bird’s eye view

February 22, 2013

flat

There has been a bit of a purge going on in the Snow-Myyear household recently. Some parties seem to believe where we live is too small, but others believe we have too many physical belongings.

Either way, this series of photos documenting how some of the 100,000 Hong Kong-ites who live in less than 4 square metres do it, and calls for improved living conditions for them. I hope this family keeps the newspaper tablecloth even so.

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preikestolen mountain cabin

January 15, 2009

preikestolen

Preikestolen, or the Pulpit, has long been on The Chef’s wish list of places to visit. Now, with the opening of the Norwegian Trekking Association‘s blond-wooded, airy new mountain cabin 2 hours’ walk away, Preikestolhytta, there’s more reason than ever before to go.

We’ve even extracted a promise from Inspector Gadget to take us this year. It’s his childhood stomping ground after all. Here’s a closer look at Helen & Hard‘s creation. Want to join us?

chinatown walking tour

October 24, 2008

So what’s this walking tour I keep going on about? Well, I found a very old pamphlet at Casa Myyear in KL when I was home in August. It outlined a two-part walking tour of KL’s Chinatown, and was drawn up by Victor Chin at the end of the 80’s. He was instrumental in raising awareness of the cultural heritage the buildings and shophouses in the area held, through a series of colourful watercolour paintings of each on a stark white background.

The area is also one of my favourite neighbourhoods in KL. The tour we did focused on the area north of Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, around Medan Pasar (above) and Leboh Pudu. Through it we also found the Sin Sze Si Ya Temple, which I didn’t even know existed, down a little alleyway that I have passed many times.

Between the time the guide was published and now, many of the traditional shops selling spices, fabrics and dried foods have disappeared. The area has taken on a new role as home to many Nepalese migrant workers, so shops and restaurants catering to their needs have mushroomed. As with any city, the streets and its character evolve.

Not too many photos I’m afraid, as our tour was momentarily disrupted by rain, after which it started to get dark quickly. But personally I have only known, and as a result love, the beautiful old buildings with the mould, creepers and disrepair. The newly renovated ones often have a tarted-up look I can’t quite reconcile. Make sure you look up above street level the next time you are in the area, and you’ll be surprised what you find.

PS – I got in touch with Victor via his blog, and he tells me that copies of walking tour map are still available from him. So just drop him a line if you are interested!

uma sapna

September 29, 2008

After the wedding, we jetted off for a few glorious days on magical Bali, the Isle of the Gods. Our home away from home was a villa at Uma Sapna, thanks to a great recommendation from Miss M’s mum (and the rest of the meenahs!). Warm and friendly staff, spotless, wide open spaces and a pool to swim in.

Given the facilities, the prices were very reasonable, as borne out by their full occupancy rates all year round. Good location down a quiet street in Seminyak if you are thinking of staying in the area, walking distance to restaurants and bars, and the beach.

open house

September 9, 2008

How to handle high tourist season when your flat is only little? We managed by putting our guests on a boat together to the Viking Ship Museum, and then escaping for a cultural visit of our own. We’d walked past the DogA (the Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture) many times, and even eaten at their restaurant, but never visited the actual museum.

Museum is perhaps a big word for this place, and it certainly raised our expectations, possibly unfairly. It is more a space for temporary exhibitions, and as luck would have it the one we saw was quite possibly the oddest one I have ever seen in my life.

Open House showcased the fifteen different designers’ and architects’ ideas on the houses of the future. The word house is used in the loosest sense of the word, in that the concepts ranged from just that, a living concept to the way-out-there wild.

The coolest of the former was Seoul Commune’s Green Towers in the Park, in a gristly eXistenZ-looking kind of way (see picture above). The maddest of the latter was tied between the accoustic house that channels all the surrounding ambient sound into your house instead of blocking it out (fine if you live in the forest, dread to imagine if you live downtown) and the amazing house-less house, an ‘alternative to living in closed spaces’. Who needs walls when you (and your dog) have a super-duper temperature controlled suit?

I guess a lot of people had fun letting their imaginations go wild on this theme, but Mr. Snow and I left a little bemused (after wandering around a little looking for the rest of the museum). A case of mismatched expectations I guess, so next time I’ll go in with a more open mind. Who knows what I’ll find… a museum-less museum?

m’zab valley from above

September 5, 2008

I’m sure almost all of you must have seen one of Yann Arthus Bertrand‘s aerial photos before. Even so, every time I see a new photo, like this one of the M’Zab valley in Algeria, my eyes are drawn to the fine details, trying to decipher what it is exactly I am looking at from this unfamiliar angle.

