Sunday, May 31, 2009

"always end the name of your child with a vowel, so that when you yell the name will carry" - Bill Cosby (I Am In Italy!!)

I am leaving Milan today for Vincenza. I did see the Duomo which was just cleaned 2 years ago. The all marble cathedral is made out of pink marble and it is quite beautiful to see in the sunlight. That and the space on the rooftop was worth the visit. All the bells ring every half hour and hour and I think my hostel is situated between 3 churches. It is wonderful!

La Mezquita

So this - this is the Catholic church in the Mezquita. Rather shocking on first approach. My first impression was of sugary-sweet frosting on a cake. It felt like too much. People from Còrdoba still attend church here. I wonder how they get used to the change from one space to the next.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Calle de Flores, Còrdoba, Spain

This is a famous street in Còrodoba partly for all the flowers on the wall, but also because of the view it frames of the bell tower of the Mezquita.

Kissing Walls

The streets in the old Jewish Quarter in Còrdoba are so small and the buildings are so close together that some are called 'kissing walls'. In those streets I did not even have enough room to spread my arms out on either side of my body.

La Mezquita

The view of the bell tower of the Mesquita. This was originally the minaret that called the faithful to prayer and it was simply covered over by the bell tower. Although it is not visible in this photo, I could just make out the minaret within the tower.

(these last posts are going to be quick. It is 12:30 and I need to go to bed. Tomorrow I leave for Vincenza and then Venice.)

Christianizing the mosque in 1523...

Here you can see the mix of the inserted catholic church and the previous islamic mosque. The column grid was obviously established by the mosque, so at the point of change between the two there was a hybirdization of them.

Interior of la Mezquita

This is the islamic portion of the mosque. In the top left corner of the photo you can make out the change in the roof that came from the catholic church. I like this photo because it begins to evoke what must have seemed like a forest of columns in the mosque before the insertion of the church. I found the repetive space very calming. The columns were marble - alternating pink or dark grey and each had mark left by the man who carved it. The mosque was intended to hold 200.000 people - i assume all kneeling down to pray, not standing. The floor is made of large stones that would almost be the equivalent size of a prayer rug (?) and they are laid in the direction of the mirab.

La Mezquita, Còrdoba, Spain...started in 785 AD

I loved this. The interior was fascinating. The islamic design was again geometric, repeating patterns, and elegant and relaxing space. The Catholic church in the 'center' felt as though you were in a completely different building. The original exterior walls were open, and the columns inside the mosque lined up with the trees trunks in the courtyard. But the catholic church filled in the walls and created a ring of chapels around the mosque.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Alhambra & Generalifè

(Note: Since getting on the internet is time consuming I have found it hard to post to this blog. The Spanish siesta closes internet cafès mid-day, which is fine with me, but their dinner is just as important. So when the internet cafèes re-open at 3:00, they close again by 7 or 8pm. At that time I am still out sigh seeing as it does not get dark until 9:45 or 10pm. As a result, it is easy not to eat dinner until 10pm, unless I have missed lunch and gotten ravenously hungry! Therefore, I am posting the next 5 to 7 entries from Milan, Italy, my first few days after arrival. I have found a great hostel where I can do laundry, cook, use the internet for free and easily download images off of my camera. I also have a comfy bed finally and am using these few days to catch up on sleep that I rarely got in Spain. One example, my last night in Barcelona the fùtbol team won the championship. Which one? I don't think it really matters. Barcelona fans are crazy and will celebrate given any reason. Edwin, Amanda & I were walking home from eating out at a Spanish vegetarian restaurant and saw that there were about 2 minutes in the game. Score 2-0 (manchester had 0). What I loved was that the bars were full of people of all ages. Men in business suits stopped outside the window and jumped and cheered when the game was over. (These are the same men in business suits eating ice cream cones everywhere at lunch hour!) So the rest of the night was LOUD! And you hear it because no one really has AC so the windows are open. That is one reason I never got a full nights sleep.)

" A great architect is not made by way of a brain nearly so much as he is made by way of a cultivated, enriched heart." - Frank Lloyd Wright

The Alhambra!
How beautiful it is! As I walked up the small street leading to the Alhambra the weather was nice, a bit cool. The entrance takes you through a forest that winds around the Alhambra's walls. At 10am the sprinklers were running and with the shade it was so cool on that walk that I could see my breath when I exhaled. But within 10-15 minutes I was in the sun, warming up, and within the walls of the Alhambra it was hot.

The most striking thing about the Alhambra is how modern it seems. I was aware of this at the time but did not have the words for it. But as I visited the Mesquita in Còrdoba, and later the Cathedral & Alcàzar in Sevilla, it finally hit me. The Islamic architecture is all based on geometric forms and (mathmatical?) patterns which seem as contemprary as any today, just more intricate. The forms and plans for the rooms are often a circle within a square, which hold religious significance. The multitude of patterns - on the floors, on the lower wall in tiles and carved into the upper walls and ceilings were always different, yet seems to mesh togther well. Not an easy task. ( Whereas in Barcelona, at the Palau de Musica Catalunya, I felt seasick from all the various ornamentation.) And the attention to detail.... I still cannot fathom how they carved the details in the material. I look at it and think - lasercutter!

The Generalife was georgeous also. The plants were not as lush as I anticipated and it felt crowded. But there was a simplicity to certain details that were wonderful. The most notable element in both the Alhambra and Generalife started when I crossed through the gate at the edge of town into the forest. The sound of water....Everywhere..... all the time! And it was so refeshing. As big as the entire complex is, there was only one time I did not hear water, or for that matter, see the birds that were always flying about. And that was is in Charles the IV Palace. A square brute building placed within the Alhambra walls with a large circular court in the center. Very traditional and it just happened to be the last space I entered that day. I found it very unpleasant and left after 10 minutes. The Alhambra is scaled to people. Charles Palace was not. I found this an interesting contrast. I wonder if anyone else noticed.

