Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Vacation at the Georgia Aquarium

Christmas arrived in Tarpon about two weeks ago.  A fleet of boats festooned with lights came up Spring Bayou which had been decorated with luminarias all along the water's edge.  Santa Claus was an inflated figured tacked on top of the a boat until it arrived at the dock where the Epiphany Cross is jettisoned each January 6th.  Thousands of Tarpon Springs children where there to welcome Santa and a parade of elves.  This was the first I had seen this event as normally I was on the road to Tryon, NC where I have typically spent Christmas for many years.  This year I am thinking may be my last as I would like to spend Christmas and have a chance to decorate my almost refurbished home.  I hope my Tryon friends will join me next year in a Tarpon Springs Christmas.  

As the drive north is long and I have a dear friend in Atlanta this gives me and Limo and a break from the long drive plus better still, we get to visit another friend.  I recently became aware that Atlanta a city hundreds of miles from an ocean has the world's largest aquarium.  Always dubious of such monikers I thought it was time I went and checked it out.  Growing up in California I was fairly familiar with the Monterrey Aquarium which I considered tops with a smashing display of kelp beds that are more than three stories tall.  The trip to the Georgia Aquarium was to provide a dazzling experience.  Here in the land of Coke and in the old Olympic village a new structure has risen to awe and shock the world in a splendid way. Enjoy a few snaps and see what you think.

Entry into the aquarium is through a funnel type space where fishes like people are forced into a great central hall.

Once inside you pick your attraction:  Rivers, Ocean, Tropics, Amazon, quite amazing.  We went straight into the giant tank.  You enter the world of the ocean and its many exhibits through this Lucite tube where 15 foot manta rays and all manner of sharks glide all around you.

The giant tank is the size of a football field filled 35 deep with water.  In it the trophies:  four whale sharks, the largest was 25 feet when captured, graciously swim past while schools of every  manner of fish swim past you.  The 65 width is unimpeded with any structural breaks.  The Lucite 24 inches thick was fabricated in Japan (where else) and brought and fused together to create the wall of water.  I inquired to see what anyone knew of Kaiyukan Aquarium in Osaka that has a 150 foot whale shark supposedly in a larger tank.  Here, no one knew about it.

24 inch thick Lucite block sample 

The Menorah in the tank must have been for the  Gefilte Fish in the tank - sorry I could not resist!

Fabulous other display showed electric eels, phosphorescent creatures from deep and well, you name it!
When you thought you had seen everything another tank displayed a coral reef in a manner unique and never considered before.  This aquarium curved on top of you to create the effect  and allow the crashing of waves.  Marvelous!

Other parts of the aquariums displayed river habitats with aquariums on top and below you as you walked through a maze of wonders

A school of Piranhas is fed on schedule for an intimidating  effect.  Following the feeding cycle of the various aquariums is a great way to see the interactions.  Buying a yearly membership would be a great thing as there is so much to see.  Plus there appear to be special tours you can do behind the scenes or in the aquariums with snorkel or scuba tanks if you are certified.

marvelous display of beluga whales.

There were also sea monster although these where a foot long

The central hall has restaurants and the usual shops and all manner of other displays and even a giant dolphin show which as you can see I did not find too amusing (plus you can't photograph due to the possible harm that can be inflicted on the dancing dolphins).  All of this was dolled up for Christmas and it was truly magical.   What astonishes me is how this aquarium is replicating habitats in what was previously a taboo location far from any ocean.  Today, thanks to our progress and technology, I guess much more is possible.  

What a great place to have a private party.  I am sure that the Atlanta corporate world has been lining up to have special events here.  I can't wait to go back.  Not a bad way to start your Christmas Holidays,  Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Oscar Niemeyer: The Last of the Titans

In the world of international architecture a Titan has passed.  Oscar Niemeyer (above) was the last of three men who shaped the look and feel of Brazil.  Niemeyer along with Lucio Costa,(right) the Planner of Brasilia and Roberto Burlemarx, Landscape Architect Extraordinaire (bottom right) leave a legacy of artistry, fascination that have influenced architecture, design and planning throughout the educated world.  Niemeyer died yesterday at the age of 104.

As a young man influenced by what I saw, there were no more beautiful shapes than those that I discovered in the architecture of Oscar Niemeyer.  There was a certain appeal to the curves and the lack of traditional approach that he took in balancing the void with mass.  I always wanted to be an architect and by the time that I came around to retraining, I was more in love with the organic designs that his colleague, Roberto Burlemarx, brought to Landscape Architecture.  Much later on, I learned of the role of Lucio Costa who was also an architect but who served to instigate the framework of design and social culture that would hold in place the plan for Brazil's capital of Brasilia.

What had been a jungle was bulldozed to create the plateau that served to hold the all the government buildings and housing for this, then developing country under the leadership of Juscelino Kubitschek.  The vision was extraordinary, the reality hard for a growing country that still is facing so many challenges.  As a kid I watched the French version of James Bond, the 1964 action thriller titled That Man from Rio.  Jean Paul Belmondo was great traipsing through a construction site that was the Brasilia backdrop for the film.  The structures shown reflected a concept in architecture that was so futuristic and modern that it almost felt we were on another planet with the red earth everywhere and stark white buildings.  His buildings today are still futuristic because even at almost 105 Niemeyer never gave up.  After years in exile in Paris while his beloved Brazil suffered under radical right wing politics he returned and gave one of his most modern buildings of all: the Niteroi Museum of Modern Art.  

