Showing posts with label architecture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label architecture. Show all posts

Monday, January 12, 2015

"Midnight at the Pera Palace" with the Istanbul Global Minds Book Club

If ever there was a book that was a perfect match for my Istanbul "Global Minds Book Club" it is this one: "Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul" by Georgetown International Relations and Government professor Charles King.

We selected it for our January read this month, because a reporter and photographer from Ankara, Turkey, were flying into Istanbul to do a photo shoot and cover story on our book club for Tempo Magazine.

We wanted to pick a book that Turkish readers of the magazine would also find interesting, so that we as a book club had done everything we could to help promote reading culture in Turkey.
Red carpet? Of course.
The dapper staff
immediately greets everyone
who walks in the door,
happy to help you make the most
of your visit
"Welcome,
to the Pera Palace
of Istanbul"
To make our day and the photo shoot extra special, we decided to meet at the glorious, historic Pera Palace itself. The Pera Palace is the hotel that was built by the creator of the luxury train line, the Orient Express, which used to transport glamorous passengers in style from Paris to Istanbul. Upon arriving in Istanbul, passengers would be hand-carried to the hotel from the Sirkeci train station, in a Turkish tahtırevan, or palanquin, as it is known in English.
Imagine seeing Istanbul
for the first time
through the windows of a
Turkish tahtırevan
The Pera Palace Hotel
boasts of the second-oldest elevator
in all of Europe,
installed in 1892,
only three years
after the elevator
in the Eiffel Tower.
It's still operational.
One special little nook
in the hotel
is the Patisserie de Pera
We didn't meet here,
but the little patisserie
is such a happy room
I can't resist
sharing photos of it.
 The colors!

The friendly workforce
know how to make
every visit fun,
and who doesn't fancy a
festive fascinator?
Spring flowers
abound in the lobby.
 What could be more dazzling
to a book club
than a spectacular library
between the lobby and the bar?
 Our group was meeting in
the Orient Bar
Who else has enjoyed
the Orient Bar
before we arrived
for our special day?
Atatürk,
the founder of the Turkish Republic,
Ernest Hemingway,
adventurer and famous macho man,
plus Agatha Christie,
bestselling mystery writer
 Giggling with friends
before everyone else arrives
Our second generation
club organizers,
Matt Howell
and Nilüfer Tufanoğlu
Our club member
Filiz Kavak,
made the day a delight
by arranging press coverage
and booking our spectacular setting
With triple our normal turnout
it was nice that the bar
had been set up
in small discussion groups
Bookish brain food!
The Global Minds Book Club
prides itself on being
 people from around the world,
discussing books
from around the world.
On this day,
with thirty people present,
we had five continents represented
and fourteen different countries.
It helped to have at least
one Turk at every table.
We had such a
riveting, spirited discussion.
Nationalities represented
in my group:
Turkish, Russian, Polish,
Netherlands, Venezuelan,
American, and Chinese.
What made "Midnight at the Pera Palace: the Modern History of Istanbul" such a fun read is that it was written by a yabancı (a foreigner to Turkey). All of the angst that would go into the description of one's own history wasn't there; it was the fantastic storytelling that remained.

I describe 'Midnight' as an expat history of expat and refugee Istanbul. The book felt so alive and relevant when I was reading about White Russians refugees in Istanbul during the 1920s while the ruble was crashing this month. The club loved reading about the musicians, diplomats, spies, feminists, and future statesmen who contributed in their way to the city Napoleon described as the capital of the world, if the world had one.

I found the central metaphor of why the book was called "Midnight at the Pera Palace" stunning. I won't spoil it by sharing it. Some of our members wanted more Pera Palace stories in the book, and one of our Turkish members said she was surprised that there were no historical surprises. The history in 'Midnight' of 20th-century Istanbul and Turkey was more-or-less as she had been taught. 

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Istanbul and Turkey. One of our members said "sequel, please!" Personally, I think this author needs a movie contract. The cinematography of this setting, this time, and this history would be irresistible.

Would you like to learn more about the Global Minds Book Club? I am so proud of our book club founder and inspiration, Clarence Lomot Nartey, of Ghana. It isn't easy to create a lasting legacy as an expat. Clarence did. Global Minds Book Club is now starting its fourth year. Clarence, you would have been deeply pleased with yesterday's success.