Las Ramblas, Barcelona

La Mercat Bocqueria! The visual impact as you enter this market stops you dead in your tracks. And the smell of fresh fruit (candy in the photo above) is heavenly. The individual diplays are beautiful, and the cost reflects the additional time spent on it. Further in the back of the market, the colors are just as vivid but the packaging is simpler. I bought cheese, olives and fruit in the back, but had to leave due to the smell. Everywhere I turned there was the salted aged ham Spain is famous for- jamon iberica. I could not stand it. However, I had a woman from Barcelona (Amanda, who is married to a childhood friend of mine) say that once you live in such a beautiful city, you cannot live in a city that does not have the same beauty. So between the markets, the weather, the abundance of tree lined streets and the pedestrian friendly urban plan for the heart of downtown, I know what she means.

Mies van der Rohe

I could not go to Barcelona without visiting the german pavilion by mies van der rohe. Amazingly it was the least crowded site I have visited in Barcelona. It seems the large auto show taking place on Monjuic was more interesting to the community. The weather was perfect and there was enough light to capture the reflections on the materials that this building is known for. I have a few images reflecting the huge banners of BMW - not the mix of old and new I was planning on seeing in Europe, but an accurate reflection of the time.
After walking around the Barri Gotic and seeing some of Gaudi´s buildings, mies pavilion seems plain and small. But after a while the calmness of the space pulls me in. The materials used are so rich and the details elegant. If anything, I wish this building was placed in an even more remote area with fewer adjacent structures. The materials are beautiful and my favorite is actually the white walls that are not reflective. The are 'wormy' and have small crystal in the crevices that are similar to a geode.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The reason for my travel...

"True education is concerned not only with practical goals but also with values. Our aims assure us of our material life, our values make possible our spiritual life." - Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

In April 2008 in my final year of graduate school I was awarded the prestigious Kohn Pedersen Fox Traveling Architecture Fellowship with an award of $10,000. The goal of the award is to allow students to broaden their education through a summer of travel.

I was one of three recipients nationally from 19 invited universities with prominent Schools of Architecture. In addition to North Carolina State University, they included Architectural Association/London, Columbia University, Cooper Union, Cornell Univ., Harvard Univ., M.I.T., Cambridge Univ. /UK, University of Michigan, City College of New York, University of Virginia, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Technical University Delft/Netherlands, Univ. of Pennsylvania, Pratt Institute, Rice University, Princeton Univ. and Yale University. The application is made by the student, but the Dean of each school can nominate only three student portfolios from the school each year.

The winners were chosen anonomously by a jury. Each juror represented a city where Kohn Pedersen Fox ( has a studio: Paul Finch from the Architectural Review represented London; Quingyun Ma, dean of USC's design school, travelled from Shanghai, and James Garner, critic for the New York Sun, was the local juror. Also on the jury were Rob Whitlock & Doug Hocking, KPF Design Principals.

In addition to myself, the other winners were Kyung Jae Kim from Columbia University & Hoi Lung Chan from MIT. Jury Chairman Paul Finch was quoted as saying, "It is always refreshing to find in student work a combination of ideas, investigation and thoughtful presentation, the travel plans of the winning students are as varied & interesting as their work."

A pfd file of my portfolio was posted on their webpage and may still be there ( ). The note about my submitted portfolio was this: "Kristin produced an exemplary exploded drawing, and projects for theaters and an architecture centre. (my note: and a health complex) The judges admired 'an impressive and elegant investigation of form in determining the most important design elements', producing work of 'clarity and serenity'. "

I had hoped to attend a 6 week summer studio in Italy last year this time but was unable due to health reasons. The studio was titled 'hybrids and collisions' and would look at the relationship of new to old buildings in historic settings. This summer I am traveling on my own for a longer period of time, visiting more of the architecture I studied in schoool while also looking at urban design and relationships between old & new between and within buildings. I will spend time in Spain, Italy and Turkey.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Travel planning

Well, we shall see how helpful all of my late nights finding hostals & pensions will be. And how much I will actually get to see and do while in Europe. It all seems so easy on paper, but as everthing else, I'm sure it will be more difficult than I anticipate. My general plans are to go to Spain first, Italy then Turkey. That will not change. While in Spain I will be spending time in Barcelona, Granada, Cordoba and Sevilla. Italy is less planned but I have given myself 5 weeks and should be able to see Rome, Vicenza, Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre and hopefully a visit to the Amalfi coast. I also want to get to Bagnaia and Fiesole to view some landscape architecture that I admired while taking a L.Arch class at NCSU. I fly into Milan from Barcelona on May 28. On July 1 I fly to Istanbul, Turkey for the last 2 weeks of my trip. I have a side trip planned to Cappadoccia and Ephesus with one of my nights reserved with a stay in a ¨fairy chimney¨in Cappadoccia.

My ¨reason for travel¨ has gotten fuzzier since not being able to do the studio in Italy last summer but I am excited to see so much of what I studied while in school. While in school my most captivating ideas for studio projects always came from some systhesis of experiences that I had, not simply an architectural precedent. So I am hoping that this trip sows seeds for further inspiration - not only in precedent, but in an intuitive and experiential way. I experienced so little architecture phyiscally while in school that I think it will feel wonderful to actually be in the variety of spaces and environments I have planned.

My plans are to visit well-know architecture and landscape architecture, and to look at the spaces between buildings. The public space between private buildings interests me and I want to see how it is used and when and why it works.