Many years later through friendships while on Christmas Holiday in Paris I was invited to spend my next Christmas holidays in Brazil.  It was a magical month of discovery for not only did I get to see and enjoy the company of great people but I was able to pursue my loves in Architecture and Landscape Architecture in Paradise.  Thus in 2006 I spent all of December discovering a country that has always fascinated me.  Enjoy some images from that trip and regale yourself in the design and mystique of a renown world architect.

A trip up a mountainside to his residence built in 1953 in Canoas in the jungle called "Barra de Tijuca proved to be a wonderful escape from the December heat of Rio and a discovery of things to come.  A modest three bedroom home with basic amenities but rich in design, concept and setting.

Living room dining room with the boulder laying the way pretty much like at Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water where the hearth is a natural boulder.

Models and drawings furnished most of the bedrooms but would prove images to remember the in the days and weeks to come traveling.  Left drawing of Brasilia, Middle Niteroi Art Museum, Right Model Brasilia Cathedral.

Perched like a Flying Saucer over Guanabara Bay in the neighboring community of Niteroi this is to Rio what the Guggenheim is to New York City, the only difference is that it faces the landscape with art on the inside: a much better trick but unfortunately the  landscape competing with the art almost always wins.

The design for Brasilia was inspired by a bird with wings spread.  The green center are the government buildings on axis not unlike the Washington mall terminating in the National Congress Building.  The yellow represents housing and commercial corridors.  Lacking implementation was a rapid rail system.  

The Congress building with its dome and bowl symbols of government is an uniquely modern building with tunnels connecting beyond the perimeter into office complex out of view of the grand axis.

In place of a West Wing, Niemeyer decided that the president should have a separate office building for all the functions of state.  These buildings border a massive open space that unfortunately is hotter than hell and unwelcoming because of lack of shade.  Burlemarx who designed the landscape in and around the buildings was limited from obscuring the grand axis with vegetation.  

The Brazilian White House like all other Brazilian government buildings is modern and owes no historic obedience to ancient cultures, rather it is a symbol of what was perceived to be a future where all would enjoy the great fruits to come. 

Along the mall are situated a whole variety of projects undertaken by Niemeyer over the decades.  The Brasilia Cathedral (above) is a remarkable over sized Tepee like structure that sits below grade.  All that is seen from above is the stain glass frame puncturing the white terrace.

Like in Washington DC  the greats are commemorated with monuments in Brasilia.  Here is the Monument to Juscelino Kubitschek who modernized Brazil and helped place it on the road to the economic giant it has become.  Oscar Niemeyer honored his patron with a rather grand but seldom visited monument.

The Central Exhibition Hall fortunately for me was honoring Oscar Niemeyer's 98 birthday when I visited this over sized futuristic igloo also designed by him.

Oscar Niemeyer was not allowed entrance into the United States to the lucrative and prestigious teaching market done by architects because he was a lifelong Communist.  Yet, there was no more a democratic proponent of architecture with designs that evoked a dependence on regularity  by repetition of basic elements that harnessed an egalitarian but provocative effect.    In spite of his repudiation by our government he still managed to win the highest prizes in architecture, designed the United Nations New York World Headquarters and who knows how many other prestigious buildings worldwide.  

Before Frank Gehry thought of sensual curvy buildings, Oscar Niemeyer was building them. "Right angles don’t attract me. Nor straight, hard and inflexible lines created by man,” Niemeyer wrote in  his "The Curves of Time," his 1998 memoir. "What attracts me are free and sensual curves. The curves we find in mountains, in the waves of the sea, in the body of the woman we love."  Oscar Niemeyer was a man way ahead of his time!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween from Tampa's 36th Annual All Hallows Ball

Welcome to my annual outing amongst the well dressed.  In these electoral times being bombarded by both parties for our vote here in Florida, I love getting away from all the insanity of advertising on TV to enjoy some cocktails and a lot of great costumes.  I just wish someone would propose presidential elections every six years with elections lasting one month - that person would get elected!  But  enough about that, enjoy some vicarious fun.  It was a great party on Saturday with thousands of participants filling one of the grand spaces of the Tampa Convention Center.  Yes, it was the same place where Romney got nominated. Not surprisingly, the crowd that was there I am sure will not vote for him.  The theme this year was "It's a Small World."  Ain't it so!

Italian pagliaci?

A wonderful tooth fairy

Small wordlites

Heidi und toy

Olaff the Magnificent

African beauties

Turandot and Mandarin


Captain America



 Little lights

Lots of flesh

Including a little Meatballs & Sausage


We had Deco Buildings

Aztec Rulers

Scottish lads

Great Psychedelic Screens

Avant Garde in Bubble Wrap

The entirety of Madame Butterfly

Even a witch with an apple

Maybe in these crazy times what we want is a fictional character like Superman to solve all our problems and fantasies.  Here's mine.  Happy Halloween!