Tag Archives: art

Photos of eastern Ukraine: part 1

As you know, my blog is not about politics. However, these ongoing events in eastern Ukraine have stopped me many times, bringing some vivid memories from the times I visited that region for work. The region is very different from the rest of Ukraine: very industrial and very Soviet. Some say Russian. Polluted and grey. My visits took place after the Orange revolution and before the global economic meltdown, during the period of optimism. I met some wonderful and fascinating people, drank a fair share of vodka in meetings, and appreciated the chance to get to know the region. But I always felt that there was something very “wild east” over there.

Today I went through some old photos and I decided to publish some of them.

I suggest you take this blog post as a photo reportage and as an opportunity to look into the life of a region that has become a battlefield between the East and the West, and who knows what else. As an opportunity to time travel and revisit the period when Lenin was well alive and celebrated. As an opportunity to put a picture to the news you read every day.

Statues like this are not rare in eastern Ukraine.

Statues like this are not rare in eastern Ukraine.

During the winter months the region is cold and grey. This was once the heart of the Soviet Union's industrial production.

During the winter months the region is cold and grey. Once upon a time it was the heart of the Soviet Union’s industrial production.

Enormous factories often employed entire towns.  Something that still happens in China I guess?

Enormous factories often employed entire towns. Something that still happens in China I guess?

A ghost factory somewhere between Donetsk and Luhansk.

A ghost factory somewhere between Donetsk and Luhansk.

Can happiness exist when there is so little color?

Can happiness exist when there is so little color?

Soviet wall frescoes remind us of an other era.

Soviet wall frescoes remind us of an other era.

Any thoughts you would like to share?

 

A chapel of design

This summer I discovered something in Helsinki that I found absolutely fantastic and incredible: a very simplistic, curved-shaped chapel made of wood in the heart of the Finnish capital. Let me present you, the Kamppi Chapel of Silence! One of the world’s most stylish chapels:

Would you have guessed that this is a chapel?

Would you have guessed that this is a chapel?

The Chapel was completed in 2012, the year when Helsinki was World Design Capital 2012. This urban and spiritual project was designed by K2S Architects Ltd, who describe the project like this “This small wooden chapel introduces a place for silence and peace in the lively commercial centre of Helsinki. The chapel space is located in a sculptural wooden volume. The interior is warm and enclosed from the surrounding urban life. Indirect toplight enlightens the wooden chapel interior.”

My first impression was very powerful. I loved the outside design. Even if the Chapel somehow looks like nothing and could-be-anything at the same time, it is very elegant. It is one of a kind. I loved how the sun rays touched the wood (wood that was glazed with wax by using nanotechnology, says the brochure of the Chapel).

The wood used in the chapel has been glazed with wax. Nanotechnology was used in this method, but do not ask me in what way.

The wood used in the chapel has been glazed with wax. Nanotechnology was used in this method, but do not ask me in what way.

I was sort of nervous to walk in. Would the inside match the beauty of the outside?

Judging by these photos, I am sure you will agree with me that it did. It was at the same time imposing and down to earth. Quiet and present. Difficult to describe.

If you haven't found the type of church you feel comfortable in, try the Kamppi chapel in Helsinki, Finland.

If you haven’t yet found the type of church you feel comfortable in, try the Kamppi Chapel in Helsinki, Finland.

During the time of my visit there were numerous tourists from France, Russia and Japan, but I could also witness young children popping in, alone, on their way from the sports to home. In some ways I felt happy that a religious place managed to attract the younger generation. Even if they didn’t come in for spiritual reasons (but what do I know, maybe they did!), they came in, stayed quiet, looked around, observed, took photos and left. It seemed like they appreciated the place and the feeling in it, and to me this represents the most powerful “recognition of success” the architects could ever receive!

The Kamppi Chapel attracts many kinds of visitors: photographers, architects, tourists, but also curious locals.

The Kamppi Chapel attracts many kinds of visitors: photographers, architects, tourists, but also curious locals.

Even if you may have very little time in Helsinki, make sure you visit this chapel only 5 minutes away from the railway station by walking. It is open from Monday to Friday 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. and from Saturday to Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. To be found on Facebook here: Kampin kappeli.

For more information:

K2S Architects: http://www.k2s.fi/
ArchDaily article: and http://www.archdaily.com/252040/kamppi-chapel-k2s-architects/
..and lastly, a photograph of the Q&A I took in the Chapel:

This Q&A may answer your additional questions!

This Q&A may answer your additional questions!

Problem of Travelling

I think the problem of travelling is easily explained: the more you travel, the more you want. And the more you experience, the more you realize that the list of places to visit is endless. Furthermore, you want to experience new destinations, but eventually you also want to return to places you already know because your experience piles up and you want to see how you would now feel about an X place. See what I mean?

Yesterday I was emptying some of my memory cards and saw the photos I took in Varanasi. Even if the place is so obscure to say the least, I would like to return there. After all, I am not much wiser today than I was when I wrote Purpose of Varanasi, and to me this alone is a sign of “unfinished business, an urgency to go back to figure something out”. Places with a soul tend to have that effect…

Today I was on a more cheerful mood so I started missing Southern France. Avignon where the Popes lived for a short period, gypsy town Saintes-Maries de la Mer, world-famous Saint Tropez and charming Menton. I have done these places several times and what a road trip that is! South of France, NiceIt is likely that I will travel next week, so in overall, I am not doing so badly. But I would not say no to hopping on a TGV train tomorrow for a weekend trip either!

