Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The human side of great Architects?

I had an inspired moment of comedy as I was researching Swiss Architect Mario Botta for my next Blog entry. (incidentally, my next after this) I stated thinking, no matter how rich and famous one is, or how extraordinary a man can be, they are all still human. No? Take a look at these men. They are modern day greats. The best of the best in their field. I took a page from the files of Joan Osborn on this one, to some degree, and it's sad that I am about 15 years late.

Le Corbusier, whose real name is Charles Edouard Jeanneret- Gris, wrote the Five Pillars of Architecture, and sent my design professor into a face flushing excited frenzy at just the mention of his name. He was "da man", to him. He was not only an Architect, but was a furniture designer and artist.

(picture from www.memo.fr.com)

Mario Botta is a living Architect, and argued to be the best Swiss Architect of all time. Let's face it, if you have "of all time" after our description, you are probably epic, in some way.

(picture from www.archimagazine.com)

..and what about Frank Lloyd Wright? His life was even dissected more in the spotlight than other famous Architects, but what about his time behind closed doors?

(picture from http://www.usconsulate.com/)

We see the end results of their work, as we marvel a their achievements. We hear the stories of how they are/were good, bad or indifferent in every step of the design process. What about when they get home from a long day at the office?

What did(do) these men do in their free time?

Now, I have no allusions that I am like them, or for that matter, even good at my job. It seems though, that everyone , can relate to one another in some way.

There are some days that I just don't want to go run, no matter how nice it is outside. Would Frank Lloyd Wright throw off his cape at the door and exclaim that he will not exercise tonight, even though his wife (or mistress) was all suited up for a jog around the block?

Do these guys watch TV? Does Mario Botta tune into the Swiss version of American Idol and get mad at the Swiss version of Sanjaya?

Does he Wii bowl? If so, could he beat me?

Does leaving the sponge in the sink and not on the counter send Botta into a rage?

They walk on sidewalks, they get wet in rain like I do, so why not?

Did Le Corbu get in trouble for leaving the seat up? Did he care?

Could it have been possible that Le Corbu was a terrible driver, or threw like a girl?

Certainly, all of these men could have been the biggest Elvis fan you have ever met. I suppose they could all have been huge Pete Seeger fans as well, like me.

Did FLW prefer boxers?

Did they ever call in sick, and they weren't??

I realize that these men all worked incredible hours to master their craft, but certainly, they must have done common everyday things, like drink directly from the milk carton, or get cavities. When they go to the dentist, do they get to pick their tooth brush color?

I don't want you to think that I am putting these men down in any way. They are clear examples of perfection and greatness, but I was just thinking...

Tasmania III - The Southern Forests and Tehune Air Walk

Mostly, we stayed along the East side of Hobart everyday, except to go Southwest, about 90 minutes, to the Huon Valley to see the Forest. Oddly, the scenery on our drive there reminded me a lot of Upstate NY, aside from the slow controlled driving and dead wallabies on the side of the road. Even the produce was the same - apples and grape vineyards. What we were headed to was nothing like what the Finger Lakes Region where I grew up offered; The Southern Forest.

Okay, I could drone on about how beautiful and breath-taking it was and use words like "lush" and "magnificent". I'll leave that to the pictures. I want to hit on this part of our trip the most because I think it resonates the the dichotomy of Tasmania seems to stand for, and struggles with. Preservation (over 40% of the island is protected) and logging (huge Tasmanian Industry). This is an ongoing conflict in this area, and has lead to violence and protests between the two groups.

In the Southern forest, there stands the Tahune Airwalk, three storeys about the ground. It is the largest cantilevered structure in the world. It stands not for a record, but there to save the rain forest that it guards.

The only thing that I, sadly, can't bring to you on this page is the smell of this forest. It was so fresh and sweet, and evidently, hard to describe. If only I could smell that smell once again, I'd be in Heaven! Bottle it already!

Celery Top

Inside the Pine Forest:

Silver Wattle


Arguably Tasmania's Tallest Tree - BIG TREE

Euclayptus regnens - Swamp Gum

Approx. 87 m - and was possibly higher until it was hit by lightning

for more information on Tasmania's Huon Valley area:



Lastly, for my next blog, I will be returning to Architecture, just for a week. I will be discussing Mario Botta, a Spanish Architect that has compelling building designs, and who happened to design the new Bechtler Museum in Charlotte, NC, which was last weekend's adventure for me and "hubby".

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tasmania II - Port Arthur Prison Colony

Penitentiary –noun
1. a place for imprisonment, reformatory discipline, or punishment, esp. a prison maintained in the U.S. by a state or the federal government for serious offenders.

Before I visited, the extent of the knowledge that I had was that Australia, in fact, was a British Penal Colony a long time ago.

The reason that Australia became a part of the British Penal system was simple; Britain wanted to colonize. The French and Japanese had their eye on the land what is now Australia. Since England was overcrowded as it was, this was a good move to get the really bad prisoners away from the mainland. This is about the farthest away they could have gotten, and could solidify their position in the territory.

Being a prisoner in Australia wasn't so bad in comparison to their existing lives. At the time, the Irish were in the throes of the Potato Famine, and England was rife with disease and overcrowding. The men were sent to Australia to serve a labour sentence, typically with a family. After that, the prisoner was free, and chances are, didn't return to England. About 75,000 prisoners were transported from Britain to VDL during this time that was simply known as the"transportation period".

Port Arthur ran as a prison station from 1833-ca.1853. This was the camp on the Island of Tasmania (then called Van Diemen's Land) where the worst offenders came to stay. These men and boys (the youngest registered at age 8) were prisoners elsewhere that tried to escape their current conditions, committed murder, or was a repeat offender.

