Sunday, August 21, 2011

antique carved wooden doors in Montreal

These heavy wooden doors on the campus of McGill University have persevered through Montreal snowstorms and summer humidity for over a century, stalwartly protecting each of these buildings from the elements since their original construction in the 19th century. Even today each set of antique doors remains the principal entrance to each of these three buildings - the Redpath Museum, the Architecture School, and the Redpath Performance Hall, respectively from top to bottom. And each one has its own personality, incorporating motifs ranging from the organic to the neoclassical.

McGill University, Montreal, Quebec.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

textured facades in Montreal and Lisbon

Wrinkly stone blocks lend a bark-like texture to a rowhouse in Montreal (top), while pyramidal stone blocks on an old mansion in Lisbon (bottom) give the building a spiky texture and suggest a defensive attitude towards passerby on the street.

Top two pictures: Avenue de l'Esplanade, Montreal, Quebec. Bottom two: Rua dos Bacalhoeiros, Lisbon, Portugal.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

holy map on a tile in Istanbul

A crude miniature map of the holy city of Mecca appears on a single tile on the exterior of the Rüstem Pasa Mosque in Istanbul, camouflaged among the jumble of blue-and-white glazed tiles that decorate the front of the building. Click on the picture to see it bigger.

At the center of the map is the black, cube-shaped Kaaba building, the most important structure in the entire pilgrimage city of Mecca because it is believed to have been built by Abraham and his son Ishmael. Surrounding the Kaaba on the map are six tall minarets, a feature that clearly identified the mosque surrounding the Kaaba since it was the only one in the world with that many minarets - that is, until the Ottomans finished building the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul in 1616 and surrounded it with six minarets as well. To distinguish the mosque of the Kaaba as still being the most important in the world, the Ottoman sultan sent his architect to Mecca the same year to construct a seventh minaret around the Kaaba, which means that this tiled map of the holy city likely dates to before the completion of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in 1616. 

Rüstem Pasa Mosque, Hasircilar Çarsisi, Istanbul, Turkey.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

collision of dormers on a roof in Montreal

Three dormers collide on the roof of a building in Montreal. For me, the staggered position of the dormers makes this look almost like a family portrait. I also love the camouflage effect that the peeling black paint creates, revealing blotches of older red and even older green paint underneath.

Mont Royal Park, Montreal, Quebec.

Friday, August 12, 2011

cubist details in Prague

Did you know there's such a thing as cubist architecture? Here, cubist details on two buildings in Prague are characterized by triangular indentations, plain geometric surfaces, and tapering masses. Yet, despite the purist inclination of these cubist forms, they still convey an identifiable sense of movement and flex that seems to give each building an energetic personality. The building in the top two pictures was designed by famed proponent of cubist architecture Josef Gocar, and now houses an exhibition of cubist paintings from the Czech Republic.

Top two pictures: Celetná, Prague, Czech Republic. Bottom two: Na Perstyne, Prague, Czech Republic.

Monday, August 8, 2011

rustic tombstone crosses in Montreal

The crosses topping off these tombstones may be carved from stone, but they're made to look as if they were cobbled together from knotty pine logs, or perhaps as if they had sprouted right out of the ground. This rustic style provides quite a contrast with the typically monumental and fanciful architecture of traditional tombstones, which often favor neoclassical elements like fluted columns and ornate cornices over unhewn timber. My favorite is the last one, which is made to look like a wooden cross resting on top of tree-stump pedestal.

Notre-Dame des Neiges Cemetery, Montreal, Quebec.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

bougainvillea tunnel in Antalya

With its trunk and branches concealed behind a fence, a flowering bougainvillea plant appears to hover weightlessly above a narrow street in the Kaleiçi district of Antalya, Turkey. The result is a living ceiling over this urban space that provides shelter and fragrance to those passing underneath.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

another set of horseshoe arches, in Lisbon

Here's a photo I found while going through some old photos of Lisbon that I think fits in well with yesterday's post on horseshoe arches. These two interlocking arches on the front facade of the old Rossio train station in Lisbon are quite literally horseshoe-shaped. Placa Rossio, Lisbon, Portugal.

Monday, August 1, 2011

horseshoe arches in Montreal, Fes, and Cordoba

These horseshoe arches (a type of arch that curves inward at the bottom) are a curious decorative detail on the balconies of two side-by-side townhouses in Montreal, given the typical association of horseshoe arches with Islamic architecture. Rue Sainte-Famille, Montreal, Quebec.

