MEMORIES FROM BOSTON

Architecture of the nineteen seventies – architect Ieoh Ming Pei.
JF Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
The Pavillion
Archecture at JF Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
The sailboat Victura and the exterior of the library.
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If one would like to catch up with some historical and biographical information on John F. and Robert Kennedy, then it would be a good idea to visit the
J.F.Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum at Columbia Point in South Boston.

Apart from getting a good oversight of the life, the presidency and history of that period, a visit to the building itself is definitely worth it.
The building was designed by Chinese born American architect, I.M.Pei, and was build during 1977-79.
As you walk towards this massive construction, you see a stark contrast between its white concrete exterior and its black steel and glass façade, an unornamented expression in abstract shapes, a monument to modern American architecture.
Pei also designed other great buildings in Boston; like the extension to the
Boston Public Library, the West wing of the Museum of Fine Arts, the Hancock Tower.

I was particularly impressed to see how well old and new architecture can be together, this is shown over and over in the city of Boston, Boston is probably a good example to show how architecture has changed from the American Renaissance, to the Modern, in the 20th century, with the more modern buildings making a clear statement of what they are meant for, attracting visitors from afar, to not only look at the external building, but also see what is to be found inside, and what the buildings are used for.

It was interesting to learn that Pei was also the architect that designed the great pyramid shaped entrance and addition to the Louvre Museum in Paris, a piece of work that I have always admired very much.

Looking back I enjoyed very much taking photos of this building. And of course also learning a little bit about J.F.Kennedy. The friend who was with me was very knowledgeable on the history of all America’s presidents and he guided me around.
I have very many good memories of my stay in Massachusetts and Connecticut, especially visiting David Henry Thoreau’s and Walt Whitman’s Concord, and the Florences Griswolds museum in Old Lyme. I am looking at some of my photos and notes and hope to share more in future.

SIMPLICITY

“As we live and as we are, Simplicity – with a capital “S” – is difficult to comprehend nowadays. We are no longer truly simple. We no longer live in simple terms or places. Life is a more complex struggle now. It is now valiant to be simple: a courageous thing to even want to be simple. It is a spiritual thing to comprehend what simplicity means.”
― Frank Lloyd Wright, The Natural House
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Santa Lucija, Gozo

GETTING TO KNOW IR-RABAT

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St.Francis square and church, this is where the library is found also, beside the old hospital on the right.  It is a busy square and the café at the corner is where one can find the locals drink and chat.  In the old hospital, besides a beautiful courtyard is a place where regular exhibitions are held of work by Maltese or Gozitan artists.

Close to where the National Research Library is situated, I found this little bookshop, it was closed as it was around one o’clock, but in the window were displayed the sweetest and most beautifully sculpted little portrayals of life on Gozo, people in all sort of work and play, I will visit there again and hopefully the shop will be open.  The old door is one of much found style here, the arches are plentiful in local architecture, I think that it looks real nice.  It is in the little streets like the one above on the left that one finds all these treasures, and there are plenty of these streets.

In another one of those narrow streets I came upon a lady, her name is Victoria, she was making her lace in the doorway and we got chatting, seems I can take classes after all, she is going to talk to her teacher around the corner, that would be lovely and I will take the opportunity if it presents itself.  The interesting thing was that the lady hardly spoke any English, wish I could speak Malti but so far only a few words like bonju, and triq….

Shop where religious statues are painted or restored

Another interesting shop I came across was this one where the man was restoring religious statues, he did a marvellous job by the look of it.  The place smelled of paint.  It is interesting about the culture here in Gozo that religious objects are still part and parcel of everyday life.  I entered another little shop just beside the St.George church where a nice man called Martin informed me about the sisters (a religious order instigated by Don Bosco in Italy called the Salesians) that are still working with orphans and young people right here in Victoria, he told me to go and see them and they would tell me all about the more social aspects of the place, as in what sort of social work is being done and what problems, if any, are most prominent here on Gozo.  I will take him up on it and go see the sisters.  If you live in a place you have got to know a bit more about the people, the culture, and the community.  It is what interest me most beside the architecture, the plants and insects, and the limestone.

What a pleasant and most interesting morning I experienced, now more than ever I believe that if I want to get to know a place and its people, all I have to do is talk to whoever is open to chat.  It is amazing the knowledge you gather that way.  And what a lovely and interesting place this island really is.

