Saturday, June 30, 2012

Baltimore, Maryland, USA

The Chesapeake Lightship served the country well in Cape Cod Bay, the Delaware Bay, and at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay before coming to rest in Baltimore's Inner Harbor in the 1980s. [1995]

Friday, June 29, 2012

Liverpool, England, UK

In a pool of water at Canning Dock, the Bar lightship stands moored as a soon-to-be bed-and-breakfast. It was originally stationed at the mouth of the Mersey River, Liverpool's connection to the world.  The 'bar' was the imaginary line that separated the Mersey from the Irish Sea.  Do you see a profile of a ship's bow in the building behind?  [2011]

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki's Evangelical Lutheran Cathedral was patterned on the largest Russian Orthodox sobor in St. Petersburg.  Blended into one, you've got a little bit of Russia, some Greece and Rome, a touch of the the Vatican, and the profile and proportions of an American county courthouse.  So, tell me why anyone would think this was in Finland.  [2005]

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Waikiki and Diamond Head: 
one alive, the other dead.
Amazing hunks, torsos in trunks,
bikini clads, frolicking lads,
natty knaves:  all await incoming waves.
Zones of water still, sandy fill,
a palm tree drill, and one staid hill
of blackened chunks, falling plunks,
landscape rough: all made of tuff.
[2011]

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mexico City, Mexico

Mesopotamia had its lions.  Egypt had its sphinxes.  Mexico had its serpents.  Temple guarians all, and all with 20/20 vision.  When in Mexico City, the Templo Mayor is the place to practice your parseltongue.   [2008]

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sofia, Bulgaria

Take a good long look because gatherings like this are disappearing from street corners everywhere.  These folks seem to be talking to each other, listening and reacting, too!  What's missing from this conclave?  Smartphones: which are even worse at short circuiting face-to-face communication than their predecessors, cell phones.  [2010]

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Madrid, Spain

Elephants seem to be more head strong than people, so they have been given a unique job by the architects of Madrid.  They also offer a bonus service.  They remember whatever they see with those under-sized eyes, perfect places for big brother to place CCTV cameras.  "I see and I remember": a perfect message for a security-crazed society.  [2010]

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Heroic action figures from the 1930s seem at home in the art deco part of town. Classical forms from ancient Greece and Rome have become heavy duty titans of the industrial era. Perhaps they are more akin to ferocious temple guardians of the Near East than the telamons of European antiquity. [2008]

Friday, June 22, 2012

Milan, Italy

Meet one strong-headed couple: Telamon and Caryatid. At least these two have been wise enough to bring along something to drink for a long day's work in Milan. Or, maybe, it's some herbal concoction in that amphora. [2008]

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


Men are just as strong-headed as women.  Masculine figures like this are called telemones, and their prototype is Atlas, a titan well known to geographers.  They were originally hired for this job by the Citizens Life Assurance Company in Adelaide, but they later re-upped with Electra House.  [2008]

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Athens, Greece

Creative thinking is about conceptualizing alternatives: exactly what these strong-headed women atop the Acropolis have been helping us do for millennia. Their message to 'chief builders': Functional alternatives to pillars can also be aesthetic. A caryatid is a feminine statue which doubles as a column, in this case holding up the Porch of the Maidens. [2006]

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Singapore, Republic of Singapore

The temple is new, but the rituals are old. The temple was built in the middle of the last decade to enshrine a relic of the Buddha, a tooth fragment brought to Singapore from Burma. The burning of incense, though, is a ubiquitous feature of East Asian Buddhism and always has been. [2011]

Monday, June 18, 2012

Castletown, Isle of Man

Castle Rushen, after which the town was named, overlooks a small creek that leads inland from a bay on the Irish Sea.  From their castle perch, the Lords of Man could see all that went on in this creek, which was the gateway to the island.  Nearby is the House of Keys.  You guessed it:  this used to be the island's capital.  [2011]

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Norfolk, Virginia, USA

Some holidays go on forever and generate widespread impacts on the cultural landscape. Others don't. Why the difference? Perhaps the landscape consequences of Father's Day will eventually come to equal those of Christmas, a holiday somewhat akin to Father's Day. [2012]

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Conway, North Carolina, USA

Where there is wind, there is energy. Where there is sunshine, there is energy. Renewables, both:  in the form of a wind pump and a Bradford pear. On North Carolina's coastal plain, the locals have figured out how to use local resources to lift water and ornament a tree. Shall we overlook the fact that the Bradford pear is an invasive species? [2012]

