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Hong Kong: fashion walk, urban grunge

Posted by Chris Wray on Mar 8, 2011 in architecture and urban spaces, commentary

The first thing that strikes you about Hong Kong is a city of stark contrasts. Gleaming skyscrapers adjacent to squalid tenements; Maserati’s weaving around ramshackle bicycles; the super-rich living along side poverty-stricken residents. Hong Kong’s income gap is the most pronounced in all of Asia, with the middle class only making up about 7% of the population. Sights like the one below are quite common. This mid-rise building complex consists of government subsidized apartments directly above trendy clothing shops replete in shiny chrome, glass and marble walls. It was an odd sensation to experience the Madison Avenue feel when strolling along Hong Kong’s Fashion Walk, while at the same time you see the crumbling, urban decay of the apartments above. Despite this dichotomy, Hong Kong is a remarkably harmonious place and I found the people to be friendly and outgoing. Stay tuned for more of my travel photo diary. Next stop: the famous Victoria Peak and harbor skyline.

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St. Mang Basilica | Füssen, Bavaria

Posted by Chris Wray on Dec 29, 2010 in architecture and urban spaces

During my recent excursion to see the Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein castles in southern Bavaria, I made an unexpected visit to the Benedictine cloister of St. Mang and its adjacent Basilica. Mangus of Füssen (aka Saint Mang) was the venerated saint of Füssen and the founder of the abbey in 9th century AD. The complex was rebuilt between 1696 and 1726 in the Baroque style. The irregular medieval architecture was transformed into a massive Baroque church, based on Venetian models.

The exterior of the church is rather austere, owing to its medieval roots, but just a few steps inside the church, and you’ll be awed by the size and opulence of the Baroque interior. Hoping to grab some photos of the sanctuary, I soon realized a hand-held shot was too shaky to capture the grandeur as an HDR photo composite. Surreptitiously, I set up my tripod and camera on an elevated level separating the church organ from the nave and another shot capturing the high altar from the transept. The lighting was very dim, so I prepared a long exposure (up to 20s!) on the +2EV setting with a low ISO setting to ensure minimal noise. I have since explored hand-held interior shots using very fast ISO (3200) and was pleasantly surprised with the clarity.

Enjoy the photo results below. For larger photos, more photography notes, and other church photos from around the world, please visit my Flickr page.

St.Mang_Basilica

St.Mang_Basilica_Mary

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Bavarian grandeur

Posted by Chris Wray on Nov 21, 2010 in architecture and urban spaces, photography

The Bavarian village of Füssen is full of charm and rich history. Following a week-long business trip in Munich, my colleagues and I took a day-excursion to picturesque Füssen and its nearby crown jewels: Schloss Hohenschwangau and Schloss Neuschwanstein— two 19th century castles of unimaginable architectural and artistic expression. Neuschwanstein

By train, Füssen is located just 2.5 hours south of Munich. Catch the S- or U-Bahn to München Hauptbahnhof (Munich’s central train station). Then board a regional train south to the rural town of Buchloe. From here, take a connecting train to Füssen. A short bus ride from the Füssen rail station takes you to the foot of the castles in Schwangau. Check into the DB Bahn (Germany’s national rail service) group discount. A group of 3 to 5 individuals can ride round trip on one ticket for only 30 Euros!

Allow plenty of time for taking in both castle tours. You’ll need time to photograph the expansive vistas, castle exteriors, and travel time for getting between the two sites. Hiking is permitted along the steep winding road that connects the two castles, but I recommend taking the bus or horse-drawn carriage to ensure you don’t miss your appointed tour.

Currently, 17 Euros buys a guided tour of both castles. I recommend visiting the older Schloss Hohenschwangau first, followed by the extravagant Schloss Neuschwanstein. Touring the castles in chronological order puts their history into proper perspective and saves the best for last! Photography is not permitted inside the castles—but not to worry—the exterior photo ops and sweeping Alpine landscapes will astound the most experienced outdoor photographer.

Hohes Schloss, Füssen

In the heart of Füssen, standing high above the River Lech, lies the often overlooked Hohes Schloss (High Castle). The former summer residence of the prince bishops of Augsburg, the Hohes Schloss is one of the best preserved late Gothic castle complexes.

Hohes Schloss currently serves as a branch gallery of the Bavarian State Collections of Paintings featuring works of art from the late Gothic and Renaissance periods. We arrived after the gallery closed—reason to visit again!

Füssen and its magnificent castles are a must see when traveling to southern Germany. Click on the links below to enjoy more of my photos taken during our Bavarian excursion. Please check back frequently, as I will be adding additional pictures to the Piscasa photo albums.

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Ascend The Climber

Posted by Chris Wray on Jun 23, 2010 in architecture and urban spaces, art, photography

The Climber

If you’re traveling in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, be sure to visit the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. Housed in the historic Monroe School building (a great example of Classical Revival architecture), the Children’s Museum features three floors of incredible sensory and motor stimulation. Their latest installation, dubbed The Climber, is a 37-foot high, 50-ton conglomeration of structural steel, fiberglass, wood, stainless steel aircraft cable, and found objects. My kids loved this wholly whimsical and totally hands- (and feet-) on installation. “Now this is the ultimate treehouse,” enthusiastically commented my son before dashing up one of its numerous gangways.

