A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about art

Architectural details

large_0d1523d0-5456-11e8-b7a1-c1c3267ed6cd.jpg

I enjoy picking out and photographing the small (and sometimes not so small) details of buildings. Indeed, I can find myself omitting to photograph the building as a whole as it’s often the details that capture my imagination. Wherever I travel I find building details that intrigue me.

Let’s explore!

Riga

large_7081495-More_Art_Nouveau_treasures_Riga.jpg
Art Nouveau in Riga

Art Nouveau, or Jugendstil as it is also known, was an art and architecture movement of the late 19th to early 20th centuries, at its height 1890–1910. This was an art form that crossed genres, from architecture to interior design to jewellery to textiles, and more. It proposed that art should be a way of life, and that everyday items could be beautiful too. It was inspired by nature – flowers, animals, natural forms. I love the way that its shapes flow organically, and the combination of fluidity of design with the rigidity of stone makes buildings in this style particularly appealing to me.

And Riga is the place to see them! It is famous for its large number of well-preserved (or more often, well-restored) Art Nouveau buildings. These are dotted across the city, but there is a particular concentration of them in one area on and around Elizabetes and Alberta streets.

Riga00097.jpg Riga00098.jpg
Art Nouveau in Riga - 4a Strēlnieku iela

This is one of the most dramatic and dazzling buildings in the district, 4a Strēlnieku iela. It dates from 1905 and is one of many by perhaps the best-known architect of Riga’s Art Nouveau period, Mikhail Eisenstein (father of the famous film director Sergei Eisenstein). Eisenstein’s main concept was that even the smallest thing could be beautiful. I loved the Wedgewood-blue and white colour scheme of this building, and the over-the-top ornamentation with snakes and even robot-like creatures.

7081597-_Riga.jpg Riga00122.jpg
Art Nouveau in Riga - Elizabetes Street

These are two of my favourite images from Riga. On the left, a detail of one of the most famous Art Nouveau buildings in the city, 10b Elizabetes Street, (again by Mikhail Eisenstein). It dates from 1903 and is extremely colourful, adorned with a rich mix of masks, peacocks, sculptural elements and geometrical figures.

And on the right, a detail of no 33 in the same street, yet again the work of Mikhail Eisenstein. In this, Eisenstein made use of elements of almost every historical architectural style that he could think of, from Roman design through the Renaissance and Baroque periods, and on to Classicism. There are decorative masks, stylised plants and geometric forms galore, and all set off, when I was there, by some beautiful purple flowers planted on the balconies.

7081516-More_Art_Nouveau_treasures_Riga.jpg Riga00107.jpg
Art Nouveau in Riga - 13 Alberta iela

This is 13 Alberta iela, another of Eisenstein’s designs and one influenced by his distress at the news of the defeat of Russian fleet in the Russian-Japanese war in 1904. The façade is dominated by two large masks of screaming women (this is one of them) and above these are structures in the shape of upended cones which support the bay windows on the attic floor.

I'll finish this brief look at some of the Art Nouveau glories of Riga with a selection of a few more details:

7081489-More_Art_Nouveau_treasures_Riga.jpg 7081506-More_Art_Nouveau_treasures_Riga.jpg

Riga00102.jpg

Riga00104.jpg Riga00112.jpg

Riga00118.jpg Riga00111.jpg

Art Nouveau in Riga

Vienna

large_7113556-Rich_in_architectural_details_Vienna.jpg
On Tuchlauben, Vienna

For architecture from the same era Vienna is also a delight (and for other reasons too, including food and drink!) The city is rich in architectural details from many eras in fact; the city offers Gothic, Baroque, Art Nouveau and modern in abundance, although it is probably the Baroque for which it is best known.

7113555-Rich_in_architectural_details_Vienna.jpg
In Vienna

Not being an expert, I am not always able to be sure of the period from which a building dates, especially when so many of them have been reconstructed or redeveloped over the years, but in Vienna it is the flourishes of Baroque and the more recent flamboyance of much of Art Nouveau that continually catches my eye.

7113530-Telemon_Vienna.jpg

The building above and right is on Tuchlauben, an elegant street that leads north west from Stephansplatz. These are caryatids, defined by Wikipedia as ‘a sculpted female figure serving as an architectural support taking the place of a column or a pillar supporting an entablature on her head’. I love to see them and to photograph them as they are usually so elegant and beautiful. I especially like the way that here the caryatid is in a contrasting stone to the rest of the building.

