You can find a list of each year’s stadium with links to more information on each on Wikipedia’s Summer Olympic Stadia page

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Portland’s historic Heathman Hotel has just completed a remodel of its 155 rooms with a eye toward sustainability.  “Greening” a historic structure can be touchy subject to some preservationists.  The ever-so-complex balancing act between profitability, utility and historical accuracy is made even more difficult when sustainability enters the rubric.   I once took part in a spirited discussion over whether or not incandescent light bulbs should remain in use in future historic structures.  It was my opinion that they should be replaced with LEDs even if it affected the authenticity of a space. There are many beautiful buildings but only one earth after all.

It appears that Ankrom Moisan Associated Architects, the firm that designed the remodel, agrees.  They used LED lights throughout the remodel.  Sustainable woods, low-flow toilets and water saving showers were also used and (perhaps this will satisfy any hardcore preservationists out there) 95% of the materials removed from the bathrooms were donated to ReBuilding Center where the hope is they will be recycled into new buildings.  The designers also opted to use local artists in the redesign plans to reduce shipping and transportation; a move that likely kept costs down and definitely lowered the remodels carbon-footprint.

Perhaps the most green thing about the 1920’s palace is that it is still standing.  Nothing is more wasteful and nasty than a needless tear-down.

I’d love to see the new interior.  I will have to stop by.


Hat-tip to: http://www.greenlodgingnews.com and http://greenbuildingelements.com

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