architecture travel guide

Architectural travel on the cheap

From the plane

Gone are the days of cheap travel, I cannot believe how expensive flights and hotels have become.  Not long ago we could get half-way around the world for what now seems like peanuts.  But for us curious explorers we cannot stop traveling and visiting our favorite architectural landmarks so we must find other ways to save. 

Here are my travel budget tips to offset the costs of traveling.

(from a float plane on my way Salmon fishing in the Queen Charlotte Islands, BC)

Do the Research

Before you leave be sure to research the architecture, monuments, museums and towers you plan to visit, jot down the entry fees and compare it to your budget.  If the entry fees are adding up you may need to prioritize (also see 5 TIPS FOR VISITING ARCHITECTURE).  This will be important to help find savings in the tips below.

The Budget

Budgets aren’t my favorite thing either but here is a quick and easy formula:

  1. Start with how much you want or can afford to spend on you trip I would start with that
  2. Subtract all your transportation costs (flights, trains tickets, bus ticket etc.)
  3. Calculate how many days you will need accommodation and do a quick estimate of your average accommodation budget is
  4. You should allow for food and spending money – this is going to vary greatly depending on what country you are going to be.

Remember this is a starting point to make sure things don’t go off track to much, accommodation/ food and spending money is an average number so if one day you are going to a number of monuments but the day after you plan to hang out at the beach it should average out.

Flexibility

When you have flexibility and /or time you can usually find better deals on flights and hotels in the offseason – this will save you money on flights and hotels that you can use towards entry fees and day tours.

We all have to Eat

I am a foodie but sometimes on travels food is fuel and not the main event so what I like to do is try and save money on one meal a day.

Breakfast:  Often I travel with food, a few protein bars or granolar bars because they are easy to transport  or I will go to the market and get some fresh fruit or a treat from the bakery while I am out and about and have that in my hotel room with coffee, if there is a coffee machine in the room.  This is a relaxing and quick way to have breakfast in the morning, often while I review the plan for the day.

Lunch:  if lunch is my money saving meal I will try to have a bigger breakfast and grab a snack on the go midday.  Street food is always my favorite but that will depend on what city you are in. Also if you are having a big breakfast and an early dinner you may skip lunch all together.  If you are close to market grab some fresh fruits and vegetable which are hard to get enough of when traveling.

Istanbul Streetfood 3 Istanbul Streetfood 1 Istanbul Streetfood 2 (variety of street food in Istanbul, Turkey)

Dinner:  this is a bit trickier to save for, but possible, ask your concierge for recommendations and try to stay out of the tourist areas which are normally expensive and not that great.

Some general tips:  If coffee is super pricey, my experience in Tokyo, I have gone to the store and purchased some instant coffee to have in the hotel.

With all these ways to save I do not recommend trying to save a dollar on water.  Drink safe reliable water especially in hot places, if you are in Rome and it is over 40 degrees Celsius it is important to stay hydrated, try grabbing a big bottle of water from the grocery store instead of the stands in front of the Coliseum.

Citypass

Because you have been diligent and done a ton of research prior to your trip you will know which sites you plan to visit and the entry fee prices, but many cities offer a ‘citypass’ (the name of the pass vary from city to city) which basically bundles a bunch of popular city sights for a flat rate.  This is perfect for those who plan to go to enough of the sights on the list.  Many of these value packages offer features such as line-bypass or discounts for other places, stores or shows.  Here are a few examples:

MADRID Tourist Card:  http://www.madridcard.com/en/inicio

TORONTO Citypass:  http://www.citypass.com/toronto

NEW YORK Citypass:  http://www.citypass.com/new-york

BERLIN Welcome Card:  http://www.visitberlin.de/en/welcomecard

To find if the cities you are traveling to have a citypass I typically would Google the city name and the phrase ‘tourist card’, the officially tourist website of the city/country you are going should also have some advertising for it.

Museums

Louvre LensMany Museums and Galleries offer pricing for General Admission, the Temporary Exhibit and typically another price for both.  You can save some money by viewing only the Permanent Collection, it is all new stuff if you have never been there before and if you are really just interested in the architecture you will see the main spaces and most of the building without the up charge on the Temporary Exhibit.

Bilbao Guggenheim Museum

Also try to take advantage of the time where it is free entry, most museums and galleries do offer this so if it works with your schedule try to take advantage but I must warn you it will likely be busy.

louvre-museum

Buy your tickets in advance, sometimes there is a discount for purchasing ahead of time, for some museums and art galleries you need to book a time anyways so I would recommend always looking into this as part of your research.

Tourist Trap

Prada by Herzog & de Meuron Architekten

Prada by Herzog & de Meuron Architekten

Don’t get sucked into the tourist trap of feeling like you need to visit every monument, museum, gallery, ruin and historic something rather which all have entry fees.  Pick and choose which you actually want to go to, perhaps the Arc de Triomphe is awesome enough from the ground floor and you don’t need to go up, the view is pretty cool that was just an example. If you don’t find a bunch of ruins that interesting because history is not your thing you are better to check out an awesome Square or Piazza and have an ice cream or go shopping in some super trendy boutiques.  Don’t feel like you need to hit the top ten listed in some travel guide.

Sleep on the Go

ways_to_sleep

You can save a night’s accommodation if you book an overnight train or flight rather than spending the entire day commuting only to arrive to your destination just to sleep.  If you plan to do this bring a small inflatable pillow, ear plugs or load your iPod with some relaxing white noise, an eye mask and a light blanket.  Be sure to keep you valuables safe, I have sat on top of my passport and money on a few train rides, and try to keep your luggage in easy viewing distance, better a few seats in front of you than behind you.

