Wiener Secession

As mentioned in my previous entry on Ljubljana, the Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik was a student of the Austrian architect Otto Wagner (1841-1918).
Wagner produced not only fine buildings but urban plans as well. In 1890 he produced a new city plan for Vienna. The ambitious work, however, only materialized in one phase. The Stadtbahn, Vienna’s urban rail network. The stations he designed are still in use today. Functional as ever; beautiful to look at.

The Karlsplatz Stadtbahn Station is the most recognized and iconic jewel of the system.

Karlsplatz Studtbahn Station (1894-1902) Detail


Karlsplatz, detail

Karlsplatz, detail

In 1897 Wagner co-founded the Vienna Sucessionsts, a group of designers, architects and artists dedicated to a new modernity of design. Pure, simple functional lines. New materials and new forms with a strong tendency to naturalistic motifs. Art Nouveau architect Josef Hoffman was also in this group along with designer Kolomon Moser, and painter Gustav Klimt.

Here is the Majolikahouse Wagner designed and built, 1898-1899


Majolikahouse, balcony detail.


This is a sister to Majolikahouse. The two buildings stand side by side on Linke Wienzeile, Vienna. Back in the day both structures were commonly regarded as “hideous beyond measure.”

Another Vienna Sucessionist co-founder was architect Joseph Olbrich. He designed the Sucession Exhibit Hall, above, in 1898.

Frank Lloyd Wright biographer Brendan Gill spends more than a few pages of essay about this building’s relationship with Wright’s 1905 landmark Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois.

Wright was never one to say “I took someone’s great idea and improved on it.” He rarely tipped his hat to any influence on his work. As a Guest Of Honor before a gathering of renown architects in Berlin, 1905, Wright must have bristled upon being introduced as “The American Olbrich.” His only outward reaction was to say this aroused his curiosity and that he’d have to discover what Olbrich and his work were all about–knowing full well Olbrich’s stature.

Olbrich died at age 41. Wright still had 50 years of career ahead of him and much of his legacy yet to be written.

Detail, Wiener Sucession Exhibit Hall

Detail, Unity Temple

Olbrich’s signature stone at Sucessionist Exhibit Hall. Wright used a red signature tile on his works.

Unity Temple, Oak Park, Illinois, 1905

Vertical lines, Unity Temple, above; Karlsplatz, below.


Karlsplatz (Wagner). The clock above foyer entrance.

Unity Temple Lighting details. Natural and incandescent indirect light.

Karlsplatz barrel ceiling detail and light element.

Lovely Ljubljana

There was a coffee house in San Diego/Hillcrest called Euphoria. It enjoyed a popular run before the lease expired and the proprietors relocated in North Park with a new title and clientelle. But Euphoria had a diverse following. It seemed to attract more than a share of European visitors.
This is where I met Andrej and Bostjan of Slovenia. We shared a table for coffee one afternoon. And met again on different occasions. Then I began showing them around town.
Andrej, though only in his mid twenties, was a noted physician specializing in diabetes. A real life Dougie Howser. He was in San Diego attending a world conference on Diabetes, and making presentations.
Bostjan was about the same age, but still in medical school and doing internship.
They invited me to Slovenia, to their home town and national capitol, Ljubljana.


Ljubljana has the charming looks of many renown European capitals, but enjoys a slower–yet energetic–pace with a population of only 300,000 or so.


Ljubljana’s mythological dragon made habitat at the near by lake. He was slain by Jason and The Argonauts. They were in possession of the stolen golden fleece when the encounter occurred. Today the dragon guards a town bridge.

A river runs through it. Providing the town a lot reflective beauty. With close proximity to Venice, Italy, the Italian influence is evident in the architecture. Not to mention the many Italian favorites on eatery menus.

The Market Arcades were designed by Slovenia’s best known and loved architect Jože Plečnik (1872-1957). He was a student of Otto Wagner in Vienna. Three cities in particular showcase his best work. Vienna, Prague and Ljubljana.


