Monday, September 24, 2012

Paris: Start here

Any visit to Paris has to start with Notre Dame, one of the most beautiful things mankind has ever created, as well as perhaps the most impressive, from a technical standpoint. Begun in 1163, the building's scale is almost unimaginable until you're standing next to it, and it was in fact inconceivable (and unbuildable) prior to the advent of the flying buttresses that support the sides of the building. Beyond mere achievement, however, Notre Dame will always startle with its beauty, and with the wealth of details that delight (and sometimes frighten) the viewer at every turn.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Beverly Hills-EUR connection

The first time I drove past 9720 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills, I couldn't help but think of the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana in EUR, that section of Rome commissioned by Mussolini and captured in all its eeriness by Giorgio di Chirico. (Photo of the Palazzo by Blackcat, via Wikipedia.) I don't know what inspired architect Edward Durrell Stone to adapt that theme to his design for the building that now houses the Pacific Mercantile Bank, but he also drafted a similarly strange building for 2 Columbus Circle in New York City. That, too, had a touch of EUR about it, at least until it was reconfigured a few years ago into something that has none of the original's weird grandeur, or sense of secrecy. His Busch Stadium in St. Louis -- which featured similar colonades on a much larger scale -- was also torn down. Maybe it's the negative associations with Fascism, which Stone seems to have had no affinity for, or perhaps there's just something about these shapes that disturbs the eye. Me, I'm fascinated and repelled at the same time.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Villa Erba, Cernobbio, Italy

Villa Erba, Cernobbio, Italy

The Atrium, the central hall inside Villa Erba.

Villa Erba, Cernobbio, Italy

Lake Como from within Villa Erba.

Villa Erba, Cernobbio, Italy

One of my favorite houses in the world, the Villa Erba sits along Lake Como in Cernobbio, Italy. Originally a convent, it was purchased by the Erba family in 1882 and remained in the family until 1986. One of the heirs to the property was film director Luchino Visconti, who shared it with his brother and lived here until his death in 1976. The Visconti family sold it to a consortium who turned it into an event center, restoring the villa in 2003. Splendid job, I'd say, and a great place for a party.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Out my hotel window, Cernobbio, Italy

Technically, it's a lake view room at the Grand Hotel Imperiale, Lago di Como.

Out my hotel window, near Davos, Switzerland

Hotel Garda Val, Swiss Alps

Out my hotel window, Detroit, Michigan

Westin Book Cadillac, downtown Detroit. The airshaft might be a better sight than a view of greater Detroit...