Thursday, 31 July 2014

Steigenberger Leipzig

The Steigenberger is a terrific place to stay if you want to splash a bit of cash in Leipzig. Note the ice skating porcelain figure; she doesn't come with the room, but back to Bethnal Green with us very well packed.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Leipzig Zoo

Once the paradigm for the zoo was the garden, hence zoological garden, but now it's more like Jurassic Park. The animals don't know where they come from, so we re-create it for them. Leipzig is an exemplary zoo, right in the centre of the city, with bits of savannah and even a restaurant that gets top recommendations on Trip Advisor. The toilets in said restaurant (one of many) looked as if they had been designed by somebody who's last job was in Las Vegas, such was the creepy authenticity.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Odd German Art

Went to the opening of some odd German art last night. Had to go, the artist in question, one Otto Piene, had fastened some huge balloons to the roof of the New National Gallery. They were flapping in the breeze like spermatozoa. You'd have thought this artist was some young German artist prankster, but he's well in to his sixties. 'Otto's Work is Worlding' says the blurb.
Anyway thousands of people were there, all milling about all over the place; the atmosphere rather festive. In the gallery there were the usual arrays of beanbags and lots of big projections with the word 'IMPERMANENCE' read out over and over again and when the projections (sort of microscopic organisms- really no idea) took a lull (see above) people were having a great time making shadow puppets. It was the only time, I'm sure, that space has been effectively used as a gallery space, and I think although I feared the worst, Mies himself would have enjoyed it. 

Postscript: Actually he was well in to his eighties, and the old fella died on his way to prepare for that event!! No wonder so many people showed up!! R.I.P. Otto Piene. I did say at the time, you'd die happy after a show like this.
Thanks Paul B for letting me know.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Berlin before the World Cup Final

Well you would not really know the difference. On TV, a sole pundit explains German superiority. No cacophony of critique here, no why did it all go wrong. On the taxis occasional German flags fly, and in the bars, those of her allies (when you notice this you don't feel particularly aggrieved- it seems rather funny) There is no hysteria, they support football like they play it (I guess that's why they can't do rock'n'roll and the porn is a bit visceral).
In the street all is calm, the kids skip sweetly and quietly, and there's a lady practicing her opera scales (I'm not kidding). The bells toll (every hour), the clock ticks, the birds cheep, one's digestion works well. The usual Sunday silence. I fear for Argentina given such conditions.

Friday, 11 July 2014

The Quiet Plane

Given the post below, you'll realise we'll go to quite some lengths to get some peace on public transportation. So if you are like us, take this advice when flying to Europe:
Always fly from London City Airport in the middle of the day if you are going almost anywhere. The place is empty and comfortable, you can even enjoy breakfast at an empty bar with a decent drink and converse, gently, with the staff, who outnumber you. This may cost you an extra £100 on your tickets, but blimey it's worth it. You go through security in a jiffy, also by yourself. Terrific. 
You'll fly Swiss, or Lufthansa or BA, the sandwich will be nice, the wine free, you probably stop off in Zurich. Zurich is an awful place but the airport is huge and also empty (see above). Whatever the extra time, who cares. Then, if you are flying like we were to Berlin, you fly to Tegel. Tegel is a very imaginatively designed airport with an arrival to exit space not much bigger than your front room and a baggage belt at each gate. You arrive, you pick up your bags, and you leave. You do not have to cross football pitches of shopping. There was no security (they are not breeding islamic extremists in Germany right now I suppose). So out you go and get your taxi right out of the exit. 
The Germans were going to demolish the clever Tegel airport and build a brand new spanking Shonefeld, but this Westfield like adventure went tits up somehow, so use Tegel while you can.

Monday, 7 July 2014

The Quiet Coach

One of the things most irritating about the British is our seeming inability to shut up. I'm pleased you can't drink on the bus, but I'd like you not to eat either, and I would be made very pleased indeed if I didn't have to listen to your petty little arguments without control of either volume or content.
So I like the idea of the Quiet Coach on the train. You would think the people who book a quiet coach do so with the idea of claiming back that remotest piece of peace and quiet (I realise this might be a relative concept for families, but still...) however this is not so. It is a disease.
Families playing 'Snap', business junkies, policemen jabbering promotion, vicars, we've had 'em all.
The next time I hear somebody organising their pathetic holiday accommodation in the Lizard, including all room details, or friends they might sponge off, or playing Spot the Dog with particularly unsavoury looking child between Peterborough and Kings Cross I shall be once more reduced;
"No Spot is not in the fucking wardrobe, he's not eating a fucking banana either, he HAPPENS TO BE SITTING IN COACH B, SEAT 28 and I wish he would FUCK OFF!!
Of course such as view is seen as a horrid intrusion, it is seen as rude to desire people keep themselves to themselves, and especially not to enjoy their little bundle of joy and his inalienable rights. It is now rude to ask somebody to shut up, even in the quite coach.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

DADA without trying

'There's no history!' she said. I replied rather lamely that these days architectural precedent was not a priority in the design studio. It felt peculiar, for I was thinking I'd heard this rather innocent (but correct) observation before, thirty years ago and in a very different critical context: 'There is no evidence on these pieces of paper that architecture will or has ever existed!' I hear those words clear as a bell. It was Mark Wells barking at a second year c1980. I was in the room, I was next up, with a fire station with a pitched roof because I liked roof tiles (idiot).
This time, the comment was directed at ALL the work.
So I sat in the middle of a room full of final year (that is the end of the end, end of five years minimum stretch) thirty years later and I said to myself, well, we've finally managed it; there is absolutely no architecture here at all. There were launch pads for Venus and power stations running on lighting forks, but there was no architecture. Indeed there were beautifully done launch pads to Venus and power stations where lightening struck twice at least (I do nobody disservice) but no architecture, not really. If you were being cynical and old fashioned, you might be moved to say that instead of architecture we now have lots of stories with illustrations attached, and further, note that this has happened EVERYWHERE, top down to bottom up. That's why I'm sounding old fashioned.
So what's happened?
My director quaked when I mentioned this, but I said not to worry, it's nobodies fault but mine (other than the twin stooges of theory and capital) it's the zeitgeist (no worries). After this nervous breakdown there will come the new Bauhaus (perhaps we shall start with a house of two rooms, and work up to a house of four).
If I had tried my hardest to destroy the subject I couldn't have managed this, it's comic, it's hilarious, it's UNDADA. We should cheer maybe, whoop it up.