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Tag: Architecture

Two nice fountain pens, an Esterbrook Estie and a Stipula Adagio, with Jill Danahey’s painting, “Winter Persimmons.”

A Birthday Indulgence

By G. S. Norwood

By now you all know that I am a self-indulgent woman. I’ve blogged about how I value little rewards to myself for a job well done, or just for a laugh. But birthdays? Birthdays are an indulgence class all their own. Because I live alone, I can be really extravagant when it comes to a birthday indulgence.

In past years I have given myself pens and paintings. One year I famously gave myself a cat. Or was it Gift who gave herself a person that year? Sometimes it’s hard to tell with that girl.

Keyboard Kitty: In 2019, the Universe gave me a cat for my birthday.
Gift is one of my all-time favorite birthday indulgences. (G. S. Norwood).

Place Markers and Promises

One thing I enjoy is jewelry, particularly lovely rings. I have given myself more than a few for my birthday, including one made by a contemporary Native American artist, and one that looks like traditional Native American work, but was actually made by a friend’s husband.

For me, these rings are place markers. I wear them to remember a specific time I wanted to celebrate by giving myself this precious gift. The contemporary ring marked the birthday that officially made me older than Warren ever got to be. For me, it is a symbol of survival.

Traditional Ring; Contemporary Ring: Two of the many nice bits of jewelry I’ve given myself for my birthday.
The traditional ring on the left. The contemporary ring on the right. (G. S. Norwood).

The Symbol of a Vow

The traditional ring has an even stranger story.

I spotted it in a photo of work my friend’s husband was taking to an art fair. Since I wouldn’t be able to attend that weekend, I figured the ring was as good as gone. Something that lovely would surely sell fast.

When the weekend was over, I asked if he’d sold the ring. He hadn’t. He offered to send it to me on approval. If I liked it, I’d send him a check in return. The ring arrived a few days later, and I liked it even more “in person” than I had in the photo. But the only finger it fit was the ring finger of my left hand, where I no longer wore my wedding band.

I decided, if I was going to wear the ring on that particular finger, it should symbolize a promise I made to myself. Now when I look at the ring, I am reminded of my vow to be strong, to be brave, and to take control of my future instead of drifting along, cowed by all the challenges of life. When I wear it, it is much more than a birthday indulgence. It is the symbol of my vow.

Decorative ceiling beam and wall bricks.
Architectural details in Santa Fe, New Mexico: At a shopping plaza, and the Lensic Theatre. (G. S. Norwood).

Getting Out of Town

Sometimes I give myself an experience for my birthday, rather than a self-indulgent thing. Like the time I gave myself a weekend in Santa Fe, New Mexico. That one started out as a way to keep myself honest.

You see, there was this piccolo audition. I work for the Dallas Winds. From time to time a musician will retire and create an opening in the core Winds ensemble. We fill those openings by holding blind auditions.  They can last all day and be a real beating, even when you’re not the musician behind the curtain with your career on the line. When the Winds decided to hold piccolo auditions, they discussed a variety of dates, one of which was my birthday. I told them I could work any date but that one. I planned to be out of town that weekend, I said.

In my world, “out of town” can simply mean “not in Dallas.” Since I live in a little town about 30 miles north of Dallas, any time I go home I’m technically “out of town.” But this was my birthday. So when the Audition Gods decided my birthday weekend was the best possible time for piccolo auditions, I decided to get out of town for real.

The Santa Fe Plaza and two historic Santa Fe buildings, the hotel and the cathedral.
One birthday I treated myself to Santa Fe, staying in La Fonda, around the corner from St. Francis Cathedral and not far from the Plaza. (G. S. Norwood).

A Trip to Santa Fe

But where could I go that would require minimal travel time and offer an affordable adventure? I chose Santa Fe. The flight was only an hour to Albuquerque. From there I’d have the modest adventure of driving another hour into the mountains to Santa Fe. Oooo! That meant a rental car! I love rental cars. And a hotel? I booked myself into La Fonda, one of the coolest historic hotels I’ve ever stayed in.

I only had a couple of days there, but I loved every minute. I spent my birthday morning touring the art galleries along Canyon Road. In the afternoon I walked the Plaza, and logged some quality time just sitting on my private balcony, watching the crows that lived around the Loretto Chapel.

View of Santa Fe and Loretto Chapel.
The Loretto Chapel, as seen from my balcony. (G. S. Norwood).

I connected with a friend I had only known online. We met up the next morning for breakfast and several hours of amazing, wide-ranging conversation. I found an interesting bookstore and a lovely restaurant. I walked all over, then drove even farther, going back to Albuquerque via the back roads to see even more new stuff.

By the time I got home to Dallas, I was replete with new experiences and memories that I cherish to this day. Plus, no involvement in the piccolo auditions, and an unsullied reputation for honesty. Talk about a birthday indulgence!

