330 North Wabash and 401 North Wabash
       
     
Passing through the locks
       
     
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Golden Gate Bridge at dusk
       
     
The Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge over the Colorado River
       
     
The 9/11 Memorial
       
     
The Elcamino to The Eldorado
       
     
The most amazing building of the last two millennia
       
     
The mullions of Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe’s 860–880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments in Chicago
       
     
Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry
       
     
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330 North Wabash and 401 North Wabash
       
     
330 North Wabash and 401 North Wabash

Two Chicago towers designed by Mies van der Rohe in 1969 and Adrian Smith in 2005 respectively.

Passing through the locks
       
     
Passing through the locks

A marvel of engineering and human ingenuity.

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Golden Gate Bridge at dusk
       
     
Golden Gate Bridge at dusk

There’s no other way to put it - this is likely the most photographed and well-known bridge in the world. So what can be said about it that hasn’t be said already? I wondered why it’s even called Golden Gate Bridge. At first I thought it’s maybe due to its colour. But it’s not really golden - it’s very much orange. In fact, it’s actually officially called ‘International Orange’. Then I thought it’s got something to do with it being a ‘gateway’ to the California Gold Rush of 1849. But that also turns out to not be the case. In reality, the bridge is named for the straight it crosses. The straight - Golden Gate Strait - was named by explorer and U.S. Army officer John C. Frémont, who marveled at its beauty in 1846, a whole two years before the discovery of gold in California. In his memoirs, he wrote that he named it Chrysopolae (Golden Gate) because of its similarity to the harbor of Byzantium (aka Constantinople, aka Istanbul), dubbed Chrysoceras (Golden Horn). So there… It’s called Golden Gate Bridge because the straight which it spans reminded a dude in 1846 of Istanbul.

The Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge over the Colorado River
       
     
The Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge over the Colorado River

Hovering 260m (840ft) above the Colorado River, this is the highest concrete arch bridge in the world, built between 2005 and 2010, and costing $114M in 2010 dollars. A joint project of the federal government, the State of Arizona and the State of Nevada, it took just over a decade for it to come to fruition, albeit the necessity for it was recognized as far back as the 1960s, when officials identified US 93 over Hoover Dam to be dangerous and inadequate for projected traffic volumes. The bridge allows commercial vehicles to cut out a 23km detour that became mandatory in the aftermath of 9/11.

The 9/11 Memorial
       
     
The 9/11 Memorial

I’m not American, wasn’t in the US that September, and in 2001 was barely a teenager. Yet, I do remember the day vividly - the shock of seeing the planes explode, the smoking towers, people leaping off from unimaginable heights out of utter despair, and the eventual collapse. Those visuals are hard-coded at this point as is the knowledge of what happened and yet... it’s hard to process 9/11 like an actual event. Perhaps because it sits there, in the canon of time, being old-enough to allow you to deal with it, yet recent-enough to make it painful. What this memorial fountain manages to capture so well is the void those towers left behind. The void that they left in our collective psyche. But how does one capture that void? I don't know. I can’t describe it. I can’t take a photo of it. This place is fundamentally not about photos - it’s about a feeling. A sense of loss and the collective struggle to reclaim the innocence of the world that has changed and does’t exist anymore. Will never exist anymore. We live in a “post-9/11 world” now. And this is where the rules for this new world were written. And the entire time you can’t even fathom that THIS is THAT place. You simply have to come here and experience it yourself

The Elcamino to The Eldorado
       
     
The Elcamino to The Eldorado

This isn’t the best use of redundant articles - the best case is the The La Brea Tar Pits in LA, which literally becomes The The Tar Tar Pits.

The most amazing building of the last two millennia
       
     
The most amazing building of the last two millennia

The Flavian Amphitheatre (aka The Colosseum), built between 72CE and 80CE under Vespasian and Titus, with further modifications down under Domitian (81-96CE). These three emperors are known as the Flavian dynasty, and the amphitheatre was named in Latin for its association with their family name. It could hold between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators, had multiple stories above and below the stage, had elevators and trap doors, had a retractable canvas roof and it could even be flooded to simulate naval battles. The brick that you see, that wasn’t what the Romans saw - it was finished in marble. That marble façade was stripped down, predominantly, in mid-15th century to build the Vatican, St. Peters and other churches around Rome. And the reason half of it is shorter than the other half - earthquakes.

The mullions of Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe’s 860–880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments in Chicago
       
     
The mullions of Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe’s 860–880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments in Chicago

The design principles of these two buildings (built in 1949), which were first expressed 30 years earlier in the 1921 Friedrichstrasse Skyscraper competition in Berlin, were copied extensively and are now considered characteristic of the modern International Style and were essential for the development of modern High-tech architecture. If you’ve ever wondered why all the sky-scrapers in your city look like metal+concrete+glass shoe boxes, it’s because they are copying the style that Mies had created and realized in these two structures. #LessIsMore

Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry
       
     
Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry

An emblematic example of deconstructivism & the reason for the existence the “Bilbao effect”. Bilbao, for most of the 19&20th century, was an industrial city with a big port - centre of the 2nd-most industrialised region of Spain, only behind Barcelona. But it was never a big city - think Hamilton, ON or Pittsburgh, PA - and it wasn't a centre for art and culture either. But following an industrial crisis in the 1980s the city decided to transform itself into a service town. In 1981 the Basque govrnmt suggested a museum project to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, where the government would cover the US$100M construction cost, create a US$50M acquisitions fund, pay a one-time US$20M fee to the Foundation and subsidize the museum's US$12M annual budget. In return, the Foundation would manage the institution, rotate parts of its permanent collection through the Bilbao museum and organize temp exhibits. The final cost of construction ended up being US$89 million and the museum opened to the public on Oct 18th, 1997. In 2010, Vanity Fair surveyed 52 experts in the filed, including 11 Pritzker Prize winners, to answer: "What is the most important piece of architecture built since 1980?” Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao was the unequivocal answer. In part because it was an incredible architectural feat for its time (requiring heavy computer modelling in the age of Windows NT), in part because it almost single-handedly transformed the economy of an entire city. In 2014 alone, the museum hosted 1,011,363 visitors - in a city of just 350,000! This city and this museum is where the term "Bilbao effect” comes from - how a museum can fundamentally transform a city.
P.S. what you don’t hear people mention - despite how beautiful the titanium sheets look from afar, they are magnets for dirt & stains up-close.

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