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?
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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.
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Some more Corten steel cut-out lettering, this time the letters have been fixed on supports in front of their corresponding gaps.
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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!

 

 

Pembrokeshire

Recently I spent a week in South Wales, St David’s Cathedral is a very special place, I last visited more than 30 years ago in the pouring rain, it looks gorgeous in sunlight, though the deep purple of the stone stands out so much better in rain.

St David's Cathedral


St David's CathedralSt David’s Cathedral

St David's Cathedral
Tombstones leaning against the perimeter wall
St David's Cathedral
Stained glass window

 

 

Pyramiden

Pyramiden is one of several abandoned Russian coal-mining towns, there is also Barentsburg which seems to have been larger and more complex. We chose to go to Pyramiden because the boat sails past the Nordensköld glacier.
A busy and fully equipped mining town, it was abruptly abandoned at the demise of USSR in 1998. Here is an excellent site giving full details of its history but these photos demonstrate how it looks right now.
Some of these images were taken with a phone camera but most were taken with a borrowed camera. The charming and kind Lisa lent me her camera to use, with my SD card, because my lovely camera had a hissy fit and decided it couldn’t bear the cold wind, the shutter refused to shut or open unless I removed the lens and kept the body of the camera warm for 10 minutes.

Lisa and Severin are half way through a 6 month tour of Scandinavian countries driving and living in an adapted Mercedes van. What a fabulous trip, I would love to do that. Such interesting people doing such a great thing, and so generous with their camera. (thanks )

 

Tromso, Norway

What a delightful town, we had a great time there, just for two days. In the Arctic Cathedral we attended a midnight concert of Norwegian folk songs to celebrate the summer solstice, sung by Harald Bakkeby Moe, accompanied by Hanne-Sofie Akselsen on  flugelhorn and Robert Frantzen on piano.

Arctic cathedral tromso
Organ

 

Tromso Arctic Cathedral
Stained glass window

Despite the poor weather we took the cable car ride up to the hill behind the cathedral with spectacular views over the town and mountains beyond. We were lucky to have a short-lived break in the clouds.

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View over Tromso

At the Polaris  museum where we saw a great film about northern lights, all caused by gas escaping in bubbles from the sun and then interacting with magnetic force fields. Of course we didn’t see the lights as it was 24 hour daylight but the interaction still goes on, we just don’t see it.

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Ship being repaired in the shipyard, which is about to be closed for redevelopment.
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Waffles with Norwegian “fudge” cheese

New London Architecture

NLA runs guided tours of new architecture in London, I joined the one around Southwark yesterday, very ably and engagingly led by David Thompson. There’s plenty of tucked away areas beneath the many elevated railway line, still with rare insights into the history of the area. But we were looking at the new architecture. in the zone between The Shard at London bridge to the East and South Bank Tower at Southwark Bridge to the West.

Until now I rather resented the Shard (Renzo Piano) but I have begun to enjoy its dominance of the area, you can see it from everywhere, or at least its tip. It now seems more of a gentle giant than a monster, reflecting the weather of the day, the mood of the moment, almost disappearing against the vast sky. I found myself taking photos of it from every angle, my resentment of its intrusion dissipating with each click of the shutter. Unexpected juxtapositions abound, here it hides behind a low-rise residential brick block, tucked neatly between the ten terracotta chimneys.

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And here, the most complete view, seen across an empty lot, its height exaggerated by the low remaining buildings but still it seems light and graceful.

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Even seen behind the spires of Southwark Cathedral it seems more like a protective big brother than a bullying one.

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