20 August 2007

Documenta 12 & Munster Sculpture Project 2007

With a few friends from the Berlage made a quick visit to two German cities - Kassel and Münster - to see what is considered two of the most important art exhibitions in the world.
The Documenta 12 in Kassel and the 7th Munster Sculpture Project in close by Münster.

First was Documenta (This exhibition is seen as the world‘s most important exhibition of modern and contemporary art which takes place every five years in Kassel, Germany)

All the main halls of this city wide exhibition are well within walking distance of each other (all around a square pictured below);

the day we chose most of these halls were quite full of enthusiastic art lovers from all over the world, but sadly I felt the art was nothing great. A few works here and there caught ones eyes, most of the stuff seemed quite old - ofcourse some of it was intentional, though I doubt this was the case with all of it.

Among the artist was Atul Dodiya from India, with his works titled 'Antler’s Anthology', done in watercolor, charcoal and marble dust on paper. He reproduced the texts of well-known contemporary Gujarati poems in the body of his 12 paintings. I have to say that I didn't quiet get it and therefore didn't like it much.

However, from Kassel we made a quick stop at close by Münster where the city was full of people walking and biking in huge groups almost running from one spot to another, trying to find every piece of Sculpture of all shapes and sizes placed all over the tiny city.
Every ten years coniciding with every second Documenta at Kassel the city of Münster undertakes the Skulptur Projekte Münster, which is an exhibition of sculptures in public places in the town, the exhibition shows artworks for free in different places all over the town, thereby confronting art with public places.
Myself in Münster at the Prinzipalmarkt with St Lambert's church.
This event was a lot more satisfying than the one at Kassel, and with relatively a lot more interesting works of art. (Above a picture from the Botanical garden of the city - where there were some works exhibited)


And this one, which seems almost an archaeological site was my favorite of the two grand exhibitions.

14 August 2007

Three weeks tour of Russia and parts of Scandinavia

Just back from a three week – marathon trip of four cities over three countries with my Parents, Sister, Uncle, Aunt and Cousins (9 of us). From Amsterdam I flew to Moscow to unite with them and on the same day we caught a train to Saint Petersburg to reach there by late evening. Spend two days in this grand city and then caught another train to Helsinki.

After half a day of sightseeing in the Finnish capital we boarded a cruise to Stockholm. Early next morning we landed in this beautiful archipelago city where we spend one and a half days before it was time to get back on the Cruise to where we came from – Helsinki. Sadly was only able to spend yet another half day at Helsinki exploring some great architecture by the Finnish master – Alvar Aalto – before I had to get on my last long trip - a train journey to Moscow.

After all that adrenalin from travelling soo much... seeing many great museums, churches and a bit too many palaces, I needed to slow down two gears and catch my breath before I could soak in this might city. But finally I had the time to do that and in fact more. I had more than two weeks to see it all in the only city in the world that has ever really challenged New York to the title - ‘Citiest city of all’!

Besides being a freak of Architecture, Art and Nature and as you might have guessed travelling, it’s next to impossible for me not to record every interesting thing I see. My desire to click photos (millions of them) is almost pathological now. And almost nobody I know has thanked the inventors of digital cameras as much as me : )

It would therefore be a mammoth task for me to try and blog all the significant stuff I have seen on this trip. So I shall only blog the most amazing, dearest or inspiring of all and as for the rest I will resort to the easiest way out – online photo albums. Anyways as the old saying goes “Pictures speak a thousand words”.

So here I start city by city –

Saint Petersburg, Russia

The highlight of St. Petersburg for me was the late night boat ride thru the canals and the Neva River; though I had been on similar rides in cities none of them quiet have the scale and grandness of this most European city of Russia.

However, despite this fact I prefer Venice and Amsterdam – two cities which actually were the inspiration for Peter the great to design this city which would become his new capital.

Besides the boat ride there is the never ending Hermitage Museum (which houses one of the world's largest and richest collections of Western European art),
Many interesting Cathedrals and even more Palaces – the most spectacular of which is Peter the greats’ own palace - Peterhof – with the fabulous Grand Cascade and Samson Fountain facing the Gulf of Finland.