The male equivalent of a caryatid is a telamon. This one (left) is on the Verwaltungsgerichtshofs, on the Judenplatz, which gets its name because it was at the centre of Jewish life in Vienna in medieval times. The Jews lived in a ghetto of just 70 houses, their backs turned to surrounding streets to form a wall, and in the centre was this large square.

Today the square has a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, the work of the English artist Rachel Whiteread. But back to the Verwaltungsgerichtshofs. This houses the Austrian Administrative Court of Justice and was formerly the Bohemian Court Chancellery. It is very ornate with female figures above the entrances representing the cardinal virtues of moderation, wisdom, justice and bravery, and a telamon either side of each. High above an angel blows a trumpet, flanked by more figures.

7113558-Rich_in_architectural_details_Vienna.jpg
An address in stone, Vienna

Here is something a bit different. These little animals in the past served as addresses for a population who might not all be literate. I found this one somewhere in the streets between Stubentor U-Bahn station and the Scwedenplatz – you will have to keep your eyes open for this or similar creatures when you visit Vienna.

Let’s finish our time in this beautiful city with a few photos of one of my favourite buildings to photograph there, the Hofburg Palace, or more specifically its Michaelertrakt – the 19th century St Michael Wing, named after the church it faces. The graceful curve of this building is broken by a grand archway, either side of which a series of sculptural groups tell the story of the labours of Hercules (the work of Italian sculptor Lorenzo Mattielli). The structure is surmounted by a striking central green dome 50 metres high, two smaller ones ornament the ends, there are eagles, trumpeting angels, statuesque figures and coats of arms – and the whole is fabulously Viennese!

large_7113662-Hofburg_Palace_Vienna.jpg

7113793-The_Hofburg_Palace_Vienna.jpg

7113664-Hofburg_Palace_Vienna.jpg

7113665-Hofburg_Palace_Vienna.jpg

Hofburg Palace, Vienna

Italy

large_6266206-In_the_old_town_Ancona.jpg
In the old town, Ancona

The warm colours of Italian houses feature in many photos, including my own, but the details of letter-boxes, signs, carvings of saints etc., are to my eye equally picture-worthy. Here’s a selection:

6266326-Exploring_the_old_town_Ancona.jpg 6266215-Exploring_the_old_town_Ancona.jpg
In the old town, Ancona

large_7491438-Palazzo_Fava_da_San_Domenico_Bologna.jpg
Palazzo Fava da San Domenico, Bologna

7491442-On_Via_Urbana_Bologna.jpg 94840277492372-More_details..gs_Bologna.jpg
Bologna house details

6704099-Building_detail_Serra_San_Quirico.jpg
Building detail, Serra San Quirico
- a lovely small village in Marche

As a Roman Catholic country, Italy has many small shrines to the Virgin Mary on the walls of houses:

7609772-_Monopoli.jpg
House in Monopoli

3783841-The_streets_of_Sorrento_Sorrento.jpg
In Sorrento

4563356-Manarola_shrine_Manarola.jpg 4563355-Manarola_shrine_Manarola.jpg
In Manarola in the Cinque Terre

Elsewhere in Europe

Here is just a random selection of little details captured in a variety of places:

7405064-Hors_Chateau_Liege.jpg
Above a door in the Hors-Château area of Liège, Belgium

large_3324853-Gent_detail_of_building_Gent.jpg
And above another Belgian door, this time in Ghent

This is becoming a theme!

large_K025.JPG
Above a door in Krakow

cb9bde20-5465-11e8-9359-5bc747f430c3.jpg
And in Faro, Portugal

And while we’re in Portugal, we have to include some street signs, made from beautiful azulejos, the traditional glazed ceramic tiles:

7638455-Street_signs_and_azulejos_Faro.jpg

7638448-Street_signs_and_azulejos_Faro.jpg 7638445-Street_signs_and_azulejos_Faro.jpg
Still in Faro

4485129-A_Cascais_street_sign_Cascais.jpg

4505135-Street_sign_Cascais_Cascais.jpg

4505186-The_streets_of_Cascais_Cascais.jpg

In Cascais

Uzbekistan

Let's leave Europe and explore further afield (further for me, that is). If I had to pick out my favourite countries for this sort of detail-spotting, Uzbekistan would be high on the list (along with India, but that is covered extensively in my other blogs).