Less of a surprise, horseshoe arches decorate the entrance to a mosque and an adjacent fountain in the medieval medina of Fes al Bali, Morocco.

In Cordoba, Spain, a sea of striped horseshoe arches fills the worship space of the Great Mosque.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

yarn bombing in Prague and Boston

Here are two knit cozies I spotted wrapped around a street lamp in Prague and a tree in Boston. "Yarn bombing," as this form of graffiti is called, is apparently quite a big thing now in the world of street art. There's even a wikipedia page. Proponents of yarn bombing claim to be softening and feminizing urban space with their work. At the very least, they're helping some street furniture stay warm. Top: Cechuv Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic. Bottom: Davis Square, Boston area, Massachusetts.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

map of the city on a wall in Zurich

I spotted this bird's-eye map of Zurich wedged in between six windows on the front facade of a house in Zurich's medieval center. The map may be outdated - an inscription just below the crest with the bird in it dates the map to 1568 - but certain landmark features of the city visible in the map still remain to this day, including the twin-spired Grossmünster cathedral and the tall clock tower of St. Peter's Church right at the center of the map (click the image to make it larger). I like the way the orange and blue paint colors on the house appear to have been chosen to coordinate with the map. Near the Münstergasse thoroughfare, Zurich, Switzerland.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

granite and river rocks in Boston

Granite pavers define the path for car tires in this river-rock cobblestone driveway on Mount Vernon Street in Boston, Massachusetts. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

patterned facades in Prague and Budapest

An old woman monitors the street from an upper-story window in the geometric painted facade of a house on Loretánská in Prague, Czech Republic.

Painters restoring the patterned facade of a building on Tárnok utca in Budapest, Hungary.

Monday, July 25, 2011

sewer music

There's a feature in the Boston Globe today about a group of phonographers from the New England Phonographers Union (who knew there was such a thing?) recording background noises from the Deer Island sewage treatment plan in order to make music from the ambient sounds. Their aim they say, was to bring these background sounds to the foreground, allowing people to hear these rhythmic processes that are otherwise ignored. "That's exactly why you would go out there to find beauty, because you would never expect to find it there."

Below, a video from the Boston Globe explaining the project:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

colorful shadows in Montreal

Late-afternoon sunlight streams through tinted panes of glass in Montreal's Palais de Congrés casting colorful, elongated shadows on the gray stone floor of the building's lobby.

For a short time each afternoon, sunlight hits the building at the just right angle to pass through the colored-glass facade and back out through a transparent glass wall on another side of the building, creating a momentary spectacle of tinted shadows on an adjacent street.

Alternating facades of transparent and tinted glass envelope the Palais de Congrés. Rue de Bleury, Montreal, Quebec.

Friday, July 22, 2011

round, exposed-masonry columns around Boston

This squat column supports the corner of a building on Boston Avenue in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Three-story brick columns guard the front of the Old Courthouse in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Round, two-story mortar-stacked stone columns blur into the facade of a building on Vernon Street in Framingham, Massachusetts.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

X marks the spot in Bratislava

This wooden door blocks entry into the courtyard at the Old Town Hall in Bratislava, Slovakia. Notice how the pattern culminates in a four-pointed star right at the point where the three sections of the door come together in this door-within-a-double-door arrangement.

Here are two more patterned doors spotted side-by-side on Országház utca in Budapest, Hungary.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

another sign in Montreal

Rather than putting a giant sign across the front facade of this slick building, the architect placed the sign for the Rosalind and Morris Goodman Cancer Research Center behind glass, high up on the back wall of a tall conference room at the front of the building, where it won't distract from the clean lines of the building's design. Avenue des Pins, Montreal, Quebec.

Monday, July 18, 2011

trace of the past in Montreal

I'd like to restart this blog with a new feature. From now on I'll be posting photographs that I've taken of details and curiosities, some intended and others unintended, that I find interesting on buildings or in urban environments. My hope is to encourage others to notice the details that give character to the built environments around us. Here's something that caught my eye recently in Montreal:

Green stains from long-gone oxidized copper lettering are ghostly evidence of this building's former function as a school, "Ecole Cherrier." Rue Cherrier, corner Saint-Hubert, Montreal, Quebec.