Discounts

If you are young, a student or a senior you got it made for discounts.  Almost everything offers a discount from public transit to popular landmarks; if it is not advertised ask if there is a discount.  Some reward cards or membership cards offer discounts to hotels and attractions, it’s worth reviewing the offers before booking your trip.

Transportation

Kyoto on BikeTry to walk as much as possible, take public transit or rent a bike over taxis.  You can see the city the best by foot and cover a lot of terrain in a bike.  Do what the locals do to get around, ie:  in Kyoto renting a bike for a few days was perfect, very convenient and flexible, in most cities I take the metro, in Istanbul I saved a ton if money taking the regular commuting ferry up the Bosporus River rather than an expensive tourist cruise, you miss the commentary but the scenery is the same for only a few dollars.

(Kyoto, Japan by bike)

Cash

Try not to exchange money or withdrawal money too frequently, most exchange centers have bad exchange rates and banks can charge fees for each withdrawal (learned this the hard way).  Try to change as much money as you feel comfortable carrying before you leave.  I recommend not keeping all your money in one place no matter how much you have, I always try to have an emergency bill or two tucked somewhere no one would go ie: shoes, bra, sock (gross I know but I would not want to be completely stranded somewhere without even a way to get back to the hotel).   Before you leave it may be worth a quick internet search of where a good place to get cash is or ask your concierge.

Whats Included

It shocks me beyond words that in this day and age free WiFi is not standard in every hotel but many hotels do charge.  It will be beneficial and save you time and money to have free WiFi access with your accommodations, it will be easy to contact friends and family, look up venues you plan to go to, and allows more freedom to change your itinerary and research new things on the fly.

Complimentary breakfast will also save you money if you take full advantage and have a healthy size breakfast you may not to have lunch at all.

More Time – Less Places

Cherry Blossoms

I know I know – there are so many places and so little time but if you cram in too much you won’t enjoy it anyways and be paying to be in an airport, on a train/bus for half your trip.  So stop and smell the roses, it will be easier on your pocket book too.

a happy groupie is an architecture GROUPIE

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tips for visiting modern architecture

are you an architecture groupie?

Years ago I realized…

I am an architecture GROUPIE

thinking, planning, researching and traveling to different cities all over the world visiting modern and contemporary architecture.

The architecture varied in age, size, use, materials and often left me speechless.  There is so much beauty and inspiration in Architecture and I just wanted to see it all.  I still do.

Krematorium - Berlin Architecture   Concilliation Chapel - Berlin   Bundestrag im Reichstag - Berlin Architecture

While I was in Berlin, a Studies Abroad during Grad school, I sought great architecture out.  The old stuff was easy to find but it was the modern and contemporary projects that were the real challenge to find and that was what I was most interested in – I was determined.  So with my detective skills found these buildings and visited dozens upon dozens of amazing projects.  Soon my tours and architectural visits caught on and friends (mostly architecture students) asked me for my modern and contemporary architecture address book.  Because I love architecture and love to share it I not only gave them the address book but advised which where ‘must sees’ and when to go and how to get there.

This went on for years…

Finally I realized I am not the only architecture groupie so I decided this information needed to be shared with all the architecture groupies of the world.

architecture groupie logo for blog

Architecture GROUPIE.com was officially launched in July 2012.  The website’s goal is simple: to locate modern and contemporary architecture for you so you can get to it.  I have carefully edited the information to include an image, the architect, the year it was completed, a weblink and of course the address and closest transit station.

ar·chi·tec·ture:  is the product of planning, designing and constructing buildings which are often perceived as cultural symbols and works of art.
group·ie:  is an ardent fan of a celebrity who follows these celebrities to have sexual relations with them.
ar·chi·tec·ture·group·ie:  is an ardent fan of the celebrity starchitect** who seeks orgasmic pleasure from beautifully planned, designed and constructed buildings, traveling the globe visiting these works of art.
** used to describe architects whose celebrity and critical acclaim have transformed them into idols of the architecture world and may even have given them some degree of fame amongst the general public. (thanks Wikipedia)

So what building’s make the list?  I have tried to be as impartial as I can, including only completed modern and contemporary architecture.  Private residence or projects with sensitive programs have been excluded to respect the privacy of those who inhabit them.  Buildings which are difficult to get to are also limited because going on a wild goose chase for one project is not always the best use of one’s time as well as any projects I could not confidently locate.  There are exceptions to these guidelines but this is the fundamental parameters of the archGROUPIE modern and contemporary architecture directory.

for ADs 2 for ADs 1Currently the directory includes the following cities:  London, Basel, Weil Am Rhein, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Tokyo, Berlin, Rotterdam, and Toronto.

but the directory is continuing to grow and now includes maps of selected cities.

A Guie to Modern ArchitectureThis blog has been added to offer helpful tips and information which has come from my experiences and research.  My hope is that this website will help other people see these projects and give more popularity to modern and contemporary architecture amongst the general population.also check out architecture GROUPIE stuff & things  stuff & things

travel guides - blog check out these digital inexpensive architecture travel guides

Tips for your architectural Sketches

Tadao Ando Sketch

Architectural sketches are many things but they do NOT need to be perfect / meticulous or even pretty.  Sketches are tools and without rules.  Often times we shy away from sketching because we think they need to be pretty perfect replicas of whatever we are sketching.