The City has many fine examples of Art Nouveau

Looking up to Ljubljana Castle. Digs reveal this site has been active since the 12th Century B.C. Fortification began in Illyrian and Celtic times. On through Roman Times and beyond. The tour I took with Andrej showed how the castle became more of a hunting lodge for European royalty. The interior walls are laden with heads of various beasts taken for prize.

That’s not exactly a close up. But that’s my host, Andrej.


There’s The Lake. Former home of The Dragon


Now the summer play ground for other species of monsters.

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A city of charming architecture. That’s a freshly polished copper clad roof.


A quiet morning. But later the streets are busy. And city residents love their sidewalk cafe lifestyle.

London Town Fun

On May 10, 2006 I kept an appointment. An appearance in London at 8 A.M. on the live Earthcam situated at Covent Garden. That was 4 P.M. London Time. The middle left photo below shows the webcam view (Ken Garrett downloaded my actual appearance, but it vanished in my e-mail files.) The middle right image is my snapshot of the same location. Then below you see the webcam itself, to the right of the upright support.
Covent Garden, with its markets, cafes, and street performers is a favorite hangout in London.

The piazza shown in the top photo dates from 1632. The reference on one building is to the Punch and Judy shows observed and documented here by Samuel Pepys in 1662.

Covent Garden was originally, in fact, a Convent Garden of the Westminster Abbey monks.

Vegetable fields and fruit trees flourished here from 1536. I missed any explanation of why the “n” was dropped to make Covent Garden the name. Being as neither garden or convent remain any way.

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London’s Eye, The Millennium Wheel, is currently the world’s tallest observation structure of its kind. It soars to 443 feet on the South Bank of River Thames.

The stark facade of the Tate Modern Museum. The Spartan feel is from a design that was originally the Bankside Power Station. The some 20,000 sq ft of interior space became a selling point for converting to a museum, beginning with its funding in 1996.

The enterance and foyer of the Tate Modern.


The Cambridge Pub, Cappuccetto’s, and SoupWorks at Leicester Square, above. Also, Bar Soho.

A view of rooftops and chimneys as seen from an above leg of the Underground.

Views from The Underground.

London is a sea of suits. Men dress for work. And if any respectable English Gentleman should forget, he is reminded to adjust his dress before leaving the WC.

Faces

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Aksel is a law student in Göteborg but he works in Marstrand during the summer tourist season.

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Young Arvid stops to smile while scooting about Marstrand on his razor scooter.

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Emrik is removing candle wax at the enterance to Restaurang Högvakten, one of the many historic eateries in Marstrand.

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Lady in Red, London

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Naked Lunch, Copenhagen. Christiania, Copenhagen’s commune like enclave founded by hippies, performance artists and misc. social misfits has been under attack for several years by conservative politicians. These are young residents of that community staging a provocative protest against the latest points of conflict between themselves, law makers and law enforcement. Police quietly stood by to make sure there were no problems between the friendly protesters and the gawking on lookers. Attitudes about such public nudity are vastly different in Scandinavia and Europe than in the U.S.

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A young resident of Christiania

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This lad’s special talent in walking around naked, but on his hands. Do I dare post a picture of that?

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This is Copenhagen’s Black Diamond, a modern building on the waterfront housing The Danish Royal Library. Mondays are rough for young construction workers needing to make up for lost sleep during the weekend.
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Love in Copenhagen

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Love in Amsterdam.  Twilight at 11:00 P.M.

Reflection

Sunrise in Scandinavia comes early in the day during summer. This is of benefit when photo shooting. Having views of scenery before clutter of pedestrian, bicycle and auto traffic. A low sun catches color on buildings. And if breezeless, mirror like reflections shine in the vast reaches of Copenhagen’s waterways.

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Eat’m 12/2/06


The EAT’m Diner blog for 12/02/06: Birria in Guadalajara, French Dip Sandwich, Los Angeles
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Each region of Mexico boasts its own unique distinct food or dish. A specialty of Guadalajara is Birria, a savory stew typically made with goat, pork, lamb or sheep. The sauce is a blend of spices, chili, and cumin. This stew bakes hours before it is dinner table ready.


