Archives for category: architecture
“I don’t want to be interesting.
I want to be good.”
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
1886-1969

Seagram Building

I’ve always admired the work of Mies van der Rohe. His minimal architectural designs of industrial steel and glass have influenced twentieth century architecture around the word. Today, his “skin and bones” style dots the skylines of most cities.


Both New York City and Berlin have excellent examples of his work. The Seagram Building, located at 375 Park Avenue between 53th and 52th streets, is New York City’s only van der Rohe design (done in collaboration with Philip Johnson). It’s easy to miss. It doesn’t have the wow factor of the Chrysler or Empire State Building, but its beauty lies in its simplicity. It seems to float in the air, held together by a skeleton of steel beams and plate glass. Its interior is equally impressive with its generous use of natural light and open space. 

Seagram Plaza



The Seagram plaza is also famous. The film Social Life of Small Urban Spaces is studied by most landscape architecture students. It records the daily pattern of people socializing around the plaza, and shows how people actually use space as opposed to the intent of the landscape architect. 

Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie is another example of a van der Rohe work. Again, this almost nondescript building belies its beauty. It floats in the middle of a spare plaza. The generous use of glass allows for natural light fill the ground floor and the exhibition galleries below. Above all, this building shows how form follows function: not a square inch wasted.

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“I don’t want to be interesting.
I want to be good.”
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
1886-1969

Seagram Building

I’ve always admired the work of Mies van der Rohe. His minimal architectural designs of industrial steel and glass have influenced twentieth century architecture around the word. Today, his “skin and bones” style dots the skylines of most cities.


Both New York City and Berlin have excellent examples of his work. The Seagram Building, located at 375 Park Avenue between 53th and 52th streets, is New York City’s only van der Rohe design (done in collaboration with Philip Johnson). It’s easy to miss. It doesn’t have the wow factor of the Chrysler or Empire State Building, but its beauty lies in its simplicity. It seems to float in the air, held together by a skeleton of steel beams and plate glass. Its interior is equally impressive with its generous use of natural light and open space. 

Seagram Plaza



The Seagram plaza is also famous. The film Social Life of Small Urban Spaces is studied by most landscape architecture students. It records the daily pattern of people socializing around the plaza, and shows how people actually use space as opposed to the intent of the landscape architect. 

Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie is another example of a van der Rohe work. Again, this almost nondescript building belies its beauty. It floats in the middle of a spare plaza. The generous use of glass allows for natural light fill the ground floor and the exhibition galleries below. Above all, this building shows how form follows function: not a square inch wasted.

Café Moskau on Karl-Marx-Allee:
Built in 1959, this building is a wonderful
example of what socialistic architecture could achieve

It seems like yesterday that the East German Wall came tumbling down, but it has been nearly 23 years since the fall of communism. Nowhere has German integration and capitalism been more apparent than in East Berlin. Each time I return, there is less and less of the old East. Little by little, the symbols, architecture, and infrastructure is replaced.

When I first saw Karl-Marx-Allee (the boulevard that showcased East Germany’s military might during the annual May Day Parade) in the early 90s, it was like a ghost town: the store fronts empty, the streets lifeless, and the infrastructure decaying. Today, there are scores of new shops, restaurants, and cafés. On a warm day, there are hundreds of people bustling along the pavement. Here are a few images of what remains of the old. 

An colorful mural on a building near
Alexanderplatz. It depicts workers
united in a common cause: the
pursuit of human excellence. 


This is where the Lenin Monument used to be. 
It’s now used by kids to play. 


The Warschauer Str. S-Bahn being
updated. At last there will be an elevator!
Café Moskau on Karl-Marx-Allee:
Built in 1959, this building is a wonderful
example of what socialistic architecture could achieve

It seems like yesterday that the East German Wall came tumbling down, but it has been nearly 23 years since the fall of communism. Nowhere has German integration and capitalism been more apparent than in East Berlin. Each time I return, there is less and less of the old East. Little by little, the symbols, architecture, and infrastructure is replaced.

When I first saw Karl-Marx-Allee (the boulevard that showcased East Germany’s military might during the annual May Day Parade) in the early 90s, it was like a ghost town: the store fronts empty, the streets lifeless, and the infrastructure decaying. Today, there are scores of new shops, restaurants, and cafés. On a warm day, there are hundreds of people bustling along the pavement. Here are a few images of what remains of the old. 

An colorful mural on a building near
Alexanderplatz. It depicts workers
united in a common cause: the
pursuit of human excellence. 


This is where the Lenin Monument used to be. 
It’s now used by kids to play. 


The Warschauer Str. S-Bahn being
updated. At last there will be an elevator!

For years, I’ve been wondering about those blue overhead pipes that you see throughout Berlin. They suddenly appear on the street and then they’re gone within a few months. A few days ago, I noticed them on Warschauer Straße.


What are they? I’ve asked a few people, including some native Berliners, and even searched the web, but no one seems to know the origins of these strange, and in some ways beautiful, “works of art.” 

Most sources agree that the pipes contain water that is being pumped from underground. Since Berlin is built on a swamp, there’s a lot of groundwater just below the surface. Occasionally, when construction is taking place, the pipes are installed to prevent water breaks at the construction site. Other sources claim that the pipes transport thermal energy, but this seems unlikely since the pipes are temporary in nature and isn’t thermal energy transported underground? In any case, the pipes are here, and they do add color to the neighborhood. 