Sketching offers so many benefits such as:

  • a record of something you have visited and seen in person
  • a record of one or more aspects of something you want to keep record of
  • a way of learning how materials and forms come together
  • is a great alternative when cameras are not permitted
  • sketching is slower than photography which lets you take a moment and really appreciate and look at the architecture you are visiting
  • you can add notes and thoughts to your sketches
  • a rough description – it’s OK if they lack detail; don’t fill the page or are not even completed

All you need:

Faber-Castell 9000 Pencil Design SetPencil:  A carbon pencil is great for the beginner – they come in a variety of lead grades and provide a varied and richness to sketches over mechanical pencils which are hard and thin,  I would recommend a soft lead such as a B or 2B, for a sketcher quality you can even move up to a 6B.  Mechanical pencils break easily and because they are so thin it will be more difficult to shade and obtain a variety of line qualities.  No erasers – don’t bring an eraser sketches do not need to be perfect when you make a mistake work with it or start over, this adds character and will help you improve.

Pen:  there are so many types of pens available; the easiest to sketch with, in my opinion is a felt tip marker.  The thicker the pen the less precise and detailed you need to be.  Experiment with pen types you have, I would not recommend traveling with a fountain pen, they require refills and my fountain pen exploded on me after a long flight so stick with a basic felt or nylon tips.

Moleskine Classic Red Notebook, Plain Large

Paper:  a sketch book with good quality paper is important, also if you choose to use markers you will need a paper that can hold the ink without bleeding the next page.  Every sketch looks better on good paper – Moleskine has a variety of paper weight available for their sketchbooks and the paper color also varies which adds to the quality of the sketch.

Sketching Tips:

Everyone has different preferences so spend a few minutes and experiment with what you like.  You do not need to travel with lots or supplies, 2 pens and 2 pencils and 1 sketchbook are enough.

To do this sort of sketching you need to relax and let yourself go and not to be afraid of making mistakes and to have an understanding of form and shape.

A lack of confidence and worrying about a perfect sketch inhibits your work and enjoyment of the process.  Sketches are a means of conveying an idea, they are tools to learn, understand and communicate so they do not need to be perfect or finished.

Really simple tips to elevate your sketches:

  1. Darken the end of the line

  2. Overlap corners

  3. Add a dot at the end of the line

  4. Leave gaps in lines

  5. Repeat your line

  6. Shade on a 45° angle & vary you depth

  7. Write notes

  8. Use white space

  9. Continuous lines (don’t lift your pencil/pen)

  10. When drawing a long straight line do not use your wrist but rather move your entire arm  – try it.

Architectural Sketching Tips

Draw something everyday – an exercise which will bring fluency and confidence to your drawing

The Art of Urban Sketching: Drawing On Location Around The WorldDrawing: A Creative Process

10 Architectural Photography Tips

We are always looking to improve our architectural photography skills to get the best architecture photos possible.  Here are a few ideas and tips based on my experience and research to keep in mind the next time you are visiting your favorite modern and contemporary architecture.

1.  Closeup vs. Far Away

Sears Tower closeup   Sears Tower from afar

When photographing buildings from closeup they can sometimes appear to be sloping backwards – sometimes this can be corrected in Photoshop however if possible try moving farther away from the building and use a telephone lens this will correct the distortion and result in much straighter lines.  Notice the difference in the two Chicago  skyscrapers above, the photo to the left is taken from a much closer with a wide angle lens and the photo to the left from a boat with a telephoto lens – the end result is dramatically different.

2.  Foreground and Background

Design Sight

Including an interesting foreground such as plants, people, or cars can help contrast the building lines and form.  A background such as trees, clouds, other buildings can do the same.  Be sure to keep the focus on the architecture by adjusting your depth of field.  The photo of 21-21 Design Sight in Tokyo by Tadao Ando is framed by textured vegetation which contrasts the strong straight lines of the building roof and glazing.

3.  Silhouettes

Istanbul Mosque

At dusk or dawn you can try having fun with silhouettes.  Some buildings have wonderful and distinct forms which can be understood even without all the details.  In Istanbul the beautiful mosques have minuets and domes that can be clearly read even as a silhouette, photo above.

4.  The Essence

Elevator

Capture the essence of the space.  This old and wonderful elevator in Prague was an accidental find – a photo without displaying its movement would not be the same. Experiment with shutter speeds to get the amount of blur you are happy with.  A few other ideas is intentionally overexposing or underexposing these can be great effects if done in the right space to capture the mood of the architecture.

5.  Lines

BCE Place - Toronto Architecture 2   Colourful architecture

Architectural photography is often about lines, angles, details, colors, shapes and materials and textures, exploit what you believe the most important element of the building.  To keep your lines straight be sure to turn on your camera grids on this is also helpful for following the Rule of Thirds.  Straightening out your lines can also be done in the post production phase (I frequently rotate and crop photos in Photoshop).

6.  Sky

machu picchu

A big blue sky is great but it can be boring.  On my trip to Machu Picchu I was disappointed when I awoke to a rainy overcast day however I realized this fog and rain added a lot of mystery and drama to my photo, above.

Clouds / Overcast / Fog / Sun – use light and its qualities to your advantage no matter what it is.

7.  Location and Approach

IMG_3440

There are so many buildings where the approach and procession to it is worth documenting.

Build the suspense – don’t give it all away.