The twin specialty of the region is Borrego. This is lamb or sheep slow roasted for hours over glowing hot wood embers.

Birrieria Las Nueve Esquinas near downtown Guadalajara offers Chivo (Goat) Birria and Barbocoa de Borrego as their main menu items. This kitchen-dining room is charmingly decorated with indigenous pottery and earthen ware hanging on bright color walls trimmed in tile. Folk crafts decorate the window.

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When traveling to Los Angeles, a stop at Philippe, The Original French Dip Sandwich Restaurant, is mandatory.
Their legend states “French Dip” was innovated when a French sandwich bun fell into the juices or drippings of roasted meat pan. The customer, impatient for his sandwich, vetoed making the sandwich over again. His discovery was so thrilling the man returned the next day with a legion of his co workers for exactly the same accidental taste treat.

The sandwich is available with roast beef, pork, lamb or turkey. I never know which one I like best. I’ll often sample a couple. Philippe’s mustard is their own, not restaurant supply. I always dab some on my sandwich. And frequently experience a nasal rush. A cold beer works best for me accompanying this meal. But the lemonade is renown. I’m always undecided whether to go with cole slaw or potato salad. Some times if I return to the counter for that second or third sandwich I’ll have both.

Twisted Tails of Copenhagen


Few spires are this beautiful or unique. Borsen–the old Copenhagen Stock Exchange. Hans Van Steenwinckle was the architect. Rundetaarn, shown in my previous essay, was also designed by him. It is a Dragonspire he created in 1625 for the Stock Exchange Building.

The tails of four dragons are twisted together in symbolic guardianship. This twining is a statement of strength. But the architect achieved a lightness and grace with the open chamber just below his dragons.

More “Dead”

Mexico’s Day of The Dead is all about gentile and happy spirits of the after life. But there’s also more Halloween-like legends of darker angels. The malcontents and evil doers on the other side.
One of Mexico’s most legendary locations for this phenomena is Guadalajara’s downtown cemetery–their “Haunted” cemetery–Panteon de Belen. Many dates on the tombs and gravestones are from the mid 1800’s. These were well-to-do and important citizens of Guadalajara. But the graveyard came into existence during some of Mexico’s hardest times. Dark years seem to produce dark legends of after life.


The atmosphere within the walls of Belan is tranquil and beautiful. Pleasing landscaping–an array of interesting trees. There’s one tree in particular. Thick, sinuous roots form a massive trunk and vast canopy. This is Guadalajara’s most guarded tree. If it is allowed to die, a rapacious vampire will be unleashed upon a defenseless city population.
He’s terrorized the region before. Evidence was dead animals all around. Not only dead but sucked dry and bloodless. Then children died this way. A vampire was on the loose. People dared not venture out at night for fear of Lestat. A vigilante group was formed to track down the evil creature. Find him, they did; Captured by net. A lethal wooden stake was driven through his heart. And to take no chances his body was entombed in a concrete sarcophicus and buried deeply at Belan. Happiness reclaimed the homeland. Until….


The lethal wooden stake grew longer and wider from the vampire’s heart. It punched through the concrete sarcophicus lid and out of the grave. The stake became this tree. Not a sap producing tree but one of blood from all the creatures the vampire killed. Any little nick or damage, the tree dripped blood. And if the tree is allowed to die, the vampire WILL RETURN!


This story was being told to a group of very  young school children on a Day of The Dead field trip to Belan.