What about you? Toward the end of each trip, do you start to have that itching feeling of rushing home, or do you secretly (or openly) wish you could continue forever?

 

Airport Meets Art and Design

If your most recent flight to Mumbai landed prior to January 2014, then probably all you remember is an old airport with long queues and lack of world-class facilities. But if your latest trip took place later, then you know that Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport‘s newest terminal (T2) is a beautiful oasis of art and design. Mumbai Airport Terminal 2Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (Chicago-based architects also behind Burj Khalifa, Dubai), Terminal 2 is a true mix of Indian heritage and modernity. We had a chance to spend some time in this terminal just before catching our Emirates A380 flight to Dubai, and highly appreciated our brief visit. The terminal was spacious, white, clean and full of light, and I loved the pillars. In addition, the terminal is home to the world’s largest public art program! Including images of Bollywood stars, of course.Mumbai Airport, Terminal 2What I absolutely loved was the carpet that according to its manufacturer, Brintons from the UK, is inspired by the peacock, India’s national bird. Such lovely colors, such beautiful designs. Walking on this carpet made our departure from India a bit less sad.Brintons carpet in Mumbai, terminal 2From the practical point of view it was –well– very practical! There was no waiting and trolleys were available everywhere. Time between entering the terminal and reaching the departure gate was about 20 minutes. Wow.

Despite the fact that everything worked smoothly, many shops were still closed. For example, I could not buy English-language books because I could not find a book shop (I certainly hope there will be one!). Regarding the restaurant facilities, we did not use any, but I hear that all big names, “usual suspects”, are or will be there. Personally I hope that I will still be able to eat a good old onion rava masala dosa, and that whoever is responsible on distributing the licences loves Indian food as much as I do. Viva dosas, idlies and upma!!

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill: http://www.som.com/projects/chhatrapati_shivaji_international_airport__terminal_2

Brintons: http://www.brintons.net/apac/en/project-wall/chhatrapati-shivaji-international-airport-t2-mumbai-india/

Neemrana Fort-Palace: Architectural Pearl

If you recall the India travel series I wrote earlier this year, you may remember that  is one of my favorite hotels in the world. If I renewed my wedding vows, I would probably do it at the Neemrana Fort-Palace hotel. Right in the middle of history, charm, elegance and Rajasthani hospitality!

During my last trip to India in April this year I had a chance to return to Neemrana Fort-Palace for one night. It was a wonderful visit and we were pleased to realize that in spite of the extension works (there are now two swimming pools and 65 rooms) the hotel still feels very intimate. Just look at these labyrinths, verandas, patios and towers all over the property!Neemrana Fort-PalaceNeemrana Fort-PalaceAt the time of our stay the hotel was occupied mainly by Indian families (most foreigners stop visiting Rajasthan by April as it gets too hot) so we had the upper pool to ourselves. In fact the original pool (at the lower level) can accommodate children, whereas the newer, upper pool, is reserved for adults. Neemrana Fort-PalaceNeemrana Fort-PalaceOnce the sun started to set, we descended to the lower levels of the hotel complex. The view toward the valley was spectacular, and with a little bit of imagination we could have imagined a camel (or elephant?) caravan travelling in the horizon.Neemrana Fort-PalaceNeemrana Fort-PalaceBefore heading to our lovely, comfortable beds in our Aman Vilas room we enjoyed an excellent buffet dinner with Indian Sula wine (red). It was my parents’ last night in India and I don’t think their stay could have ended in a more royal way.

Neemrana Fort-Palace, hope to see you soon again!

***

Should you want to read more about the Neemrana Fort-Palace history, go here: http://fort-palace.neemranahotels.com/history and http://fort-palace.neemranahotels.com/philosophy

For a virtual visit of wonderfully decorated rooms, go here: http://fort-palace.neemranahotels.com/rooms

Lastly, for a memorable stay, reservations are made here: http://fort-palace.neemranahotels.com/contact-us

 

 

 

Skull Decoration

Cleaning and arranging are not my most favorite past-time activities but I have to admit they bring benefits… like rediscovering things that you forgot existed and coming up with new decoration ideas with these newly-found objects!

We bought these four marble skulls in Varanasi, from the same man who sold us the Nandi (Home Sweet Home). Yesterday while cleaning I placed the skulls on this bowl (that I think comes from Zanzibar) because they were on my way, but once I took a second look I realized they actually look quite stylish. Especially with those red communist farmers in the background (an old Communist propaganda poster from Kyrgyzstan). skull decorationSkulls are very fashionable these days. My husband is dreaming of a tiny golden skull necklace. Skulls have a lot of symbolic values and not only among different religious groups. A skull is actually beautiful –even that black, burnt skull I saw at the burning ghat in Varanasi. Skulls fascinate and scare us.

What do you think? Would you have them at home as a decoration item? What do they symbolize to you?

 

Lots of flying and dreaming

The view from our balcony was very travel-oriented five minutes ago. Lots of planes coming and going to all sorts of exotic and familiar destinations. Paris roofs at nightThis made me think about my next travels: realistic, probable/feasible and unrealistic ones.

At this very moment my list would look something like this: Finland, Italy/Greece/Turkey and India. Finland because of friends, family and summer house, Italy/Greece/Turkey for excellent, affordable food and the Mediterranean sea, and finally India for my friends in Bombay, AMAZING food and complexity mixed with simplicity.

Voila, my list. What is yours? Three categories: a) realistic b) probable/feasible c) unrealistic. Waiting to hear yours!

Meanwhile, have a lovely Friday night. I am off to eat lamb chops.