04 June 2010

On a high

Once I was done with the MoMA I realized that I have just about enough time to make one more stop before I had to dash back to the airport. I headed west to the meat-packing district to see yet another garden, a completely different sort of urban garden.
Like with any other cultural product (art, literature, architecture etc.) landscape too is a constantly changing field and with time it is possible to identify one exemplary example - which best expresses - the aspirations of an era.In a lot of ways the High-line park designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DSRNY) is 'the perfect garden' of our times!
It quiet literally is a path breaking project at multiple levels :-)
The design was the winner of an open competition that contemplated how the abandon elevated railway line running thru the meat packing district could be reused to benefit NYC. DSRNY designed the entire length of the High-line as a series of simple landscapes strips that bring back the joy of walking thru wild flowers to the heart of Manhattan.
The garden weaves it's way between/thru and above a series of buildings creating pockets for different programmes but above all creates an opportunity for new yorkers to de-congest.This is one of those amazing and rare projects which has be meticulously detailed yet it doesn't lose focus of the larger picture.
It really makes me wonder why every urban walkway couldn't be like this? Imagine the monstrous sky-walks being built around the world (like THIS one in Mumbai) were treated with this sort of passion, overgrown with greenery waiting for the garden lizards and butterflies to recapture their cities wouldn't that be amazing!?!
While I stroll on the high-line pondering about all this a rude alarm on my phone reminds me of my flight back to India!Thanks Nini for showing me your favorite garden - I think it mine too now..
Till soon - ciao New York!

A special void in NYC

Between flights earlier today I had just about enough time to see one or two things in this most amazing of cities.

Left my stuff at the left luggage at JFK and dashed to my first stop. Given the amazing weather in the city, I was in no mood to spend my precious few hours indoors.I headed to the quintessential urban garden - the sculpture garden at the MoMA - a tiny landscaped oasis bang in the middle of what may easily be the densest sq km ever built by man.
Quiet strangely I hadn't explored this space properly on my previous visits to this amazing museum.
Very much in spirit with the architecture of the museum the garden too is elegantly laid out using a minimal language where the art work stands it's ground.
Since I was already here I also went for a quick round of the museum - revisiting some of my favorite paintings .. here a few images of those works and the great museum ...

01 June 2010

Ciao Dominicanos!

Earlier today I went to see a huge super luxurious gated community of Casa de Campo near the city of La Romana some 210 kms from Canto Domingo.

The drive there like most others leading out of the city of Santo Domingo is amazing. This one is almost entirely along the magical Caribbean sea.
Casa de campo in a strange way reminded me of Dubai and the recent gated developments there..
With stupidly large designer villas set in the most amazing golf coursed landscape, a place where the super rich can live in hedonistic bliss cut off the worries of a troubled planet.

But this is not what I was really here to see.. I had come for an even more surreal place -
Altos de Chavón
This art school (the best in the country I've been told) was designed by Hollywood set designer Roberto Copa, back in 1982 and is modeled on a medieval European village.
The architect in me immediately wanted to dismiss this place as a fake.. another Disneyland.. But once I was able to ignore it's kitschy-ness it's actually a very interesting place which sits on an amazing site on top of the cliff with a spectacular view of the Chavón river.
And when i think of it a bit deeper the architect was given quiet a challenging task of creating a place (in what was then possibly a middle of nowhere) which could inspire the artists of tomorrow. There's actually only two ways to approach this sort of design brief either you built something completely new (which comes at a risk of possibly also making a huge blunder) or you go for a safer bet and bow down to the weight of history and surrender to what has worked in the past. (actually this is not completely true as there is no architecture that doesn't have a past - even the most radical design have there genesis in earlier ideas or existing structures) The only real criticism of Altos de Chavón I have is why does have to mimic the medieval European village here in the beautiful tropics soo faithfully? Could it not have been adapted much more to the cultural and geographic landscape of the Dominican republic?
The only real criticism of Altos de Chavón I have is why does have to mimic the medieval European village here in the beautiful tropics soo faithfully? Could it not have been adapted much more to the cultural and geographic landscape of the Dominican republic?
While we drove back I wondered if it was the architect or the client who lacked the ability or will to think beyond the cliche of an artist settlement as a romantic idea?
We were coming to end of yet another exciting day and even though I had hardly been here a few days it is was easy for me to guess that we were now approaching the city limits of Santo Domingo from the rising frequency of love hotels that lined the highway.
These hotels are actually motels which can be rented out on hourly basis by space crunched young couples from the city or as it seems more often by married people having affairs as alternate spaces for love making. In some cases you can even drive your car into a closed garage which also is the only access to the motel room, further you could also make your room payment thru a small window in the garage door without ever making any eye contact with anyone including the motel staff hence safeguarding your privacy!

Given the space crunch in many major cities around the world like Mumbai were anywhere from 4 to 8 adult family members share a tiny room within which their entire life is played out, I wonder why these sort of hotels haven't caught up? Is it better to coordinate a coding system or timetable of who gets to use the room when and for how long that to face the social stigma of use facilities like a love hotel? Or is it too wasteful an option in terms of both money and effort?

I guess today I've asked too many questions!

Sadly my trip to this amazing little country is coming to an end. All i can do is hope I'll be back here sometime soon to once again enjoy it's amazing natural beauty and the company of some fabulous people!

If you ever thought a place is not worth visiting because it seems small on Google Earth then it quiet obvious you haven't visited this beautiful little country!

A Google map tracing my travels across the globe

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  • In Red cities where I have lived (more than one month);
  • In Blue cities with entries on this blog;and
  • In Yellow cities with no entries yet.