A heightened spookiness is possible by taking a night time tour. The chance of witnessing some of the phenomena is rumored to be quite great! For instance, one story says someone committed suicide–by neck, hanging from a tree. A night time shadow of this tree sometimes appears even though it was cut down long ago.
A cemetery guard has been seen. But there is no guard. Those who saw this guard’s face say it matched a portrait attached to one of the graves.
There’s an approaching clip clop and rattle of an 1800’s horse drawn coffin wagon. It stops at the cemetery gate. Nothing is ever there except hints of moving shadows.
Perhaps this was just too much after life activity to suit “Los Hombres Ilustres,” prominent Jalisco State and Guadalajara dignitaries buried here. They were excavated in 1947 and moved to a new Memorial “La Rotonda de Los Hombres Illustres” next to Guadalajara Cathedral.


The architecture next to them may seem familiar to those big shots. The Cathedral towers and the Belan Cemetery Pavilion under which the illustrious were buried had the same architect.

Dias de los Muertos

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While we in the U.S. go all out for festive, imaginative–if not outrageous–costuming, parties and trick or treating at Halloween time, in Mexico they begin celebrating Dias de los Muertos, Days of the Dead.
On Halloween Day, 2004. I was in the heart of Old Mexico, Michoacan. They don’t celebrate Halloween as we know it. October 31st, Hollows Eve, marks the beginning of a three day celebration which also encompasses All Saints Day and All Souls Day. These are Dias de Los Muertos.  The focus is not so much on costumes and trick or treating, but on remembrance of dead loved ones and connecting with their spirits.
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Don’t mistake this as grim and serious. These are days of parties, feasts and family reunions from both sides of the grave and mortal plane. The departed are not sadly viewed as having vanished from daily life. But they’re happy, active participants. Their spirits are guardians of the living.
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Each region of Mexico offers a slight variation of these customs. But generally this is a holiday with marigold adorned altars in the home, favorite foods of the loved ones prepared and lavishly displayed, favorite drinks–even booze or cigarettes if those were enjoyed. There are ceremonial skulls and skeletons. Paper decorations in bright colors. Harvested crops. Tall continually lit candle sticks.
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Every object placed at the home altar has meaning. Four symbols of nature are always present. Earth, Wind, Water, and Fire.
Earth is represented by flowers and crops. Souls are enticed to the altar and fed by aroma; the mouth watering smell of their favorite foods.
Wind is symbolized by a moving object. Colorful tissue paper and hanging cut out decorations are commonly used to to sway or toss about in a breeze or draft.
Water in a decorative bowl. Quenching a soul’s thirst after a long journey home. Even a hand towel is provided.
Fire glows with candles.
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Some regions of Mexico are more known for one particular aspect of the holiday than others. For instance, “La Calaca”–the skeleton– is famous in the Mexico City region. Bakeries have skeleton and skull decorations displayed. Attached are verses dedicated to the dead. Special breads are shaped and baked to be sold specifically for altar offerings.
In something like trick or treating, children collect candies on this holiday. But often these are “muertos,” little candy skulls.
La Calaca is not meant to be scary, but fun. The typical female ceremonial skeleton is lavishly dressed, adorned with jewelery, and a floppy wide brim hat. The man often has a bottle of booze in hand. In short, they’re ready to party.
The altar tradition is deeply rooted in Michoacan. I visited the small village of Santa Fe De La Laguna on the road from Morelia to Uruapan. The residents are an indigenous people, The Purepecha Indians. They mainly speak Purepechan rather than Spanish. Many still wear traditional garments. When the Spanish arrived in the 1500’s they found this group battling the Aztecs. Needless to say neither group was any match for the Conquistadors.
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The Spanish called these Indians The Tarascan. After slaughtering thousands of them in conquest, Spain sought to be a kinder, gentler ruler. One gesture was to not to completely strip away their spiritual beliefs. Instead many rituals, including Dias de Los Muertos, were allowed to remain. And these were folded into Christian customs. Thus you have this blending of pre-Hispanic rituals with the All Saints and All Souls tradition.
People of this village retain old values of openness and hospitality. I walked by an open door. I saw inside just a bit. There I noticed a beautifully flowered altar. A seated group of Tarascan ladies warmly extended an invitation to enter. Their simple yet welcoming home had three main rooms. The largest was devoted to the altar. Men sat in a smaller room. The other was occupied by the women. This village has a unique variation of Dias de Los Muertos. The women attend exclusively to the all the aspects of planning and setting up for the holiday. The altar, the food, the cleaning and decorating of the grave site, etc. The men are involved only with harvest rituals.
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I studied the array of yellow, orange and red altar flowers, the tall candles, the uniquely shaped bread offerings, the prepared food, and the apparent keepsakes of a child. This was All Saints Day–dedicated to the spirits of children.
I was invited to a delicious bowl of red tomato fish soup and a tamale wrapped in banana leaves. The women were very pleased I accepted their offering. They smiled at my obvious enjoyment of the meal. I was offered another serving.
Other regions celebrate this day with parades. A Lidless coffin lifted up to catch flowers, fruits and candles. A crackle of firecrackers. At night the tall altar candles burn continuously in remembrance.
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November 2nd, All Souls Day, is the day of spiritual reunion with adult loved ones. Activities shift to the graveyard. Flower strewn paths to family plots.  Sites are cleaned, groomed and lavishly decorated with marigolds and other flowers. A picnic is enjoyed–a savory array of the departed one’s favorite foods. Some share tequila. Others set off fireworks. A Mariachi Band is often present. Festivities for this “Night of The Dead” are an all night affair. The night glows from a myriad of burning candles.
A lot of Americans who visit Mexico this time of year may well leave impressed with the color, beauty and charm of this occasion. These are intriguing customs that have spiritual value. Not just a party excuse or candy grab. It is to honor and remember deceased loved ones as well as to eat, drink and be merry.
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But there is some danger of all this falling by the way side. The U.S. manner of celebrating Halloween is expanding and becoming ever more popular in the urban and border areas of Mexico. Wall Mart and others well supply Mexico with all the mass produced witch’s hats, Spider Man costumes, and other Halloween paraphernalia available in the U.S.. This influence seems enough for government and private institutions to now educate about and promote the old traditions.
Santa Fe de La Laguna, has resisted change for centuries. Hopefully they will continue to hang on to what is uniquely theirs. Even in the midst of N.A.F.T.A., “globalization,” and the “new world order.”