Here are some posts about past discussions:



Want to find out how you can help promote reading culture in Turkey? Read this post:


Want to learn more about the Pera Palace Hotel, now owned by the Sheikh of Dubai? Check out the web site. Their memorable video actually does a great job of capturing what our day was like.

Want to know where 'Midnight' author, Charles King, goes to eat first when he comes to Istanbul? Culinary Backstreets blog has the lowdown.

Looking for another great book from this side of the world?
Here's three I recommend:




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Monday, November 17, 2014

My Jubilant American Summer, Part Two

Prairie and Pattern
in the middle of Chicago
I have always been crazy for world-class architecture. For years, I have daydreamed about taking my children on the super-popular CAF (Chicago Architecture Foundation) river cruise celebrating Chicago’s architecture.  I have always daydreamed about taking them to see all of the Frank Lloyd Wright sites in Oak Park,Illinois. I have also never been to see the Bahai Temple in Wilmette, Illinois, for example. I would love for my children to see the Bahai Temple there to celebrate, not only the architecture, but the diversity of America’s religious expression. I didn’t get that ‘Chicago architecture daydream’ done in their formative years. This was my chance!
Approaching the
James R.Thompson Center,
formerly known as
the State of Illinois Building,
designed by Murphy/Helmut Jahn.
Notice the Jean Dubuffet sculpture
in front of the building.
Light abounds at this intersection
since the building leans back
from the intersection.
Inside, the open, awe-inspiring
atrium is designed to communicate
"an open government in action."
A 'dome,' a fixture of so many
sacred and governmental buildings,
was instead, modeled
into the floor
in tile.
The sculpture
"Monument with Standing Beast"
by French sculptor Jean Dubuffet
invites a feeling of play
from all passing pedestrians
regardless of age.
The State of Illinois
set aside 0.05% of building cost
for public art.

I love public art programs
and was a inaugural board member
of my city's public art board
in my hometown.
Living in Chicago for the summer gave me an opportunity to plan an architecture outing. It allowed me the chance to join the Chicago Architecture Foundation and to experience the amazing community of architecture enthusiasts that has developed in the city.
 The untitled Picasso sculpture
was the first significant public art
in downtown Chicago.
Kids love to run up and down it.
The story goes that it was inspired
by a woman with a great pony-tail that
Picasso was dating
at the time.
When I first walked into the Chicago Architecture Foundation retail store and meeting point, I started crying. I am sure they thought I was nuts. I was just so moved! This is how life is meant to be!

Imagine, there are thousands of people all over the world who join the Chicago Architecture Foundation to celebrate, enjoy, mull over,discuss, and preserve Chicago’s architectural heritage. Chicago is the home of the world’s first skyscraper, has a spectacular master plan designed by Daniel Burnham due to the Chicago Fire in 1878 that leveled much of the city, and 18 miles of gorgeous beachfront that is open to the public thanks to great urban planning and Montgomery Ward's leadership in the 1920s.

The Chicago Architecture Foundation’s mission is “to inspire people to discover why design matters.”  In 1966, preservation enthusiasts got together to save a private Chicago residence, the Glessner House, from destruction. Their success led people from across disciplines to form an organization devoted to sharing this enthusiasm for great design. Since then, it has grown into a group with a $17 million budget and 9,700 members. 450 volunteer tour leaders led 6,395 tour departures last year celebrating architecture with 319,661 people.  A whopping 1,367 volunteers put on their annual October Open House showcasing architectural treasures across the city over the course of one weekend.

It’s such a great value too, to become a CAF member. Members can go on 62 different walking tours for free. Yes, I said, 62 FREE walking tours! Members are able to buy tickets to the architectural river cruise at 2 for 1, or 4 for 2 pricing, plus members get discounts in the retail shop, on boat, bicycle, bus, and Segway tours, free attendance at lunch and evening programs, and free passes to all exhibitions. Plus, if one were living in the city long-term, what a joy it would be to develop community with like-minded, design-enthused people. Priceless!

The organization is so successful, it has started a sister organization just to help people who ask, “how could I get one of these architectural foundations started in my city?” I thought many times during the summer, how useful an Istanbul Architectural Foundation would be, now, at a time when the whole city seems up for grabs for construction with nary a thought to the archaeological value of some sites.

