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Chicago

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What can I say about Chicago except that it’s one of my favorite cities? Do I need to tell you that it’s home to almost ten million people and the third-largest city in the U.S.? Do I need to mention that it has the second busiest airport in the world? No. You can read all that on Wikipedia. I’ll just let these impressions speak for themselves.

Written by Thorsten

August 8, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Central Embassy Mall in Bangkok

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Gucci, Prada and Paul Smith – they’re all at Bangkok’s newest luxury mall ‘Central Embassy‘. It opened on May 9, 2014 on Ploenchit Road – within walking distance to at least three similar high-class shopping malls. Though I’m not sure who needs yet another mall with stores for the super rich, the architecture is fascinating.

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Most of these pictures were taken simply looking up at the seven floors of the shopping center in its atriums. All in all, the space is vast – and that’s probably the biggest luxury in a crowded city like Bangkok.

And since Central Embassy isn’t a mall where they just play muzak, there were even some flautists and a string quartet taking care of the entertainment the day I was there.

Written by Thorsten

May 11, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Wat Pho through my eyes

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Wat Pho is one of the most-visited temples in Bangkok and it’s one of the most photographed. So when I returned to the temple last weekend, I deliberately tried to stay clear of the crowds as far as that was possible and explored some of the quieter corners of the complex.

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Written by Thorsten

August 21, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Baroque splendor at Dresden’s Pillnitz Castle

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If you take a boat up the Elbe river from Dresden, you’ll see the baroque-style Pillnitz Castle on your left. The castle and surrounding buildings display some decorative Chinese elements. These “Chinoiseries” were fashionable in Europe in the 18th century, when the castle was built.

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In the castle gardens, one of the prime attractions is a camellia tree that is more than 230 years old. It was planted in this spot in 1801 and has grown to a height of almost nine meters (more than 29 feet). A special glass house was built around the plant to protect it from the cold of winter. Every spring, this old camellia tree is covered with some 35.000 red blossoms.

Related post: Dresden goes Disneyland

Written by Thorsten

April 20, 2012 at 8:23 pm

Cologne’s KOLUMBA

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My cultural highlight this week was a visit to Kolumba in Cologne. This museum has been around for almost a year now, but you know how it is: when you’re not a tourist, when you live in a city, you never really get around to seeing the sights…

A couple of friends had already been to Kolumba’s new building, designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. They’d all raved about the architecture and the exhibits.

But the fact that Kolumba is the art museum of the archbishopric of Cologne somehow didn’t help to get me excited about it.

Was I ever in for a surprise

Kolumba is very different from your average museum. One of the unusual ideas here is that the exhibits aren’t organized in a time line. You don’t walk through the ages and see how ideas and styles evolve over time.

Instead, pieces of art are juxtaposed: a medieval statue next to an Andy Warhol. A gilded baroque angel next to an abstract yellow painting. An elaborate silver reliquary from the 13th century next to a small meditative painting by Alexej Jawlensky from 1937 that’s almost completely black.

Architecture and art

It’s not just the juxtaposition that brings these works of art to life. It’s also the space that they’re given in this amazing architecture. The building is minimalist, yet spectacular. The architecture doesn’t take center stage, but works extremely well with the artworks.

Hardly any rooms in the museum are square – instead, Zumthor surprises you with new room shapes and heights at every turn you make.

A courtyard for contemplation

One of the most magical spots of the museum is a little courtyard, which used to be the graveyard of Kolumba church. Today, it’s a place for contemplation – fine white pebbles, some trees and some chairs.

When you sit down here and look around yourself, you see the ruins of the gothic Kolumba church that used to stand here until it was destroyed in World War II.

Behind these walls is a site that shows the excavated ruins of the medieval church, but also of the Roman houses that were there even before the church was built. Then you have some 1950’s architecture by Gottfried Böhm, who rebuilt parts of Kolumby church after the War. And finally, above all and holding it all together, is Zumthor’s 21st century architecture.

Giving art the space it needs

Another thing that adds to the Kolumba museum’s effect is that the rooms are not stuffed with all the artworks that the church surely owns – the curators limited themselves to a few exciting pieces. Some of them aren’t even by well-known artists, but seen in this context, they suddenly gain new impact.

You really start thinking about the art in a different way when you see it presented in this museum. It’s awe-inspiring, sublime, stunning.

I came out of that museum feeling inspired. Small. Grateful.

And I almost feel ashamed for having entered this shrine wearing camouflage shorts and flip flops.

More pictures here.

Written by Thorsten

July 10, 2008 at 1:02 pm

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