Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Villa d’Este, Italy


Villa d’Este – Deep Influence on Garden Design in Europe

The Villa d’Este has a deep influence on the development of garden design all over Europe. With its palace and garden, it is one of the most amazing as well as broad illustrations of Renaissance most refined culture. The state-of-the-art design together with the architectural components in the garden namely the fountains, ornamental basins, etc. make this a unique specimen of Italian 16th century garden.

It is one of the first giardini delle meraviglie, an early model for the creation of European gardens. Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este had arrived in Tivoli on 9 September 1550, on obtaining the post of governor of the town and the official residence was assigned to him in Tivoli, part of the monastery of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, which did not suit him.

He then decided to build an impressive villa with gardens and the designs were traditionally built, attributing to Pirro Ligorio. The serene ensemble of the palace and gardens forms an irregular quadrangular, covering a space of around 4.5 ha. The plan of the villa seems to be irregular since the architect was obliged to make use of certain parts of the earlier monastic building. Towards the garden area, the architecture of the palace seemed to be very simple.

Loggia of Palace Symbols the Longitudinal/Central Axis of Garden

A long main body of three storeys has been marked by bands rows of windows, together with side pavilions, scarcely jutting out. This unchanging portico is disturbed by an elegant loggia towards the middle with two levels and stair ramps that have been built by Raffaello da Firenze and Biasioto.

 Its lower level has been decorated with the Fountain of Leda while the main rooms of the villa have been arranged in rows on two floors which open on to the garden. The private apartment of the cardinal comprising of four rooms is located on the same level as the courtyard while the receptions rooms connected together towards the back by a long corridor known as the Manica Lunga, are on the lower level.

The garden tends to stretch over two steep slopes plunging downward from the palace to a flat terrace in the style of an amphitheater. The loggia of the palace symbols the longitudinal and central axis of the garden.

Fontana del Bicchierone – Design by Bernini

Five vital transversal axes tend to become the central axis from the fixed point of view developed by the villa as each of them terminate in one of the main garden fountains. The most amazing effect is by the big cascade flowing from a krater balanced in the center of the exedra where jets of water are activated when unsuspected people tend to walk under the arcades.

Behind the exedra is an artificial mountain having three alcoves holding statues of the Sibylla of Tibur along with her son Melicerte with the river divinities Erculaneo and Anio. Towards the west is its counterpart the Fountain of Rome which was built between 1567 -70. The Fountain of the Great Glass – Fontana del Bicchierone, was built as per a design by Bernini and added to the decoration of the central longitudinal axis during the 17th century wherein the fountain is in the shape of a notched chalice, from which great jet of water tends to fall into a conch shell.

During that period, the huge pergola towards the original entrance of the villas had also been replaced by the Rotunda of the Cypresses, which is a circular space adorned with four small fountains and circled by ancient cypress trees.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Menara KL Tower


Menara Kuala Lumpur Tower – Tallest Freestanding Tower in the World

The Menara Kuala Lumpur Tower or MenaraKL is a tall tower situated in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The construction of this huge tower was completed on 1 March 1995 and is utilised for the purpose of communication featuring an antenna which reaches at a height of 421 metres.

It is the 7th tallest freestanding tower in the world. The roof of the pod is at 335 metres while the rest of the tower below has a stairwell as well as an elevator to reach the upper area of the tower. It also contains a revolving restaurant, which provides diners withan amazing view of the city. Races are also held annually here where the participants tend to race up the stairs to the top.

Besides this, the tower also acts as the Islamic falak observatory to perceive the moon which marks the beginning of the Muslim month of Ramadhan, Syawal and Zulhijah, celebrating the fasting month of Ramadhan, Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Aidiladha. It is open to the public and is the highest viewpoint in Kuala Lumpur. Besides the Petronas Twin Towers, Menara KL Tower is Malaysia’s most popular landmark and this gleaming tower’s spindle like apex can be seen from anywhere in Kuala Lumpur.

Architectural Style Mirrors Malaysia’s’ Vibrant Islamic Heritage

Menara KL’s viewing deck is at 276 metres at around 100 metres higher than the Petronas Twin towers’ Skybridge where the view is spectacular during the day and even better during night time where one can glimpse the entire city centre sparling with the lights.

The tower is constructed on top of the Bukit Nanas – Pineapple Hill, Forest Reserve, which is the oldest gazetted forest reserve in the country, housing age old trees together with flora and fauna originals to Malaysia’s tropical climate. When Menara KL Tower had been built, the overall design was intended to represent the human journey for perfection in life.