Having an organized, committed, educated Istanbul architectural foundation with a budget , a network of communication, and institutional heft could make a difference. Far easier for design enthusiasts to work through institutional power, rather than through the street protests that have resulted in tear gas, arrests, and deaths for individuals who care about the future of their city.
The world's tallest skyscraper
designed by a woman,
the 82-story mixed use
Aqua Tower
designed by Chicago's
Jeanne Gang
of Studio Gang Architects
Notice the amenities for residents
built into the base of the building:
a jogging track, swimming pool,
parks and underground parking.
 A park and school
 are part of the complex.
Since Millennium Park was built,
one block away,
the residential units
available in this area
have exponentially increased.
I'm encouraged that
the world's tallest skyscraper
has been built by a woman
from Midwestern America,
 in Midwestern America.
I also especially appreciated the CAF’s focus on women architects. The Foundation works to publicize the gap between the number of women who graduate with an architectural degree and the number who are actually working as architects. There’s a 32% gap. There were exhibitions about women architects, and bus tours around the city showcasing female-designed buildings (always sold out).  The CAF, and a sister organization, the Chicago Women in Architecture (CAW) serve as cheerleaders for female design accomplishment.

One local woman from Northern Illinois was the lead architect on the world’s tallest female-designed skyscraper to date: Jeanne Gang. Another Chicago institution, the MacArthur Foundation, has also nurtured her talent with one of their famous “Genius Grants.” The grant is a one-time gift of $625,000 with no strings attached to use how the recipient wants. Gosh, I loved learning about her and seeing her building. Is it any wonder Chicago is the place where female-led design has pushed the boundaries?
Enjoying the
Chicago Architecture Foundation
River Cruise
with my family
I had one very special day with my children celebrating magnificent design. Daughter #1 and her husband drove down from Wisconsin for the day. The two of them, my youngest daughter and I took an CAF architectural river cruise and saw the city from the point-of-view of the river.
Kayakers check out
the Chicago River's
future riverwalk
We were awed by the design challenges of particular buildings, the story about how the flow of the Chicago River was reversed, and the industrial histories of Sears and Montgomery Wards and their impact on the city.
 The engineering challenges met
on the construction
of the Boeing Building were
particularly impressive
Chicago leads the world in most number of moveable river bridges. So far, the river's infrastructure benefits boats and cars. It’s exciting to see that Chicago’s next big civic design push is inspired by San Antonio, creating a future pedestrian river walk for citizens to enjoy.
Bertrand Goldberg's "River City,"
affectionately known
as the "eyebrow" building
for the fun shape of the windows.
Notice the boat parking underneath.
Our tour guide noted with a bemused laugh that the Chicago River has been upgraded from ‘toxic’ to merely ‘polluted.’ She told stories about how Chicagoans of old used to dispose of their dead horses by dumping them into the river. I can’t wait to see the day when the river becomes romantic rather than wretching (well, at least that story was, the river itself looks fine). Go, Chicago, go!
What a view!
The view from the 16th floor terrace
of Trump International Tower
After our architectural river cruise, my family took me out for a seafood lunch to celebrate my birthday, and then we went to the newly designed Trump International Tower for a drink. I’m no fan of Trump’s politics, but I was completely impressed with what he had built in Chicago, beginning with securing the lot upon which his skyscraper was built. The lot alone speaks to his power. How did he secure this exquisite piece of land? It has a dead-ahead view of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan and a view of the Wrigley Building to the left.
The Trump International Tower
from the Chicago River
On 9/11/2001, Donald Trump was in a meeting with his architect Adrian Smith, who was with the globally-famous architectural design firm Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill, at the time of the design. Trump and Smith were planning to build a skyscraper that would be Chicago’s tallest building. For obvious reasons, Trump decided against this.  If the building Trump built is any less magnificent than what he had planned, I could not see how. It is sleek, sexy, and timeless, particularly before Donald Trump decided to unnecessarily add his name to the building. We all knew it was yours, Donald.  It was unnecessary to 'trump'-it this. 
 Selfies with my youngest
What a special moment
it was to enjoy this view
with my family
 What an uplifting view! All around us were wedding parties, gussied up and looking pretty, celebrating their special day.  As one of my friends said about the pricy drinks, “you just have to drink your drink very slowly.” Yes, the drinks were expensive, but no more than Istanbul, with its sky-high alcohol taxes.
Art Deco
Elevator Doors
at the
Chicago Board of Trade
I tried to do at least three of the free CAF walking tours each week while I was in Chicago. Because, these tours were so incredible, I didn’t have time to see many of the amazing ‘secondary’ attractions that Chicago boasts of that I would also like to see: Jane Addams’ Hull House museum, the Oriental Art Institute (which I would really now appreciate having lived in Turkey), the Glessner House, whose imminent destruction in the 1960s lead to the creation of the CAF, the Pritzker Military Library (another architectural gem), and on and on the list goes. Chicago in INCREDIBLE.
My favorite building discovery
of the summer
was the Marquette Building,
built in 1895,
and designed by
Holabird and Roche.

