Archive for the ‘memorials’ Category

Removing Statues — Changing Stadium Names

The officials running the city of New Orleans decided to remove the public statues of Confederate States of America figures. Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the City Council sparked both huge protests and large rallies of support. The same historic moments mean heritage to some and bondage and misery to others. The city leaders declared the statues a public nuisance and determined that the pain they inflicted outweighed the heritage they represented. The statues reminded many of their past oppression but also remind people of today’s inequality in New Orleans.

New Orleans is largely segregated. Stagnating wages and gentrification have compounded income disparity here. People in East New Orleans suffer from extremely limited economic and social opportunities and the area has not recovered from Hurricane Katrina.

In Melbourne, the tennis stadium bears the name of tennis great Margaret Court. The 74-year-old is currently a Christian pastor and has over the past several years made anti-gay statements, including personal attacks on specific players. The comments certainly represent the heritage and attitudes of a segment of the population but have also generated significant opposition and backlash. The majority of professional tennis players have made their support for same-sex marriage known.

Several interesting questions arise from this controversy. Does the Australian Tennis Federation elect to remove Court’s name from the stadium because of the public rancor and hurt she now represents? If they don’t will tennis professional elect to skip the Australian Open? Stay tuned.


Portugal’s Castles and Palaces

On our recent trip to Portugal we encountered several castles. One of the first area’s we visited in Lisbon was the old city of Alfama. The neighborhood dates back to the Medieval times and includes Moorish influences. Its winding streets proved nothing like the uphill trudge to Castelo, where the castle of St. George held forth on top of the hill. The views of the city and this uphill walk explained why this represented an ideal location for a fortification.



Amazingly, this fort served the Romans, the Visigoths who displaced them. The Arabs who took over the Iberian Peninsula, and finally the Christians. It served as the Royal Palace for the Portuguese during the late 1300s.




Another castle of the Arab and early Portuguese eras, served the walled city of Obidos. The best thing about the city involved being able to walk the old wall from the entry gate to the castle.


The sun baked the area in heat and you could feel sweat as we made our way. We reached the end where the castle stood. This palace lacked the charm of St. George’s but at least one  took solace in the presence of instruments of torture around the other side.


In the medieval city of Coimbra, the palace received a unique role, it became a university, and the University of Coimbra is well-respected one at that. Here’s the view the balcony of the palace offered:


The palace served as a location of class rooms, the former quarters of servants provided more classrooms and dorms. For those of us who earned doctorate degrees, defending in a room such as this with the university’s deans looking down upon you, daunting.



A second view from the outside balcony revealed the layout.


The notable library, known as Biblioteca Joanina, on the far right-hand side of the photo can be seen in these photos taken on the sly.




Some of us who consider ourselves rebellious and rule breakers might have taken a different route at this university. The library’s basement served as an academic prison for students who broke the rules. The student stayed in the stark concrete areas talking with no one and a guard escorted him to classes using the back stairs.

By far the most picturesque location for castles and palaces is Sintra. In the hills, an hour outside of Lisbon, Sintra attracted attention 200 years ago when the Romantics wrote wistfully about its charms. This UNESCOWorld Heritage Site, became the center of European nineteenth century Romantic architecture. But the castle served as a Arabic remnant that the Christians isolated during the ninth century. This photo illustrates the remnants that remain of the castle.


This view came from the top of the Royal Palace built under the reign of Queen Maria of Portugal (1834-1853) who left many of the details of the Palace de Pena to her husband, King-Consort Ferdinand. Taking over the remains of  the 16th century monastery of the Order of Saint Jerome, the royal pair hired an architect Baron von Eschwege to design the place. However, the palace had too many Germanic elements in its initial stages and five years later, the architect and Ferdinand shaped the palace more toward the history of their country and the royal pair’s taste.


It did seem to have a theme park look but the feel definitely became real as one entered inside through the archway. The tile felt very Portuguese and the Manueline, Romantic, Moorish and other styles worked together.


All servants and the royals walked around the palace using the cloisters which contained a great deal of elaborate design elements. This tile is different from the outside and there are several creatures whose mouths provide water drainage and visages scare away evil spirits.


Inside the three generations of kings and queens who used the palace had many rooms, including separate bedrooms, baths and offices. 100_3851


What’s a palace without great grounds. hidden amidst the acres of land were a chalet, three duck ponds, a small lake and a gazebo.


Marvelous trees lined the paths.


After stopping for lunch we headed to a palace from the late 1800’s built on land recently sold in 1892 to Carvalho Monteiro, who inherited family money made from precious stones and coffee from Brazil. A lawyer trained at the University of Coimbra, Monteiro and his architect Luigi Manini, build Quinta da Regaleira, to display symbols that reflected his interests and ideologies.

We went through the palace and chapel at hare speed.




We looked forward to taking on the amazing grounds. These neatly sculpted winding paths gave way to a forest toward the eastern end of the park.


The grounds included tunnels, initiation wells and lakes, fountains and even an aquarium.


One well carried the reputation of representing Dante’s circles of Hell. As you walked around and around, ever descending into the darkness one was left to wonder.





Unbuilt Architecture

The National Building Museum has an upcoming show called Unbuilt Washington. The exhibition will feature large and small-scale buildings of all kinds that were planned but never erected.

