Wonder Wednesday

Here’s a wonderful take on the Exquisite Corpse art exercise, done through dance!

I love the wordplay in the title too, taking a twist to the french to return aliveness to the name.  Very cool!

(Exquisite Corpse is a group art piece where one person begins a piece of art, and exposes but a sliver to the next artist who adds to it, who then also covers up most of their work for the next artist to add to it in turn.  Want more?  The Art Assignment has a great video about it that — as you might guess from the name — includes an assignment for you to take on:

Give it a try!)

 

Architecture Monday

Like petals unfurling, this cancer support centre pinwheels and juts outwards from its central core to create an assembly of sculptural forms.  Nestled between old and new, it creates its own rhythm that befits its special role in the caregiving continuum.

Besides the curvy shapes, it is the manipulation of brick that first catches the eye, with its plays of protrusion, triangular inlays, and segments of strikingly white brick.  The brick also speaks to the original art nouveau-style buildings bordering the site, tying the two together in its playful manner.  The building also sports a couple of leaf-shaped gardens, festooned with equally-leaf-like metal trellises.

Inside, the complex and interlocking geometries continue in the vertical direction as well.  Light filled and with views out towards the surrounding gardens, the vibrant rooms are abuzz.  Rooms and levels interconnect, heightening the sense of support and community.  Grounded with plenty of wood and soft materials, it’s exciting while remaining affirming and without going too far to become flippant.

Splendid work.  A lovely space during difficult times, it sets aside any gloom to provide respite and verve.

The Kálida Sant Pau Centre by Miralles Tagliabue EMBT

Philosophy Tuesday

Einstein is reported to have been very much enamoured with compound interest.  While it is unlikely that he – despite the memes floating around – ever proffered any highly quotable declaration on the subject, compound interest is quite a potent thing.  When the growth of something builds upon its previous growth, which then builds further upon that growth in turn, the results pile on real fast.

So it goes not only in the world of finance and savings accounts but also when it comes to all realms of self-cultivation, and in several ways.  For starters, as we develop our mindfulness and work to create clearings from old (and usually unintended) patterns, views, and straightjacketed ways of being, it becomes easier to do more of the same.  With less crud in the way we move more quickly, discover insights more quickly, and develop ourselves more quickly, further compounding our skills in mindfulness and in the arts of living and being in the world.

Even greater are the specific, measurable, as lived results that, as we create those clearings and unleash our agency, power, freedom, self-expression, and peace of mind, naturally show up in our lives.  All those things that we want build up on themselves, creating a compounding train of ever greater results and ever more of what we want.  And when something goes awry – for that is inevitable – we’ve got both the mental/spiritual clarity as well as a nice foundation upon which to remain mindful and thus able to deal with it with proper equanimity and while never denying our humanity.

And humanity is the pinnacle of this compounding greatness.  For just as easily as we can see how the positives in our lives can and do compound, we can easily recognize, get present to, and be willing to confront that negatives can also do the same.  A bad break here can all to readily lead to further bad breaks and downward spirals.  It may have happened in our lives, it may be happening now, but even more than that, it can happen to any of us.  And with that realization we can forestall our judgement about ourselves and, especially, about others.  When we see people down on their luck or struggling or acting out of sorts, who knows what paths were compounded from years ago?  Who knows their starting place?  Who knows what compounded itself downward?  And the same goes in the other direction too.  A single break or a position of privilege quickly pushes these two realms apart.  Neither our nor any one else’s position on the economic/social/etc ladder is ever a pure reflection of either morality or worthiness.

With this in mind we get to synthesize and compound all of the above, taking agency and working on self-cultivation to build ourselves and our lives (and the lives of those around us) while never losing sight that chance and happenstance is never far away, influencing outcomes and ready to put a thumb on the scale.

When we look at our designs for ourselves and the world and when we look at what we want to create and leave behind, we can ask “what do I want to compound?” and go from there.

Philosophy Tuesday

At the yell of “Go!” we pulled the Trojan Horse beyond the gates of Troy.

Ok, natch, it wasn’t the actual Trojan horse, nor were we anywhere near Troy.  We were standing on dusty ground at Burning Man, but there was a horse, and a big one at that.  Five stories tall, made of wood and nails and paint and weighing in at some 40,000 lbs.  It was something.  And we were about to pull it.  Hundreds of us, spread out over six ropes affixed to its base, with me an orange robed figure melding within the crowd.

In my mind, I knew how this was going to go:  we would begin pulling, the horse might rock a bit, then it would begin moving, slowly at first, gradually picking up steam as we struggled and pulled with all our might against its weight and the wheels sinking into the sandy playa.  I readied myself.  The signal was given.  I gripped the rope and… Just walked.  Like nothing was there.  I looked back – had something gone wrong?  Nope.  The horse was following us, as easily as a toy being pulled on a string.  What?

Turns out when you have hundreds of people, the load divides out to be individually a pretty small number.  As soon as we pulled the horse leapt forward with no hesitation and no ramp up in speed.  We were generating thousands upon thousands of pounds of force.  Collectively, we were mighty.