 

 

OUR IMMEDIATE NEIGHBOURHOOD IN VICTORIA

It is now two weeks ago that we arrived in Victoria – Ir Rabat, and we are living in a spaceous flat in the shadow of the Citadella – we are not quite in the oldest part of the town with its little, narrow and beautiful streets, but we are close enough to hear, loud and clear, the bells of Santa Marija, the Citadella’s cathedral, this is something I value very much. Both my father and grandfather were bell ringers back in Belgium. The houses in the street here are architecturally interesting, typically built in the Maltese style with its closed balconies, some made of wood like you see in Malta, some made out of stone which you see more on Gozo. I have read that these balconies provided women, who may not have been walking out so often in the past, with the possibility of watching the world go by providing food for talk later on in the day! Personally I find these balconies a very attractive feature. Where we live it is not so quiet, but that does not matter, I want to see life here and experience it. I want to draw it and photograph it, and I want to interact with people, with the Gozitans. A class that I was hoping to attend, in lace making, fell through yesterday, I was disappointed – I even brought my bobbins with which I used to practice making Flemish lace with me. So now I need to try and find other ways to interact and meet the local people. I talk with shopkeepers, librarians, and anybody I meet and seems open to talk – I think that is a start anyway. As with my container garden I need to be patient with this too.
Everyday I take a long walk, not only to buy fresh produce from a vegetable stalls, or to get fish, but also to visit the library, a local museum, or just to get the feel of the town, there is so much to see and take in, I keep discovering new things; buildings, streets, interesting architecture, churches and other aspects of life in Victoria. It sure is interesting. And there is so much to read up on the history of the place, luckily the local library has a good variety of books on the subject.

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THE EYE IS DRAWN UPWARDS

As we walked through the gates of Valetta city I was impressed with the modern design of the enormous and fabulous building that rose up in front of me, what an effect it has on one! We walked over the beautifully paved floor toward a couple of chairs and tables and drank our coffee while taking in the view, it was very pleasing to the eye, first of all the gate itself which you come to by crossing over a bridge, looking down into the ancient surrounds of the city, I felt dwarfed walking through the gates, and then this unusual building on stilts, façade covered in Limestone (sourced from the island of Gozo). I read that the architect of this building, which by the way is the new Parliament building, was Renzo Piano, an Italian architect and engineer, who has designed some other wonderful buildings and projects, among them the Paul Klee Centre in Bern, Switzerland. The building of the Parliament House was part of the City Gate Project, it also included the open air theatre. The stone which was cut in Italy was perfectly smooth and sharply angular. I just loved it, it enticed the eye upwards where the honey coloured construction made a perfect line against the blue sky. What an entrance to a city, I don’t think I have ever seen something like this before.

On the way out of the city, Ian drew my attention to the stone slabs on the floor of the square – I was still looking up – and what we saw there delighted us too, fossils on every single slab, beautifully smoothed to a perfectly shiny surface, but clearly visible.

I’ve added some photos but I don’t think they do justice to the experience one is treated to when actually there, still it is a try.

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I got to thinking about these huge structures, the massive high walls made of stone, the amazing way the stone is held together and the buildings are engineered, and I must admit that they give me a feeling of being protected, against what – I do not know, and why we build such huge structures I know even less, I only now realise that they can have a good effect on one, I noticed it at first while we were in Budapest recently and the solid buildings made me feel more grounded, maybe it is something personal, maybe I am in nature so much of the time that I literally disappear in the landscape, maybe a little bit of being among huge man made structure is good for one too. Who knows, all I realise is that it has a good effect on me and for that right now I am very grateful.

ZEJTUN AND THE SCENT OF ORANGE BLOSSOM

Yes, while walking around in the old centre of this beautiful old town of Zejtun, I was treated to the most delicate orange blossom scent, it lightened my spirits, and my steps, as did all the lovely architecture that my eyes feasted upon. Zejtun which has a population of 12,000 is a town in the South-East of Malta. The town consists of the lower and older part, called Gwiedi, with its narrow winding streets and beautiful houses, this is the quarter that I visited, and then there is the upper part.  The church divides and unites these two quarters and was build where it stands so that the people of both sides of the town would be happy, and they are. But like I said I mainly walked the lower quarter, it was very interesting. I noticed that the houses, close together and mostly in narrow streets were often very beautiful with lots of ornamentation, and niches featuring mostly religious icons, very tastefully done I might say, and reminding me of my own Flanders where these niches can also seen a lot in town architecture. I found the ancient olive press, it says that the cultivation of olives, and pressing for oil was much undertaken during the Roman times around here. In fact the name Zejtun derives from ‘the fruit of the olive tree. The origin of the word is said to derive from Phoenician and Arabic language.