8.  Night and Light

Prada - Tokyo     IMG_7852

Don’t be afraid to capture architecture at night, you will likely need a tripod but a building can completely transform from day to night and that night shot may be amazing.  Architects spend a lot of time planning what a building will look like at night.  These photos are more challenging my suggestion is turn off your flash and increase your ISO and aperture, also I also try to get these photos just after sunset when the lights are on but it is not complete darkness  – again a tripod is crucial for a perfect night photo!

9.  Abstract

Royal Ontario Museum - Toronto Architecture 2

You don’t need to get the whole building, editing can result in an abstract photo emphasizing architectural elements and strong features.  The ROM by Daniel Libeskind, above, is made of sloping jagged forms – I tried to focus on that aspect of the architecture only and cutting out all the other elements on the building.

10.  Unexpected & Dramatic

John Hancock - Chicago    Looking up Ginger's Skirt

Many times the most interesting architecture photos are when they are taken from an angle you would not expect or think of.  On the left is Frank Gehry’s ‘Fred & Ginger’ building in Prague when was looking at this building I was more interested in understanding how the glass was being supported but I soon noticed I was in fact looking up Ginger’s ‘skirt’ so i took advantage of the unexpected photo opportunity.  The photo on the left is the John Hancock Building in Chicago, I love the form of this building and the drama of standing at its base.

Resources:

Here are two photography resources I have found very helpful:

photo.tutsplus.com/

theartofphotography.tv/episodes/

Coming soon:

Tips on how to take a great PANORAMA and HDR photo

how to document your architecture experience

how to document your architecture experience…. video, photo, words, sketch, writing…

There are so many ways to capture your experience of architecture.  Each method offers different benefits as well as different levels of authenticity.  A photograph or video can be thought to come closest to reality however even they are subjective and are not exact replications after all photography replicates a 3-dimensional object in 2-dimensions and weakly represents movement and time, video can do that but still lacks documenting the many other senses we use to describe architecture (related topic:  How do we EXPERIENCE ARCHITECTURE).  So how can we authentically represent our architectural experiences?

Simple – we don’t…

There are two main filters our experience of architecture will go through before it can be documented:  our personal subjectivity and the media we choose to represent it

Subjectivity is our interpretation, understanding and opinion of space and architecture which can be highly influenced by the personal experience you have at that given time.  How we understand and perceive space can vary greatly from one person to the next.  Projects which create strong reaction, both positive and negative are successful, in my opinion, because they hit a nerve and force viewers to stop and think a minute.  Good architecture can make you ultra-aware of the space you are in and the moment so your reaction and impression of the architecture is just as important to capture as the architecture itself.

Selecting a media to document will edit what you can represent and how you choose to document the experience says so much about what your perception is.  Have fun and be creative with your documentation, exploring will help you learn and enjoy the architecture in a deeper and richer sense.  Here are some suggestions to help you think twice about just taking a photo:

VIDEO:

Helps to capture the sounds and movement through the spaces

SKETCH:

In colour or pencil, with pens or markers, Fast or slow, accurate or free, scribbles or lines, shaded or outlines

messy sketch, done fast, i like the curve of this building so i just looked at representing that moment in the building.

i took a bit more time with this sketch and trying to use strong continuous lines to describe the architectural details

PHOTOS:

Architectural Photography can serve several objectives, knowing what your objective is will produce a collection of photos that will be useful for you in the future and will help direct your photographic decisions while on site.

See my previous post:  The Intention of Architectural Photography

WORDS:

words that describe the space and how you feel – these don’t need to be full sentences
describe the materials, use adjectives

WRITE:

journal entries such as the ones I have posted online help recall specific moments that can be forgotten.

architectural travel entry: one

architectural travel entry: two

architectural travel entry: three

architectural travel entry: four

architectural travel entry: five

architectural travel entry: six

SOUND CLIPS:

Document your thoughts while you walking around (you can get an app for your smartphone, there are even programs that can transcript them for you.
Sound clips are also great to capture music or acoustic qualities

COLLAGE:

Use objects you have found to represent the architecture

  • this is a crude collage i made of a restaurant i went to in Prague, the waiter took us through a maze of small dinning rooms and corridors before we were seated. I still don’t know how we found my way out

OTHER:

I used a thick piece of lead to telegraphy the pattern of leaves from the concrete facade of this building.

I like to collect all the tickets and booklets – they come in handy to help remember all the great places i visited and on what day.

The options are endless… it is your subjectivity and selected media that makes the documentation of your architectural experiences an artistic expression.

If you have any other suggestions please share it with us.

 

 

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Modern Architecture vs. Contemporary Architecture

Often Modern architecture and Contemporary architecture are used interchangeably, however they really aren’t the same.

Here is a quick and easy way to understand what the difference is so when you are on your architectural travels you know which type of architecture you are looking at.

