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Architecture

It is our last two days in Paris. I am already tearing in my heart. These three months in Paris has to be one of the most precious period in my life. This city has taught me so much… even changed my life value.

The weather in Paris for the past few days has been especially strange and moody, as if it is also sad that we are leaving it behind. But we still feel the obligation to explore, to explore the very last bit of Paris, and the very best.

With the up and down gloomy weather, we found ourselves lining up in front of the Sainte Chapelle. This humble little church, located within le Palais de Justice, erected by Louis XI, king of France.  Though little, Sainte Chapelle is the most outstanding example of the Rayonnant Style of Gothic architecture. The masonry structure of the church is reduced to the bare minimum, leaving the seemingly fragile skeleton to support 6,456 Sq ft of delicate traceried glass imbedded in all facades of the church.

Lower Chambre of Sainte Chapelle

Upper Chambre of Sainte Chapelle

We did not visit the church at the best time because they were doing renovation on the glass work on the some of the window facades. At least a quarter of the traceried worked were covered up with a gigantic ugly white box. Hence a less majestic view of the church interior. But it was still an absolutely gorgeous space – light, intricate and colorful.

Architects:  Viollet-le-Duc, Peter of Montereau

Address:  Palais de la Cité, 4 boulevard du palais

Getting There: Metro:  Cité, St-Michel, or Chatelet-Les Halles / RER: St-Michel

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I visited this brilliant work of Corbusier awhile ago, but I didn’t have time to put it up. And its my day off wednesday today, I managed to organize my pictures folder and hence another post for beautiful architecture. But you have to excuse  me for such poor quality pictures because I was smart enough to forgot about taking my camera with me when visiting such gorgeous piece.

Raoul La Roche and Albert Jeanneret were the commissioners and owners of La Maison Roche. It was constructed in 1923. La Maison Roche sparks characters that vividly demonstrate Corbusiers “five point” composition, like the long horizontal windows, free open space, and roof garden. But the difference from his other works of the time is the over lapping additional space perpendicular to one and other, creating an L shape structure as a whole, instead of the simple regular volume, like Villa Savoy. The design of the curve face is also a different approach of the house from most of his signature pieces.

 

I have to say I really really like the interior space of La Maison Roche. Knowing Corbusier’s moto for his design as “machine for living,” this machine is a very attentive one. Compare to Villa Savoye, I think that Roche is less “harsh” in many aspects. I could see how the family was living and utilizing the space just walking around the house. Like most of his work, the interior of the space is simple and clean, with the maximum attention of details.

La Maison Roche is a house consisting two parts, the first with the curvature facade is a gallery where the owner display his art collections, and a library leading from the ramp of the gallery.

 

The second part of the house, the living area for the family, can be accessed through a bridge connecting from the library above the gallery space. one side of the bridge is a huge window facade and the other looks down to the 3 storey atrium.

 

The composition between spaces is very interesting throughout the house. Most public areas were interconnect in different ways with walk ways or views to other sections. It is like a modern magic box with peeks to different areas.

This is La Maison Roche by Le Corbusier.

Writing about other people’s home made me thought of my own. We had been property hunting in London for awhile for a place to rent. There was not much luck to find our perfect dream apartment until yesterday! In the pictures, it looked like it is everything we dreamed for. My dear friend went to the viewing for us just now and we are gonna hear some real feedbacks from her in 20 min! So far her comment about the place has been pretty AWESOME. I am excited. 🙂

Cheers, for beautiful homes!

 

Holland, our last stop for this restless euro trip. This time we did not have to take an 18 hour over night train to arrive in the another spectacular city. Arriving Thursday evening and departing sunday afternoon. We got about 2 and a half day to hang out with the Dutchers. It was short, but I think we saw the very best of Holland. We had two destination for the trip, one is Amsterdam of course, and the other is Rotterdam. The initial primary reason to visit Rotterdam was because and old friend of Alex is there and she was sweet enough to share her lovely place with us, but oh Rotterdam, you excel everything I’ve expected from you…

Like Berlin, Rotterdam is one of the cities that suffered severed bombardment from the war. Until nowadays, Rotterdam is still under going reconstructions. So this is the land for building and rebuilding! How could I not be overwhelmed already not to mention some of my favorite architects are based in Rotterdam (and you know the rocking dutchitects are one the very best in the buiss).

