23 April 2009

Cityscape Abu Dhabi

Went to see the Cityscape exhibition in Abu Dhabi today at Capital centre exhibition centre (above is a rendering of the new capital centre that is being built).
As compared to the last cityscape I had attended a year back in Dubai this was mellow!
That however doesn't mean that the projects have become any more reasonable - they are all equally crazy. Only difference is that instead of it all being built in Dubai, most of the outrageous ones at this exhibition were proposed for Abu Dhabi.
Here's some images from the exhibition:
Reem island project
A building with a cut out in the shape of an Arab figure, somewhere on the Reem Island.
Check these posters for another project called 'The Land'
I really like this one! The kids running out to an autumn landscape in Abu Dhabi..

ALDAR Headquarters at Al Raha Beach is almost complete already (photo left) but the rest of project is yet to start constructionHere's another image of the same development

This is the stall of Atkins - a UK architectural firm that has a huge presence in UAE. In fact they have designed most of the iconic buildings in Dubai including the Burj Al Arab.

Some sort of financial or judicial centre in Abu Dhabi

'One day all cities will be built like this' - at least that's what Masdar hopes.
Here's a model of the world's first carbon-zero city!
A claim that has already been refuted by some experts -I guess we will just have to wait and see.
And here's a few images of the Formula One racetrack and a Ferrari-themed amusement park that are being built quiet close to the site of the Masdar city.
Here's a detail model of the Ferrari themepark.
This project is well underway and some parts of it will open later this year when it will host the country's first Formula One race in Nov.
One of the big New projects to be announced at this year's cityscape was:
Abu Dhabi’s Urban Planning Council's - Capital City District - a project for a new and proper administrative capital for the country. Sadly, like most master plans on display here this one too lacks any sort of vision. Even monumentality (which can easily be argued for this project) is reduced to a few big boulevards with some shabby towers leading to an oversized roundabout. Very disappointing indeed!

Here's a project on another one of Abu Dhabi's island developments, this one is for Lulu island.
Another model of Al Raha beach development.

Below are a few projects from other cities in the region -
As you might have imagined Dubai based projects were mostly absent here.
The few that did make an appearance here didn't even have any new material to show.
For eg. this 'Falcon city of wonders' model has been making its way to different exhibitions for more than a year now, nothing of this stall has changed.
But the falcons still seems to work at getting a few people interested in this stall!
Ras al Khaimah
A project by RAK builders for a resort based development along the emirates coast
I like how the renderings of 'The Pearl' in Doha was displayed!
I'm not sure what this is - all I know is that it's in Doha.
This is the Doha Tower and Convention Center designed by Murphy/Jahn architects . Once completed it will be the tallest building in Qatar.
The 'Durrat Al Bahrain' project is Bahrain's palm island - but much bigger!
This hideous building that could easily be mistaken for one of the seven sisters in Moscow is a new hotel that sits bang next to the holy Masjid al Haram in Mecca. This was one of the few projects that seems to have become a success in this difficult time for the real-estate market.
And lastly here a photo of a stall that I really sympathize with
Clearly these guys are a bit too late for the party!
If you want to read more check this review of the exhibition -

15 April 2009

Adeus Portugal...

So Finally I have everything sorted out and I’ll be leaving Portugal today. This was a great trip!.. The people… the food .. the music and yes the architecture has all been beyond everything I expected. Hopefully I’ll be back soon for more of this beautiful country!

I will end by series of Portugal posts with a few images from the famous Casa Pasteis de Belém in Belém. I know it’s probably the most cliché thing to do when you visit Belém – but it surely isn’t soo popular for nothing!

Casa Pastéis de Belém was the first place outside the convent selling the famous creamy custard tart known generally as Pastel de Nata. Here they are called Pastéis de Belém, after the name of the area. It is believed that it was created before the 18th century by Catholic Monks at the Jerónimos Monastery.

Since 1837, locals have gone there to get them warm out of the oven and sprinkled with the cinnamon and powdered sugar. These are very popular and sometimes tourists have to wait for hours for them. The first time I walked past the café there was a really long line streching out on the sidewalk outside, but when I eventually went late in the evening I could straightway walk in.
Muito obrigado Portugal!!!

13 April 2009

Arouca, Portugal

With a few more days in Portugal I decided to go back to Porto and spend some more time with Paulo. While there we made a trip to meet his parents, who live in the small town of Arouca.

On the way to Arouca Paulo took a small diversion thru Santa Maria da Feira to show me the Vila da Feira Municipal Market designed by Fernando Távora.

