With cities, it is as with dreams: everything imaginable can be dreamed, but even the most unexpected dream is a rebus that conceals a desire or, its reverse, a fear. Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.
December 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of Invisible Cities
-- the sublime metaphysical travelogue by author-journalist Italo Calvino
. In a series of pensive dialogues with jaded emperor Kublai Khan
, the explorer Marco Polo
describes a meandering litany of visionary and impossible places, dozens of surreal, fantastical cities
, each poetically reifying ideas vital to language, philosophy, and the human spirit. This gracefully written love letter to urban life has inspired countless tributes
, but it's just the most accessible of Calvino's fascinating literary catalogue. Look inside for a closer look at his most remarkable works, links to English translations of his magical prose, and collections of artistic interpretations from around the web -- including this treasure trove of essays, excerpts, articles, and recommended reading
. [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi
on Dec 30, 2012 -
has some interesting stories and characters. Here's two to get you started:
Robert de Montesquiou - "Tall, black-haired, rouged, Kaiser-moustached, he cackled and screamed in weird attitudes, giggling in high soprano, hiding his little black teeth behind an exquisitely gloved hand – the poseur absolute. He was said to have slept with Sarah Bernhardt and vomited for a week afterwards."
posted by unliteral
on Dec 13, 2012 -
Lord Berners - "As a child, having heard that if you throw a dog into water it will learn how to swim, he threw his mother's canine companion out of the window on the grounds that if one applies the same logic it should learn how to fly. (The dog was unharmed, and he was "thrashed" by his mother.)"
Master Builder Uncovers Striking Similarities In Indian and Incan / Mayan Sacred Structures:- It is Sthapati's theory that Mayan, the creator of Indian architecture, originated from the Mayan people of Central America. In Indian history, Mayan appears several times, most significantly as the author of Mayamatam, "Concept of Mayan" which is a Vastu Shastra, a text on art, architecture and town planning. The traditional date for this work is 8,000bce. Mayan appears in the Ramayana (2000bce) and again in the Mahabharata (1400bce) - in the latter he designs a magnificent palace for the Pandava brothers. Mayan is also mentioned in Silappathikaram, an ancient Tamil scripture, and is author of Surya Siddhanta, one of the most ancient Hindu treatises on astronomy.
(Original ca. 1995
) [more inside]
posted by infini
on Aug 31, 2012 -
National Register Photostream
— Authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the U.S. National Register of Historic Places
is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect our historic and archeological resources. Properties listed in the Register include districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that are significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture.
posted by netbros
on Dec 23, 2011 -
This weekend marks the time of the Hajj
, a core pillar of Islam in which great tides of humanity
venture to the ancient city of Mecca to honor God.
Predating Mohammed's birth by centuries, the pilgrimage comprises several days of rites
, from congregation like snow on Mount Arafat
and the ritual stoning of Shaitan
to the circling of the sacred Kaaba
cubical monolith Muslims pray toward daily
) and kissing the Black Stone
(colored by the absorption of myriad sins, and believed by some to be a fallen meteorite
While the city has modernized
to handle this largest of annual gatherings -- building highway-scale ramps, gaudy skyscrapers for the ultra-rich
, and tent cities the size of Seattle
-- it remains mysterious, as unbelievers are forbidden from entering its borders
Richard Francis Burton became famous for touring the city in disguise
to write a rare travelogue
, but contemporary viewers have a more immediate guide: Vice Magazine
journalist Suroosh Alvi, who smuggled a minicam into the city to record The Mecca Diaries [alt]
, a 14-minute documentary of his own Hajj journey.
Browse the manual
to see what goes into a Hajj trip, or watch the YouTube livestream
to see the Grand Mosque crowds in real time.
posted by Rhaomi
on Nov 4, 2011 -
Most people know that Venice has long been threatened by chronic flooding, but in recent years the Queen of the Adriatic has faced a rising tide of a different sort: advertising
From the Doge's Palace
to St. Mark's Square
to the bittersweet Bridge of Sighs
-- named for the grief its splendid views once inspired in crossing death row prisoners -- immense billboards lit late into the night
now mar the city's most treasured places.
Allegedly built to cover the cost of restoration work in the face of government cutbacks, the ads have brought in around $600,000 per year since 2008 -- a fraction of the shortfall -- and show no sign of going away any time soon. Their presence prompted a consortium of the world's leading cultural experts led by the Venice in Peril Fund
to air an open letter
demanding the city government put a stop to the placards that "hit you in the eye and ruin your experience of one of the most beautiful creations of humankind." Mayor Giorgio Orsoni, for one, was not moved, saying last year "If people want to see the building they should go home and look at a picture of it in a book."
posted by Rhaomi
on Oct 4, 2011 -
, a blog about Philadelphia buildings past and present, in which the little known architectural terms "badassivity," "concrete testicles" and "shitfucktastic garbitechture" are presented for your edification.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders
on Aug 1, 2011 -
is an award-winning British illustrator famous for his bestselling "Incredible" series of engineering art books: Incredible Cross-Sections
, Incredible Explosions
, Incredible Body
, and many more
. A master draftsman, Biesty does not use computers or even rulers
in composing his intricate and imaginative drawings, relying on nothing more than pen and ink, watercolor, and a steady hand. Over the years, he's adapted his work to many other mediums, including pop-up books
, educational games
), interactive history sites
, and animation
. You can view much of his work in the zoomable galleries
on his professional page, or click inside for a full listing of direct links to high-resolution, desktop-quality copies from his and other sites, including several with written commentary from collaborator Richard Platt [site, .mp3 chat]
. [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi
on Feb 4, 2011 -
from above (Google Maps links): Alba Iulia
, Arad Fortress
, Neuf Brisach
posted by nthdegx
on Jun 8, 2010 -
Glasgow's Mitchell Library
, designed by William B. Whitie
, is the largest reference library in Western Europe. Over the past decade, it has been digitising its collection of photographs, which has resulted in the Virtual Mitchell
, an unrivalled collection of photographs of Glasgow which covers the last 150-odd years of the city's history.
