Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Transparency vs. Obscurity in Berlin

Heavy title, I know.  This is a duplicate of a post that I just put up on the studioBERLIN blogsite, ruminations on some things that we've seen in the past week while touring Berlin and Copenhagen, thoughts that might contribute to the pavilion we will be designing in the next few weeks.  Please check out the website to see what my classmates are writing about.

On the first day that we toured Berlin, we saw the Holocaust Memorial, designed in the early 2000’s by Peter Eisenman.  I found this memorial, considering its subject, to be surprisingly calming and pleasant (although I’m not sure if Eisenman would appreciate either of those adjectives).  
What I liked about it was the play between visibility and obscurity.  When we first walked out into the field, people became lost, to a certain extent.  But each “aisle” is a straight shot from one side of the memorial to the other.  So that, in a way, things are all very visible.  Like looking through venetian blinds, things can go from being obscured to almost fully visible if you only change the angle that you’re looking through, or the point that you’re looking from.  So that, yes, you can hide here, but you can easily be found when you would need to be.  From one direction everything is a jumble, and from another it is all organized and clear.
walking into obscurity at the Holocaust Memorial

but paths are clear from end to end
We’ve actually been seeing a lot of buildings that look completely different, depending on which angle you look from.  And most of them are made of glass.  Glass is such an interesting material because it is technically, physically, transparent.  However, in certain light, at certain angles, it is nearly impossible to see through it, and you end up seeing only what is outside the building again.  A building surface that is constantly changing and never committing to being one thing.  So many pictures I took throughout our tours are of glass buildings, but I took the picture because it was showing me something other than the building itself.  
Helmut Jahn in Berlin: now you see it . . . 
now you don't
A sculpture by the DR Byen complex in Copenhagen (yes, very much like our Chicago bean), which exists as an object, but, like a mirror in a room, can be a sort of negative-object, which is there only to not-be-there, and give the illusion of extra space instead.
Copenhagen's version of Chicago's Cloud Gate

Friday, July 6, 2012

Wisconsin Trip with my Mom

About a month ago, my mom came out to Chicago for an extended (10 day!) visit.  She's visited me about once a year since I moved here in 2005, but this was the longest time she's stayed with me and also the first time she's visited that I didn't have to work while she was here.  Because of that, we finally got to take a trip outside of Chicago, since mom doesn't have much of any experience with the midwest.
Tara Donovan: untitled.  Photo borrowed from archblog.
Our 3 day trip was pretty packed.  The first leg took us to Milwaukee, where I managed to get us tickets to see the Cubs play (and beat) the Brewers.  But earlier in the day, we made it to the Milwaukee  Art Museum to see the Calatrava wings close and open at noon.  We spent a number of hours in the museum, also enjoying the work of many artists, especially Tara Donovan.  The museum had a special exhibit of her work at the time, all made with everyday objects, like this piece: plastic sheets like you would use to separate papers in file folder, coiled up to catch the light in surprising ways.
There were a few other pieces we really liked, including a full room's worth of furniture and wallpaper, surprisingly from Vienna, from the early 19th century.  Pretty funky if you ask me.
I took a full slide show of the museum's "wings" closing at noon - here are a few . . .

And it was the perfect day to walk around the museum campus and over to the Milwaukee County War Memorial, designed in the 1950's by Eero Saarinen.  I've been seeing a lot of him recently, haven't I.

The following day, we made a stop at Ten Chimneys, the summer home of Broadway legends Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne.  Mom and I had had nothing planned for the day, only a drive from Milwaukee to Madison, but we found the brochure for this spot in the hotel lobby and really enjoyed the visit.  Lunt had grown up in Milwaukee and Finland, and so this compound showed off his Scandinavian heritage, which we liked because it hearkened back to our trip last summer, especially the visit to Carl Larssons's home in Sundborn, Sweden.
The main house at Ten Chimneys
That evening, we wandered around Madison, enjoying the more modern architecture and rather modest looking town surrounding the impressive capitol building.  This picture of the capitol also shows a vegetable/herb garden that's on the capitol property.

Our final stop in Wisconsin, on the third day of our tour, was Taliesin in Spring Green.  This was actually my second visit to Frank Lloyd Wright's home that he built in the early 1900's, but I was happy to go again so my mom could see it.  I didn't take as many pictures as I took 4 years ago, but I still enjoyed the experience and was glad to see a few more rooms than my last visit, which had been under restoration until just recently.

Here are a few views from the "top of the hill" at Taliesin:

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Seattle Trip

Back in May, a high school friend was getting married in Seattle, and I took it as a great opportunity to go and visit my cousin, who moved to Seattle 5 years ago, after living in Connecticut for a few years (with me!).  I was there for ~6 days and really had a lucky streak with the weather - sunshine up until the last day and a half.
            A few blog-worthy highlights of the trip were the visit to the Japanese Garden that my cousin took me to, first thing when I got off of the plane.  It was a really peaceful little place for us to catch up on the last 5 years (more or less, really less, but still) and a few good photo ops as well.
            My cousin lives in Edmonds, which is just a little north of Seattle proper.  A few other outings we did while I was staying with her included a trip to see the locks in Ballard, a drive out to Snoqualmie Falls, and a tour of the Red Hook Brewery.
            The second half of the visit was in downtown Seattle, to see my friend Josh get married at the Four Seasons hotel (swanky swanky!).  The day after the wedding, there was a post-wedding brunch cruise that went in and out of Pier 56.  By this point, the weather was turning on us a little bit, but we still had nice enough weather to enjoy the views of Seattle and the surrounding islands/peninsulas for a few pictures.
           My boyfriend was enjoying all of this touristy sight-seeing a little too much, though, so I had to remind him what we're really here for: research.  Had to get to the Seattle Public Library, REM central! So we hiked (yes, hiked up 60 degree hills or so) a few blocks northeast from our hotel (it looked like a very quick walk on a map, but turned out to be harder than a few miles in Chicago, I think), to get to the glass monstrosity.

Ray spent much of the visit in the library saying how crazy and unnecessary it all seemed, but deep down I think he did appreciate its grandeur, and that, at the same time, it felt not a bit stuffy or heavy-handed, really.

Monday was our dreary day, but after going to the Klondike Gold Rush Museum (Ray's choice) we headed back to Seattle Center.  We had done a quick trip up the Space Needle on our way into town two days before, but decided to go back because on that very Monday, the new Dale Chihuly museum was opening right at the base of the needle.  So we were two of the first-iest visitors to the museum.  I'm not a huuuuge fan, but I have to say some of the pieces were very impressive, and the best thing about the museum, I thought, was that most of it was black walls, which meant that the pictures I took came out pretty well, looking more professional than most I take, and also making it seem more like we were alone in the museum.

We also made a quick stop into the Experience Music Project before heading back to the airport.  This is the first Gehry building I ever went into, back in 2002, the last time I visited my cousin in Seattle (she was a senior at UW at the time).  My first Gehry, whatever significance that has, I guess!

Monday, July 2, 2012


In less than a week, I'm heading off to sunny(?) Berlin for a 5 week study program with UIC.  There's about 22 of us students going from the School of Architecture, most of whom are undergraduates.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to be the oldest student in the group, but I'm getting used to that, I guess!

Anyway, since I've been working this evening on my historical assignment in preparation for the trip, and putting it up on the studioBERLIN blog, I thought I'd share it with you (you all?).  Check out what my classmates and I are up to over the next 5 or so weeks.