architecture

Posted by Ellen

More than four millennia ago, people who called themselves Sicels built a town atop this hill, 300 meters above small streams in the steep-sided limestone valleys of southern Sicily.

Then came the Greeks and briefly the Carthaginians, then the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, and finally, in the eleventh century, the Normans. The town had its name by then, Ragusa. As part of the Kingdom of Sicily, it slipped out from under control of the Norman duke Geoffrey and became a fief of the Chiaramontes, the most powerful family in Sicily.

At first glance, Ragusa's many centuries, particularly its medieval times, appear plain in the architecture and plan of the town clinging to the hill. But that's an illusion; almost everything here postdates a severe earthquake in 1692, which killed thousands of people and destroyed almost all the buildings, including a very large Gothic cathedral.

What we see today is Ragusa rebuilt, in the early eighteenth century, in the style known as Sicilian baroque. We also see Ragusa stratified; the rich people moved over to the next hill to rebuild their homes and churches–Ragusa Superiore–while the poor stayed where they were, rebuilding in the rubble– Ragusa Inferiore, known today as Ragusa Ibra.

Of the two Ragusas–essentially identical in age and architectural style–the poor folks' town, featured in this photo, attracts more attention from twenty-first-century tourists and is generally considered the more picturesque. The replacement for the ruined cathedral, however, is in Ragusa Superiore.

As an American, I have my doubts about places that look like this; I sniff Walt Disney and/or Hollywood and/or Colonial Williamsburg in the so-called Sicilian air. I fear this is a town populated by characters in costume whose main role in life is to get me to part with my money. But you know what? I'll take the risk. And if I ever get to Sicily . . . I can't promise I'll come back.

Posted by Ellen

The window of the golden key, in Bogotá, Colombia.

Posted by Ellen

Posted by Ellen

Fifty-four arched windows catch the morning sun in this old building on Arch Street.

Posted by Ellen

The National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing is an ellipsoidal dome of glass and titanium completely surrounded by an artifical lake; the only entrance to the three theaters inside the dome is via a tunnel underneath the lake.

The architect is Paul Andreu, a Frenchman who spent most of his career designing airports, including those at Dubai, Cairo, Shanghai, Jakarta, Manila, and both airports in Paris.  He's been busy lately working on structures for the Olympics in Kazakhstan.

Posted by Ellen

Ten years ago, an exhibition of work by the Colombian sculptor and painter Fernando Botero toured Europe, including a stop in the courtyard of the Cathedrale di Milano, as shown here. Next fall, a Botero exhibit will visit Bilbao, Spain, but the photo below taken in Bilbao last week features a sculpture that resembles the work of Botero in roundness alone.

Posted by Ellen

The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

The original building, designed by Toronto architects Frank Darling and John A. Pearson, opened in 1933. The new wing, by American architect Daniel Libeskind, who also designed buildings for the Denver Art Museum and the Jewish Museum in Berlin, opened in 2007 and is referred to as the Crystal.

Posted by Ellen

There's a new mural in the neighborhood, by Michael Webb. It honors Julian Abele, the architect who designed the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Duke Chapel, among other wonders, and who lived in the neighborhood for most of his life.

Abele was the first academically trained African American architect in the United States. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Architecture in 1902. 

That's Abele in the middle of the mural, in the brown, three-piece suit, standing in front of a blueprint of the Duke Chapel tower.

The small lot here is called a park--Julian Abele Park--and with a new grant for landscaping improvements, it may soon become an actual park. One of the landscaping features is to be a walkway lined with old marble stoops, suggesting the rowhouse architecture of the neighborhood.

 The trees in front of the mural don't look like much in the wintertime, but of course they are controversial. Do they block the view of the artwork or frame it in natural greenery?

NXP

Posted by Ellen

This building is headquarters for the NXP corporation in Eindhoven, Netherlands.

I like the looks of the building a lot, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't like working in it. NXP makes semiconductors and suchlike, including chips for car radio tuners, cable-TV boxes, and keyless entry systems. Half the laptop computers in the world use NXP chips in their power supplies. Although these products seem socially useful, and I'm sure they are challenging to make, there's something scary about the corporate culture.

This is the first sentence of NXP's press release from yesterday: "NXP now offers the industry-leading TJA1021TK, the first LIN 2.1-certified transceiver, in a space-saving HVSON8 package."

And this is the first sentence of the press release from the day before yesterday: "With TDA18272, NXP introduces a unique Master/Slave architecture for optimizing the design of multi-tuner applications."

It's like they're trying to make me feel stupid.  Even so, I think they've got a pretty building.