Stockholm Metro Station — An amazing underground world

I’m pretty sure everyone had a fabulous spring break. Since we are all in Europe, it is really convenient for all of us to travel to other European countries during the break. I really enjoyed sharing our experiences about the spring break last week, and after that, I decided to write about the most exciting and shocking part of  Stockholm.3

Like many tourists, I went to most of popular attractions in Stockholm, such as the town hall, the old town, and the royal palace. I have to say they were all amazing. However, if you preferred to walk around by taking a bus, you probably would miss the world’s longest art gallery which was designed and painted by more than 150 artists. It is really easy to appreciate the incredible art exhibition – one metro ticket (about 4 euros), and then you will feel free to enjoy the wonderful underground trip. Following the sign and going down the escalator, it is a way to enter the colorful and dramatic cave-like art space. 5It is hard to tell how Swedish designers and engineers got the inspiration to create the underground system in such a unique and creative way, but the unforgettable spaces that are decorated with paintings, sculptures, mosaics, and engravings show that they made a huge contribution to the development of art and design in Sweden. The massive natural rock face was designed to cover the walls and ceilings that support the station, which makes the underground space seem to be really mysterious. Walking into it, you might forget you are waiting on a train and that you need to go somewhere else.

The different metro stations have different themes, and there are no two stations that look  alike. Perhaps it will take you at least half of a day to take the subway and get off at every station so you can look at the diverse spaces and find as many elaborate details as possible. I was really excited to walk into the different stations; I appreciated the art works and took some pictures. Most stations I explored looked like giant caves and were painted different colors.2 1Some stations show natural or environmental themes, which are helpful to relieve people’s stress of a busy day. Some stations look historical or regional to educate people about Swedish history, culture, and customs. Others were decorated in remarkably modern or even futuristic ways to present some movie scenes, different emotions, and daily life. There are more than 90 stations, which were designed in different styles, so I promise you will not feel bored if you keep checking the different stations before you are exhausted.

4To be honest, the awesome metro station is definitely the most interesting exhibition I have ever visited. I really hope I can go back some day to look at the others I did not have time to visit. Don’t hesitate to search “Stockholm metro station” online and prepare to be shocked by the fascinating world!

Viaduct through Zürich

On the outskirts of Rome you can find an empty field with hundreds of arches forming Aqueducts. Famous for their engineering marvels that they are, the design was later reused in designing Viaducts. Similar to Aqueducts, Viaducts are formed of multiple layers of arches but instead of transporting water, they simply guide vehicles; the original highway overpass. Similar to Rome, the ruins of these Viaducts lay around other cities of Europe as a reminder of the past.

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Walking around the streets of West Zürich, once an industrial area now being reclaimed by a younger generation, my uber fruen and I were looking for food and something amazing (mostly just food). Concert venue and techno parks passed and we stumbled upon Zürich’s very own ‘Im Viaducut’. A series of arches, built in the 19th century to support a railway, and now has been transformed into a strip mall, of sorts. Each Arch serves as the storefront window, separating each store and each store reaches from the main road to the other side of the viaduct to a storefront meeting a public park. Each store featuring a different style, snaking around Zürich’s streets, it finally ends at a market hall with more than 30 vendors. This huge open space features small storefronts along the arches, but they open up into one large market place. Each vendor with its own area, they feature local treats to regional delicacies, and a large restaurant. The center is finished by a second floor catwalk, reaching offices above the stores themselves, and many large porthole like skylights peering through the Viaducts top.

DSCN1628We continued down the road, peering through the windows of the Viaducts stores, bars, and discotec’s until we stumbled upon more adaptive reuse projects of West Zürich. On more then one instance we found these old shipping containers, stacked and pieced together like a game of Tetris, forming stores and offices. Try to imagine the thought process of the designer, something so simple as to take the original container used to ship the very goods you are trying to sell.

Small projects like these are encouraging to see. Successful reuse of a cities history to assist in the future development or a community; and the thoughtful reuse of what would have become scrap metal, into a commercial space to also further the community.

 

MAXXI–you will get lost

1MAXXI, the national museum of the 21st century arts designed by Zaha Hadid, is definitely one of the most exciting buildings for architecture students in Rome.

The interior spaces are constituted of curved white concrete walls, suspended black stairs, and dramatic open ceilings. Even if you have a map and a really good sense of direction, you will probably end up confused and lost in the building. 2MAXXI, which is not static and is unlike any other building in Rome,  conveys two general concepts — flexibility and fluidity. When you visit the museum, you will feel the flow of the interior space which is represented by the fluid skylights and the suspended stairs. The different line and surface elements interact with each other to make up several multi-directional zones, which fulfill both visual impact and functional requirement. The thin concrete beams on the ceiling emphasize the visual interchange between one exhibition to another; at the same time, they are associated with the lighting system which includes natural and artificial lighting.4 In addition, the interior spaces are filled with dramatic multi-layered areas.3 Once you enter the building, you definitely will be attracted by the oblique vertical circulation elements that connect different levels and create a continuous composite space. The changeable spatial experiences provide a creative opportunity for visitors to appreciate not only the art work but the building itself. In the different exhibition halls, visitors are always fascinated with exploring the interesting spaces. Zaha Hadid is good at breaking traditional spatial rules to redefine different spaces by using novel structure and technology. The innovation of MAXXI makes a huge contribution to the historical city. It reflects a new perspective of social life with playful invention.