Modern Architecture

Contemporary Architecture

Timeline
  • Began at the turn of the 20thcentury
  • Became popular post WW2
  • The present day
  • An evolution of modern architecture
Characteristic
  • Simplified form & Clean Lines
  • Visual expression of structure
  • Emphasis on Function
  • Vary greatly
  • No specific unifying features
Themes
  • “Form Follows Function” (Louis Sullivan & Frank Lloyd Wright)
  • Simplified form
  • Removal of unnecessary details
  • Truth to materials
  • Machine aesthetics
  • Sustainable design
  • Natural materials
  • Eco-friendly / Green design
  • Equality
  • Landmark
  • Globalization of architecture
Architects
  • Walter Gropius
  • Le Corbusier
  • Ludwig Mies van der Rhoe
  • Frank Lloyd Wright
Associated With
  • Bauhaus
  • International Style
  • LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)
  • BIM (Building Information Modeling)
Examples

Modern Architecture:
The Bauhaus in Dessau Germany by Walter Gropius

Contemporary Architecture:
Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) by Daniel Libeskind

Modern Architecture:
Notre Dame de Ronchamp by Le Corbusier

Contemporary Architecture:
Simmons Hall MIT by Steven Holl

Modern Architecture:
S.R. Crown Hal by Mie van der Rohe

Contemporary Architecture:
Walt Disney by Frank Gehry

ebook image-reduced

Architecture Travel: a how to guide provides methodology for before, during and after architectural travel to help you minimize the research time and maximize the architecture you will visit.  This guide offers tips on research and organizing information, photography and sketching, as well as post-production work and suggestions on how to share your experiences.

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Vitra Campus – Weil am Rhein

Why visit Weil am Rhein? …. Vitra

Weil am Rhein is a located in Germany but boards onto both Switzerland and France and is about 20 minute drive from Basel, Switzerland.

As an architecture groupie you may be wondering why I would feature such a small and obscure town.  Well Weil am Rhein is home to the Vitra Campus which is a mecca for any modern architectural enthusiast.

Vitra is a furniture company founded in Weil am Rhein, Germany in 1950 by Willi Fehlbaum.  Specializing in the production and retail of furniture originally designed by many internationally celebrated designers.  Priding themselves on creating beautiful well-design and well-made furniture.  Although Vitra is company famous for reproducing furniture designed by many well named architects they have also gained a reputation for commissioning celebrated architects to manufacture, house and exhibit their products.

In 1981 a large fire destroyed most of Vitra Campus who were forced to rebuild and continue to expand.  Nicholas Grimshaw was the first to begin the rebuild and Herzog and de Mueron has been the most recent project, completed in 2010, currently a new Factory Building by Kazuyo Sejima / SANAA is scheduled for completion in 2012.  The Vitra Campus is a collection of contemporary capital ‘A’ architecture.

The Vitra Design Museum by Frank Gehry is an exhibition of the design and architecture of Vitra.

Visit architecturegroupie.com/weil-am-rhein for a directory of the Vitra contemporary architecture.

Vitra Campus

When visiting the Vitra Campus be sure to take a guided architectural tour of the campus as well as a guided tour of the exhibition.

For the tour schedule visit www.vitra.com/en-us/campus/visit .

In addition the new workshop at the center of the Lounge Chair Atelier holds live demonstrations of the production of the famous Lounge Chair by Ray and Charles Eames check out this video demonstration

 

Vitra Miniatures Collection

Besides the modern designed life-size furniture, Vitra also manufactures The Miniatures Collection which is collection of 80 small-scale furniture pieces.  The pieces are considered to be the most influential in design from 1850 to the present day.  Model builders measure the historical original in the museum collection and then scale it down to one sixth of the original size, compile technical documentation and replicated each with impressive precision.  The Vitra Miniatures Collection include The Barcelona chair by Mies van der Rohe, the Tulip Chair by Saarinen, the Barrel Chair by Frank Lloyd Wright and of course a series of furniture pieces by  Ray and Charles Eames to name a few.

Here is the full Vitra Miniatures Collection

These miniatures can be delivered directly to your home at  Vitra Miniatures at Amazon or click the image below to order.

   



     

If you have been to the Vitra Campus – share your experience with us.


 

architectural travel entry: five

The most interesting event upon entering the Church is realizing the doorway is at the side of the altar. There are references to what direction is considered to be the front. The rectangular space is overwhelming to enter, it rises at least two storeys in height and the walls are made of raw concrete block. Everything within this space is simple there are no distractions and no ornamentation.

The windows behind the choir stalls are cut into the walls on a steep angle and the frame is painted bright yellow, green, and red, which releasing soothing light so there is no view of the exterior, we are forced to focus on what is happening inside.

In the middle of the room resides a large piece of polished sheet metal, it is hung from a single wire attached at the ceiling 25 feet or so above us. The metal is attached at its center and the edges bow to the ground just hovering above the floor.  A short wood bat is nearby and when the metal is struck the entire room echoes, the sounds are reminiscent of the monks chanting.

The sound penetrates the space and brings us all to silence.

La Tourette by Le Corbusier, France

The Intention of Architectural Photography

Architectural Photography can serve several objectives, knowing what your objective is will produce a collection of photos that will be useful for you in the future and will help direct your photographic decisions while on site.

Postcard photography: Visiting Modern Architecture

Many buildings have a particular view-point which is easily recognizable and widely documented.  This type of photography typically aims at getting a snap shot of the building from its most recognizable vantage point.  These photos do not require a lot of creativity but rather serve as a kind of proof that you visited the building.  Often people stand in front of the structure as further evidence of their presence.  These are fun and can be used in your slide shows or on social media platforms to show friends and family you were there.

 Visiting Ronchamp – there i am standing in front of the most notable angle of the building

Documentary Architectural Photography:

This is a method of photography where the photos sever to document the architecture in the most truthful means possible.  This type of photography would not implement any personal artistic expression but rather try to utilize as much technical skills to replicate the building’s specific design qualities.

Fred and Ginger by Frank Gehry, this photo represents what the building looks like in its context without any artistic interpretation.