Its architectural style mirrors Malaysia’s vibrant Islamic heritage with Arabic scripts, Islamic tiles and archetypal Islamic floral as well as abstract patterns. Its structure comprises of Muqarnas which is a kind of corbel that is used as a decorative device in traditional Islamic as well as Persian architecture, underlining the design as homage to the revival of Islamic architectural heritage.

Globular Pinnacle Inspired by Malaysian Spinning Top

The upper ground floor main lobby is decorated with exquisite glass-clad domes which sparkle like massive diamonds and the tower’s familiar globular pinnacle is said to be inspired by a Malaysian spinning top. The main public area and the entrance is towards the upper ground level where there are 9 shops, a fast food restaurant, a mini-theatre which shows a documentary on the construction of the tower every fifteen minutes as well as an open air amphitheatre with 222 seats.

Public toilet facility is also made available there. Before going to the observation deck one will need to purchase ticket after which they can proceed to the fast speed elevator that will transport them to the observation deck. Downstairs one will find several souvenir shops though it would be better to wait till you get back again.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Macau, China


Macau – Earliest European Colonies in Asia

Macau is situated towards the southeast coast of China and is a special administrative region of the country. Macau was one of the earliest European colonies in Asia and the last to be abandoned and hence has several visible colonial history than Hong Kong.

While walking through the old city, one gets the feeling of being in Europe minus the streets without the people and the Chinese signs around.Besides the city, Macau comprises of the islands of Taipa and Coloane which are linked to Macau via bridges and to one another by a causeway, presently built up into the Cotai Strip.

The Chinese city of Zhuhai is bordered by Macau towards the north, where the border crossing has heavy two way vehicular as well as pedestrian traffic. The Zhuhai Special Economic Zone tends to extend towards the south of Hengquin Island, west of Taipa, Cotai and Coloane. The Lotus Bridge is connected from Cotai to that area. There is substantial movement by the locals of both Zhuhai as well as Macau across the bridge which makes the two seems like twin cities

Asia’s Popular Gambling Mecca

Known as Asia’s popular gambling Mecca, one will find the traditional Chinese culture with exotic Portuguese buildings. Macau derived its name from the word Magao – A-Ma Temple, which was a shrine that had been dedicated to Mazu, the sacred sea goddess respected by the locals.

It is said that towards the middle of the 16th century when the Portuguese had first visited the city, one of the officers had asked a fisherman the name of the land and the man misunderstanding the officer had answered `Magao’ which was the name of A-Ma Temple that was before them.Thereafter the word became the Portuguese name for the land.

In 1535, the Portuguese traders gain the rights to anchor ships in Macau’s harbour and carry on trading activities but no right to stay onshore. Towards 1552-1553, they acquired temporary permission to create storage sheds onshore to dry out goods that were saturated by sea water and built rudimentary stone houses around the area which is presently called Nam Van. The Portuguese, in 1957, established a permanent settlement in Macau and paid an annual rent of 500 taels of silver and continued to pay an annual tribute in order to stay in Macau till 1963.

Peninsular – World of Antiques/Fashion/Traditional/Modern

For almost 400 years, they ruled here before the return of its official to the People’s Republic of China on 20 December, 1999, as a special administrative region. The city covers an area of 27.5 square kilometres with a total population is 469,800 out of which 95% are Chinese while the rest are Portuguese and other westerners.

Most of them reside on the Macau Peninsular where there is a variety of both Oriental as well as Western cultural and historical places of interest together with various types of old buildings which are European baroque or traditional Chinese style.The life of the city has been influenced by the mixture of people, culture and the history in every aspect.

Around the Peninsular, one will find a world of antiques and fashion, traditional and modern together with tranquillity and glitz. Many are of the belief that this destination is suitable both for tourist as well as living since it is a beautiful city with clean streets, gardens together with picturesque hilly landscape with the added attraction of clean air, sunshine, green lands together with delicious food which have made their own contribution to this amazing destination.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Pyramidenkogel Tower


Pyramidenkogel Tower – Well-Known Innovative Tourist Attraction

Pyramidenkogel, an 851 metre high mountain in Carinthia, Austria is situated towards the south of the Worthersee, near the town of Maria Worth. It is located in an area which is a border between speakers of German and Slovenian. In Slovenia area, the mountain is known as Jedvovca and has been a tourist attraction from late 19th century.

In 1950, a wooden observation platform was built and a cross, as a remembrance of the dead of World War I and World War II and the `victims of the mountains’. The cross had been consecrated on August 20, 1950. At the end of summer, an annual `Trausteinmessue - a special Mass, is celebrated. Between 1966 and 1968, a 54 metre tall observation and broadcasting tower made of steel and concrete – Pyramidenkogel Tower was built which was a well-known innovative tourist attraction as per the rough Guide to Austria.