The photographs can be searched by area
, all of which provide a fascinating insight into life in Glasgow over the past century and a half.
Some examples: Charing Cross, 1950s
; The Mitchell Library, 1910
; Meadowside Shipyard, circa 1930
; New Astoria Cinema, Possilpark
; Royal Exchange Square, 1868
; Alexander "Greek" Thompson's church on Caledonia Road
; East End children in class in 1916
posted by Len
on Feb 3, 2010 -
Knossos: Fakes, Facts, and Mystery.
"The masterpieces of Minoan art
are not what they seem... The truth is that these famous icons are largely modern. As any sharp-eyed visitor to the Heraklion museum
can spot, what survives of the original paintings amounts in most cases to no more than a few square inches. The rest is more or less imaginative reconstruction, commissioned in the first half of the twentieth century by Sir Arthur Evans
, the British excavator of the palace of Knossos
(and the man who coined the term 'Minoan' for this prehistoric Cretan civilization
, after the mythical King Minos who is said to have held the throne
there). As a general rule of thumb, the more famous the image now is, the less of it is actually ancient."
posted by homunculus
on Aug 30, 2009 -
Dr. Frances W. Pritchett, Professor of Modern Indic Languages at Columbia University, New York, has created a superb online collection of resources
, all about India and South Asia
, its art, history, literature, architecture and culture. Her Indian Routes
section (the Index page
) is a particularly rich resource. Her vast, colorful and informative site also has many great images. Check out her "scrapbook pages" on the Princes
l the Ghaznavids
l British Rule
l Women's Spaces
l Perspectives on Hinduism
. [more inside]
posted by nickyskye
on Jun 9, 2009 -
Explore the History of the Ancient Greek World
from the Neolithic to the Classical Period. Covering important topics, such as Art and Architecture
, Culture and Society
, Poetry, Olympics
, History Periods
, Philosophy, Playwrights, Kings and Rulers
of Ancient Greece.
posted by netbros
on Feb 21, 2009 -
The Lighthouse Directory
. An information portal for over 9000 lighthouses, and sites of former lighthouses, all around the world. Photos, histories, technical specifications, etc. Most of the links are very thorough, with some including excerpts from keepers' logs. The site also includes links to current news stories and general historical articles related to lighthouses.
posted by amyms
on Apr 22, 2008 -
is visiting warsaw. not a city which has ever appeared in my top ten tourist destinations, but i am much more inclined to visit it after reading his thoughtful reflections on its architecture and history
not to mention obscure (and in classic polish style, rarely open to the public
or about to be shut down/demolished because they are too popular, attractions.)
posted by toycamera
on Oct 8, 2007 -
has a collection of glasses with pictures on them. Mainly from the countries of the former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and the German Empire, but including some other countries too. A novel way to navigate history, architecture, people and landscape. Oh! and he needs help
with some of them too.
posted by tellurian
on Aug 5, 2007 -
Bourbonnais. No, not Bourbonnais, IL
, but Bourbonnais
, a historic province in France that flourished during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. In this area there are hundreds of churches built in the Romanesque
In 2004 Stephen Murray
, an art history professor, and his students recieved a $500,000 grant
to document, process, and archive
data from the churches into a digital database, all available online
posted by provolot
on Dec 5, 2006 -
, known also as The Ten Books of Architecture, is an exposition on architecture by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio. Originally in Latin, here it is translated into English.
posted by nthdegx
on Nov 9, 2006 -
Curating the City
A Flash exhibition exploring the past and present urban landscape of Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles. A modest topic explored in depth - which is perhaps what makes it so fascinating. The site includes a pdf guidebook
, in case you want to check out the bricks-and-mortar version.
posted by carter
on Mar 27, 2006 -
Eugene Atget photographed Paris from 1888 until his death in 1927. Christopher Rauschenberg retraced Atget's steps in 1997 and 1998, photographing the same scenes, and documents his project in a gallery at Lens Culture. The gallery includes an audio discussion of the project. [more inside]
posted by monju_bosatsu
on Feb 24, 2006 -
Sir John Soane
(1753-1837) was responsible for the design of quite a few of London’s public buildings
(and to some extent, its phonebooths
). His home, now a museum
, is filled to the brim with architectural relics, sculptures, paintings, drawings, stained glass, and assorted curiosities. Almost unchanged since his death, it also contains the gravesite
of his wife’s beloved dog Fanny, a mummified rat, an Egyptian sarcophagus
, and an imaginary monk named Padre Giovanni. Best of all, on the first Tuesday of every month the museum has a candlelight tour which enhances the spooky splendor
of the rooms.
posted by annaramma
on Dec 15, 2005 -