Bertrand has published several books of his photos, but an extensive catalogue of the images is also available online if you fancy a trip around the world from your desk.

His text tells the story of the photo above.

‘Some 370 miles (600 km) south of Algiers, beyond the peaks of the Saharan Atlas Mountains, are towns of pink plaster, gentle light, and narrow covered lanes, extending along the M’Zab wadi, which winds through the first plateaus of the Great Western Erg. The climate here is rough, hot, and windy, and rain is extremely rare. But the towns built in the 11th century by the Mozabites are miracles of their kind which have never ceased to amaze such great architects as Le Corbusier, Ravereau, and Frank Lloyd Wright. With extraordinary uniformity, these towns in the M’Zab wadi are all built high up in order to avoid the rare but violent floods, and they all follow the same basic plan: the houses stretch from the mosque at the top of the town, down toward the lower levels where the city ramparts are, while palm groves provide fruit, vegetables and shade during periods of great heat. Each house is laid out around a main room whose ceiling is pierced by a large square opening, and this is the central patio where the family congregates. A flight of steps leads to the terrace, often artificially constructed and sometimes ringed with small rooms where people sleep in the winter.’

pirate train station

September 4, 2008

We’ve all heard of piracy and copyright infringement but this is honestly the oddest and most audacious story I have ever heard. In 2002, Netzwerkarchitekten of Darmstadt in Germany submitted an entry (in the first two pictures below) in a competition to design stations for the new Line 5 of the above ground metro rail system in Beijing. In January of 2003, they were informed that they had won the first prize.

Fast forward five years, and numerous attempts by the practice to contact the competition organizers and the Beijing Municipality Engineering Institute in connection with the project failed. Netzwerk have yet to see their prize money, nor official acknowledgement of the award.

So you might imagine their shock when an eagle-eyed individual spotted a station of the exact same design under construction in Beijing with the help of Google Earth:

Just before the Beijing Olympics started, the station Da Yang Fang was opened along with the rest of Line 5. With the pirated station.

This is their official statement on the matter (in German). I’m speechless, I can’t imagine what the architects must have been like!

skybar, kl

September 3, 2008

With this view, we could only be in one city. We started our trip with surprisingly good cocktails at the Skybar at on the 33rd floor of Trader’s Hotel just across from KLCC, with Team Italy. Next on the menu, a visit to the fish spa, and Jakarta and Bali travelogues, not to mention a report from a Batak wedding. Stay tuned!

suvarnabhumi, bangkok

September 2, 2008

Our trip back to KL this time took us through Suvarnabhumi, the not-so-new anymore Bangkok airport. Without the state of emergency that has now been declared in Bangkok, all seemed very calm and peaceful.

I found the terminal reminiscent of Charles de Gaulle’s Terminal 2E, refreshing and clean, if a little on the sterile side. My favourite was an ultra-bling golden mini-pagoda at one end (you can see it peeking out from behind the board in the photo above). Not quite according to the architects brief, I suspect!

bird’s nest

August 12, 2008

Now that the Olympic games have started in Beijing, it is difficult to miss seeing the event’s stunning new stadium, known as the Bird’s Nest. Its deconstructed order made it love at first sight for me, as opposed to its neighbour the Water Cube. The stadium is the work of the Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron, with the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei as its artistic consultant, a term he does not like, according to the report below by Ed Vulliamy.

In fact, he has never visited the stadium he designed, and says he never will, preferring instead to stroke his cats and have a bit of lunch. This very mild explanation from a usually confrontational artist was eventually expanded on here, with Ai explaining why he would not attend the opening ceremony held there. Read on to follow someone who went in seach of the real Ai Weiwei.

‘On my final day in Beijing, I go in search of the Bird’s Nest’s creative origins, which entails a journey beyond the depressing Lego-brick city to a very intriguing quarter. ‘Arts Zone 798’ and the series of studios beyond it constitute a rather lovely corner of Beijing, where old streets and buildings have been spared the bulldozer and turned into a kind of trendy theme park in which the authorities seem not only to permit but encourage cultural activity. Read the rest of this entry »