Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Un Giorni in Berlino

I arrived in Berlin on Friday evening and went straight to my hotel on Kurfurstendamm, which seems to be the strassa to shop.
It was 15 minutes from the Tegel airport to the hotel, easiest airport access I ever experienced.  
In the morning I hopped on a bus to get to the Reichstag, Norman Foster's great renovation of the German capitol.  On the way the bus stopped at the Tiergarten, and I got out at the Zoo.  As I followed the paths in the Tiergarten, I got to the Aquarium, and I realized that the Dolphins were not playing, the first sign of bad omens.  When I got to the Reichstag, the number one thing to see in Berlin, I was told that I would need a reservation 7 days in rears it foolish head.

The Brandenburg Gate

So, no Dolphins, no Sir Norman, we still have Schinkel.  Karl Fredrick Schinkel helped reorganize Berlin in the early 19th century with his planning and great buildings.  As I passed through the Brandenburg Gate to what was East Berlin, new buildings abound.

Looking back, the sense of the new city seems alive.

This is the first antica building I see, Schinkel's neoclassical Neue Wache, a chapel which was repurposed as a
Memorial to Victims of Militarism and Tyranny. 

The interior is empty save for the light and the sculpture of a mother with her dead child in bronze.

Altes Museum

Just over the bridge is the Lustgarten with the Altes Museum facing onto it.  The other museums, on the museum island are behind the Altes.  Schinkel imagined this museum island and set his grande neoclassical museum on the central axis facing his enormous Public Garden.

As one enters the museum, the greatness of Greece and Rome express themselves above.

And on either side the portico runs across the facade, the marble rosso is faux, it was restored 30 years ago, after the paint  had long vanished.

The stairway is designed as external, open to the weather, museums at thebeginning, may have been thought of as a seasonal divertment.  The renovation enclosed the stairhall with glass butted to the flutes of the greek columns of the interior, sensitive, and invisible from the exterior.  

The Altes contains many of the items found in the earliest excavations of Greek civilization by the Germans in the early 19th century.  These amphora are ideal images of the palaestra:

It should not have to be noted that these were the ideals of the enlightenment and were carried west by settlers in the new frontier on the United States, naming their towns after Greek places and myths.   Athens, Apollo, Minveva, Arcadia, Aurora, Clio, Corith, Diana, Fortuna, Delphi, Oracle, Hector, Parthenon, Elysian, Marathon, Olympia, Neptune, Paris, Sparta, Troy, Vesta,  and many more town names populate our states. 

These Amphora are beautiful examples of the Greek craftsman's virtu.

Behind the Altes Museum are 4 other museums in a Park enclosed by an elegant colonade.

With a bronze Diana among many garden sculptures...

The Pergamon Museum contains the Pergamon Alter and other great finds from Archeological digs in the 19th Century.  The scale of the Pergamon Alter above is domestic, an important detail not visible from text book photos.

This blue glazed tile wall is one part of a large palace from Babylon, it is amazing the craftsmanship and knowledge which went into this building, now in Berlin.  Good thing the Germans got it before Rumsfeld got his operation going.

And from the Nueumuseum, destroyed in WWII, and rebuilt,  a goddess:

I need to mention that this museum of Egyptology has a room devoted to the bust of Nefertiti, no photos allowed.  This sculpture, in real life, is so much more powerful than any of its photographs, probably the most beautiful sculpture to come from Egypt.

I left after Blitzing these 5 museums to see something modern and went to the Kulturforum, home to the Philharmonic Hall, the Neue Museum and one or two others.  Hans Scharoun's Philharmonia from 1962 is a wonder, its orchestra in the round approach allows the German romantic music to reverberate through the house.  No concerts this week.
 The exterior, clad in a golden aluminum, leaves something to be desired.  Today,techi materials are more abundant and he would have made a better choice, though a red brick would not be a poor choice as the main element.....Here we view it from the interior of
Mies's NueuNationalGallery.