Friday, June 15, 2012

Bandera, Texas, USA

On a porch in rural Bandera, local meets global. Her art oozes with local talent, but her fingers bring her the wider world. She might be searching for buyers for her crafts, trying to sell some real estate, or studying medieval Polish history. Who says the Edwards Plateau is an island of isolation? [2009]

Thursday, June 14, 2012

San Francisco, California, USA

"I pledge allegiance to the flag . . .  and to the republic for which it stands." If you are in California, though, to which republic are you pledging allegiance?  Just imagine a state with the temerity to proclaim itself a republic, when it's really just another state like the other 49. Happy Flag Day! [2002]

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Manisa, Turkey

Before entering any mosque, you must take off your shoes so as not to carry the filth of the earth into a sacred domain.  Removing shoes before entering interior space is a custom in many cultures.  Sometimes the practice is religious; sometimes it's not; and sometimes it's difficult to distinguish between religious duty and long-standing tradition.  [2007]

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Zagreb, Croatia

As the day nears an end, shoppers head home from the market. On foot they are, with a toot or two.  Sorry, that's my Pennsyvania Dutch coming out. A 'toot' is a bag, and it does rhyme with foot. And you thought you were going to learn something about Croatia! [2008]

Monday, June 11, 2012

Glenelg, South Australia, Australia

The Adelaide Metro serves the beach communities on the urban area's seaside flank.  Your job is to assess how well these parts (the rail line, residences, plaza) fit together in the context of the Metro's last stop in Glenelg.  Page forward six months.  How would this scene be different?  [2011]

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Plovidv, Bulgaria

Layers of occupation are evident on the contemporary landscape of Plovdiv.  Uncovered here is the ancient Roman stadium.  There is a most interesting Latin term for the arched passageway between the rows of seats.  It was called a vomitorium because it allowed spectators to "spew forth" after an event was over.  [2010]

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Nature has a use for black and white stripes, too, but think about the contrast.  Lighthouses and jailbirds wear stripes to make them stand out.  So, are we to believe that zebras wear stripes to make them blend in?  That's the camouflage hypothesis.  This effigy is on the grounds of a temple that venerates wild animals.  [2011]

Friday, June 8, 2012

Lockhart, Texas, USA

The Bodie Island lighthouse is positioned to warn you away from the coast. This man, in his black and whites, is positioned to warn you away from a life of crime:  lest you be demoted to watering the grass on the courthouse square. [2009]

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Bodie Island, North Carolina, USA

Unlike the little lights of Maine, the lighthouses of the Outer Banks are the tallest of towers because the architecture must compensate for the topography. The land itself provides little lift. Being seen out at sea is their function, and stripes are as important to that mission as the lumens. [2006]

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Malacca, Malaysia

A porch shrine, a Chinese sign, a scooter (not mine), the palette of place, some dragony lace, where is this space?  Malacca. [2011] 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Mumbai, India

Big city or small town?  Sometimes it's hard to tell unless you switch to a wide-angle lens (whether or not you have a camera).  Actually, you are in one of the world's largest metropolises, Mumbai.  But Colaba is as intimate as two mugging men can make it.  [2011]

Monday, June 4, 2012

Macau, China

Macau is a world of its own embedded in a Chinese universe, yet strangely disconnected from it. Perhaps that is what this armillary sphere symbolizes. The armillary sphere was invented by a geographer named Eratosthenes, an ancient Greek. But, of course, the thing had been invented in China a century earlier! [2011]

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK

Irish art, language, music, and dance are all here on one mural: along with the Irish muralist. In fact, 'the mural is the message.' Perhaps no other culture in the world (save Mexico) has been so associated with mural art than the 'republican' culture of Belfast. [2009]

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mexico City, Mexico

What have we here?  A display of pop culture or a revival of indigenous tradition? In Mexico City, the answer is both. Tongue piercing makes you look young and mod, but it also connects you with Aztec rituals that extend back a thousand years. What else is pierced beside the tongue? [2008]

Friday, June 1, 2012

Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Adelaide Festival Center entertains with restored architectural facades, shiny mega-hedra, and a slice of the colorful life that is all tangled up with theaters, playhouses, and galleries.  What it really needs, though, is a farmers' market with lots of fruits and vegetables that rival the rainbow.   [2011]