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Along with MAXXI, the MACRO museum (Museo di Arte Contemporanea di Roma), which is designed by a female architect, Odile Decq, is one of the two contemporary art museums in the center of Rome. Located in Nomentano district, the new museum is redesigned from a 19th-century Peroni brewery. IMG_5258When you walk along the street, you will notice a glass box above a really old industrial building. The architect designs several galleries, a café, a bookshop, a roof terrace and a fascinating auditorium based on the traditional building’s structure. Under the raised glass corner, visitors can enter the museum through a small courtyard. IMG_5166Standing at the lobby, people will be fascinated by a bright red explosive auditorium inserted at the center of the atrium and a series of suspended zigzag walkways designed for connecting different corners. As the heart of the building, the dramatic form of the auditorium creates a kinetic quality to the entire space. At the same time, above the dramatic volume, there is a complicated exposure roof structure system. Daylight can go into the building through the inclined panel of glass. Now, the roof is painted, so the whole interior spaces will be decorated by colorful changing shadows during daytime. Walking though the floating walkways is absolutely the most excited part of the whole building. IMG_5211You can go to the different galleries to appreciate art works and catch the different views of the auditorium. You probably will find a huge black door at the end of the walkway, which is actually the door of the main exhibition. Behind the door, you will notice a stair that is connected to a mystical dead-end. My suggestion is that you should go up the stair and check the black corner without any hesitation. A big surprise is waiting for you. Though the other stair, you will arrive at the beautiful roof terrace, which establishes a strong connection to the city of Rome. The sculptural form of the roof provides people with different spatial experiences.IMG_5078

Since Decq designed the extraordinary fascinating building, people always compare the MACOR to MAXXI that is also designed by a female architect, Zaha Hadid. Without orthogonal element, they both focus on unusual form to create the different and modern buildings for the historical city. I can’t tell which one is better since they all did really great works. Come to visit MACOR and tell me which one you prefer.

Tips:

Address: via Nizza 138 — 00198 Roma

Hours: 11:00 to 19:00 from Tuesday to Sunday

11:00 to 22:00 on Saturday

Price: € 12,50

Vatican Museum – Heaven on earth?

The museum entryway

The museum entryway

Feeling a bit touristy and daring, a couple of us Sooners decided to go and explore the Vatican City and its museums today. I went with high hopes, expecting to find a lavish city filled with the typical roman ornament, but what I actually found was both overwhelming and underwhelming.

The line for the museum is not actually found in Saint Peter’s Square, but around the old city wall to the north where a rather large line had formed (despite the fact the museum did not actually open for another 20 minutes). When turning the corner to enter you are greeted by a IMG_1408rather modern lobby and staircase up to the beginning of the museum, making us question if we were in the correct line to begin with, after all we were going to see the a museum that was established in 1506. We began climbing a spiral ramp with small cases of boats from around the world and over time. The top of the ramp lead to a strange juxtaposition of an older building (now gift shop  with a relatively new ramp and large skylight. Seeing these modern elements began to change my expectations for what the rest of the tour had in store.

We began the long tour around the Vatican’s grounds to find room after room filled with statues and nothing more, with the exception of the spectacularly decorated rooms themselves. We walked through what seemed like a hundred rooms (and that probably was not far off) each featuring some sort of breath taking element, from the frescoes  to hand carved wood ceilings, to the most detailed mosaics I have ever seen. No room was the same as the last, each covered from floor to ceiling in such decadence that I began to consider the countless hours of work and craft each room took to assemble. This museum housed some truly beautiful artifacts; from every reach of the globe, collected over hundreds and hundreds of years. But what is real on display in the rooms themselves.

Hand laid mosaic floor

Hand laid mosaic floor

Each room featured marvelous views up

Each room featured marvelous views up

The tour took us through to the Sistine Chapel, where we sat in amazement. Every inch covered in paint and featuring the iconic images of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam and The Last Judgment, this is where I was left disappointed. These paintings seem on almost every postcard, taught in every art appreciation course, and continually referenced as being on everyone’s to see bucket list, but you are not prepared for how small these scenes are. It is best described as being told that you get to do see the Eiffel Tower and being brought to Las Vegas opposed to Paris. Despite these minor disappointments you are drawn back into just starring into every fresco. Caty Townsend even declared that if she was the Pope, she would just lie on the floor and gaze up for hours. Adding to the excitement, we realized we were standing in the Sistine Chapel a week before the Pope’s official resignation and the electoral process would begin once more and a new Pope would be elected.

The double spiral exit staircase, added in the 30's

The double spiral exit staircase, added in the 30’s

The Vatican Museums are far from disappointing, this is home to some of the most beautiful paintings and tapestries from all over the world. This large collection and the museum itself is a stunning example of the importance the Vatican plays throughout history. I will probably never be surrounded by so much beauty again.