The National Gallery has modernist art from the 20th Century, mostly German, all housed in the basement, which opens on to a sunken garden.  The main floor, which we all know from photographs, houses coat closets, ticketing areas and an occasional spectacle...

Here is some sort of sound influenced colored shapes projected on the interior of a white nylon cube.

They at least could have a caffe here, allowing the public to enjoy the space, such as it is, without chaos.

Here is Mies's big idea, the disappearing corner.  Thinking Vitruvius long dead, he never thought he might be judged on something as banal as Utiliti, such as, the ability to hang and judge art...

This evening is the night of the huge moon, and when I got back to Venezia, it was over the basino di San Marco...

...welcoming me back home.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Palazzo Grimani, a Rinascimentale jewel

At first sight, from a small ponte, there is something different about the Palazzo Grimani.  It is classical, not gothic, Venetian Gothic, with the arabesque arches and off center fenestration on the facade.  The Grimani has no facade, it is more or less uniform in its classical arched windows and penetrations on all sides. 
 Here it is visible as one approaches by boat, the service and main entry is one large arched doorway, the whole set at a place where the canal widens at an intersection, allowing maneuverable space for any boat that can get there.

The land entry is similar in size and is at the end of a calle, marked by a rusticated entry and an elaborate window above.  It sends a message that this is different from the plebian calle, but it does not have the impressive facade we usually associate with a Venetian palazzo.  

It has been a Grimani Palazzo for centuries, in 1532 Giovanni Grimani inherited as a typical Venetian palazzo. Giovanni started to expand it with the help of probably several architects, such as Sansovino and Palladio, but it is thought that he did much of the design himself.  He was an passionate collector of antica and contemporary art, much of his collection is now in the Corrier Museum.  A man of the Renaissance he was also a Bishop of the church and Patriarch of Aquileia.  His expansion doubled the size of the palazzo, generated the commodious square courtyard and the beautiful well proportioned rooms in the upper quarters, all in the classical style of the intelligencia of the time.  Quite unlike Venice itself.

The last Grimani in line died in 1865, and by 1960 most of the remaining valuables had been sold and the building was in a state of abandonment.  In 1981, the city of Venice purchased it and started a complete resurection in 2001.  It has been open to the public for only 3 years.  It is unquestionably a most generous and welcoming building.

* * * * * * * *  *

The entry.

Here the generous sensibility of the courtyard, and its simultaneous utility is evident,  inside...

...the entry stair is totally welcoming, service entries are elsewhere.

And looking down from the loggia above, Giovanni could see his guests arrive and greet them with aplomb.

And at the end of this grand entry room, he could view down to the canal and loading area.

The ponte is seen beyond.

His public rooms are the coup though,
Here is one with a garden painted on the ceiling.

and a view to one of his sculptures through the door.

This fine room in the high mannerist style is beautifully restored.

And this:  La Tribuna.

With light from above...

This super-Michaelangelesque room was filled with Giovanni's sculptures
 from antiquity in the niches, on the brackets, and just about everywhere.

The Bosch show, which ended yesterday, is represented in the lower right.  The 3 Bosch  paintings were painted in Venice in the 3-4 years around 1500, and were housed in the palazzo before
 Giovanni gave them to the Venetian state.

Showing the depth of the wall and the available space for the 130 antiqua now at the Corrier.

Zeus grasping Ganymede

Hanging from is original (Grimani) position after almost 500 years...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Vado a Dolomiti

We spent 10 days in the Dolomites, at Dobbiacco which is 20 km from Cortina.  There are many ski areas around Dobbiacco, but it is best known for Sci dei Fondo, cross country.  I had lessons - finally- for skate skiing at the great Nordic Arena in town.  It is an amazing facility focused on xc and climbing.  It also has a 20km xc  trail to Cortina through the woods.  After I landed square on my coccyx, I decided to return to 'classic' cx.  More fun after that....
But I am getting ahead of myself.  On the first day we awoke to this:

Cime Ganda

Piata Alta

From the Terrace of the Alpine Albergo.
We went out to see the area closer to the ground... and at the end of the day, returned to this:

Most everyone went downhill at one of several areas near by,
those with the smallest kids went to the
local Dobbiacco slopes as they are best for learning.

