Tuesday, November 25, 2008

If you're going to redevelop...

Using the shell of an existing structure seems like a reasonable—albeit lower-density—alternative to knocking down lovely old warehouses in favor of high-rise condos, thereby creating the sham neighborhood that is Portland's "Pearl District." 

A civilized touch

Fresh drinking water straight from Cascade mountains to the Bull Run Reservoir, and then to the city streets of Portland. The fountains were a gift from lumber baron Simon Benson, apparently to discourage the drinking of alcohol. Whatever — the water is delicious!

Remnants of the 19th-century city

What happens to a city when its population increases from around 366,000 to 500,000-plus over a mere 20 years? Many things, few of them good, as I discovered when I returned to Portland this weekend after what was effectively a 12-year absence. The city I grew up in had retained much of its architectural heritage from its first efflorescence in the latter half of the 19th century, and many of its cast-iron and rough-stone buildings were still intact. An early morning walk through downtown revealed that to no longer be the case, a depressing development for those of us who treasured the charm and beauty of the old city. Didn't PDX learn from the wholesale destruction of American cities in the post-war era that historic architecture was something to be valued, not torn down to create parking lots or soulless "luxury condos"? Apparently not, and the result is an architectural tragedy. 
Here, then, a few examples from the buildings still standing of what this city looked like until about 10-15 years ago, when central business district still largely consisted of beautiful buildings like this. 

The Belle Court

My first post-college apartment was a tiny studio on the top floor of this building, just to the right of the central staircase. Lovely building on NW Trinity Place. I'm surprised it hasn't been demolished.

At least my old favorite is still here

Dimitri's Satyricon, wherein I spent many a night listening to live bands back in the 1980s. (Whatever happened to Napalm Beach?) Notable also for having "Freedom or Death" written in Greek above the bar. 

Only in L.A.

Sunday in the park

Golden Gate Park, SF, where lives a nice mix of traditional statuary, ultra-modern starchitecture (Herzog & de Meuron's reconstructed de Young Museum is now faced by Renzo Piano's redone Academy of Sciences) and a Victorian conservatory. 

Friday, November 14, 2008

Glyptothek, Munich

The Glyptothek, built by King Ludwig I of Bavaria in 1830 to house his collection of Greek  and Roman sculptures. Opposite the Königsplatz is Bavaria's state museum of Egyptian antiquities (a collection established by Duke Albrecht in the 16th century). 
Walk out of the Königsplatz toward Schwabing, however, and you might come across a small metal sign that informs you that this area was put to perverted use by the Third Reich: Where the former Bavarian government built art museums, the Nazis paved over the grass and burned books and held mass rallies. 

Jugenstil architecture, Munich

Good luck with that...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dresden, and the pointless destruction of war

The opera house. Created by Saxon kings, destroyed by Allied firebombing, rebuilt during the DDR era.

Dresden, and the pointless destruction of war

A well-ornamented passage in Dresden Castle, which was destroyed by firebombing in 1945. Reconstruction began after the war and is not yet complete.

Dresden, and the pointless destruction of war

I'm not especially fond of Baroque architecture, but you have to admire the determination of the people of Dresden to restore the Zwinger Palace after it was destroyed in 1945. As with all pre-war buildings in Dresden, the black portions are original, the lighter colored portions recreations.

Architectural ornament, Dresden

St. George, slaying the dragon.

Everybody loves taxidermy!

Having escaped being turned into a coronation robe, a pair of ermine are preserved for all time at a ski lodge in the Tirol.


In the city formerly known as Karl-Marx-Stadt, the main square is presided over by his enormous head...

Li Po

Chinatown will always be one of my favorite neighborhoods in SF because it has spots like Li Po, a bar named for the Chinese poet — one of the Eight Immortals — with a fondness for liquor. If you didn't already know it, Li Po's work forms the basis for Gustav Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde.

Dresden, and the pointless destruction of war

Firebombed in 1945, still being reconstructed. The black portions of the buildings and sculptures are original; the lighter portions were recreated to take the place of what couldn't be found amid the rubble. 

Ant Farm at SFMOMA

The Art Van, a 21st century time capsule. Hook up your iPod, flash drive or mobile phone and the Art Van will download a digital file chosen at random from the device. 

Martin Puryear at SFMOMA

Art as a vessel for life, part 1

Martin Puryear at SFMOMA

Art as a vessel for life, part 2.

Marin County

A most delicious cocktail

A cocktail can also be a work of art, witness the kaffir lime gimlet at the St. Regis.

MV Agusta

At the Legend of the Motorcycle, Half Moon Bay, California, spring 2008.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Cool spaces

Literaturhaus Cafe, Munich. Nice ceiling, great space. 
And the featured cocktail on the day this photo was taken? The Harvey Wallbanger.