Our day in Rotterdam was lined with all the buildings that we could see. Walking through the city non-stop, we were trying to get to all the buildings I wanted to see in the agenda but one can only walk so fast and see so much. Of course we couldn’t get to every single one of them on the list, but I was excited and lucky enough to see a lot the the famous building which I would otherwise never be able to witness but only text books and magazines. Well, say no more and lets see some blocks!

Gebouw Delftse Poortby Abe Bonnema. It is impossible to avoid seeing this complex in the area. It’s not only enormous but reflective. The complex is situated on top the underground railway of Rotterdam. Right next to it is the Rotterdam Central Stationwhich is current undergoing drastic transformation.

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. An Scandianavian inspired architecture. The major use of material of the building is brick and copper beams.

After buying my ticket, I was surprised by the Merry-Go-Around coat rack by Studio Wieki Somers!  I have read about this coat rack on all the design blog but apparently I did not pay enough attention to remember that is it here in the Museum Boijmans!  I am delighted that I did not only get to see it but experience the brilliant coat rack!

The interior of the museum is very elegant. About 40 years after the museum was very built by A. Van der SteurTwo more exhibition halls were added. So the museum was huge, consisting not only the permanent collection of fine arts and some modern works including the ones of of the master of surrealism Salvador Dali.

An amazing art studio in the museum.

NAI and the Museum Park. NAI – Netherlands Architecture Institute, by Jo Coenen, was simply my very best favorite out of all the things we went. Mainly because it was hosting an amazing exhibition right now call Making City.

The show as an archive of all major urban planning projects around the world on how to improve, transform, and recreate cities and urban life under different conditions. I felt rushed going through the exhibit because we just didn’t have enough time. I would suggest anybody who study or interested in this area, who are also currently IN Rotterdam, go visit this exhibition before it goes out. I am hoping that this show will be going on a tour so I can have the chance to go and again and spend my sweet time in there for the details.

Interior of NAI

NAI was one of the museum in the Museum Park. There are many other awesome ones of course. This Museum Park is so much more exciting to me than the one in Berlin, since it not all about history. Well, in this park, we see history through buildings.

Huis Sonneveld, by J.A. Brinkman and L.C. van der Vlugt. This house is one of the most well-preserved and best representations of Dutch modernist architecture. The architects were commissioned by Sonnevled to build a villa of modern living. It is known to be the ‘most modern’ design of the time. The Huis Sonneveld is a very classy example of the ‘Nieuwe Bouwen‘, the Dutch International School of Modernism.

Chabot Museum, is also a good example of the typical Dutch modernist style. The museum was closed when we were there but pictures of the exterior, for free!

I don’t know anything  about this house. It was in the Museum Park and I liked it.

Ok, let’s get out of the park and move on. Voila, everybody know this yea? Rotterdam’s famous Cubic House by Piet Blom.  As interesting as the original concept of the project (creating a forest by each cube representing an abstract tree) it is surprising to me that there are people actually LIKE to live in these ‘tree houses’.

Het Witte Huis, the white house of Rotterdam,  a 45 metres and 11th stories high office building, designed by W. Molenbroek, was the first skyscraper in Europe!

And the surround areas

These balls on the Rijn Harbour in Rotterdam will become the showcase and centre of expertise for the National Water Centre. Walked by it on our way to dinner.

To proved you that we did actually walke SO MUCH in Rotterdam. I present to you the three bridges we walk crossed.

Willemsbrug, vibrant.

Railway Lifting Bridge De Hef, showcase the pure engineering art and skill.

Finally, the icon, the swan of the city – The Erasmusbrug.

Phew~ what can I say. I enjoyed rotterdam very much simply because the city itself IS an architecture phenomenon. To me it was eye opening.

To be continued… on Days with the Hollanders – Amsterdam.

Our long weekend trip to Prauge is soon ending. As I am writing, we are waiting in the Praha Holesovice station for our overnight train back to Paris. We left on a thursday night train, and it took us 18 travelling hours, including transfer and layover, to get here in Prauge in a bright and beautiful friday morning.