Views from historic Cerillos, New Mexico.
I took the back road, called the Turquoise Trail, down to Albuquerque. (G. S. Norwood).

A Birthday Indulgence

As my birthday approached this year, I began to think about a new birthday indulgence. I wouldn’t be able to travel. Aside from the ongoing pandemic, I have a trip planned for later that will use up all my dog-sitting resources. I have all the pens and books any sane woman could want, and I haven’t seen any fresh artwork that needs to find a home on my walls. I could invest in a bit more renovation—I need tile in my den, and there’s a closet that could be rebuilt. None of these ideas grabbed me.

The one idea I kept returning to was a gas log for my fireplace. I love a good fire, but I hate hauling wood and shoveling ashes. After last February’s deep freeze, I thought it might be prudent to get something for my house that could give off heat even when the electricity is out for an extended time. I searched online, found a local dealer, and gave him a visit. He had a style I liked, at a price within my budget. And yet . . . Somehow, I kept holding off.

Two nice fountain pens, an Esterbrook Estie and a Stipula Adagio, with Jill Danahey’s painting, “Winter Persimmons.”
The same old indulgences didn’t appeal this birthday. (G. S. Norwood; Winter Persimmons is © by Jill Danahey).

Somebody Needs to be an Adult

And then, one morning, I opened the door of my clothes dryer to find it had died mid-cycle, and was no longer responding to my commands, pleas, or prayers. While I am old enough to remember clotheslines, I don’t have one in my back yard, and I don’t really fancy going back to the days of lugging heavy baskets of wet sheets outdoors to pin up in the breeze.

I went online and did my research. Turned out the kind of dryer I wanted cost . . . just about exactly the same as that set of gas logs I’d been eyeing. Clearly somebody in my household needed to step up to be an adult. That “somebody” was me, of course, because you can’t count on cats or border collies at moments like this.

So there it is, folks. This year I have chosen to indulge myself in warm, fluffy sheets and towels with that fresh-out-of-the-dryer smell. I have named my new indulgence Emily, for no good reason beyond the fact that it seemed a good match for Arthur, the washing machine. Emily is a champ at getting things dry.

It might not be the kind of decadently indulgent birthday present I usually give myself, but I am satisfied with my choice. Well done! Happy birthday to me!

The author’s new clothes dryer, next to her washing machine.
Emily and Arthur—together at last. Happy Birthday! (G. S. Norwood).

IMAGES:

All photos were taken by G. S. Norwood. Winter Persimmons is © by Jill Danahey. In case you’re curious, the fountain pens are an Esterbrook Estie and a Stipula Adagio.

Photos of five featured buildings, “Bosco Verticale,” Parkroyal on Pickering, Namba Parks, Ivry-sur-Seine, and the Chicland Hotel.

Literally Green Buildings

Happy 51st Earth Day! Followers of Artdog Adventures may remember earlier posts about environmentally-friendly architecture. I tend to post them around Earth Day. People sometimes talk about “green buildings.” But there’s “green” as in eco-friendly, and then there’s “green” as in literally green buildings. And some are both.

What do I mean by “literally green buildings”?

When I say “literally green buildings,” I mean green with plants. Lately, more and more architects think about plants from the very start of planning. This goes way beyond landscaping for curb appeal. They plan to make the plants part of the building.

I have lots of reasons to be interested in this intersection of beneficial plants with built environments. I’m both a lifelong gardener and the daughter of an architectural design professor who instilled a love of buildings in me. And Rana Station, the fictional setting for my XK9 stories, is kind of the ultimate “built environment with plants.”

This montage shows “25 Verde,” Boeri’s “vertical forest,” and the Chicland Hotel with vines cascading from each balcony.
At left, two views of “25 Verde,” in Turin, Italy (Haute Residence). In the center, three views of the “Bosco Verticale” or “Vertical Forest” in Milan, Italy (stacked photos: Stefano Boeri Architetti. Full-length view: Green Roofs / Laura Gatti), and two views of VTN’s concept design for the Chicland Hotel in Da Nang, Vietnam (ArchDaily / VTN).

In previous posts I’ve spotlighted projects such as Luciano Pia’s “urban treehouse25 Verde, and Stefano Boeri’s Bosco Verticale, or “vertical forest.” The Italians don’t have a corner on that market, of course. VTN Architects in Vietnam create many spectacular, plant-centric designs. So do others.

Literally green buildings since before history

People have always loved to incorporate plants into their living spaces. That’s nothing new. Trees probably provided our first shelter. And evidence of prehistoric and early-historic dugout shelters can be found all over the world. Sod roofs date into antiquity in Scandinavia for highly practical reasons.