592918403610578-Shah_i_Zinda..Uzbekistan.jpg
Detail of the Emir Zade Mausoleum at the Shah-i-Zinda

The well-restored (some would say possibly too well-restored) ancient buildings of Samarkand are covered in the intricate tile mosaics typical of this style of Islamic architecture, with blue the dominant colour. As one of our travelling companions, Els, exclaimed at the Shah-i-Zinda, it was indeed at times ‘too much for my eyes!’

large_811557323674971-Shadi_Mulk_A.._Samarkand.jpg
Dome of the Shadi Mulk Aka Mausoleum, Shah-i-Zinda

The Shah-i-Zinda is the holiest site in Samarkand. According to legend, the prophet Elijah led Kussam-ibn-Abbas, first cousin of the Prophet Muhammad, to the Afrosiab hill north east of Samarkand's current location. The legend tells how Kussam came to bring Islam to this Zoroastrian area, and was attacked and beheaded for his trouble. It was believed that despite this he continued to live, and indeed is alive still in an underground palace on this site, which now bears his name; ‘Shah-i-Zinda’ means ‘the Living King’.

large_344184923675096-Gur_Emir_Mau.._Samarkand.jpg
The Gur Emir – detail of dome

The Gur Emir is the mausoleum of Tamerlaine. Wherever you go in Uzbekistan you’ll find it impossible to avoid hearing that name. It seems every nation needs its heroes, and when the Soviets left the country and their heroic statues of Lenin and Marx were pulled down, it was Tamerlaine who took their places on plinths around the country and who came to symbolise for Uzbeks their new-found independence and freedom. Observers from outside might question his credentials as a hero – this is after all a man who, in attempting to conquer the world, left an estimated 17 million people dead in his wake. But in Samarkand in particular he left the legacy of great peace, prosperity and splendour. Naturally then his mausoleum is of a scale to impress.

978103103675094-Gur_Emir_Mau.._Samarkand.jpg
The Gur Emir – interior detail

An unnamed poet is said to have exclaimed on seeing it, ‘Should the sky disappear, the dome will replace it’, and you can sort of see what he meant.

3676483-Samarkand_in_close_up_Samarkand.jpg
Door detail,
Bibi Khanum Mosque

Bibi Khanum was Tamerlaine’s great work, his attempt to build a mosque larger and more splendid than the Muslim world had ever seen. But his ambitions here overstretched the capabilities of his craftsmen, and the mosque was doomed almost from the start, though not from want of effort. He employed the very best slaves and workers, imported 95 elephants from India to haul the wagons and, when he judged the portal too low, had it pulled down and ordered it to be rebuilt. He himself superintended the work, coming to the site each day in his litter, and arranging for meat to be thrown down to the men digging the foundations rather than have them stop working for a moment. The result was a mosque of never-before seen proportions. But this splendour wasn’t to last. Almost from the first day it was in use, the mosque began to crumble, putting worshippers in peril. No one seems to know for certain why this was – maybe the building was simply too ambitious for the technologies of the day. Whatever the reason, this is one ancient structure that has so far defied the attempts of modern builders to restore it properly – and I found it all the more compelling for that very reason!

I will no doubt write more about Uzbekistan in some future blog here, but for now here are just a few more photos from our time there:

3608437-Kukhna_Ark_Khiva_summer_iwan_Khiva.jpg 625097253608525-Juma_Mosque_..lumn_Khiva.jpg
In Khiva - the Khuna Ark, and the Juma Mosque

3684477-Applied_Arts_Museum_Tashkent_Tashkent.jpg
In the Applied Arts Museum, Tashkent

Antigua Guatemala

I could clearly go on a long while with this blog entry, but will finish with just one more place where I found lots of photogenic details, among the earthquake-devastated churches of Antigua Guatemala. This was the country’s third capital. It was founded in 1543 when an eruption of the Vulcan Agua (Water Volcano) destroyed the second capital in the valley of Almononga. In 1566 the city received the name of ‘Muy Noble y Muy Leal Ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala’ (Very Noble and Very Loyal City of Santiago of the Caballeros of Guatemala), or Santiago de Guatemala for short. Despite the ravages of several earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, the city was the capital and economic centre of the whole Kingdom of Guatemala (today’s southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.). But in 1773 came the most destructive of all the earthquakes, the Santa Marta, and much of the city’s political and religious infrastructure was destroyed. A proposal was drawn up to move the capital for a third time, and despite some opposition, in 1775, a royal letter was written to order the foundation of a new capital. Left largely in ruins this city might perhaps have crumbled away completely, but enough fabric and people remained to keep it alive. Today’s Santiago de Guatemala, Antigua, is a National Monument and it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979. At its heart is an almost perfect grid of streets and avenues, each of them a gem, lined with picturesque houses (many single-storey because of the constant threat from the forces of nature) and dotted with the skeletons of those ruined colonial churches.