Detail Photography:

This is an important type of photography for those who are very interested in the tectonics of architecture.  These photos focus on how materials come together and on the minute details that represent the whole building.  Mies said “God is in the Detail” these photos embody that principle.  I value these photos the most because they are very difficult to find and are not publically documented often.  They are typically more useful for architects or others in the industry for detailing ideas and should be catalogued well (for tips on cataloguing photos).

I really liked how this handrail felt – so I took a photo for my records

Collection Photography:

Some people enjoy collecting images of a particular architectural element from many different buildings sometimes from all over the world and compiling them into a collection.  Similar to a stamp collection, the architectural element is taken out of its context for review and comparison.  These collections are very always very interesting because they are so focused and by this repetitive comparison you can really begin to distinguish the minute differences in the architectural comparison.  I recommend trying this sometime.

In Peru I was fascinated with the different construction methods of the stone walls, here are a couple from my series. 

Journalistic photography:

This type of photography tells a story about the building.  It requires more attention to the architectural function and often the interaction of people in the space.  Journalistic architectural photography can humanize a building or do the opposite but it will require the photographer to be very conscious of how they want the photo will be interpreted.

As i walked under the building canopy and looked up the ‘skirt of Ginger’.  This photo represents that moment where the building transformed from playful to knotty. 

Artistic Architectural Photography:

Your artistic expression in architectural photography can be the most fun for those who enjoy photography professionally or as a hobby.  The architecture is the subject matter but the photo is really an expression of the photographer and not the architect (unlike the documentary style).  There are endless ways to be artistic with architectural photography however your interpretation of the architecture is the real purpose and at the forefront of the photograph.

This photo of Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre, Osoyoos, crops out much of the building and focuses on what i thought to be the most beautiful elements of the building: the slight curved wall composed colorfully stripping rammed earth and the long horizontal window. 
Next time you are photographing architecture think about the photos purpose….

Visit architectureGROUPIE.com a Modern and Contemporary Architecture Travel Guide

5 Tips to Visit Berlin Modern Architecture

There is A LOT of modern architecture in Berlin.  There is so much new architecture to visit the following tips will help you make the most of your trip and your modern architectural visits.

1.  Research & Prioritize

This should be a general rule however if you are in Berlin for a week or less you will not get to it all so spend a bit of time deciding your ‘must sees’.  There are also a number of buildings which close, even some of the public monuments and memorials so make note of the hours of operation.  Berlin may not be a city where you can sleep in everyday or you will miss out on those open hours of operation.  The Berlin Directory at architectureGROUPIE.com includes links to the building websites so you can confirm the hours of operation.

2.  Up High and Down Low

The TV Tower can be seen everywhere in Berlin, with its loaded history it now contains an observatory deck with a 360 degree view of Berlin.  This is a great place to get an overall sense of the location of neighborhoods, architecture and monuments as well as observe how the east and west divide can still be seen in the building mass and city plan arrangement.  Learn more at:  www.tv-turm.de

A boat tour is always a nice break from the walking and trekking but from the water you will be able to get a great view of many architectural gems which front on the waterway.  For tour information visit www.berlin-info.com  which offer many different tour options.

3.  Guides:

When I was in Berlin I brought two travel books which I used and referred to constantly:  I never left my hotel with the Knopf MapGuide: Berlin and the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Berlin.
      

To help you with your research before you leave the Visit Berlin website is jamb packed with information, it is definitely worth a good review before you leave.

4. Guide to Modern Berlin Architecture

A Guide to Modern ArchitectureTo help you discover the modern Berlin architecture you should visit architectureGROUPIE.com/Berlin which is a comprehensive catalog of many modern gems.  The address and closest transit stop is listed to help you on your travels as well as a link to the website and a feature or tip about the building.  All the information is compiled to make your architectural visits easy.

5.  The BVG

The trains (subway) in Berlin will get you everywhere you need to go – they are easy and on time.   The BVG offers some great deals for visitors which get you discounts to a number of other locations and you can buy it online from home so you don’t need to waste valuable vacation time.  Visit:  www.bvg.de

Happy journeys in Berlin.

architectural travel entry: two

We are walking down the street and overhear a group of people saying “its awful”  “I don’t get it!”

There is so much emotion as I eavesdrop on the people pointing and looking up. My friend turns to me and says “I love it” of course not everyone feels negatively, myself included.

The overtly contemporary building hovers above us, for those who look up to enjoy it – for those who never look up they will never know.  Underneath the color, extreme form and playful facade there is meaning and reason.  I wonder as I continue to eavesdrop perhaps many people are not open-minded to this ‘new’ architectural style – are people seeing it without bias or just looking and making quick determinations.  I began to worry but soon hear more people pointing and discussing and I am reassured that this building along with many others evokes feeling, conversation and debate.

Colourful architecture    

OCAD by Alsop in Toronto

Do you have an architectural travel story to share…

architectural travel entry: one

We entered the court through the arch, a drummer was playing, the beat echoed, the coolness of the air and the soft misty drops of rain added to the intrigue of this place. It was dim in the court and as I viewed the light and shadow playing on the stone I saw in the distance the light glowing from the pyramid.

It was quiet, few people were there just shadows and silhouettes in the distance.  The sound of the drums had dissipated as we passed through the second arch.  The fountains were off and the romantic sounds from a violinist was faintly coming to life as I looked at the black pools of still water reflecting the beautiful glow of the glass pyramid.  With just enough light to make out the opposing foreground and background of new and old it was a surreal and for a moment nothing else existed but myself and this place.