Ain’t that the truth?  In that moment it certainly became viscerally clear for me in a way that it hadn’t been before.  Our greatest strength as a species is our capacity for collaboration.  When we (whether willingly or unwittingly) align our actions, we produce immense results.

Again, ain’t that the truth?  We can see it all around us.  In so many ways.  And inside of that, the phrase and the thought of “what I do doesn’t matter or won’t make a difference” immediately loses its air of veracity.  Because it’s almost never just a single “I” that’s acting there.  It is countless “I”s acting in inadvertent unison, producing an equally inadvertently outsized result.  And this goes for many things, be it voting, or stewardship, or ‘norms’, or how we respond to challenges and adversities, and on and on all the way down to include how we treat each other when we go to the store.

“It’s just me” is often an illusion.  It’s a thousand me’s, a thousand us’, a collective of “I”s that together, through action or inaction can wreck and cause harm, but with a little intention and engagement can also move mountains.

(And giant horses too.)

photo source by Scott London

Wonder Wednesday

When you can’t go to the symphony… And the symphony can’t come to you… And the symphony can’t even get together… the music still can bring us all together.

Here’s the Rotterdam Philharmonic playing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, playing their respective parts from home:

And, not to be outdone, here is the Toronto Symphony Orchestra doing the same, with Copland’s Appalachian Spring:

And here is Toronto opera singer Teiya Kashara belting out operatic amazingness from her balcony near the shore:

Thank you everyone for all the beauty you create and share with the world.

Architecture Monday

A glorious example of adaptive reuse tonight, in the form of a project that sports an equally epic name:  Godsbanen.  A former railway goods station it is now a full-blown cultural centre, with several theatres, galleries, night clubs, along with a number of art workshops and rentable spaces for creative business startups.

In its transformation the building keeps both its rugged heritage as well as its Neo-Baroque forebuilding, presenting several faces to the city.  Forming a giant U, that elaborate forebuilding and the adjoining warehouses were both preserved, while a new and rather fanciful addition nestles within the base of the U.  Appearing as a series of angular forms and ramps, this new bit houses the main theatres and all the connective tissue, such as the lobby, café, and a courtyard.  A courtyard that connects to the roofs, allowing full access up and along those angular ramps, doing triple duty as a lookout, seating, and another venue for performances.

Inside, the addition the muscular facets of the addition’s angular forms create dynamic and interconnecting spaces that are further punctuated by overhead oculi.  Meanwhile the amazing curved wooden structure of the original warehouses continue to march in succession into the distance along with the equally amazing continual light monitor.  Galleries and workshops are enclosed within slightly sculptural insertions into the existing space.

Exiting Maps – the glorious gift for us who want to see a floor plan…

I totally love it.  From the luscious and aged red brick to the rough concrete wedges, from the massive wood supports to the slick gallery walls, all wrapped up in a great play of light and form and shadow.  Not to mention the diverse nature of the cultural centre itself, and the vibrant heart it gets to play for an entire area that will soon include a School of Architecture.  It’s a fabulous example of repurposing something existing to create something even more amazing, taking the time, energy, detail, and beauty of the past and enhancing it through something equally detailed and beautifully thought out and crafted.  Great stuff!

Godsbanen by 3XN Architects.

Architecture Monday

One of the buildings I was really excited to see on the trip was the Fantoft Stave Church, south of Bergen in Norway.  A re-creation of a church from the 1150s (the original had been moved then damaged by arson (!)), it is representative of an old style of simple local churches constructed using large ore-pine posts.  Far from grand cathedrals, they were more intimately created by the local communities, humble yet still imbued with a sense of craft and care.  What also really caught my attention was their delightful complexity of form, with multiple roofs, an exterior arcade, and the swath of structural members within.

The building did not disappoint.  It’s not a large church, with maybe seating for 24 people, but it exudes presence.  The dark monotone exterior strikes a strong silhouette, contrasting nicely with the surrounding greenery as well as the sky, especially with the prominent and wicked abstract dragon heads that jut from the ridges.

Inside, the unfinished and bright wood surfaces are a surprise.  The solidity of the main support posts heighten the verticality of the space, and many nice details abound, including curved trusses, carved cross-braces, and more.

And I had to include this picture I found online, for it looks especially stunning in the fall!

Really great work, I loved it’s intimate yet grand feel, and it’s a great example of local work using humble materials all designed to a high degree to create something beautiful, personal, and meaningful.

(It’s also the site of my funniest accident of the trip… I was stepping back to take a picture, figuring I would lean up against the fence behind me.  Except I failed to notice that the fence was not on the plinth upon which the church sits, but about a foot back, meaning there was a gap and drop off there.  And so down into that gap did my foot go, and down between the fence and the plinth did I fall.  Amusingly, the gap was narrow enough that my body had to squeeze between the fence and the plinth on its gravity-induced travel, which means I fell, completely horizontal, at a relatively slow speed for what felt like a long time (as my brain tried to make sense of what was going on) before being deposited quite gently onto the ground.  I laughed so hard, and nothing was injured except my pride.)