156174244977829-Detail_of_so.._Guatemala.jpg f39e2e20-54f9-11e8-80d1-c5491f4cde36.JPG
Iglesia de Santa Clara, Antigua Guatemala

The convent of Santa Clara was founded in 1699 for a small group of six nuns who moved here from Mexico. With support from the city’s wealthier citizens they constructed a church and convent buildings between 1703 and 1705, but these were destroyed in the earthquake of 1717. The remains standing today are those of a new church and convent started in 1723 and finished in 1734 – and destroyed in 1773.

large_581967904977819-Detail_in_ru.._Guatemala.jpg

466138114977820-Ruins_Catedr.._Guatemala.jpg
Ruins, Catedral de Santiago, Antigua Guatemala

Antigua’s cathedral might well stand as a metaphor for the city itself: built, destroyed, rebuilt, destroyed again, and finally rebuilt for a third time but on much less grand a scale. Now the ruins of its former grandeur lie in the shadows of today’s more modest structure.

I hope this blog has given you a sense of why I love to look for the details of buildings and, as I said at the start, often focus (literally!) on these at the expense of the whole.

Posted by ToonSarah 06:18 Tagged art buildings architecture ruins colour austria italy poland guatemala romania belgium details photography portugal switzerland latvia uzbekistan Comments (13)

Street art

large_Street_art_collage.jpg

I love to see and to photograph street art, although I feel it poses a couple of challenges. Firstly, when judging graffiti, where is the line where vandalism crosses over into art? And secondly, when judging a photo of street art, are we really assessing the skill of the photographer, or of the original artist?

On the first point, I think we can look at two factors. While the appeal of art is very subjective, generally it’s possible to recognise elements of creativity, imagination and originality – and conversely, to recognise the lack of these in a piece of pure vandalism. But location also plays a part – was the artist invited to create a work of art on this wall? Is it in an area put aside for this purpose? If not, has the piece diminished or added to the attractiveness of a street scene?

I believe all the photos I will share in this blog entry tick at least one of the ‘is it art?’ qualifiers. As to whether they are good photos or simple accurate records of ‘good’ art, I will leave you to judge – but sometimes a straightforward record shot is worth sharing too!

Valparaiso

3_13_Valpa..Concepcion_.jpg

I want to start here, on Chile’s Pacific coast, as it is one of the best cities I have ever visited for street art. But as I have already blogged about a day trip here elsewhere on this site (Valley of Paradise), do feel free to skip these first photos!

Valparaiso is famous for its neighbourhoods of colourful houses that spill down the hillsides towards the port. They are a magnet for artists, for photographers, for writers and are especially known for the street art that adorns many of the buildings, which was one of the main things that attracted us here. No doubt this started unofficially, and just here and there, but today it is a major feature of the city, helped by a tolerant city council who overlook the fact that graffiti and street art are illegal in Chile and have ensured that there are no regulations that explicitly outlaw it .

Instead it is widely accepted and even welcomed by local businesses such as cafés and shops, who recognise that it will attract visitors. Many owners nowadays will commission street artists to create a design for their wall, while many artists who spot a likely wall space will pitch their ideas to the owner and collaborate to produce a design with which both are happy.

Most of my photos were taken on the streets of Cerro Concepción, one of the designated historic areas known as a zona típica, but you find similar in many other parts of the city.

3_1_Valpar..Concepcion_.jpg

3_14_Valpa..Concepcion_.jpg

3_21_Valparaiso_2016.jpg

3_17_Valpa..Concepcion_.jpg

Lisbon

Portugal seems to be more tolerant than most cities of graffiti, and many examples found in Lisbon might be judged to be on the wrong side of the vandalism/art divide, but I’ve always found plenty to admire here too. Much of the graffiti here is created with the use of stencils – the Barrio Alto and Alfama districts are the best places to search. In recent years there has been increased interest in creating street art on a much larger scale, covering whole buildings, as in the last example here (taken on our most recent visit in 2013).

