Archive for the ‘architecture’ Category

A time to reflect

When killing time between flights, have you ever wanted just to get away of the airport hustle and have a moment of silence? Those gate announcements and hasty passengers can make even a rugged travelers face grin, especially after a long flight or an early morning wake up. Have you noticed that in many international airports there is a way to take a breather?

The place that I am referring to is a prayer room, or in some places (mostly in the US) it is called airport chapel. I first got introduced to one about 10 years ago in Düsseldorf airport. If I remember correctly, my brother (who lived there) told me to find it, and luckily I did. It is a bit hidden away from the shopping and eating area, which in my opinion is only a good thing. From the outside, this Gebetsraum is quite unassuming but when you get inside, the experience is really rewarding.

Prayer room of Duesseldorf airport. Picture by Skydaddy.

Now what I love especially in this particular space that it holds no religious symbols, not even the holy books of different religions. It is quiet, calming and easy on the eye. At the end of the space there is a water feature which gives the room a little touch of organic, unstable material. Without crosses or prayer mats, one can go there without a specific agenda or justification, just to hang out and relax for a while. I have found a prayer room only in Duesseldorf and Kastrup airports, and sadly the latter was nothing like the one pictured above. I am amazed that Copenhagens Kastrup airport which has received many awards, can get away with a shabby and packed room. I asked Helsinki-Vantaa airport and they told me that their prayer room has been closed in 2009 due to a huge renovation and that they were considering whether to make a new one once the renovation is through. I made a strong plea in favor, since Helsinki is marketing itself as a hug for long-haul flights to Asia and really needs it’s services to be up to date.

After googling I came to a conclusion that these rooms are predominantly christian in US airports, and that in some Asian airports there may be separate rooms for different religions. As I am not that religious, I find the idea of bringing different religions together and pray or have a shared moment of silence for any reason together just wonderful. What the world needs now, is more of these places of common ground. In this sense, I can only to recommend next time you are stuck at an airport and want to experience something quite different,  go and ask for a prayer room. And if you are lucky, you can find something quite special!:)

Even at it’s “worst”, the room may fill a purpose of some spiritual need and host a library of various religious books. This should not be overlooked, although with little money and planning one could do so much better. If you find a new prayer room, beautiful or not, please take a picture and send it to me. I would love to know how this idea has been translated in various airports.

Airport of Heatherwood, Georgia. Picture by Y Mucho Más (Flickr).

Here is a link to the full presentation of Duesseldorf Airport prayer room. The pictures are dynamic, so you can “walk” inside the room by clicking on the arrows on the pictures. Enjoy!



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I have been a regular viewer of TED Talks for about two or three years now. I can’t really remember how it all began but I suspect I followed a video link either from Facebook or some news page. I got hooked right away and since then I have seen hundreds of short speeches from varying topics. I usually watch them from my phone on my way to the office or back home.

TED is a conference in held in California each winter and in Oxford each summer which last for about a week each. Among the guest speakers in there are some paying attendees in the audience as well. Conference has a theme or themes around which the speeches revolve around. The idea is for speakers to give a speech on a topic of their interest which should last about 16 minutes. And o boy, what you can fit into 16 minutes! I have learnt, or should I say become of aware of hundreds of different projects, products or ideas that are making this world a better place to live in. There are architects, heart surgeons, lawyers, statisticians, musicians, physicists, engineers, entrepreneur, people of various backgrounds sharing  ideas of making a difference. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, but it covers quite many different things beyond these three words. Conferences allow people to mingle and ideas to collide and TED is not exception. But there are differences to “regular” conferences, as you will soon notice.

Unlike most conferences where talks can take 30, 60 or 90 minutes and usually go to the speakers bread and butter topic, maybe something they are making a dissertation or a book about, they can easily be quite boring. And I don’t mean the message as such, it’s just that those people are usually experts in their field, but not at making speeches that have an impact to a wider audience. Usually it is enough to give hard data to colleagues or co-researchers who can appreciate all the subtleties of one’s latest scientific findings. In TED, the speakers speak of things that pour out of their heart and not necessarily what’s on their work desk. And they are coached in their speech in order to make it as appealing as possible in the time frame that has been given. And usually this means less statistics or numbers and more feeling. You literally lean forward when an architect speaks about renovating houses to become greener or a designer who explains how to design a handheld device for emergency care nurses while making sure that the humane connection between the nurse and patient is considered as well.

I kid you not when I say that looking at these talks is like going to the movies. But they are not like movies but more like a mix of the intensivity of Actors Studio and information of any documentary squeezed into 16 minute long, often emotional infomercial.

Here are some of my favourite speeches to be digested at your own discretion. First of them is about a project in India where the slum kids are given internet accessed computer and they start to learn by themselves. Second one is encouraging modern kids to get active with their surroundings and to explore. Third and last one explores the variety of things that one pig helps to produce. Prepare to be amazed. And be advised, you might get addicted!



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A hidden view

Have you ever stumbled upon a view where there is just something different, something thought out? It feels like taking a peak to someone’s living room, or maybe a secret being unraveled to you who are just at the right spot and sometimes just at the right time. Well, I have seen this happen a couple of times in architecture, and it totally blows me away.

Montreal Olympic Stadion (picture from Flickr Théo La Photo)

Sometimes you know that what you are seeing is no accident. The thought that follows is the one that puzzles me the most: what kind of architect has time, vision and opportunity to play with the surroundings so that the building he or she builds, connects to it in one more way. Of course the form and materials of the building are sometimes predefined as well as the site and the volume as well. Doing this can be accidental or planned, subtle or “in your face!”, but it impresses me either way.

Finlandia Hall (Picture by Helsingin Sanomat)

Finlandia Hall (picture from siennasmommy.blogspot.com)

I have been told that Alvar Aalto has done this kind of flukes in several locations but I have not been able to track them down. But is this a fluke, a visual trick, or an ego trip or a show of elitism by an architect who chuckles by himself in his secret viewing point. I don’t know, I just think it’s great!

I am hungry for these different views. It can be something that everybody knows, or something really exclusive. I’d like to know if you know something like these pictures. Please share them with me.

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