If you’re ever in Bergen, I heartily recommend checking it out.  The Fantoft Stave Church by architects unknown.

Architecture Monday

Wrapping up the city hall tours we end in Aarhus, for a building that is both quite different and yet fully within the same spirit of the others.

Without a doubt the outside is quite different with an austere presentation to the world.  Rectangular, punched windows, and covered in a rigid grid of grey marble.  And punctuated by the clocktower that looks to all the world like a thick chimney wrapped in scaffolding (which, interestingly, was not part of the original design but added when the townsfolk discovered there were no plans for a clocktower, which didn’t fit their idea(l) of a city hall).  Opened in 1941, it fits its time with the rise of early modernism.  Yet it is not without flourishes, including the heavy use of copper (such as for the lightly pitched roof) and a complex interplay of forms at the entrance.

Inside things really take off.  The great hall is indeed great, a four-story high space ringed with delicate and curving balconies (each housing more gathering rooms), a roof of shell-like vaults each ringed with windows, and all culminating at a giant window wall that looks out over the town.  Wrapped in rich and warm wood and with a herringbone wood floor and plenty of hanging lanterns, it’s an exhilarating space to be in.  I admit, I was not expecting this at all, both in that I didn’t really know it was there and didn’t expect such a wonderful feeling space.  It’s great.  (Stand in it by clicking here.)

What really makes the building is a plethora of lovely details, from the grand mural in the entryway (which is on the back side of the council chambers that hover over the entrance, presenting democracy towards the town), to the amazing wood floor and curving staircase, to the artistically crafted doors, and to the long and linear administrative wing, with its atrium down the middle allowing light from the equally linear skylight above to flow in.  (Very reminiscent, BTW, of the Marin County Civic Centre, which makes me wonder if Frank Lloyd Wright was influenced by it.)

No pipe organ here, but the piece de resistance here was the elevator core.  That sounds… bizarre, but just check out the design of each car, with their niches for the entrance window, signs, and the custom and deco call button panel, not to mention the careful crafting of the wood scrim that envelops it all.

Another great civic centre.  It was the last we visited, but certainly not the least.

The Aarhus Rådhus by Arne Jacobsen and Erik Møller.

Architecture Monday

We continue our tour of the Scandinavian city halls by heading over to Denmark tonight, landing ourselves before the Copenhagen City hall.  In some ways this one is a precursor to the others, being the first to be completed, inaugurated in 1905.

Also adorned in the ubiquitous (and lovely) red brick, the exterior here leans much heavier into the National Romantic style, with plenty of articulation and ornamentation.  A generous courtyard stands in the middle, and the clock tower remains one of the highest points near the downtown area.

As with the others the heart of the building, and the first thing you encounter upon entering, is the equally generous indoor hall.  While no pipe organ hides within (alas!), the amazing glass roof more than makes up for it.  The massing and composition of this indoor courtyard is exquisite – it’s a plethora of things (Arches! Gilded bas reliefs! Balconies! Friezes! Sculptural banding! Moldings! White stone! Red brick! Ornate columns!  Glass!) yet it doesn’t feel like a hodgepodge vomit of disparate parts.  Through careful proportion, well defined datum lines, and enough use of “white space” it instead becomes a delightful concoction.   (Click here to stand in the middle of it.)

Again, we didn’t take a tour so we only saw the more public areas of the building, but who needs a tour when you get such amazing artwork integrated throughout!   (I especially love the book-like vaulted ceiling…)

Another excellent and vibrant city centre.  Good stuff.  The Copenhagen City Hall by Martin Nyrop.

Architecture Monday

Let’s slide over to Norway and check out another grand city hall (and location for the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony and banquet), the Oslo Rådhuset.

Much like the one in Stockholm (and likely/clearly influenced by it – one of the judges of the Oslo city hall competition was the architect for the Stockholm city hall), the building is nifty mix of art-nouveau expressive sculptural elements adorning the crisper lines of brick functionalism.  Coming in, the two towers and arcades reach out to welcome you as you come up to the main façade, dotted with flourishes including sculpture, ornamental molding, patterns in the brick, and a very nifty astronomical clock.

Besides possessing large clerestory windows to admit light from above, the main hall inside takes a very different tack than the one at the Stockholm city hall.  From wall to wall to wall it’s covered in colourful and very cool paintings that depict the history of Oslo and its people.  And, of course, there’s a grand staircase for grand entrances during the Nobel ceremonies.   (For the 360~ view, click here)

And best of all, yes, a there is a pipe organ here too!

We didn’t take a tour this time, so we didn’t see into any of the other halls, meeting rooms, or the council chambers, alas.  Nevertheless, it is a mighty fine and unique design that makes for a great civic centre for the city.

The Oslo City Hall by Arnstein Arneberg and Magnus Poulsson.