For years, I’ve been wondering about those blue overhead pipes that you see throughout Berlin. They suddenly appear on the street and then they’re gone within a few months. A few days ago, I noticed them on Warschauer Straße.


What are they? I’ve asked a few people, including some native Berliners, and even searched the web, but no one seems to know the origins of these strange, and in some ways beautiful, “works of art.” 

Most sources agree that the pipes contain water that is being pumped from underground. Since Berlin is built on a swamp, there’s a lot of groundwater just below the surface. Occasionally, when construction is taking place, the pipes are installed to prevent water breaks at the construction site. Other sources claim that the pipes transport thermal energy, but this seems unlikely since the pipes are temporary in nature and isn’t thermal energy transported underground? In any case, the pipes are here, and they do add color to the neighborhood. 

Die Fahrradhaltestelle in Berlin

When it comes to style, Paris trumps Berlin in almost every category, including its public bicycle system. Public bicycle systems are a form of bicycle sharing that are available in numerous cities around the world. In general, a public bicycle system consists of a bank of bicycles, with numerous pick-up and drop-off points, available to the general public for short-term uses and for a small fee.

Simple Elegance in Paris

In Berlin, Call a Bike is the bicycle sharing system provided by Deutsche Bahn (German Rail). It’s available around the clock for anyone to use. Once you’ve registered with the service, you have access to any bike located throughout the city. Likewise, Paris has a system known as Vélib. Both systems are automated, easy to use, and relatively inexpensive. You merely go to a bicycle pick-up point (Die Fahrradhaltestelle in Germany), key in a code, and the bike is yours. Unfortunately, there’s where the similarity of the two systems ends.  

In Berlin, the bikes are locked into large utilitarian concrete blocks evocative of the dull Soviet inspired apartments built in Berlin during the cold war. By contrast, the bikes in Paris are attached to elegantly curved metallic posts, something Rodin could have created. 

This constant attention to detail and awareness of design sets France apart from the rest of the world. With the possible exception of the Scandinavian countries, I can think no other place that can match the French sense of proportion, simplicity, and beauty. Even something as seemingly inconsequential as a bicycle post is elevated to an art form in France. 

Die Fahrradhaltestelle in Berlin

When it comes to style, Paris trumps Berlin in almost every category, including its public bicycle system. Public bicycle systems are a form of bicycle sharing that are available in numerous cities around the world. In general, a public bicycle system consists of a bank of bicycles, with numerous pick-up and drop-off points, available to the general public for short-term uses and for a small fee.

Simple Elegance in Paris

In Berlin, Call a Bike is the bicycle sharing system provided by Deutsche Bahn (German Rail). It’s available around the clock for anyone to use. Once you’ve registered with the service, you have access to any bike located throughout the city. Likewise, Paris has a system known as Vélib. Both systems are automated, easy to use, and relatively inexpensive. You merely go to a bicycle pick-up point (Die Fahrradhaltestelle in Germany), key in a code, and the bike is yours. Unfortunately, there’s where the similarity of the two systems ends.  

In Berlin, the bikes are locked into large utilitarian concrete blocks evocative of the dull Soviet inspired apartments built in Berlin during the cold war. By contrast, the bikes in Paris are attached to elegantly curved metallic posts, something Rodin could have created. 

This constant attention to detail and awareness of design sets France apart from the rest of the world. With the possible exception of the Scandinavian countries, I can think no other place that can match the French sense of proportion, simplicity, and beauty. Even something as seemingly inconsequential as a bicycle post is elevated to an art form in France. 

An Occupy Wall Street Protester
at Union Square
A simple, yet elegant black frock that can be worn for both day and night.


A Park Gate Near the
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Street art in New York City takes many guises: monuments, sculptures, fountains, and of course buildings. But street art can also be clothing, fashion models being photographed, actors being filmed, or just about anything. Here are a few examples of street art taken on my recent trip to New York City. 

Fashion Model Striking Just the Right Pose
A Really Beautiful Public Restroom Near Central Park 
(Inside is clean too!)
An Upper East Side Town House
Ready for Spring

A Temporary Art Installation
at Union Square:
Gran Elefandret 2008
Miquel Barcelo
Actors Resting Between Takes of
Law & Order
Bird Sculpture Outside Upper West Side
Subway Station

An Occupy Wall Street Protester
at Union Square
A simple, yet elegant black frock that can be worn for both day and night.


A Park Gate Near the
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Street art in New York City takes many guises: monuments, sculptures, fountains, and of course buildings. But street art can also be clothing, fashion models being photographed, actors being filmed, or just about anything. Here are a few examples of street art taken on my recent trip to New York City. 

Fashion Model Striking Just the Right Pose
A Really Beautiful Public Restroom Near Central Park 
(Inside is clean too!)
An Upper East Side Town House
Ready for Spring

A Temporary Art Installation
at Union Square:
Gran Elefandret 2008
Miquel Barcelo
Actors Resting Between Takes of
Law & Order
Bird Sculpture Outside Upper West Side
Subway Station