Photos from Saint Petersburg

Helsinki, Finland

Two days in Helsinki is surely not enough if you want to soak in all the great architecture here! The city hosts some of the best known works of the architectural legend from Finland – Alvar Aalto – which itself will consume more than that much time. But while in Helsinki besides an ambitious plan to see all of Aalto’s key projects within the city I also wanted to see some contemporary projects. And high on this second list was the Museum of Contemporary Arts designed by Steven Holl – the reason being a simple nostalgic one - for early in my second year of Architectural education back in Mumbai (along with a few of my classmates) I was given the task of building a physical model of this project to study how the design/materials and colours of building where effecting it’s internal light quality, I just had to see how close I was to the real experience. Here are some comparative photos of my model and the ‘real thing’.
Quiet close right! : )

As for my Alvar Aalto tour – to my bad luck the day I had allotted to a major chuck of his work happened to be a Monday (unfortunately the one day of the week that most of his projects now turned museums are closed). But nonetheless I got some nice views from the outside. Here’s one image each per project –

His own house

His Studio

However, I was a lot luckier with his auditoriums – I managed a decent guided tour of

the Finlandia Hall


and a lucky tour on my own of the House of Culture.

I have added many more images of these and other projects by Aalto, along with other photos from the city in the web album embedded below.

Photos from Helsinki

13 August 2007

Stockholm, Sweden

Skansen, Stockholm

While on a very short trip to Stockholm with my family we went to see Skansen - the oldest open-air museum in the world. Skansen is also a zoological park. It is located on the island of Djurgarden very close to the city centre. Above is an overall map of the Museum courtesy their website - http://www.skansen.se/
The Skansen has a very interesting mix of a recreated village and a highly specialized zoo. The zoo focuses on only animals/birds found in Scandinavia species that I might never get to see in the wild.

Above a snap from the Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) enclosure.


The other great thing about Skansen is the beautiful views it offers of the city and it's surrounding harbour.



View Larger Map
The above Google map shows the outline of Skansen. You can zoom in to see the park better.

Aquaria @ Stockholm

Also managed to seek in Aquaria while in Stockholm. Though this Aquarium is very small and occupies a very cramped location next to the harbour while on your way back to the city centre from Skansen I have to say that it's the best small Aquarium I have seen yet.
I have seen quite a few Aquariums of similar size (especially in India) and none have such an interesting design layout or ambition.
Check out the above design layout courtesy their website - http://www.aquaria.se/

As one walks thru this tiny Aquarium you see many different habitats.
Starting it a small Rainforest section (with down pours every 15 minutes) all with an nice pond full of tropical fish, tree frogs and also a couple of species of waterbirds.
Next up, a section on the importance of Mangroves, followed by a Marine tank with an artificial coral reef (not pictured). The last indoor section is called the Nordic Waters and is dedicated to local fish life.
And just when you think you're done with it all and you step outside on a nice deck facing the bay you see (what according to me is the best part of the Aquaria) the Fish Ladder.

Over the past years the Aquarium has incubated, raised and successfully released large nos. of Sea Trout. A fish that is know to fight all odds and climb back upstream along small channels of water to go back to it's birth place to lay eggs.And amazingly some of the fish raised here have returned years later to do exactly that.

I think that is a great achievement - to release these fish into the open bay and seas beyond and to see them come back. Here a view of the bay and the city across it (the fish ladder is to the left of the snap connecting the Nordic waters section to the open bay thru a series of small but steep steps of waterfall)

Photos from Stockholm

Moscow, Russia

Moscow Zoo

While in Moscow I magaed to make a trip to the Zoo, here's some snaps from the Moscow Zoo - the largest and oldest zoo in Russia.It was founded in 1864.
I have to say that I am quiet fond of how old zoo's like this one house animals from different parts of the world in enclosures which generally tend to use different vernacular styles of architecture to emphasize the animals exoticism.

This is the main duck pond in the centre of the zoo.


This is a small enclosure for a species of monkey.

The Orangutan enclosure with one the city famous Seven Sister buildings in the background.
This photo was taken from the bridge that connects the two parts of the zoo.

One more snap of the Seven Sister building as seen from inside the zoo. The view reminded me of walking inside New York's Central Park and looking at the city's sky-scrapers towering above the park's beautiful trees.



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The above Google map shows the Moscow Zoo. You can zoom in to see the park better.

Photos from Moscow

A Google map tracing my travels across the globe


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