Firenze – An old city with a modern twist

When traveling to Italy you expect to see hundreds if not thousands of churches, highly decorated piazzas, and every more winding ancient streets. But what you don’t expect to find is such modern interiors, Florence in particular. Historical facades reserved for the visitors of Florence, with an interior that has transformed to modern times.

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Piazza Strozzi

Piazza after piazza, our class made its way around Florence attempting to finish sketching assignments, until we stumbled upon one that looked slightly different from the last. Featuring an outdoor eating area, Piazza  Strozzi offered something different. This courtyard has decided to be more than a museum like all the others, and has dedicated its space to offering performances, an art store, and a cafe.

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Cafe Giacosa

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Cafe Giacosa

Built in 1458, Piazza Strozzi is one of the best examples of domestic Renaissance architecture. Over the years the courtyard has remained the same, being preserved for the visitors of Florence, but now it has decided to change. This courtyard has decided to not just be a museum like all the others, but has decided to dedicate its space to the cities modern needs. Cafe Giacosa features a very interesting overhead light, an orb like structure that looks almost like a UFO. Severely out of place this cafe offers a nice contrast to its Renaissance context. Featuring all types of delicious looking baked goods, fruits, and everyone’s favorites Italian espresso, the bartender explains to me that  the owners were wanting to revitalize this unused space, and what better way than to provide a modern coffee bar in a highly visited Piazza. Using modern materials and funky Ikea chairs, Cafe Giacosa is giving this courtyard a new opportunity to prosper.

We continued to wander the streets of Firenze only to find the Piazza della Repubblica. Home of Florence’s original forum, this is now home to many street vendors and cafe after cafe, often hosting many famous writers and artists and a resting place for tourists. By night this Piazza livens up with the needed heat lamps and neon lit white awnings. Each cafe hosts an outdoor cafe, full of modern furnishings in stark contrast with the classical context. Fully encased in plexi glass or plastic, these cafe’s have extended there interiors to the Piazza, making them much more dynamic.

Each square is different and in almost any building you can find a newly added staircase or room of some sort that seems either out of place or a nice contrast. From cafes to shopping and even in the piazzas, an interesting interior is not hard to find. I really recommend anyone visit Florence and keep an eye out for these contrasts.

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Piazza della Repubblica

Ara Pacis Museum — you like it or hate it?

1A re-design of the Ara Pacis Museum, the first major contemporary architecture built in the historic center of Rome by Richard Meier in 1995, is our studio’s primary project at this semester. We visited the museum on Wednesday. Challenged to build a museum to house the Ara Pacis and to connect between the ancient monument and the twenty-first century, Mr. Meier’s individualistic work has not satisfied the public. Since it was completed in 2006, harsh criticism has never stopped. Many critics complain that this product of modernism is indifferent to the rich and glorious urban context.

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“What do you think?” That is definitely the first question others asked me when I stood at the center of the museum and considered the interesting but unusual sunlight and shading. I told others I liked it without any hesitation. I enjoyed the spatial experience not because the precious monument in the building, just because of the building itself. Indeed, the interior space was absolutely the most attractive part of the whole building. Following the long monumental path, the Ara Pacis stands at the center of the building. The east and west sides’ long windows extend along the base of the wall to the top, which transfer the different views between the bank of Tiber River and the Mausoleum of Augustus. People couldn’t ignore the gigantic glazing, and at the same time, they would notice that how those windows absorb the surrounding into the building to connect to the monument. Above the symmetrical main hall, the skylights maximize natural lighting into the interior space and enforce the power of the building.

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There are so many nice details you shouldn’t miss. Meier is definitely an expert on employing points, lines, spaces and light to create an amazing spatial experience. You can see how the horizontal lines and the vertical lines connect to each other, how the Ara Pacis’ corner matches to a grid of deep beams, and how the different materials produce a different story altogether. Utilizing natural lighting, four heavy white columns, and a monumental stair, the museum is really peaceful but dramatic. However, the dramatic light happens to be a main point many people complained about. Meier explained his approach, “In all of my work I treat light as a building material as tangible as plaster or glass, and in the Ara Pacis a variety of spatial experiences has been achieved through such strategies as the contrast between the subdued lighting of the entry hall and the expansive lighting in the top lit great hall.”

With the other contemporary buildings constructed in Rome recently, like the MAXXI Museum by Zaha Hadid and the Auditorium by Renzo Piano, questions about how to develop the city and restore the city arise again and again. For me, I feel that no matter how much effort people expended, we couldn’t rebuild or reshape the old city any more. The only thing we can do is respect the history then create the new building to be alive in the old city.

Do you like the building or not? What’s your thinking about the relationship between the historical city and contemporary architecture?

In the end, let’s watch an interview to hear Meier’s response to these questions.

Graphic Design and Interiors

Yichen Wang and I will be helping to operate the website, as well as helping all who are reading have a greater understanding of how Rome actually looks (not just in Google maps and the overseen photographs). Please shoot us an email or leave a comment if you have any ideas or desires for the site!

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Left: Yichen Wang, Lena Detter