Japan – more things I loved

JAPAN – Details I loved

JAPAN – Architecture, castles and gardens

A new building in Shibuya district, only 6 floors. I love the curved glass.
I don’t know when this building dates from, with cast concrete slabs decorating the facade. Very different from any other building sin Shibuya district.
A loping brick wall, I have no idea of its purpose but I can only think it might be a sunscreen?!
Low relief cast concrete sign on the outer wall of a public toilet, near the old cemetry in Edo District
I have never seen such an interesting handrail on exterior steps. Beautifully made.
Gorgeous polished copper facade on this bar beside the river. I wonder how often it will need re-polishing.
Backlit 3D structure in the ceiling over the staircase in a large department store.
One of the corner fortresses of the Imperial Palace gardens with modern Tokyo in the background.
Massive granite walls define the extended gardens, the wardens cycle around for speed.
Lines of low hedges define the contours juxtaposed with perfectly smooth flat lawns.

Fortress at Odawara
Modern architecture in Kyoto
Raked sand gardens in Kyoto
Extraordinary glass roof-scape over Kyoto station
Interesting facade in Tokyo
Re-fit of an old low-rise apartment building in Tokyo, lovely use of a red stripe down the corner of the building.
The Sky Tree. Quite terrifyingly moving at the top, swaying in the breeze. Extremely fast lifts. left my stomach behind at floor 5 or thereabouts, height at the viewing platform on floor 29 is 452 meters!
A very much zoomed in view from the viewing platform of the Sky Tree. The atmosphere was very misty, but theres no disguising how much of Tokyo is very tall buildings.
In huge contrast a two or possibly three story townhouse in Taito – Yanaka. Apparently these small houses are only expected to last about 20 years and are then rebuilt from scratch.

 

Architecture of Toulouse and Castres

Toulouse Blagnac airport, new terminal. Ingenious wood slats behind the glazing panels filters the sun but lets in plenty of

 

light.

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The approach from the plane into the terminal, none of that grey bland utilitarian style here, it is perfectly functional and the yellow is joyous.
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From the outside you see the slatted wood but not the coloured glass dots that are placed at crossing points.
Architecture, France, Airport
Simple glass barriers along the walkways are half-painted in a delightful maritime blue, a sort of abstract beach scene perhaps!
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None of those hideous hard plastic chairs here, just soft red comfort.
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Even on the sunniest of days the light inside is soft with no glare – a calm space, just right when waiting to board a plane.
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Vertical tube lights hanging over the stairwell
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Wooden slats punctuated by circles of coloured glass at the crossing points. A subtle reference to stained glass windows maybe?
corten
An unusual gateway to a school, water-jet cut out lettering in Corten steel.

Castres

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The weir in the river, looking like an abstract oil painting
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River-side living – cantilevered balconies at every level

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Classical references in this old chapel.
corten steel
Some more Corten steel cut-out lettering, this time the letters have been fixed on supports in front of their corresponding gaps.
gardens
Ripe for an abstract linocut print maybe? The formal gardens at the Bishop’s Palace by the river

 

Chicago

Chicago
A pigeon, with excellent taste, fascinated by the guide’s description of Anthony Calder’s Flamingo, standing outside a Mies Van der Rohe building

For four days I wandered this amazing city, my emotional state switching back and forth from heightened anxiety to awe and wonderment.

The suburbs are reputedly very scary places, the maps marked with every reported serious violent crime would put one off from visiting alone. However I didn’t look at those maps, I just booked an AirB&B and took my chances.

As it happened, I was perfectly safe  in the area known as Grand Boulevard down in the south towards the end of the Green Line train, 47th street station.

The first person I met when I got off the train after my flight from London was a white policeman in his car with his partner. He said ‘ Lady, what are you doing here?’ You have to imagine the incredulous tone of his voice and the weight of the stone falling into my stomach.

I explained that I was staying a few days at an Air B&B, he said  ‘we’ll follow you till you get inside the door, don’t go out at night, don’t use the train, get an Uber cab to come right to your door”.  With fear and some confusion, I trundled down the road with my shiny new wheeled suitcase, to the house, knowing I was being watched (an odd feeling in itself). I accessed the apartment and drank a large gin and tonic – duty free from Gatwick Airport.

And so I began my four days with such a burden of fear, it plagued my sleep and became my constant companion, even downtown in the “Loop”, where the main tourist areas are located.

I contacted a good friend who travels alone to far more unsettling places, she gave me excellent advice and suggested that I needed to follow some simple rules and relax, enjoy the city.

I loved Chicago, I have no regrets whatsoever about having been there, stayed there, explored everywhere I wanted to go. I talked to a lot of local people, on the trains, in the streets, in the shops, made a great new friend. Since my return home, I now know that this summer the rate of violent crime has soared.

I have no answers to the problem of escalating violence but the way its being dealt with currently is obviously not working. It is a disgrace that in this large wealthy city not all its citizens enjoy the quality of life they deserve. Racial segregation and the housing “projects” of an earlier era have caused misery to many lives. Gun crime is rife,  many lives could be saved by a ban on guns.

I was inspired to go to Chicago by a lecture at the Victoria and Albert Museum given by a young Chicagoan Timothy Long who told the incredible history of the pioneers, entrepreneurs and downright scallywags who created such a vibrant and extraordinarily forward-looking culture.

It was all about trade, exploration, determination and guts. The discovery of the water routes from the north east coast, through the Great Lakes to the southern end of Lake Michigan, thence the relatively short overland distance to one of the tributaries to the Mississippi and on downward to the South, opened up trades routes of great importance.

But the real key was the building of the Illinois and Michigan Canal allowing shipping from the Great Lakes through Chicago to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. The population grew exponentially from 350 to 4000 in just 7 years.

And instead of low rise wooden buildings, the majority of which  burnt down in the great fire in 1871, the city is now the finest example of city planning and inspired building design and techniques. Indeed it is considered to be the birthplace of the skyscraper.

Photographs do not do justice to the exhilarating city but here are some attempts to capture an essence.

If you get the chance to go – go, do not be frightened of by a couple of white policemen in a squad car. One of them kindly gave me his personal email address, perhaps I should write and tell him that i’m fine and that I loved his city. He said “don’t leave without eating a Chicago deep pan pizza”,  and that was yet another piece of advice of theirs that I did not follow!