We were lucky enough to get in the bunk bed compartments this time. I would like to advice a quick travelling tip for other bear travellers out there; This is a sincere warning to all who travels in Europe; if you are planning to go on an overnight train ride somewhere, try to get a bed, really. It is a little more expensive then reclining seats, but its way worth it. Our last trip to Berlin was also an overnight train but the bed space were sold out, so we had to go with the reclinings. It was a DISASTER. The design of the compartment is absolutely ridiculous. Trying to squeez 6 people in a tiny glass cube is not the best solution for an overnight train ride. So get yourself a bed. We got the ones that are in the six bed compartment. It’s not the most luxurious but the cheapest and gives you a humane space to sleep, a BED.

Our adventure in Prauge begins right after we settled our luggages in the hostel. I was stupid enough not to bring my camera with me for the first day when we went to most of the important sites. But oh-well. I got the rest of the days covered.

Our traveling kit

The city of Prauge is picturesque. Everywhere you go, if you put a frame aroud, it it’s a painting. Wandering around the city, mainly the historically preserved zone (probably circled in green on your tourist map), its hard not to run into one of those lively public squares, intricately detail building facades, glorious clock tower, or monumental medival architectures. One of those always pop up just about every other corner you turn.


But once awhile you would encounter with some rare modern architecture poping out in a line of traditional buildings. Mr. Gehry, what a pleasant surprise to run into you in such old charming city of Prague.


We’ve crossed the river many times during our stay and we decided to get on a peddle boat for a little while in the afternoon and get a good view of the city on water.


We saw the ugly duckling!!

There are plenty of museums in Prague. Some small, such as the Museume of Torture, Museum of Wax we went, which I don’t really recommend; some prestige, like the Museum Nationale, which unfortunally was closed for construction during our visit. But in the museum hall there are mini classical music concert being held every other night. It was not an extremely formal concert. Seats were set up on the grand staircase of the entrace hall of the museum. We went to the one of Vivaldi, Mozart, Bach, and Dvorak by the Prague Instrumental Soloists group. It was professional and worth it only for the view of the interior of the museum.

And finally there were musuems that were bold and modern, such as the Artbanka of AMoYA Museum of Young Art and the DOX/Centre for Contemporary Art. The later which I highly recommend is a farely new museum, but the exhibition space was very interesting.

Restaurants and Recommendations! It is always my favorite part of writing about restaurants because I can go back to my yummy pictures and re-experience my deliecious moments.

Cafe Savoy, serve some exepctiaonal czech inspired cuisine, lured us to visit twice, once for breakfast and the other dinner.

Address:  Vítězná 124/5  150 00 Prague 5-Malá Strana, Czech Republic

Breakfast

Algerian Coffee

Parissien Breakfast

Omelete Savoy

Dinner

Sear Tuna with Beets

Beef Tartar

Strawberry Czech Dumpling (dessert)

Cafe Imperial, it is a cafe/restaurant located in the Imperial Hotel. We only went for breakfast, which was cheap for the kind of atmosphere. The entire interior of the cafe were covered with some very delicate tileworks. It looks like they serve fine meal for lunch and dinner too, but we didn’t have the chance to experience it.

Address: Prague Imperial Hotel  Na Poříčí 15, 110 00 Prague 1  Czech Republic

Sir Toby’s Hostel. Again, for budget travellers, this one is highly recommended. The atmosphere of the hostel is great with unique deco. We reserved a double private chambre (toilet shared with one other room) this time for a decent price. The room was decorated very simply and with vintage touches. A very cozy lounge located at the basement where they serve drinks and food, and you can also just relax and chill if you want to. A Huge kitchen is open for everybody to use provided with some basic ingredients such as salt and pepper and other seasonsings. A cute backyard where they host parties and free barbuecue in different days of the weeks. Staffs are very helpful, nice, and CUTE! Most importantly, it is very clean through out the entire hostel. Though price is adjusted by seasons, I think the quality of this hostel is WAY beyond a low cost hotel probably in any season. I always think that “better no design than wrong design.” Some cheap hotels or vacation rentals just make you MAD for the kind of interior they put up, trying to put as much crap as possible try looking “luxury,” “modern” or other hotel like discriptions. Quality hostel can really surprise you sometimes with their friendness and unique design.