TIPS FOR VISITING CHICAGO MODERN ARCHITECTURE

There is no city I have been to that celebrates architecture the way Chicago does.  It really is an architecture groupie’s fantasy and this city makes visiting these architectural gems easy with what seems like an endless number of tour opportunities.

1.  Chicago Architecture Foundation

The Chicago Architecture Foundation is definitely a huge resource; Chicago Architecture Foundation there are a ton of links and information on their website.  The CAF runs a wide selection of tours and has several membership offers which give discounts and free tours as a benefit.  You don’t need to live in Chicago to become a member and depending on the types of activities you plan to do it could be a great deal.  Learn more at Chicago Architecture Foundation Membership.

2.  The ARCHICENTER

The archicenter is operated by the Chicago Architecture Foundation.  You can spend hours in this store; the variety of architecture merchandise is incredible, take a peek at their online store ARCHICENTER.  Located at 224 South Michigan Avenue across from the Art Institute of Chicago.

3.  Chicago Tour Foundation

The Chicago Tour Foundation offers a wide variety of tours where you can choose from modes such as boat, walking, bus/trolley, train, bike and even segway.  The tour guides are Chicago Architecture Foundation-certified volunteers who receive hundreds of hours of training about Chicago architecture and history.  It is recommended to purchase tickets in advanced because some tours frequently sell out, particularly on weekends and holidays. The Tour center is located in the Archicenter store mention above.  For more information visit:  http://www.architecture.org/tours/

Chicago Boat Tour

I highly recommend taking a boat tour in Chicago, the vantage point of the skyscrapers from the water is unsurpassed and the proximity to the bridges overhead.

4.  Mies van der Rohe

The Mies van der Rohe Society offers architectural tours specific to the tale of Mies and the Illinois Institute of Technology offering both a docent-led or self-guided audio tours.

Visit:  Mies van der Rohe and IIT: An Architectural Tour

5.  Frank Lloyd Wright

For everything Frank Lloyd Wright The Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Fund is the place to find it.  It was established in 1974 as a not-for-profit organization, to acquire and preserve Wright’s Home and Studio in Oak Park and is now made of more than 500 volunteers providing tours of these historic.

Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Fund offers guided and self-guided tours of Oak Park, an area filled with Wright’s Victorian and Prairie Style architecture.

Visit:   Walking Tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District

Public Tours of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home and Studio from 1889 to 1898 is offered daily.  His home offers insight into the first 20 years of his career, where he experimented with design concepts and raised six children with his first wife, Catherine Tobin.

Visit:  The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Tour

The Robie House was completed in 1910 and is considered a masterpiece of the Prairie style and modernist architecture.  Tours of the site offer both a first-hand experience of its amazingly contemporary spaces and the current restoration work.  Tours are not offered daily, visit Public Tours of the Robie House for more information.

Visit:  Wright’s Robie House

6.  Visit a Tower

John Hancock Observatory ViewA trip to Chicago is not complete until you have gone up one of the tallest towers there, it is the birth place of the skyscraper after all.  Definitely the John Hancock Tower Observatory or Willis Tower’s Skydeck are tops on the list.  From the top you will get a great view of the city and there is nothing like being on the 94 stories or 103 stories above the ground.  I don’t think you need to do both so choose wisely, I am a bit partial to the John Hancock, let me know what you think.

7.  Open house Chicago

The Chicago Architecture Foundation organizes an annual weekend festival where over a hundred of Chicago’s architectural gems are opened to the public for free!  Open House Chicago typically occurs in October it is a great time to visit.

Check out more at:  http://www.openhousechicago.org/

Let me know if this helps you on your Chicago travels or if you have any other helpful tips.

A Guide to Modern Architecture

Chicago Architecture Guide

 

Chicago Digital Map NOW available!

 

WHAT YOU NEED WHEN VISITING MODERN ARCHITECTURE

Visiting modern architecture doesn’t require much. In fact you don’t really need anything, but the following is what I always have on hand to make the most of my visit.

1.  SKETCH BOOK

A sketchbook or notebook is always a good idea. Even if you don’t draw it is great to write down your impressions, features you like and don’t like, and things you learned on your visit.  You always think you will remember but if you see a lot of architecture on your travels everything can become blurry and all mixed up after a while. I re-read my notes all the time and it feels as though I was just there.  For those of you who do sketch it is the best method to remember and learn from these great architects. Sketching is also handy if you are not allowed to take pictures, which depends on the building type and owner.

My favorite, and pretty much all the architects I know, is the Moleskine, they come in a variety of colours which makes it easy to differentiate later if you have a lot of them.  They are made with different eights of paper so if you like a heavy marker it won’t bleed through the other side.  But my favourite feature is the folded pouch in the back – I put all my ticket receipts in there for safe keeping or any little papers I don’t want to lose.
    Moleskine Sketchbook


2.  CAMERA

A camera is important for a few reasons:

-Snap shots will help you to quickly document the architectural features you are fond of and want to remember. These quick shots can be cataloged for your use later

-Architectural photography.  This is a topic of its own which I will be writing about soon.

-Video – every camera nowadays has video there is just some architecture that needs to be filmed either because of sounds or the way the building transforms as you move around it.

While I visit modern architecture I usually have two cameras with me: a point-and-shoot and a DSLR which works well.  If I am just taking a quick shot it is sometimes easier just to pull out the small camera, it is also much better for being discrete the big DSLR can create a bit of a scene. My point and shoot is the Sony Cyber-Shot which has a really good battery and a fairly wide-angle lens which is handy for interior shots and it fits in my pocket or small purse.  I have a Canon DSLR but I am about to upgrade to the Canon REBEL T4i which I am very excited about (I will let you know what i think in an upcoming blog).

