Tag: Architecture

ArchitectureTravelVisual Arts

Italia, ti amiamo (Italy, we love you)

 

Frescoes draw the viewer aloft into the domed ceiling of the Bascilica di San Marco in Milan. Photo: Henry Lewis

Italy, we love you!

Your extraordinary wealth of art and architecture dazzles our senses and ignites even our most latent sense of historical curiosity. Your heavenly cuisine provides all the sensual pleasures a lonely traveling soul could possibly desire. You’ve produced some of history’s most distinguished and intellectually gifted artists and scientists, from Leonardo da Vinci to Galileo Galilei, as well as showing us a woman’s view of life in the early 17th century through the work of the fascinating female painter Artemisia Gentileschi.

As residents of Italy’s northern Lombardy region – and its capital Milan – suffer under the local strain of a global pandemic, it seems fitting to present a tribute to some of my favorite places.

Milan, the country’s northern industrial, financial and cultural metropolis, is often quickly dismissed by travelers who rush through on their way to more popular attractions in the northern cities of Florence and Venice, or on to see the ancient sites of Rome and Naples in the south.

I LIKE Milan. It’s a vibrant, interesting city that feels authentic. At the same time, it holds enough treasures – from meticulously detailed Renaissance churches to great works of visual art – to satisfy even the most jaded traveler.

The Milan Cathedral–Spectacular

Every evening light is still visible in this view of the Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral) which commands the surrounding Piazzo del Duomo, and is the city’s most popular gathering spot. The Candoglia marble used on the building’s exterior constantly changes color, slowly taking on magical hues as the light changes from dawn to dusk. Photo: Henry Lewis

The Piazzo del Duomo from the rooftop of the Milan Cathedral. Photo: Henry Lewis

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CultureTravel

Portals of Malta

Doorways are portals to other worlds, both real and imagined. J. R. R. Tolkien–speaking through one of his most enduring  characters, Bilbo Baggins–summed up the sense of mystery and adventure that lies just on the other side of such an opening.

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to–

Bilbo Baggins in Lord of the Rings

The idea that portals are gateways to other worlds filled with exotic new adventures was reinforced in popular fiction, TV programs and movies during my childhood. In the 1960s, I was enthralled by The Time Tunnel, a TV show with a thin plot that was propelled by the time traveling adventures of its two main characters. They would walk into a swirling black and white tunnel–think cheesy special effects!–which was a portal to other worlds. This was also a popular theme in other TV shows of the time such as The Twilight Zone. And I was glued to the TV when these shows aired.

Many ancient cities were protected by fortifications which had restricted gates through which all trade had to pass. Pictured here is a section of stone wall surrounding the historic city of Valletta, Malta. Photo: Henry Lewis

The doorway effect

Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in a house or apartment made up of more than one room have probably experienced the phenomenon of walking through a doorway into another room and simultaneously forgetting the reason we walked into that room. We may experience a change in temperament or thought processing simply by walking through a portal.

According to scientific research, walking through a doorway triggers our brains to be ready to learn something new, and therefore, takes us away from the thoughts that occupied our minds just seconds before. That powerful response can be either stimulating or annoying depending on the circumstances, but I prefer to focus on the possibilities such journeys offer rather than the limitations.

Passing through a portal can be the key to the process of rejuvenation, a way to unplug from the disturbing or mundane events we become bogged down in at home or work. Whether for exercise or to relieve depression, when I need a break, I remove myself from the situation at hand, walk outside, breath some fresh air (hopefully) and let my sense of curiosity about the world take control. This is where the adventure begins.

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Travel

Gaudi’s Barcelona: Photo Journal

“Nothing is art if it does not come from nature.”

Antoni Gaudí

Most people either love or loathe Gaudí’s designs. Some architectural critics have described his work as garish and overly busy. Gaudí was certainly not cut from the same fabric as Mies van der Rohe and other later architects who  espoused the notion that  ‘less is more’.

Personally, I admire his disregard for convention and dedication (or obsession) to finding unique solutions to the structural engineering problems posed during the process of creating his more unique buildings.

While Gaudí always aimed for perfection in his work and collaborated with the best artisans  of his time, I’m drawn to the projects he designed in the latter half of his career with their whimsical style and forms imitating nature. Gaudí supposedly said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that there were no straight lines in nature so he didn’t intend to use them in his work.

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Travel

Video: Antoni Gaudi’s Barcelona

I’ve been a huge fan of Antoni Gaudi’s work since my first visit to Barcelona in 1993. Since then, I’ve come to admire his knowledge of engineering as well as architectural design along with his personal tenacity and maverick spirit that, while not always pleasing his clients, drove him to perfect his methods. Viewing his work up close, I’m always struck by the attention to detail and exquisite craftsmanship evident in his completed works. As the old saying goes–they don’t make ’em like this anymore!

peace~henry