Canned Butter

Category: Architecture

Sleep When You Die #23 – Granada, Spain

Sleep When You Die #23 - Alhambra Castle image
Sleep When You Die #23 - Alhambra Castle image
Sleep When You Die #23 - Alhambra Castle image
Sleep When You Die #23 - Alhambra Castle image
Sleep When You Die #23 - Alhambra Castle image
Sleep When You Die #23 - Alhambra Castle image

The Granada expedition requires two entries because it was just such a brilliant morning.

After the arduous ascent that I was not entirely prepared for in the early morning hours, I reached the Alhambra gates at 8:40am to find that there was quite a queue already started since the 8:30 opening. Weary with nothing better to do I joined this queue to practice that ever precious virtue, patience. The queue moved slow. Very slow. At 9am I had moved probably a mere 20 paces closer to admission when an announcement come over the P.A. first in Espanol and then English, “The tickets for the Palacio Nueva have sold out for the day. However, you may still purchase admission to the gardens.” There was a collective deflative “umph” from the queued crowd and some people instantly packed it in and headed out. I was rather exhausted and the prospect of walking back to town was not as attractive as simply hunkering down for a bit in a sort of standing repose.

The queue crawled on, and I had pulled out my sketch pad and was putting more time towards an El Greco from El Prado when I was approached by an middle-aged woman along with a her younger colleague. After over-coming the routine language barrier, I came to understand that these two women had an extra ticket to the very recently sold-out palace! They explained that they had booked their admissions 5 months prior, and the third person in their party could not be present. Wow.

Turns out, these two fabulous ladies were in Granada for the weekend to lecture at the local university as they were both doctorates of Philosophy. I made friends with them quickly needless to say, and I ended up spending an entire tour of the castle with these angels. It was a truly amazing stroke of fortune… like Athena herself intervened. That is how patience and I received entrance to one of the most epic displays of geometric pattern-design I will ever witness.

Sleep when you die!

Sleep When You Die #21 – Barcelona, Spain

Sagrada Familia - Gaudí image
Casa Batlló - Gaudí image
Casa Mila - Gaudí image

I was promised loads of sunshine! Well, I didn’t get much of that. I did get some great early morning snaps of a few brilliant buildings that Barcelona holds dear: La Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, and Casa Milà. These three buildings were erected by one of the great visionaries in Spanish history: Antoni Gaudí. I stayed right across from the Mariana metro stop in northwest Barcelona so these three were in walking distance as I set out on this gloomy weekday morning to see the city in a much less bustling mood.

No one I talked to in Spain knew who Dr. Seuss was…
but I had to continuously make the comparison: the architectural equivalent of Dr. Seuss has to be Gaudí!

The Return of Michael Graves

Sentosa Resort - Singapore image

Hotel Sentosa – Singapore
Designed by M. Graves

Portland Building Image

The Portland Building
Designed by M. Graves

This week here in Portland, for the third year the Design Week festival has been front and center providing fertile grounds for designers and design enthusiasts alike to get out and witness first hand how involved the city is within the world of design. I’ve been a volunteer each of these years and I can each time around the festival has built upon the last. This year saw mastermind Stephan Sagmeister come to town for a lecture at the Portland Art Museum.

While I did not see Sagmeister on stage, the following night brought reknowned architect / designer Michael Graves to the same stage, and I am pleased to report that I was fortunate enough to attend! Some of you will know that Graves is responsible for our city’s own “Portland Building” home of the nation’s second largest bronze statue Portlandia! Some of you will also know that this post-modern building has recently been a hot conversation. Long story short the building needs maintenance as all buildings do over the course of time, and some people want to tear the thing down while others want to do the necessary updates / repairs and carry on.


That’s Mottingham, not Nottingham

Eltham Palace Art Deco Mirror image
Eltham Palace Exterior image
Eltham Palace Dressup image

I’m currently in Mottingham (often misconstrued in conversation) on the London’s southeast side staying with friends whom have just moved into a lovely new home. It’s honestly nice to get out of the hustle and bustle of London proper for a spell to catch a whiff of open, fresh air.

Today I was treated to a tour of the Elpham Palace, which is an art deco designed palace about 2 minutes from where I am staying. What a scene that place was!

“Eltham Palace is one of the few important medieval royal palaces in England to survive with substantial remains intact. Initially a moated manor house with vast parkland, it was acquired by the future Edward II in 1305 who subsequently passed it on to his queen, Isabella.”

The Swedish designed art deco portion of the house was only built in the 1930s by the wealthy couple, Stephen and Virginia Courtauld. Upon their leaving the residence in 1944, the site was turned into an Army educational barracks, and it wasn’t until 1992 that it was turned into a spectacle for public consumption.