It was a pleasant journey in Prauge after all. However it is a little off from what both of us were imagining before we saw the city. Aparently we both have very different images of Prague in our head before the visits, but we both touched on the point where we imagined Prauge to be old and untouched everywhere. It was beautiful but it wasn’t as “untouched” as I imagined it would be. We would often see people re-painting building facades and sometimes adding on details. Of cause most of the major historical sites were kept as original as possible, but I cannot help going around wondering how clean and new a lot of the seem to be historical looking building facades were kept. I cannot really tell whether its a good thing or bad thing the way people going around “keeping the building nice and clean,” but I personally would like to see the unpainted version of the buildings, because after all, this is what we are here for, the originality of culture and architecture. The sad part of it is Prauge IS slowly turning very touristy. Like in the old town square, though architectures were beautiful, it is obvious that restaraunts and cafes are mainly doing tourism business, so they don’t care about their food quality. To me it’s almost impossible to find a good restuarant that does not serve tourist food in the square. Shops are almost all souvenir style and none really represent the local culture of Prauge. Within the entire historical district of Prauge, you can easitly witness that everything is tourist oriented. I really hope that the original charm of Prauge will not be lost within all this bullshit tourism cosumer culture. Otherwise it will just be terribly sad and once again proving this idiotic human “ability” to distroy something exceptional that we had once built.

Cheers!




It is the second day of the trip in Berlin made our entire rest of the trip better. Every perspective of my view to Berlin changed on this day, after we join the Alternative Tour of Berlin. If you are EVER planning on going to Berlin, please please PUHLEESE do not miss this tour. We are never the tour group type, but this tour is so different from your ordinary tour group experience. The Alternative Tour of Berlin shows you the different side of the city. The underground, sub culture of Berlin. There are some crazy things I saw along with truly amazing stories, which you will probably never find out walking by yourself in the city of Berlin. The tour is “FREE,” but which also means that you will tip whatever amount you think the tour would worth after its over. Most of the guides are artists themselves, and being a tour guide is not only the side job to make enough money to survive or realize there artistic pursue but also to spread Berlin sub culture to the rest of the world. This was truly one of our most exciting experience in Berlin, and where my true appreciation of the talented, creative, and daring mind of the Berliners begins.

A very big part of the tour is on the graffiti work/ street art of Berlin. Within the 3 hours tour we were running around the city with the guide to look for the best or most well known work of street art in Berlin. A brief background of different artists were introduced along with explanation on the technique that were use on a certain piece. Most of the graffiti you see on the street of Berlin is illegal. However, this is one of the fewer ones that were legal in the city.

Now, let’s see some illegal ones. On the side of this beautiful piece of architecture, formerly a hospital, now an art institute and exhibition space known as the Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien, were some glorious art pieces done by famous artists in the graffiti world.

I was told that these two pieces were done by the same artist, whose works are often an animal alive on one side and dead the other. In this case, on the right side of the wall, is the skeleton of the the rabbit you side on the other side of the facade. However, it was believed that the skeleton piece was an unfinished piece because some parts or the drawing was a lot more detail and elaborated than the others. May be he had to run in the middle of the creation for not getting caught.

We were then brought to this very interesting preserved space Rosenthaler Straße, located in the middle of a some what gentrified district of Hackescher Markt. Designer shops and modern architectures are everywhere to be seen here, but in this little nook right next to a vintage looking cinema cafe, there is an entrance to the only untouched courtyard with loads of graffiti work. In this courtyard houses the strangest combinations of museums, including some of the famous members during WWII and the most bizarre robot-dancing-to-techno-music “museum.” I don’t even know if I should call it museum because it almost look like a robot lab to me. But yea, it was beyond shocking and bizarre. At the top of the building was a funky book store / art gallery.

This court yard is loaded with graffiti work on every inch of reachable walls from many different artists. Some are very famous ones but I can’t really name them because I never knew much about graffiti. But some of you might still recognize the style of the work seen in books or magazines.