This is one of the key works for the revision of the modern movement in the CIAM, forcing a change on the key focus in architecture. Távora's architecture springs from his questioning of modernity, he sought to integrate local and traditional values and this was a key project for him in this quest.
This is also one of the first projects where Alvaro Siza is involved in. Though he was only a young architect in Távora's office he was quiet involved in this building and was solely responsible for certain aspects of it – the most clearly visible of these are the colourful mosaics he designed in the flooring which were used as signage for the various wings of the market.
Now to Arouca - it is a beautiful little town set in a stunning landscape; surround by mountains which in this season is mostly covered in flowers.
(Click on the photo to enlarge it)
The town is a popular destination for Portuguese tourist because of its famous Monastery. In fact the history of Arouca is directly connected to the history of its Monastery.
It was around the Monastery that for many centuries the people from Arouca worked, lived, prayed and enjoyed their free time.
Arouca is also famous for its sweets and pastry, with a big conventual influence. In fact, made by the nuns of the Arouca Convent, the sweets were considered to be the great highlight of the Convent.
But the one thing I was most looking forward to seeing here was this small private house. It was designed by my friend Paulo and though it’s his first project it’s amazingly well designed!
Another interesting thing I saw here is the traditional espigueiros which are basically grain storage containers raised on pilotis with round caps to keep rats at bay.
These espigueiros are apparently still widely used across most of northern Portugal.

12 April 2009

Contemporary architecture in Lisbon

Like I said earlier the main aim of my visit to Lisbon was to see its historic areas for which I barely had time; but due to an unfortunate event I've had to prolong my stay here and thus eventually ended up having enough time to check a few contemporary projects as well. Here are a few of the projects I saw:

Firstly the housing project Terraços de Bragança by Alvaro Siza
There is a great sense of responsibility of the architect to maintain a certain dialogue with the existing buildings and it results in a building that is at the same time very modern but with a lot of local inspirations and elements. The main façades are covered with stone Lioz and the blue tiles, traditional of Portugal.
And here’s one more project in the heart of Lisbon designed by Siza. The Baixa-Chiado Metro station links the blue as well as the green line of the Metro system in Lisbon and is one of the most important transfer stations.
Next series of photos are of the two museums run by the Calouste Gulbenkian foundation and its beautiful gardens. The Gulbenkian Museum in my opinion is one of the great museums in Europe, and houses a magnificent collection of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Islamic, Asian, and European art.
But is not just the collection here that is great - the architecture of the museum is equally good!

The Modern Art Center (photo below), containing modern and contemporary Portuguese art is housed with the same grounds.
And if those two museums weren't good enough, wait till you check out the lovely serene gardens!I was told that this is 'the best modern garden in Portugal'; I haven't seen much of Portugal but I can say this - it is highly unlikely that there would be one better than this.
While visiting Lisbon even if you ran out of time to see these museums - DON'T miss this garden!
Next is a much celebrated project by the upcoming Portuguese architects – Aires Mateus
This is the rectory of Universidade Nova de Lisboa

Next is a project by Indian architect - Raj Rewal
This the Ismaili centre in Lisbon is probably the most significant building designed by an Indian architect in Europe.

It houses some cultural/religious facilities for the Aga Khan community and relies a lot on borrowing from an Islamic tradition of art/architecture & landscape.
Next - The Cultural Centre of Belém (CCB), located in the Belém quarter of Lisbon, is the largest building with cultural facilities in Portugal and is the work of architects Vittorio Gregotti and Manuel Salgado.
The rest of the projects are from Parque das Nacoes, originally the site of the Expo'98.

Starting with the geometric marvel of the Oriente station by Santiago Calatrava
Below is a view from the cable car above the park - in the distance the white mast shaped building is the Vasco da Gama tower (Lisbon's tallest building) and to the right the Vasco da Gama bridge (Europe's longest at 17kms)
Next is the pavilion that was the centrepiece of the Expo’98 – the Portuguese Pavilion designed by none other than Alvaro Siza.
This is probably his most recognized masterpiece, both for the tension he manages to create between a necessary, desired and difficult monumentality, and the delicate articulation - with the program and the location - both for daring of the solution and its intensive effect of a representative image symbol.
And the last project is this entry is The Pavilion of Knowledge – another masterpiece of architecture – designed by João Luís Carrilho da Graça .
Here the horizontal block of the pavilion is virtually suspended allowing the continuity of the public area between the broad walk and the dock.
The access patio is square. It rises up to the entrance by a ramp which accompanies the periphery of the square.

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