This location is where the word "penitentiary" was introduced as a system of reform. It was a way to rehab prisoners through the involvment of Christianity in the convicts everyday lives. It was also the first modern model of a prison system that we are familiar with - single or double chamber cells for each prisoner who is afforded a few hours a day outside it.

The port was protected by a dog line on the thinnest part of the Tasman Peninsula. Ten vicious dogs (one named Tear 'em) were stationed at Eagleneck, where the dogs served as a barrier to the free land.

Suffering and Conditions

William Smith O'Brien was a famous political prinsoner from Ireland, and a resident at Port Arthur. He was in a revolutionary group that was formed to fight for Ireland's independence from Britain. A journal entry stated, "more like a pretty village placed in a romantic position, than an abode of misery and crime" My sentiments were similar at first sight. Later, after he stayed a while he stated that Port Arthur was "a spot which has probably witnessed more of human suffering than almost any spot of equal size on the globe."

Officer's and their families came to settle here and called this camp home. they followed through with as normal a life as possible. They visited one another, thre parties and had clubs. Meanwhile, the prisoners were buidling ships in the water of the frigid harbor, breaking rock to actually fill in part of the harbor with land, and all the while, not allowed to communicate with other prisoners at any time.

A Pictoral Tour

The old grain house and later a prisoners dormitory. This was the sleeping house before private cells were used. A lot of fighting and conspiring went on under this condition.

A view through the trees to the rocky aqua harbor below

A view to the harbor and grain buidling that later became prisoners quarters. The grassy area that you see was infilled by the prisoners one stone at a time.

This is a view down to the harbor from near the surgeons home, which was also near the post office.

A Garden and gate at Trentham

Close up of a garden at Port Arthur's Trantham house.

Around 1853, the settlement became the solution to the calamity that the prison system itself had created within teh society there. The welfare state started there, and Port Arthur became a home for the insane, and also held what the Aussie's still call paupers. In 1877, it finally closed.

Today, you can take around $25 AUS and visit as well, but for a much shorter and enjoyable time!

Last items of note:

The employees do not dress up in costume so that they will not appear to mock the dead and suffered.

In 1996, a man open fired on the grounds, killing 35 and wounding dozens. He was caught the next day adn imprisoned. Do not ask about this occurance, for they do not wish to speak of it. There is a Memorial Garden to honor the victims of that tragic day.

In 1856, Van Diemen's Land was officially renamed Tasmania and granted self government.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Tasmania I - Hobart and the culture therein

I have been really bad about "blogging" this month, but I hope to be back on the wagon for some adventurous writings that will take you half way around the world! My husband and I just got home from Tasmania last week, and we saw many wonderful places and things, and spent a lot of money on food while we were at it. I wanted to give you a quick and hopefully interesting overview of what the Island is about. In my subsequent blogs, I'll talk about specific sites that may pique your interest. If nothing else, you'll have an arsenal of sleep aids for the next few weeks...at least with pretty pictures!

Here is just an overview of the island, customs and typical sights around the little place we called home for a few weeks:

Tasmania is an island state of Australia, is about the size of West Virginia. It is very mountainous and the people are extremely laid back. We stayed in Hobart, the capital, which is home to over half of Tasmania's population and lies in the central southern part of the island.

The east coast of Tasmania is more arid and mountainous. Blonde grasses are the base to dry knarled trees, and dark green bushes.

The west of more lush and a little more mountainous in contrast.

Hobart is very much a harbor town, and rich in history. It is nestled between the River Derwent and Mount Wellington.

While there, you...

don't typically tip for any services rendered. This was really strange at first, but after you start paying twice as much for half the amount of food, you'll get used to it really quick. By the way, the food there is excellent. You'll be hard pressed to find fast food there, aside from Subway. We ate a lot of seafood at the pier, which ended up to be one of the least expensive meals and most enjoyable treats of all.

may not want to plan on getting smashed. The taxes for alcohol and cigarettes are outrageous. The Cascade Brewery is in Hobart, but we still didn't see a beer for less than $6.00 a bottle, and a case for not less than $40. Apparently, when there is a grape swell, you can get wine for cheap. Wine was about on par with Charlotte prices. Cigarettes are $13-20/pack.

won't expect to see people on cell phones. We didn't see a whole lot of people flashing phones or talking to someone else while ordering and it was a "ear piece free" holiday for us. Thank God!

WILL see well behaved children. Wherever we went there were children. (and a lot of pregnant ladies. A lot!)

will need to order black coffee as "long black" and/or coffee with cream = Flat White. I don't know why, but some advice for you... don't act like you fit in if you are American. You don't. We thought we did for about 30 minutes. Then we ordered "coffee". oops.

will see well manicured yards and pretty gardens. People have a lot of respect for things there, and it shows in their lawn care!

can expect to have 71-75 degree weather with a breeze in the summer, which is our winter. It can be chilly once in awhile and don't be surprised about an afternoon rain shower. If you venture into the bush, bring a sweatshirt.

will experience kindness from people. It is clear that the people of Tasmania are honest, and don't need to find a reason to be mean or underhanded. Even the "punks" are polite.

should see a Tasmanian Devil. They are so adorable and currently endangered. There is an epidemic of tumors developing on the skin of the devil and eventually killing them. It makes my heart sick to know this. If you recall there was a Tasmanian Tiger. The last one died in captivity early this century. If you ask anyone there, there may be some still on the island, but no one wants to report it so that it won't be captured. There is something very powerful about the spirit of faith in anyone, let alone an island of people.

drive under the speed limit. There isn't a lot of "road rage", but great traffic signs!

will have a beautiful vacation that you will never forget!

* map of Tasmania from www.smallguide.com.au