Going up the stairs to the books store is as amazing. The entire stair well were layered by graffiti. I have never seen anteing like this anywhere in my life.  And apparently this is not that unusual in the Berlin. But to me is unbelievable!

This robot monster you see here in the picture is part of the techno-music-dancing-robots I mentioned previously. After the tour, we came back here on our own to visit the robot lab. The second image was the entrance to the robot lab right next to the frog-bat iron robot. We had NO IDEA what we were up for before going down those squeaky metal staircase. If you want some out of ordinary, extreme and bizarre berlin experience, this IS the place to go.

The last and the coolest places we were taken to was the TACHELES. If you don’t know what TACHELES is about, you should really google about it. This is a place too cool to not know about. I was incredible ashamed on myself for not knowing this building before the guide told me all the amazing stories about it. The TACHELES is basically a giant house for the artistic community, or an artist squad. This group of artists have live, work, play, eat in the TACHELES for many years, with no materialistic desire, their only pursuit of happiness is to create art work and sell, or share with the public. However, the TACHELES is recently going under a tremendous threat. The bank wants the building back and hope to auction it out for money. Apparently the first step is to that is to clear our the building.  The TACHELES group has been fighting against the securities and polices to insist their rights to stay. There are a lot more stories to this building. Do search about it if you are interested! You will not regret it. This is a site call “I support  TACHELES http://isupporttacheles.blogspot.fr/. You might want to check it out.

Aside from the tour, we were able to seek for other alternative fun.  While looking for some buildings that I meant to visit around Potsdamer Platz, we were hit by this interesting open market right when we got out of the train station. A lot of vintage finds for market lovers!

One side of the markets were venders grilling sausage and pouring beer. This is where I got my first little taste of Currywurst.

A little outside of the crowd of the market were an installations of some remains of the Berlin wall. I don’t know if it was temporary or it has always been there, but it was interesting to see along with displays of info on the wall and its history.

At here you can also get all your visa stamps for 2.5 Euro from the original check point custom to before the Berlin wall was down.

Thank you for joining my alternative tour of Berlin! Hopes it inspired you!

As usual, our primary mission to travel is to see the best architecture possible in the city.  Berlin did not let me down. It’s so different from the europe that I now live in. Say Paris and London, are nothing like Berlin. Building styles are all so new here, after all its basically rebuilt after world war. And you can see that the rebuilding is still going on everywhere in berlin. To me, Berlin is a city with young mind and energy, but it is without a doubt, a witness of history. I would like to share with you some magnificent architecture we’ve visited during the trip. There are still some other buildings that I really wanted to go see, but time or distance did not allow us to do so. However, I was stimulated in every senses with all these master pieces I saw on the trip. I hope they will impress you the same.

Brandenburg GateThis is probably by far one of the most famous/significant monuments in Berlin. A lot of people claim that in the evening is the best time to see this neoclassical triumphant arc when all the lights are lit up for the monument. But we went in the late afternoon and it was as beautiful. Pariser Platz which is the plaza that the gate stands on is gorgeous through out the day with people relaxing and street artists singing, dancing, playing music, and making balloons. It’s probably one of the musts for all tourists.

 

Holocaust Memorial, or The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. This is a breathtaking piece by the American architect Peter Eisenman. This is probably THE piece that I am here in Berlin for. The word breathtaking is not merely a description but my actual physical reaction to the monument. The first time I saw in in picture back when I was in school, I froze for a good while just looking at these cement blocks thinking how powerful they are. In fact I was impressed by it so much that later I did one of my semester final entirely base on this memorial.  Can you imagine how excited and grateful I am to be here to see it in person?

    I have attached a website below for you to do a virtual tour of the memorial by manipulating your mouse on the computer. But if you EVER have chance to go to Berlin, it is no question you should go experience in person. http://www.360cities.net/image/holocaust-memorial#-6.88,24.38,62.0

 

Neue NationalgalerieWith this apparent style, you could probably tell already that it’s by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

 

Berliner Philarmonique, by Hans Scharoun architect, located not far from the Neue Nationalgalerie, are both belong to the Kulturforum in Potsdamer Platz.