View of our Hotel from the slopes (in the trees on top of the hill above the red suit).
A little doppo pranza break.

A parental break...note the slopes, though they look flatter than they are
they are great for kids...and learners.

Lunch was a big time to get together, here is Leslie being sledded up to the lodge several days after breaking some part of her knee...that view from the hotel is only so good...

One day several of us went to take a snomobile ride to the 3 Cime, the most famous of the peaks.  it seems though that the 3 are only visible from the north, and we went up the south side...

A View from the top looking south...

Here I am looking like Shackleton with the sled and thick wool sweater...little did I know when we started that we actually would sled down the hill!   Full speed ahead and watch out for those switchbacks.

The trail at the middle of the descent...I did stop on purpose for the shot.

Another day we visited the Lago di Braies, a summer boating lake,
but in the winter its just a great playground...

Look carefully for the snow man- under the sun.

Everyone should have a di Chirico shot once in a while...

Time flies by in the mountains and  ... back at the Albergo...

If you click on the pictures they enlarge, and this one will show the Nordic Arena site,
a circle right in the pass above. The biggest thing in town.  That is where I spend 5 days on the tracks.
That pass goes to Cortina, and Venezia.

But we won't forget

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Michael Carapetian's aerie penthouse on the Guidecca

Michael Carpetian is an international architect who went to the AA in London and documented Pierre Chareau's  1927 La Maison de Verre in the early 1960's, when I was crazy for FLLW and Japanese architecture and gardens. No one knew about Chareau's house then, just a whisper among the architectural cognoscenti...his only other building was a house
 in East Hampton for   
Robert Motherwell on Georgica Road.

This house was built in 1947 and destroyed in the middle 70's.

But, back to Michael and the Maison de Verre.  In the 1960's Carapetian got permission to photograph Chareau's house in Paris while the original owner's were in residence, and the photos are a
 tour de force of elegant documentation.

This is a more recent picture from the net.  This great house has influenced him, as it should have, to a great degree in his own work, and it is intelligent.

I arrived on the Guidecca in mid morning,  the wind is blowing 30, but the sun is glorious
 on the green water of the canal.

The loft building is an old factory building now subdivided into lofts and apartments...sounds familiar to some, maybe, but the sun and the views here are amazing.

On arriving one is guided to climb a curving perimeter stair which leads to the main space, a Living Room come music hall, for the owner, a musician.  This floor is above the kitchen and dining areas and the bedroom is above in the 'loft'.  None of this structure, an elegant cabinet work of steel and maple, touches the walls of the actual building, allowing the sound to reverberate throughout the space. 

From the Living room we can sneak up the stair to the bedroom above.

The view from the bedroom...

a private desk which swings out of the way...

and a soaking tub, looking over the gardens to the south, with the architect
 descending the stair...

Back on the main floor, another view, showing the conversation area,
 and the cabinet system behind those panels.

Descending the stairs, we see that there are two identical stairs, leading to different floors, one for the owner, and one for guests...   

As we descend on the owner's stair we are welcomed to the Dining Room, 
with the kitchen beyond...notice that the ceiling also curves, with its radius behind the wall...

The curved plaster wall is a fresco, painted in situ, over a period of months.

On the other side is a small sitting area, with the entry beyond...

At the entry is a control panel for the loft's systems...
which can be turned off as we leave...

Back on the Fondamenta Guidecca, we wait for a Vaporetto to take us back to the Zattere, and wonder about the world we just left,  accessible through the arched entry above.