The Design Museum London

Design Museum in London image
Design Museum London Cities image
Architecture Model image

Our first class field-trip!

The museum was great, and it reminded me much of a past visit to a design museum in Copenhagen. The featured designers were architect Louis Kahn and designer Daniel Weil, and I must say it was a nice departure from all the fine art I’ve been digesting these days.

Boney Maroney

Capuchin Crypt image

This was an interesting suggestion by a fellow hostel-mate, Mario. The Capuchin Crypt located beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini was right around the corner from where I was staying so it was a no-brainer to go and see. In 1631 when monks moved into this church apparently they had a cart load of the remains of 300 deceased friars. Okaaaaaay.

Photos are not allowed so this is the only one I was able to sneak. One room uses pelvic bones to form an altarpiece and femurs and vertebrae cover the ceilings and walls in geometric forms. Somebody was really bored and had a bunch of bones piling up, that is a definite. As creepy as you would think these scenes would be, I had a strange sense of calm come over me as I walked through these small rooms. And so it goes the display is not meant to be macabre, but a silent reminder of the swift passage of life on Earth and our own mortality

The Villa Farnesina by the Riverside

Raphael's Galataea - Villa Farnesina image
Peruzzi Illusion @ Farnesina image
Alexander the Great & Roxanne image
Raphael's Cupid and Psyche fresco image

Upon returning to the homelands, people will probably inquire as to my favorite part of Rome. To this inquiry I will reply: walking the streets at dawn, walking the streets at midnight, and the frescoes of Villa Farnesina. Inside one can find one of my all-time favorite splashes of colour: Raphael Santi’s The Triumph of Galatea. As a designer I take a lot from the Renaissance master, and this fresco is a main reason. It’s a beautiful concoction of compositional balance through symmetry and colour as well as a wonderful depiction of feminine grace and strength. ( I also love the creatures Galataea is skiing across the water on. )

Around the corner in the main hall you’ll find more amazing work from Raphael and his assistants. The entire room from floor to ceiling is designed with a mythological motif, and since this was a private residence, the narrative depiction is of more pagan intrigue rather than the standard religious propaganda.

The other rooms of the villa house brilliant works as well. The trompe-l’œil frescoes by a dude named Baldassare Tommaso Peruzzi present an amazing illusion of wall being open facades into gardens. Also, Il Sodoma’s scene of Alexander and his wife’s wedding night: Roxanne Receiving Her Husband’s Crown is one of the great romance scenes of Renaissance painting.

One of the great parts of getting down to the riverside to see this villa is that it is not a major (nor a secondary even) tourist destination so for example when I went, the place was empty. And so in the air conditioned villa on the Tevere River I sat comfortable away from the hordes this fine afternoon and tried to coax Raphael from my own pencil.

People Love Death

The Roma Colosseum image

Of course I had to go through the Rome Colosseum and see what it was all about. I actually wasn’t that thrilled to tell you all the truth. I was impressed with how steep the steps leading the spectator “bleachers” were, and wondered at the physicality of the common ancient Roman. I think I was most in awe of how many people flock daily to see this venue that once staged death for the purpose of entertainment. In a city filled with boundless amounts of visual art, there is still a disgusting line to tour this decrepit, stone death pit. I will admit if you can trigger the imagination, some fun can be had looking down and envision Russell Crowe or yourself fighting mano e mano for another day in the sun.

Sleep When You Die #9 & #10

St Peter's Basilica Rome at dawn image

Sleep when you die!!!

Rome at dawn photo

Mama Mia!

Have you ever seen the movie The Never-Ending Story, and there’s the part in the beginning when they first set sight upon the ivory tower? That is what I liken my experience to this morning at the break of dawn. Rome easily takes top honors for the most beautiful city in the early morning hours! It was magical in its serenity… barely a soul around— I was in the middle of Via Della Conciliazione snapping photos all alone of old St. Pete’s. This is easily one of thee most walked streets in the world!!

Rome at dawn! The city takes on light like the book of Genesis. Your eyes sparkle as the freshness of morning creeps up in the east… absolutely awe-inspiring. I have never seen anything like it.

Oh, Those Jesuits

Church of the Gesù - Rome image

Church of the Gesù – Rome

Today was a big day for sight-seeing in Rome. I got some Caravaggio sketching in and ran the battery low on my Canon G12. The ceiling of Il Gesù was even better than I had thought possible. The perspective that Andrea Pozzo was able to achieve with his ceiling Trompe-l’œil is absolutely breath-taking.