      

Sony Cyber-Shot                       Canon REBEL T4i

I will have another blog about Cameras for architectural photography.

3.  A GUIDE TO MODERN ARCHITECTURE

It is not easy finding modern architecture, there is a ton of information to get you to the historic architecture but modern architecture is a different story.  I have spent days before a trip searching high and low to find addresses for buildings, I know the building is there but where is it?

ArchitectureGROUPA Guide to Modern ArchitectureIE is a directory of modern architecture cataloged by city around the world for your use.  Each building has an address, the closest transit stop (if available) and a link to the website for further information.  This now makes it easy for you to go visit these cool projects hassle free.

4.  GOOD CITY MAP

There is no point in having a map in a city you don’t know unless it is good and I am pretty picky about my maps. There is one travel map I repeatedly purchase before my travels: Knopf MapGuide.

The Knopf MapGuide are my favorite because the city is broken down into small sections and color coded, each section flips open and contains the map with pictures of landmarks in that area (pictures are good especially for cities that are a different language).  The map guides are small and discrete and have a lot of helpful tips.  There are no gimmicks it is just simple and since the flaps are organized by area it practically organizes my itinerary already.  I also like that I can write on it, some maps are glossy or have so many folds or the paper is too thin, it is important to be able to mark it up with the modern architecture you want to see.

        Knopf MapGuide

5.  WHY architecture GROUPIE is THE BEST ARCHITECTURE GUIDE BOOK:

-EASY TO USE, PRINTABLE and ONLY THE INFORMATION YOU NEED:

-HYPERLINKS and INTERACTIVE FEATURES (add your notes and click MUST SEE)

-TOP CITY TIPS and WALKING DISTANCE DIAGRAM

-NO ADVERTISING / UNSOLICITED PROJECTS

Toronto guide book

Visit:  travelguide.archgroupie.com/

architecture GROUPIE now has digital maps ALSO!

TECH

Less expensive and easy to use – Designed for use on your smart phone, tablet or computer!

6.  AN OPEN MIND

Remember you can learn a lot about what you like and dislike in architecture when visiting projects you don’t necessarily like from a picture. Some architecture is spectacular in person and a photograph does not do it justice and vice versa – just because a building is famous or popular does not mean you need to like it. But there is something to be appreciated in all modern architecture so keep an open mind – it is easy to be critical – a lot of work goes into making architecture.  It has been my opinion that when there is strong reaction to a building (good or bad) it is worth visiting, discussing and thinking about it.

Visit architectureGROUPIE.com a Modern and Contemporary Architecture Travel information.

tips for visiting modern architecture

5 TIPS FOR VISITING ARCHITECTURE

Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre

A few tips I have picked up during my travels visiting architecture in a foreign city.

1. PRIORITIZE:

Sometimes it is impossible to see it all, even with all the planning and research building’s close, weather changes, we get lost, some building’s will take longer to see because they are out-of-the-way or perhaps it is a giant museum that could take a day to see the exhibit, or our travel companion may have had their fill of architecture for the day.

I always list my buildings in three categories before my trip:

1. Absolutely will not leave this city without seeing this building!
2. Really want to see
3. I will live if I don’t see that building

Once all the buildings are placed in a category in my head or on paper I have a better sense of how to setup my travel Itinerary.

2. RESEARCH:

There is nothing worse than a long trek to see an Architectural gem and it is closed. This has happened to me and I have been devastated, particularly because it took a lot of effort to get their too. It is important to double-check the hours and any closures, especially around holidays or for museums. Nowadays most building’s have websites so it is easy however if there is any doubt because you found some conflicted information a quick phone call to confirm or upon arrive at your hotel you can always ask the concierge. If language is an issue a photo of the building has helped me on a number of occasions they may not understand you but a picture is worth a thousand words. Trust me it is worth it to be prepared, particularly for the architecture in the “must see” category.

3. GROUP BY GEOGRAPHY:

It is always easier to do a few neighborhoods in a day rather than going back and forth all over town. A map marking out where the architecture is located helps clearly identify if they are close together or if any of the building’s are far and singled out. In my experience if a single building is far off the radar I go back to my priority list and determine if it is worth the additional effort and time, occasionally a building can drop a category in the list if there is no public transit or it will take the whole day to get to. Visit the architecturegroupie website for an address list of modern architecture which is organized by city and includes clear photos of the architecture featured. The Maps are available to eliminate the need to plot your own course.

4. TAKE A TOUR:

A building tour can be a great, sometimes the only way, to get inside and see the architecture. Always ask if there are architecture tours available, they may not run as often but the tour is usually tailored to the information an architecture groupie would be interested in. If the tour doesn’t work with your schedule or your wallet you can do some internet research or puck up a book on the architect or building which will provide information and increase your appreciation and experiencing.

5. ENJOY WHAT THE ARCHITECTURE HOLDS!

Many tourist just hit the hot spots take a picture and are on their way. I doubt any architecture groupies fall into this category however it is always worth spending some more time and enjoy the building for its intended use. So if you are in a carefully designed museum go through the exhibit, a solemn church deserves a moment of silence or in a beautiful shopping mall – go shopping! does the architecture bring out the purpose well?

architecture groupies do not need to know everything about architecture – they just need to enjoy it.