Saturday, May 3, 2008

Inland Empire

David Lynch recently purchsed this tower atop "Devil Mountain" in Berlin - once an American spy-listening hide out - with the intention of transforming it into the "David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace" - a univerity for Transcendental Meditation.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Unfurling like a sequence of frames in an English television show, think “The Vicar of Dibley”; the views from our carriage on board the Stanstead Airport Express train into London’s Liverpool Street Station, seem oddly familiar. Manors and churches composed picturesquely across the verdant landscape gradually form clusters that thicken until we reach the great brown-brick metropolis of London, about forty-five minutes away.

Knotted with villages, historical and contemporary sites, galleries and museums around the River Thames, London is said to have been foundered more than 2000 years ago, by the Roman consul Brutus of Troy. Seeping through accretions of brick and mortar that appear to stretch as far as the low-rise horizon, the city’s culture is palpable. Possessing only scant knowledge of the city, we start our visit is on the London Underground, better known as “The Tube”; itself an awe-inspiring structure and the world’s oldest below ground public transport system.
“The life of the city flows through these arteries, channels and conduits. Lifting the lid on this subterranean world can be a fascinating insight on what makes a city function”, write Jackson Hunt, Andrew Scoones and Meghan Fernandes in their introduction to the 2008 exhibition catalogue “Underground: London’s hidden infrastructure”.

Amid vast unseen networks of underground tributaries, catacombs and platform-cum-air-raid shelters among other things, The Tube brings us to London Bridge Station, one of the main termini for out of town train services and the departure point for London’s famed South-Eastern district, Greenwich. 20 minutes along the line, the maritime town’s Royal Observatory; setting of the creation of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) comes into view. Eyeballing skyward from atop the contours of Greenwich Park, the observatory, which was established to assist with Britain’s sea-faring activities in 1675, has been UNESCO listed since 1997.

Seen to be of huge historic and scientific value, the monumental time machine - where days officially begin and the Eastern and Western hemispheres are defined by the Prime Meridian - also has great cultural value, perhaps even notoriety. “I hadn’t realized it was such a colonizing machine”, observes our companion Bianca, referring to the tactical precision and scope of early maritime exploration.

Drawing swarms of onlookers, the English inventor John Harrison’s four meticulously engineered and crafted prototype time-keepers tick fastidiously, inside their glass cabinets. Winners of the British Government’s coveted £20,000 “Longitude Prize” of 1714, offered for the design of an effective Longitude measuring device, the legendary clocks seem to attest to the urgency of Britain’s expansion at the time. Also the distinguished subjects of American author Dava Sobel’s 1995 novel “Longitude: the story of a lone genius who solved the greatest scientific problem of his time”, it seems that despite their sometimes touchy subtext, the devices still seem to inspire awe.

Night arrives, London’s sky lit like an aurora by the city below and we head back into The Tube. Emerging soon after, our arrival in Chinatown is signaled by the pulse-raising glow of up-sized fairy lights beaming one-another through a chorus of walkers, rickshaws, bicycles and autos; cinema after cinema, entertainment complexes and eateries extending as far as the eye can see. At once brilliant and a little disconcerting, Chinese imagery spills across several city streets rendering a picture of Hong Kong, the pawn in early Sino-British relations, which was handed back to China at the end of Britain’s negotiated 99 year lease on July 1st, 1997. But just another part of the city’s complexity, our attention is soon diverted by signage on a Chinese Medicine shop window reading “Massage here”. After some well deserved respite from the all-go city, it’s time to hit the hay.

We are roused early the next day by the summoning hum of the city and make our way to Brick Lane, a long time migrant and low-income area of East London that has morphed in recent years to form the setting of innumerable art galleries, bars and cafes. A little more familiar with the city, following the previous day of Tube rides we continue on foot; our moseying traveler tempo revealing by contrast, the quick pace of the city and some of the local rituals; resting on a deck chair in “Green Park”, perhaps the most seductive.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

concentration camp

The Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps are an hour west of Krakow. Established during Hitler’s reign in the area, the historic sites were designed for the incarceration and extermination of Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals who did not conform to Hitler’s image of an ideal society. UNESCO listed, the vast compound has been preserved as a museum and memorial since 1947 and is the last resting place of many of the victims.

Today, benign in their mute orderly rows, the prisoner dwellings of Auschwitz do well to hide their macabre mechanisms. We are told that until the last days of the concentration camp’s operation in 1945, the German’s worked hard deceiving prisoners who entered the gas chambers of death in ignorance; prisoner details fastidiously recorded in some macabre and perverse sense of order within a world of moral chaos. Local residents, not displaced by the war, were equally ignorant of the real purpose of the camps, seeing only the beautification going on with mass tree plantings around the camp.

“You see, this is how cynical they were. They wanted the place to look nice, while over there they were burning people”, says our guide David, gesturing to a grass covered gas chamber. And he suggests that even until the times of their deaths, prisoners were led to believe that they would survive. “I heard about a prisoner, who was led up the gas chamber and couldn’t work out where she was, because it looked so nice with planter boxes on all of the windows”, he says.

But despite efforts to disguise their activities, we are told that people in the area suspected what was going on. Billowing smoke from Birkenau, the second and much larger camp, gave it away.

“One woman told me that she could see the smoke rising here. People knew what was going on, but they couldn’t say anything, because if they did they’d end up here”, says David.

Constructed with a limited supply of stolen bricks from the homes of displaced Poles, about half of the prisoner’s quarters at Birkenau remain standing today. Un-insulated, a chill rattles through the quarters; almost a whisper from the sad souls who once called this horror home. When bricks ran out, the last dwellings built at Birkenau were crude arrangements of pre-fabricated timber horse stables with dirt floors and brick ovens used for heating. In an ironic twist, most of these concentration camp timber quarters were disassembled and their timbers re-used by locals returning to their home region during the post-war housing crisis. Today, a warped landscape of ruinous chimneys is all that remains.

Monday, January 21, 2008


"as a thing which negotiates between people and circumstances, the bridge might occasionally prompt people to think about being. It has latent potential to remind people about the fundamental power of their existence in the world" Martin Heidegger

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Forming a dense stack of athletic programs, The Downtown Athletic Club, New York (1931) was designed to appeal to the male hedonist – the so called “Metropolitanite". It was pleasure and nature condensed into a thrusting tower.“The skyscraper has transformed nature into Super-nature”.Rem Koolhaas

...and it seems that the tradition continues...urban beaches, both indoor and outdoor are scattered all over Europe. Tropical Islands, south of Berlin, is a massive indoor artificial beach, which inhabits a former aircraft hangar, evidently big enough to be seen from outer-space. It is presently 26 degrees Celsius inside the oasis, while the outside temperature is in fact 0 degrees.

Watch the palm trees sway in the gentle breeze. Feel the sand between your toes on our Tropical beach. At Tropical Islands, the dream of creating a Tropical island in the heart of Europe has become reality."

hit the slopes in Dubai...