Green roofs then and now, as described in the cutline.
Green roofs are nothing new. At left, sod roofs on log buildings in the outdoor Norsk Folkemuseum of Oslo Norway (by Kjetil Bjørnsrud – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia), contemporary green roofs that include trees on a high-rise complex (Urbanscape Architecture), and Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay, Wisconsin, where goats graze on the grassy roof (Country Living / Flickr / Jesse Lisa).

In the same way, sod homes for European migrants on the North American plains, winter houses for Aleut peoples in Alaska, and others have sheltered humans for centuries. Often grasses grew/grow on them. Sometimes animals graze on them. “Green roofs” started to get popular on city buildings in the early 1970s. That trend is still growing. They offer quite a list of benefits.

Literally green” means built for plants as well as people

For this post I’ve chosen developments that bring green spaces and plantings into exterior architecture. They are literally green buildings. Many studies have shown the benefits of green spaces and trees. And that goes double for cities.

People also incorporate “Green Walls” into indoor and outdoor spaces. I’ll focus on them in a future post. But for now, here are glimpses of three that caught my eye. I hope you like them, too.

Ivry-sur-Seine, Paris, France

Welcome to Communist France! Ivry-sur-Seine, a Paris suburb, is organized as a commune—one of several in France. And communist ideology inspired this residence development. The married architectural team of Jean Renaudie and Renée Gailhoustet designed them as affordable housing. Built between 1969 and 1975Les Etoiles” (“the stars”) are built with sharp angles on multiple levels, with many green spaces. They’re quite a unique vision. They’re also literally green buildings.

Five views of the Ivry-sur-Seine housing complex near Paris France.
Called “Les Etoiles” (“the Stars”) because of their angled shapes, these buildings present an earlier melding of nature and architecture than our other spotlighted sites. The two photos on the left are from the “KUDOYBOOK” blog, the center photo comes from @TopAmazingWorld on Twitter, and the two on the right are from Solarpunk Aesthetic on tumblr.

Namba Parks Shopping Center in Osaka, Japan

The curving lines, many levels, and distinctive plantings make this beautiful shopping district a Pinterest favorite. That’s where I first glimpsed it. Winner of an Urban Land Institute Award of Excellence in 2009, it creates a “natural intervention” in Osaka’s dense urban space. There’s a rooftop park, a “canyon” walkway, and eight levels of offices, shops, dining, and places to relax. Next door: a 46-story residential tower and a 30-story office tower.

4 views of Namba Parks from above.
Photographers from high above in neighboring high-rises have caught some great photos of Namba Parks. Top left and right, as well as the bottom photo are from ArchDaily’s article “Namba Parks / The Jerde Partnership.” Top-center “View from Above Namba Parks” is by 663highland, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia.

The Parkroyal Hotel in Singapore

Billed as a “Modern-Day Hanging Gardens of Babylon,” the sustainably-designed Parkroyal Hotel on Pickering opened in 2013. It gives another eye-opening melding of plants with architecture. The Singaporean architectural firm WOHA was already known for incorporating a lot of greenery into their buildings. They designed the balconies and other green spaces to support the weight and root systems. They also designed the plantings and specifically chose the species for ease of maintenance. I think it’s safe to say that the luxury Parkroyal on Pickering really takes the “park” part seriously.

8 photos of the Parkroyal on Pickering from a variety of angles.
If the Parkroyal Hotel on Pickering isn’t the most-photographed hotel in Singapore, it’s got to be right up there in the top ten. I found so many great shots of this place it was hard to narrow it down to just eight! Most of the photos in this collection are from Trip Advisor’s enormous gallery in its article on this highly-rated luxury hotel. That includes the one at lower left from a contributor identified as “Mcfulcher,” and the dizzying view down past the balconies to the street next to it, by a contributor identified as “cwydyy.” Others came from the hotel itself, except for the side-by-side photos at top far left and left. They’re courtesy of Forbes, provided by WOHA, the architectural firm that designed this unique bulding. You can especially see the deep, sturdy structure that securely supports all the verdant plant life in the photos at far left.

IMAGE CREDITS

It worked out better this time to ID the photo credits in the cutlines for each montage. See those for the most complete information.

The exception is the Header photo. In that montage, which doesn’t get a cutline. I collected five of the most unique buildings featured in this post. L-R: First the “Bosco Verticale” or “Vertical Forest” in Milan, Italy (Green Roofs / Laura Gatti). Next, the Parkroyal Hotel on Pickering in Singapore (Trip Advisor / “cwydyy”). At center, “View from Above Namba Parks” in Osaka, Japan (663highland, CC BY 2.5 / Wikimedia). Next comes a view of “Les Etoiles” of Ivry-sur-Seine near Paris, France (@TopAmazingWorld / Twitter). At far right, VTN’s concept for the Chicland Hotel in Da Nang, Vietnam (ArchDaily / VTN).

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