Towards July 2006, there were plans to tear down the prevailing tower to replace it with a new building, a multi-purpose activity centre. This was approved in 2007 for which €10 million was kept aside in 2008, by the Carinthian government. Competition for the new design had started in 2007 wherein the firm of Klaura & Kaden won it and construction began by late 2008.

Ladder into Heaven of Stacked Ellipses

The old tower was collapsed in October 2008, though financial as well as political issues prevented any new construction. Austrian architects, Markus Klaura together with Dietmar Kaden and civil engineering practice Lackner & Raml as well as an entrepreneurial consortium inclusive of Rubner Hozbau joined together and worked in close union in order to complete the world’s highest observation tower in Carinthia, Austria.

Situated on the top of the Pyramidenkogel Mountain, this project openly challenges the tower typology as it searches through a 10 storey helix shaped structure which reaches a height of 100 m. The new tower which was completed in 2013 has been described by Dietmar Kaden as a `Himmelsleiter aus gestapelten Ellipsen’ – a ladder into heaven made of stacked ellipses which functions as a `Leuchtturm der Holzbranche’ – a lighthouse for the timber industry. No name had been decided, though Markus Klaura had proposed `Isis Noreia’ after the goddesses Isis and Noreia.

Tallest Wooden Observation Tower

The tower was built of steel and wood and is the tallest wooden observation tower in the world. The architects had designed the structure featuring a visitor’s platform at 83 metres, a café at 70 metres and a long slide of 66 metres.

 The tower is said to be PEFC-certife. Huge wooden columns elliptical rings together with steel diagonal supports were painstakingly assembled in order to generate a curvaceous basket like structure within which are most of the circulation facilities together with three 360 degree observation decks, a multipurpose covered glass lounge as well as a slide that gives the visitors quick and fun filled way down.

Replacing the 40 year old tower, this intricate wood-steel framework sits on a concrete slab which has been deeply embedded into the bedrock of 20-long anchors. At ground level tourist can access the main structure through a masonry built podium which has been designed to accommodate public places like a foyer, shop, restaurant and box-office.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Piazza Navona, Rome


Piazza Navona - Famous/Beautiful Squares of Rome

Piazza Navona is one of the most famous and beautiful of Rome’s several squares. It was built on the site of the Stadium of Domitian during the 1st century AD which follows the form of an open space of the stadium, built by Emperor Domitian. The stadium that has a larger arena than the Colosseum was used mainly for sporting events and festivals. The huge and lively square features not less than three amazing fountains.

Piazza Navona has two other fountains. Towards the southern area is the Fontana del Moro with a basin and four Tritons which are sculpted by Giacomo della Porta in 1575 to which Bernini added a statue of a Moor or African wrestling with a dolphin in 1673. At the northern part is the Fountain of Neptune – 1574 which was also created by Giacomo della Porta and in 1878, the statue of Neptune surrounded by sea nymphs,sculpted by Antonia Della Bitta had been added in order to create a balance with La Fontana del Moro.Another interesting feature is the Baroque church of Sant’Agnese in Agone.

The front portico of the Baroque church had been designed by Borromini, the rival of Bernini. Construction began two years after the completion of Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers in front of the building and was completed in 1670.

Circus Agonalis/Competition Arena

Piazza Navona is located in the historic centre of Rome towards the west of Panteheon and is one of Rome’s active squares having several outdoor cafes, night clubs and restaurants in the neighbourhood.Ancient Romans visiting this place to watch the agones or games due to which it was known as `Circus Agonalis or a competition arena.

It is said that over a period of time, the name was changed from avone to navone and ultimately to navona. Towards the southwest area of the piazza one will find an ancient `speaking’ statue of Pasquino which was constructed in 1501 where the Romans could leave derogatory social commentary close to the statue. Throughout history, the piazza had held theatrical events as well as other ephemeral activities.

When the festival was curbed, from 1652 till 1866, it got flooded on each Saturday and Sunday in August in elegant celebrations of the Pamphili family. The pavement level had been raised in the 19th century and the market was moved to the nearby Camp de Fiori in 1869. A Christmas market was also held in the piazza.

Attraction of Piazza Navona – Three Fountains

The attraction of Piazza Navona is the three fountains which beautify the square. The Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi – Fountain of the Four Rivers, is the central and the largest Fountain which was built on the request of Pope Innocent X, between 1647 and 1651.

 The design of the fountain had been commissioned to Borromini though it was eventually offered to his rival Bernini. The fountain is said to feature four figures where each tend to represent a river from a different continent namely, the Nile, Ganges, Danube and Rio de la Plata and the statues are placed at the base of a rock that supports an obelisk, which was initially located at the Circus of Maxentius towards the Appian Way.