After an hour or so, I had already taken many photos of all my favourite sights, streets, and imposing facades , I wanted coffee, but I saw no coffee shops, in fact it is amazing and actually quite pleasant in these Maltese towns and villages not to be confronted with commercial properties all the time. So I started talking with some locals and asked them for a place where I could sit down and have coffee, and they sent me to the ‘Malta Labour Party Club’ near the church. I entered a large room with three men in it and a canary bird singing its heart out, there was also a TV running a sports program in French, the men were watching intently, they did not notice me much which was good. I was served coffee in a glass (like in S.India), and I wrote my few cards. It was a nice experience and nobody bothered me, everyone was decent and kind, I have found this to be the case in Malta, people are very friendly and approachable, they will readily talk with you. So it was that while walking further down the street I saw a woman coming out of a lottery shop, I myself was looking at the window of a little shop and somehow we got talking, about her life, about her pension and her need to work as well to make ends meet. So good to get to know the Maltese.  I did a lot more walking after that in the areas of Ta’Xejba and Il-Herba which gave me more views of the traditional urban construction, again its narrow streets are very characteristic and so pleasing to the eye, I imagine how it must have been here in the time of the pirate attacks, the fact that the houses are so close together must have been a way of defence.  Turkish pirates pillaged the town in 1614.

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I found quite an interesting website on Zejtun, here it is:
http://zejtunreligiousheritage.org/about/hamlets/
And I also found the little brochure available from the trourist office called ‘Zejtun Heritage Route’ very helpful wile visiting the town.

MALTA’S GLORIOUS BAROQUE ARCHITECTURE

When we visited Valletta yesterday St. John’s Cathedral was among the first places that I wanted to see, mainly because of its baroque architecture. The outside of the church is nothing to go by but the inside does provoke strong emotions. I did not expect this as I do not normally go for such ornate style, but for some reason I felt totally overwhelmed, so beautiful, so powerful, such interesting paintings, amazing murals on the ceilings, Arabesque ornamentation on the walls, gilded vaults, and very rich decorations all over. These magnificent or ancient human works of art always fill me up, and I am not a person who cries with movies.
St. John’s Cathedral was built between 1573 and 1578. After the building was finished, the richness was mainly to thank to the Grand Masters and the knights of the order of St. John who donated the funds to employ great artists for this great creation, making it into a gem of high baroque.
During the building of the cathedral, the architect stipulated the use of very tick walls between the side chapels as he was not sure of the strength of the local limestone, this was meant to support the heavy buttresses above. Later on narrow doors were made into these walls connecting the various side altars.
One of the highlights of the visit to the church are the display of the two paintings by Caravaggio, one the beheading of St. John the Baptist, and the other, St. Jerome’s writing, both paintings show an amazing use of light and shade, red being almost the only colour Caravaggio used apart from brown and beige. He used a very realistic style of painting, new to the period and copied by many others after him. He was a most interesting artist and his paintings are special and well worth seeing.
Also one of the highlights of my visit were the Choral manuscripts and the Flemish tapestries, here I was not allowed to take photos but that did not matter, I think I’ve got the illuminations of those ancient score books imprinted on my mind and can see them before me now, very beautiful. The Flemish tapestries were made in Brussels after the great painter Rubens and Poussin. They are massive and it is unbelievable how this sort of art can be actually woven into cloth.
I’m sure much more is to be said about this cathedral, but it is not my intention to write like a guidebook, better to let people discover for themselves the beauties of a place, and to let each one use a proper guidebook for information.
I came out of the cathedral beaming and fulfilled, it is remarkable how much joy true art can bring to humankind.

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LONDON FROM THE WINDOW OF A TAXI CAB

 

It had been a long time since I was in London for any reason, but recently we had the pleasure of being invited to a luncheon with my partner’s brother and cousins, a bit of a reunion you could say, and very pleasant it was. This meant that we would take a taxi ride from the train station to the venue, and sitting in the back of the vehicle I had quite a good view behind me and also from the side windows, so out came my mobile phone and I just snapped away. Not too unhappy about the result I decided to share some of the photos here. All these photos are taken somewhere in the central area. London has so much to see architectural wise, also delightful is to see all the people passing by, normally I am very careful about photographing people, I am always conscious of not wanting to be intrusive, so I was delighted to notice that I got quite a few people in my pictures this time, I find it so interesting, such an amazing diversity of humankind to be seen in this cosmopolitan city.  I was very impressed with the beautiful contemporary architecture of Kings Cross railway station.  Like being underneath a gigantic mushroom inside!
I am also always very interested in the trees that grow in cities, they make all the difference to and add enormously to the beauty of the buildings, even, and perhaps especially in winter.   I am thinking of the boulevards in Paris, the many mulberry trees in Lisbon, the pine trees around Athens, and the plane trees in Antwerp to name but a few.    It is also good to see that trees can still form part of modern city planning, more and more so in fact.

I’ve enjoy the short visit to London and after all it’s only an hour’s flight from Cork!