 

Exhibition Hall of the German Historical Musuem, by I.M Pei. It is his famous style of stone and glass. The form of the glass structure and main stone building is a beautiful contrast. We did not go into the exhibitions because we have other things on our agenda, but you can enter without charge to just experience the reception of the museum. It’s free to walk through the entire spiral glass structure!

 

Bauhaus Archive, by Walter Gropius. I have to say this is one of the best museum I have visited recently.  The architecture itself is obviously a stunner, and the collections inside is equally profound. It’s not a massive museum but it consist a precious collection of works from students as well as the professor at the time of Bauhaus School of Design. There is a very detail introduction on the history of Bauhaus. Along with art works and images, one would learn the life of Bauhaus and why it so influential even till today.  It is a little far from all the other sites and attractions in Berlin but this is a museum-must-go.

 

I hope you enjoy this architecture tour of the city of Berlin. Cheers.

One of the best thing about being an immigrant is that you can constantly brag about food in your home country. While bragging how unbelievably different and delicious they are, you can also exaggerate the complexity of the cooking techniques for a certain dish that which in fact very simple but no body has ever heard of in this new country that you are now living in. As a Chinese who had lived in Canada, and the States and now Paris, and soon London, I have the privilege to brag with everybody food that I grew up with. Once awhile, I feel obligated to spread the greatest Chinese food culture to the world. But sometime, I just really needed that home dish to keep me going. Such as this night. I really wanted this porc belly braise dish which is the all time fave of the family on my father’s side. We called it “Kou Rou.” I don’t know the translations for that and I also don’t have the family secret recipe for it. I’ve made many different versions of “Kou Rou” myself. It’s not always fabulous but there were glorious times. This night, I just really needed some kou rou. But Chinese ingredients are no where near to find. So I made a not-real-straight-up-chinese-version of kou rou to hold my crave for the night. I replaced a lot of ingredients with what I can find here in a paris home. But also lacked A LOT of very important magics for the dish. Oh well. I did it and it reminded me of home anyway.

First put the cut up pork belly in water, add ginger slices, and cloves, bring to boil.  This process is to get rid of the bad pig smell/taste of the pork.

Drained water after boiling. Rinse under cold water and make sure no white foamy stuff sticking on the pork.

Bring pot/deep pan to high heat with a little bit of oil, sear your pork. Get them brown on the surface.

Add soy sauce, black or sweet vinegar, hot red peppers, brown sugar, a can of coke or sprite, whole cloves of garlics, dry bay leaves, 2 cloves, and ginger slices. add a little bit of water or stock till nearly covers the surface of pork.   Note that even though most of these are not what we normally would use in this dish, you can replace a thing by your creativity but the soy sauce HAS TO be right. Most of the stuff they sell in western super market are no good. Look for Lee Kum Kee brand which is more common to be in big super market. Or at least pick the one with least english on it.

Braise slowly with low heat for two to three hours. Put hard boil eggs in to absorb some juice. Don’t over cook your eggs, as always.

I intended cooked the eggs with a semi runny yolk. I did not do the best just there. But it was still orange and sticky. May be next time I will do better. Serve with rice. Hopefully next time I can find some right ingredients and make you a real version of Kou Rou!

Ok. This museum section of the post is actually a sequel of the last entry. After we visited Musee d’Art Moderne, we continued our adventure to the Palais de Tokyo, which is literally conjoins with the former. But the two museum space/interior is completely different. Almost in the most extreme contrast.  Musee d’Art Moderne has a very clean, clear, minimal space. Palais de Tokyo was very “minimal” but to an extend that it’s almost raw. The artworks houses in this museum are very contemporary. There is also a superb bookstore right at the entrance of the museum. Everything in this museum is exposed, the brick walls, the structures, the columns, and the lighting tracks. Nothing is covered or “refined.” It’s really beautifully raw. Loved it.

I would go back again if I have time. I was more excited about the space then the artworks to be honest.

That’s about it for the day. We are actually off to Berlin in…. 15 min. Just wanted to say good bye to you all. We will have fun.