It has steel-frame architecture
and is considered
one of the best examples of
the "Chicago School of Architecture."

The building celebrates the voyage of Frenchman
and priest Jacques Marquette,
the first European settler in Chicago.
 He explored the Chicago River in 1674.
Notice the bas-relief sculpture
over the entrance that celebrates
Marquette's exploration of the Great Lakes,
including, in the far right panel, his burial.


The Marquette Building is currently home
to the John D. and Catherine
MacArthur Foundation,
the people who make the
Genius Grants every year.
That foundation did an extensive renovation
of this imaginative, wonderfully-American gem.
Marquette's expedition
is recreated in
Tiffany glass murals
surrounding the atrium.
I found this absolutely thrilling!
Yes, people, that is a tomahawk
on a brass door.
Elsewhere there were peace pipes
in the brass panel fittings.
You aren't going to see a building like this
anywhere in Europe.
Expedition members were highlighted
on all sides of the atrium.
How cool is that? 
It made me wonder why more history
isn't highlighted more in architectural buildings.
It helped me recognize
architecture's ability to teach,
awakening interest in history,
not just design.
A teacher could have a field day
with the institutionalized racism
captured in this description of Marquette, 
as the "discoverer" of a river
Native Americans
were using on a daily basis.
It's so fantastic this
dated thinking is preserved.
We see not only the good,
but the limits of generations
who proceeded us.
I also did not get every site seen on my family field-trip daydream. Next time, I’ll have to take my girls to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s work and Ernest Hemingway’s home in Oak Park. We'll drive out to Wilmette to see the Bahai House. I’ve added tons more sites I would love to see, especially houses of worship. There were so many gospel services, jazz services, and classical music worship services in incredible looking buildings. I wanted to get to them all!

When I consider the impact of the Foundation, it really didn’t take that many people to change the world. So often, global challenges seem so overwhelming.  It seems they require such large sums of money and large groups of people. A person could be forgiven for thinking they seem impossible. Yet, the CAF started with one project, and then undertook another, and it started growing. In forty years, using the good will and hard work of around 10,000 souls a year, they are producing world-class results. That seems so achievable. What exciting project could your good will and hard work enable?

Thank you, Chicago Architectural Foundation, for an inspiring summer of celebrating |"why design matters."
You gave me my very favorite experiences of "My Jubilant American Summer" in 2014!

Readers, I just realized I've written 63 other posts about architecture. You might enjoy them. Here are a few of my favorites:

In Illinois:

"Make No Little Plans..."

"America's Favorite Architecture"

|"America's Finest Example of Prairie-School Architecture"

"A Living Tribute to Abraham Lincoln"

"Why the Obama Presidential Library Should be Built in Springfield, Illinois"

In Prague:

"Was Living in Soviet Housing on my Bucket List?"

"Art Deco Elegance in Old Town Prague"

"I Needed Some Cash In My New Neighborhood"

Pavel's Prague, Part Two, The Grand Orient Cafe

In Istanbul:

An Afternoon of Art and Beauty at the Borusan Contemporary, Part One

Topkapi Palace, Part One

For My Jubilant American Summer, Part One, click here

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

My Jubilant American Summer, Part One

Loving Life in Chicago
Summer of 2014
This summer I spent two-and-a-half months back in America. It was the longest I'd been home since becoming an expat six years earlier. It was fantastic to spend quality time with my family.
We called this
"Take-Your-Mother-to-Work-Day."
Since my youngest daughter had an internship in Chicago for the summer, I decided to make the city of Chicago my base. Chicago is so spectacular, so joyfully sublime, so wonderfully world-class, I was just pinching myself every day there.
My new Brazilian friend,
Isabela, from Sao Paulo,
whom I met in Chicago.
We explored the Magritte show
at the Art Institute together.
I have been to Chicago many times. My daughter had to work most days, so my friend, Isabela, and I bought City Passes (a packet full of coupons to get into all the top museums at a discount - a great value that I highly recommend) and thus I started on a summer of experiencing every single main attraction as it if was new to me.
It was scary to stand
 in these glass boxes.
The attractions were new too! Every main attraction had added something new to bring people back. For example, the Sear's "Willis" Tower, now has those glass boxes where you go out and stand on glass 100 floors up (that's a lot harder to do than it looks without freaking out, especially given that one of them had developed cracks the week before).
Magritte says "this is not a pipe."
It is, after all,
just a picture of a pipe.
The Art Institute had an amazing Magritte show, his first comprehensive retrospective in 65 years. 

I went to the Field Museum to see the show on the World's Fair, but was blown away instead by the exhibit they had created on bio-mechanics, easily the finest science exhibition I have seen in five years.
I literally paused in reverence
in front of this fantastic
American art form,
the root beer float,
created at the Museum of Science and Industry's
old-fashioned ice cream parlor. 
And then I ate it!
video
 At the Shedd Aquarium
(the largest and oldest aquarium
in the Western Hemisphere)
there was an exhibit where you
could touch sting-rays.
How cool is that?!?
 The Adler Planetarium
had state-of-the-art
shows about the cosmos,
but I found myself responding
to the original fixtures,
including these fabulous
art deco iconic representations
original to the building.

I was fascinated by this
old-time, low-cost
mechanical way of teaching people
about the night sky in their own city
at the Planetarium.
A box car of visitors
goes into the sphere
with a guide
who points out the constellations
made by the pinpricks of light
that have been punched into
the sphere.
They show up perfectly in the dark.
This contraption is 100 years old!
It's still going strong.

Look, World!
This is the planet's largest
public library building.
I can't even fit it into one photo.
Who built it?
My people, Midwesterners!
The exquisite Winter Garden
on the top floor of
Chicago Public Library.
Boo-yah!
This is the greatness of my country.
We are a marketplace of ideas
where the people themselves
are entrusted to evaluate them.
I was grateful to see
Senator William Fulbright's
words on the walls
at Chicago Public Library.
I fear his wisdom is being forgotten
Before becoming an expat
I wouldn't have noticed
or understood how wonderful it is
that this spectacular Chicago synagogue
doesn't require 24/7 police protection.
That is not true
everywhere in the world.
May it ever be so in my country.
While in Chicago,
I watched a Palestinian protest
about Gaza
go through the streets
of Chicago.
I was struck by how the police
led and followed the demonstration
protecting the people demonstrating.
After watching Turkey's
best-educated youth
tear gassed all year
for wanting
to protect
Taksim Square's Gezi Park,
I was so grateful watching how this
Chicago protest was handled.
When I stepped up to
the police officer to say thanks,
he said,
"we are all about the first Amendment
and the exercise of free speech in Chicago."
I immediately teared up.
I was so damn grateful
for this attitude.


Being an expat makes
my gratitude
for America's
accomplishments even greater.
Rotary International started in Chicago.
I've been in four different Rotary Clubs
across America.
If you're a Rotarian,
I'd just like to say "thank you,"
for all that
you've done to help end polio.
If you're not familiar with Rotary,
let me tell you.
Each Rotarian, around the world,
doing their small part,
has collaborated to eliminate polio worldwide.
Rotarians are almost done,
 since there
are usually less than
5,000 cases a year globally.
Know a Rotarian? Thank them.
Don't know what polio is?
Thank them again!
This is Jenn and Alex,
my very first AirBnB hosts.
Jenn and Alex
were fantastic to stay with
while I was in Chicago.
This is the typical Chicago beach
two blocks from their house.
They taught me about Uber too
while I was there.
Plotting my explorations of Chicago
in Grant Park.

I'll share my very favorite thing
I was able to experience in Chicago
for the first time.

First and last photos
courtesy of Chicago photographer
Peter Yankala
 
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