Various perches are cantilevered throughout the structure that allow visitors to climb into or onto, including wacky themed objects:

• Flying Bathtub
• Dream Boat
• Roof Top
• Fish Walk
• Recycled Rocket

The structure is thoughtfully constructed with a third-floor observation deck that permits visitors with limited mobility (or just too pooped to continue climbing) to observe the multi-level terrain of The Climber.

Clamber, balance, maneuver and discover — The Climber will engage your mind and muscles! Don’t miss it.

— Photos were taken with iPhone 3GS camera and Pro HDR app.

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Pauline Chapel revisited

Posted by Chris Wray on May 4, 2010 in architecture and urban spaces, art

Taking inspiration from Cassandre and Baumann
Inspired by the recent photo I took of the Pauline Chapel, I created a graphic illustration of this historic building. The strong play of light and shadow on the geometric stucco walls reminded me of the vintage 1930s travel posters of the great early 20th century graphic designer A.M. Cassandre (Adolphe Jean-Marie Mouron). His poster style drew on the avant-garde influences of Cubism and Futurism and integrated strong use of typography.

NORMANDIE-Cassandre

Cassandre employed airbrush and friskets (masks) to create his works of poster art. My illustration was developed using vector-based software tools in Adobe Illustrator CS4. I exaggerated the proportions of the Pauline Chapel, emphasizing the height and perspective of the chapel’s prominent tower.

The composition was naturally framed by the Blue Spruce and Ponderosa Pine to the left and right of the chapel. I found that rendering vegetation proved to be challenging, so I chose a simplified approach. The German-born American print maker and painter Gustave Baumann created colorful, stylized woodcuts of southwestern landscapes. His stylistic approach served as inspiration for the two evergreen trees in my composition.




Pauline Chapel poster in the style of A.M. Cassandre

History of Pauline Chapel
Pauline Chapel is adjacent to St. Paul Church near the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. The Chapel is a notable example of ornate Spanish Colonial Revival and its antecedent style, Mission Revival Style, which both draw inspiration from the early Spanish missions of California. The Chapel was built in 1918 by the prominent Colorado Springs architectural firm of MacLaren and Hetherington under the close supervision of local Colorado Springs philanthropist Julie Penrose. The chapel is named after the Penrose’s daughter, Pauline Penrose. The Pauline Chapel was added to the National Register of Historic Places on February 26, 2001.

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Marienplatz: Munich’s city center since 1158

Posted by Chris Wray on Jun 20, 2009 in architecture and urban spaces

Located in the heart of Munich’s bustling city, Marienplatz (Mary’s Square) has been the city’s market center since the 12th Century. Today, old traditions intermingle with new as vendor stalls dot the pedestrian mall next to trendy fashion boutiques. Marienplatz is a must-see destination when visiting Munich. During my recent visit to Munich, I took the U-Bahn underground rail system to the Marienplatz stop, a major transportation hub that serves the urban and suburban mass transit lines. As you disembark, you walked through an ultra-modern subway tunnel with glistening orange ceramic tiles, then up the escalator to the street level of Marienplatz, where you’re greeted by Gothic architecture—what a visual contrast!
Read more…

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Railyard Santa Fe: rebirth of a vibrant district

Posted by Chris Wray on May 30, 2009 in architecture and urban spaces

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With the rapid decline of railroad transportation in the early ‘80s, rail districts throughout the U.S. slid into urban decay. The rail yards and adjacent neighborhoods of Santa Fe, New Mexico were declared a blighted area in 1987, characterized by property abandonment, unemployment, crime, and barren urban landscapes.

Fast-forward twenty years and you will see the same urban geography has been redefined by a vibrant, revitalized community. The design process involved hundreds of participants: citizens, land planners, architects, and city council members. The resulting redevelopment—dubbed The Railyard Santa Fe—incorporates an eclectic mix of performing art venues, restaurants, retail, art studios and galleries, a permanent structure for Santa Fe Farmers’ Market, and 13 acres of open space including a park, plaza, and pedestrian promenade.

During my recent trip to Santa Fe, I visited The Railyard and was surprised how well the redevelopment project integrates with the surrounding urban and natural landscape. The hard-edged, rugged look of the buildings reflects the city’s intention to preserve the industrial feel of the original rail complex. The shinny corrugated metal surfaces, exposed hardware, and strong rectilinear walls unexpectedly harmonize with the prevailing adobe architecture.

The multi-use Railyard Park is a real gem, with its eco-friendly, drought-resistant garden with outdoor performance and picnic areas, playground, and walking-biking trails. Original iron rails and rusted rail car wheels are cleverly integrated into the linear walkways and gardens.

The Railyard marks its one-year anniversary this September. Enjoy my picture gallery (click on the water tower image) and let me hear your comments. For more information on The Railyard, visit www.railyardsantafe.com.

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Contractor Blooper of the Year Award

Posted by Chris Wray on May 11, 2009 in architecture and urban spaces

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I thought I’d start off my architectural photo blog series on the lighter side. Click on the adjacent photo and have a look at the gallery of contractor mishaps from around the world. Let me know which one you think qualifies for Contractor Blooper of the Year Award.

And the nominees are…

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