Posts Tagged ‘architecture’

9th August

The day’s stats:

Coffee consumed:

1x Very strong espresso to start the day.
1x Iced Coffee after the cemetery in the boiling sun.

Food Consumed:

Breakfast – German bread, cheese, half a pain au chocolat.

Lunch: Beef Goulash and bread from a restaurant that only sells this one thing, in one size, and you get extra sauce all for 4 euros.

Afternoon: Two types of cherry cake – half of each.


4x trips on underground
4x trips on trams
countless miles on foot.

Sights seen:


The Dom: well here’s some gothic architecture for you, do you want another serving with that? My friend informs me that the locals like to watch tourists trying, in increasingly ridiculous poses, to get a photo of the whole structure. We are thwarted in our first attempt to see the interior by a blockade of priests, they are preparing for the 12 noon service. The second attempt brings me into a glorious world of ecclesiastical art. The mosaics on the floor of the chapel with three kings in particular, which depict various woman (female saints?) with different churches of Cologne resting on their laps. The latest addition is a wonderful, vibrant window of modern art stained glass which matches the colours of the older windows perfectly.

The glorious Rhine in full sunshine. Lot of of chance for photo nerding (camera clamped to my eye as I try to take sneaky pictures of people enjoying the sun, including a wedding couple.)

The famous Cologne railway Bridge which is covered in lovers’ padlocks of all different shapes and size. My favourite has to be a turtle and the padlock for one of Cologne’s football teams who were wishing for the luck to make the next division [my friend says they have no chance].

On the way back across the bridge we had to dodge no one, but two, guided tours by Segway. Yes you read that right. Segway. Large, lazy people who look affronted that they have to move their Segway a little to the left to avoid me and other pedestrians who were walking on the footpath. I’m also not sure the safety and comfort of a being on a Segway in a town which has so many cobbled streets.


Cemetery: A city break isn’t complete without a trip to at least one cemetery. This one is a beautiful, quiet green space which masks the noise from the busy road that runs along one side. It’s also filled with nature and much to my delight a red squirrel bounds round one of the large fir trees and my friend and I track its progress through the treetops with childish delight. It is amazing what tufty ears, bushy tail and the deep russet red can do for what is essentially a rat. We also spot a mouse zipping between the gravestones.

There are the usual array of angels (not weeping) on graves and, as we pass gigantic edifices of stone, I begin to wonder about commissioning such graves. Yes, I’d like a life size replica of a Grecian circle of columns please. What’s the going rate for a semi naked, muscular man in mining boots? I’d like a sci-fi metal sculpture with a sphere on a stick, if that isn’t too much trouble.

I never really find cemeteries too creepy, but I have to pause a moment and talk about a family grave where what was probably the favourite Teddy Bear pokes out from beneath the tombstone, its paws splayed against a plastic partition wall, as if it has just crawled from the grave. Terribly moving, sad and just a little bit demonic.

When I return home photos will be added to this post to illustrate these unusual tombstones.

A street market where the air is filled with the smell of less than fresh fish and the tunes of kitschy German music. My friend and I are lucky enough to find the perfect plush animal present for a birthday party we’re attending, a hippo, on one of the stalls.

Gift room: A temporary glass and wooden outdoor cupboard where people can leave books, clothing, cds, videos etc. for others to take for free. This is a brilliant ideas and encourages a sense of community.

I’m a huge architecture nerd. Buildings both modern and ancient really excite me. I’m working through a book, given as a Christmas present, of 1001 buildings to see before you die. I’ve seen 110 across Europe, China, Japan and America. Not too bad. Of course since 2007 when I was given the book new buildings have been created, so it’s a futile gesture really to try and see them all.

I also find architecture immensely inspiring for my writing. As I am focusing on science fiction these days, the city-scapes of these speculative futures form an important part of world building. The city itself often becomes a character. It exists as a means to show the theme of a film and to create mood or atmosphere.

And I’m a sucker for an ancient ruin that can be transformed into a spectacular set piece location for an action adventure movie. [That’s my youth watching Indiana Jones and playing Tomb Raider showing.]

So, whenever I can, I find time to see exhibitions involving architecture. The one currently on at the Royal Academy in London until 6th April is a thrilling, interactive experience I’d recommend to anyone with a spare hour and a few bob. It’s called Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined.

Seven architects have been given rooms to turn into their own architectural wonderlands. Some are gigantic structures like the towering wooden platform by Pezo von Ellrichshausen and the plastic tunnel by Diébédo Francis Kéré; while others develop more intimate spaces where the mind turns inwards like Kengo Kuma’s dark, scented rooms with delicate bamboo sculptures or the play of shadow and light by Irish Grafton Architects.

My favourite, pictured below, has to be the labyrinth forest of twigs by Li Xiandong.

Li Xiaodong exhibition piece at Royal AcademyPhotograph by Max Gee (on terrible phone camera)

The viewer walks on a luminous white floor, between walls of twigs in a darkened room, often turning to dead end seating spaces and eventually reaching a zen stone garden at the centre. Other people and spaces can be glimpsed through the twigs walls which are not solid. Caught on the peripheries of vision, these half seen sights create an atmosphere of mystery.

The quiet is broken when you reach the zen garden, where you are encouraged to walk across the pebbles. This brings back nostalgic experiences of holidays on pebbled beaches – a strange association in a dark, forest of twigs. Magical, I thought.

Li Xiaodong’s exhibition piece led to a google search of his other work; the library at Liyuan, struck a chord as inspiration for a location in a future movie.

Liyuan Library by Li Xiaodong

Photograph from Dezeen online magazine article

The strong lines of the main structure seem so current, modern, in clean light wood but they are tempered with the external shell of twigs found in the nearby landscape. The walls are solid, but not; the architect interested in the flow of light and air. It is the library to aspire to having – although I feel it might be completely impractical in Yorkshire.

I have a suspicion that flavours of the pieces in this exhibition will be making their way into the scripts that I will be writing for my PhD, apologies in advance Mr Li Xiaodong. 

Exhibition details:

Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined, The Royal Academy of Arts, 25th January until 06th April 2014,