A559FD49BDA4813F211C200668781EEE.jpg
Graffitti_03.jpg Graffitti_04.jpg A55911D4E42588447F18A8E6F2611BB6.jpg
Graffiti in the Barrio Alto, 2009

004_Lisbon_graffitti_02.jpg
004_Lisbon_graffitti_01.jpg
Lisbon street art, 2013

Faro

In Faro too, which I visited with Virtual Tourist friends in 2016, I found some colourful examples of street art:

7638437-Graffiti_Faro.jpg
7638432-Rua_Sao_Pedro_Faro.jpg 7638433-Rua_Sao_Pedro_Faro.jpg
7638436-Graffiti_Faro.jpg
In Faro

Riga

This is another city I discovered through Virtual Tourist when a meeting was organised here in 2014. I liked it so much I went back the next year with Chris. Architecturally it is perhaps most famous for its Art Nouveau district, but the more working class and somewhat scruffy area known as Latgale or Maskavas forštate (Moscow District) is also appealing photographically speaking, and has the best examples of street art – most, though not all, of these photos were taken there on those two trips.

large_P1100864.jpg

752398307081428-Travelogue_m..tgale_Riga.jpg

7436610-Street_art_in_Latgale_Riga.jpg

P1100846.jpg

P1100857.jpg P1100692.jpg
large_P1100866.jpg
In Riga

Berlin

Perhaps the best-regulated display of street art is the East Side Gallery in Berlin. There are several places in that city where stretches of the once infamous Wall remain. Some are left much as they were, one at least showing the signs of destruction caused by the assault by local people when finally they brought the Wall down. But on the banks of the Spree near the Ostbahnhof is a stretch that has been restored and decorated with a series of murals by artists from all over the world. And whereas in the period of the city’s division the decorative graffiti was confined to the western side of the wall, now it is the eastern side that is both colourful and, at times, political.

5095420-Birds_in_Heaven_Berlin.jpg
Birds in Heaven
large_5803216-Looking_to_the_future_Berlin.jpg
No-man's Land
5095422-Birth_of_Hip_Hop_Berlin.jpg
The Birth of Hip Hop

310209615095927-Graffiti_in_..tel_Berlin.jpg
In the Scheunenviertal

The 1.3 km stretch was turned into this informal open-air gallery soon after the fall of the Wall, in 1990, and completely restored, with new art-works, in 2009 to mark the 20 year anniversary of that event. There are 106 works in total, and it claims to be the largest open-air art gallery in the world. Much of the art work on display will stimulate and remind you of the events of 1989, as well as raising some challenging questions perhaps about on-going conflict in our world – although a few pieces seem to be just for fun. My photos show a selection of the works I liked best when we visited in 2011, soon after this restoration.

But street art in Berlin isn’t confined to the East Side Gallery – here are a couple of pieces from trendy neighbourhoods Scheunenviertal and Prenzlauer Berg.

5095916-Graffiti_in_Oderberger_Strasse_Berlin.jpg
Oderberger Strasse, Prenzlauer Berg

Some other examples

7650756-Graffiti_street_art.jpg
Lagos, Portugal

As some of the photos above show, I like to include people in my street art shots, to give perspective and bring the scene to life. Here are a few more random examples of this:

465020224264869-Street_scene.._York_City.jpg
Lower East Side, NYC

7405111-Liege_street_art_Liege.jpg
In Liège

Newcastle / Gateshead

But I don’t have to travel far to find good street art! We make several visits each year to Chris’s home town of Newcastle and I always carry a camera when out and about in this very photogenic city. In recent years the area around Ouseburn just east of the city centre has been developed as a focal point for artists, creative businesses and similar, and is a great place to find interesting street art.

Newcastle_00068_.jpg

7151113-Local_grafitti_Newcastle_upon_Tyne.jpg

Newcastle_00073_.jpg

Newcastle_00072_.jpg
Ouseburn Valley, Newcastle

London

But perhaps the best place I know for street art is my home city of London – or maybe I just know where best to look for it here? Certainly I have a surfeit of examples that I could share, so here is just a (perhaps rather large!) selection:

large_803457276839129-Another_side..rea_London.jpg
637899776839128-Another_side..rea_London.jpg
105026086839131-Another_side..rea_London.jpg
BL_graffiti_03.jpg 251678856839127-Another_side..rea_London.jpg
522355166839130-Another_side..rea_London.jpg
All the above taken near Brick Lane

large_P1070887.jpg
P1070890.jpg P1070879.jpg
P1070865.jpg P1070830.jpg
large_P1070852.jpg
P1070860.jpg P1070858.jpg
P1070850.jpg
P1070842.jpg D4747C3D0FB1E36A25A09FEA25F95811.jpg
large_P1070841.jpg
All taken in Shoreditch and Hoxton - ripe hunting ground for lovers of street art

Posted by ToonSarah 05:41 Tagged art streets city photography street_art street_photography Comments (9)

(Entries 1 - 2 of 2) Page [1]