Connecting The Dots

Stockholm, Sweden, is composed of fourteen Islands and an archipelago fanning out into The Baltic. Traveling the city whether by foot, bicycle, car, bus or subway means taking bridges tunnels or ferries. Not ravaged or spoiled by war, architectural elements of the city are old but not run down. A pristine quality. Buildings of bright color, copper clad roofs and soaring spires often reflect in waterways. Modern structures blend well. Visits to such sights as the Vasa Museum and The Royal Palace show glimpses of Medieval Stockholm.
The residents are a gentile people. Reserved but without attitude. English is freely spoken with Americans.
Traffic moves orderly and at a moderate pace. Rarely have I witnessed a speeding vehicle or heard a horn blaring. Cars are driven slower during rain with a space reserved between vehicles. Pedestrians enjoy having cars stop for them.
Children are taught to use “indoor voices.” Not once have I had the urge to call out for “Super Nanny” to come deal with badly behaved children. Dogs can be seen in public places. Have yet to encounter a street turd!
A down side can reported in one word. “Expensive.” There’s a hefty sin tax on alcohol. Haven’t found even a medium glass of beer for less than eight U.S. dollars. Lots of great cafes and eateries, but not much on the cheaps.

Stockholm Sunset

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Water, water everywhere. Stockholm often referred to as Venice of the north.

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Trees and copper spires.

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Stern of the Svea Viking – a sightseeing boat. Below image showing the wide view.

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The Lonely Planet provides this blurb: “This corny but fun Viking longship – complete with burly Viking warriors – runs 1 3/4 hour trips around the inner archipeligo islands. Viking food and drinks included.” I didn’t partake. But got several shots of the harbor with this boat help framing the image.

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Svea Viking bow

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Harbor boats, Stockholm.