Imagine that you are traveling into Washington, D.C., from northern Virginia. As you approach the Potomac River, you see the tall, craggy, medieval-looking towers of the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial Bridge looming in the foreground, largely blocking the view of the National Mall beyond. As you reach the end of the bridge, now you can clearly see the enormous pyramid that was built to honor Abraham Lincoln. Going around to the side of the pyramid, you note the odd, pagoda-like structure dedicated to George Washington—a design that was executed after the original obelisk had stood unfinished for decades. Surrounding these monuments are informal paths that meander through dense woods, which help to filter the noise from the two elevated highways running along either side of the Mall. Barely visible in the distance is the Capitol, a dignified but modest structure that looks rather like a classroom building at a liberal arts college, topped by a tiny cupola.


John Russell Pope, Proposal for Lincoln Memorial, 1912. National Archives.
Among the buildings not constructed in the city were several stadiums.
An architectural plan shows a large stadium on what has been used as the polo grounds of West Potomac Park. Click on the link below:
Another is the memorial to Theodore Roosevelt at the east end of the Mall.And one for the veterans of World War II.
Finally, there were great plans for Olympic Stadiums in Washington and Baltimore during the early 2000s.

Unbuilt Washington reveals the Washington that could have been by presenting architectural and urban design projects that were proposed but, for widely varied reasons, never executed. Such projects often exercised a profound influence on what was built and may offer lessons that inform ongoing debates about the design and development of Washington and other cities. What were the motives, assumptions, and cultural trends underlying such proposals? Why were these designs never realized? What was their impact on projects that were completed?

The physical character of Washington, D.C., that we take for granted today is the unique result of countless decisions, debates, successes, failures, reconsiderations, missed opportunities, and lucky breaks. To tourists and residents alike, the city’s greatest landmarks may seem so appropriate, so correct—it is hard to imagine that they could have turned out completely differently. But nothing in the built environment of Washington (or in any other city, for that matter) is predestined.

Vietnam Sight: Ho Chi Minh Museum

After days traveling around Ho Chi Minh City, the Mekong Delta and then to Hanoi, I had my fill of Ho Chi Minh.

Yes, the man led an independence movement. He lived an austere life which is too often rare for leaders. He believed in the value of the national state and the need for people to lead their own country.

However, after seeing hundreds of posters, placards and billboards as well as his image on every bill, I had enough. Or so I thought.

We went to the Ho Chi Minh Museum and I was surprised.

The top floor is not simply a series of artifacts to tell Ho Chi Minh’s life. Nor is it filled with text that describes the key moments. Instead, the floor is split up into exhibit spaces, eight in all, the chronicle Minh’s life. They break his life into segments and surround them with larger ideas that occurred during the decade, such as Post-Impressionist Paris, Marxist thought in Russia, modernism in Europe, and the fight against fascists during World War II.

These ideas are told in a very environmental manner. They’re art installations, in the tradition of the 1970s art scene.
You walk through spaces that show you modernism, or show you Paris during the last decade of the 19th century. You not only see these ideas but you feel them as you walk through the spaces.

The area covering the independence fight against the French and Americans appears within the section that features this look.

One reviewer summarizes some of my perceptions about the museum:

The whole thing is utterly anachronistic, and sort of mind-blowing, which is to say, something you absolutely must see to believe. It’s hard to imagine what contemporary Vietnamese who visit here would make of the place. Small children may subsequently suffer from very confusing dreams for years to come.

Kennedy Center: India

Go take a day this month and go down to the Kennedy Center. There are a ton of plays, panels, talks, and art exhibits to see focused on India.

Saw play last night about a 19th century actress Nati Binodini who flourished as an actress after overcoming her start in prostitution.

One of the most interesting things was Reena Saini Kallat’s art piece Falling Fables.

Made of rubber stamps that carry the names of monuments and sites considered historically important that are decaying or eroding, the piece raises issues about loss, architecture, history. 

The government of a country can only have so much to spend and its private citizens can only contribute so much cash as well, choices have to be made about what kind of effort needs to be made to save buildings. India also needs to save its tigers and they cost money to keep the habitats available to them. How much money ought to go to each.

New Delhi Travel article that discusses the loss of monuments follows:

Royalty and Castles

How many of you imagined your self as a prince or princess as a child?

I enjoyed reading biographies and watching documentaries on the European royal families. Recently saw the movie, The Young Victoria on the flight back from Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg where I took trips to see various castles and fortresses.

In Ghent we spent two hours touring the Castle of the Counts which dates back to the 1300s. You can see the first part of the building to be constructed, then how they built around that part and expanded to take over more land and build the structure higher.

The museum shows you how boldface the methods of maintaining power were for these dominant families with displays of the torture devices.

The most glamorous castle we saw was in Luxembourg. The area of Vianden was historically involved in wars from the battles among fiefdoms in the Middle ages through World War II.

The sight of the castle looming on top of the hill is impressive.

This is the storybook castle according to a friend.

The bedroom shows that the count believed in the benefit of sleeping upright like most people did in the era.

The view from up top is really amazing.

This was the castle owned by one of the families that became the royals in the Netherlands. King William II sold it in 1820 and the place fell into continual disrepair. Although Victor Hugo stayed there in the early 1870s.

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Urban Archaeologist

Heading out tomorrow morning to be a sports archaeologist.

The Washington City Paper’s Cheap Seats columnist and I are going to look over the places where Washignton, DC had ball parks and arenas. We know that there are some remaining touches that indicate that a track or stadium once existed in two of these locations. But what else may be at some of these other places?

DC had several old baseball fields on either side of the Capitol Building. They had two fields in neighborhoods. They had a race track near the Canal. They had an arena where pro wrestling really took off as a sport. They had an arena where the Beatles played their first US concert. Have all the places been completely destroyed.

Lesbian & Gay Historic Preservation Success in Washington, DC

Gays, lesbians, the homophile movement all received a burst of recognition Thursday when the Historic Preservation Review Board voted unanimously to make Franklin Kameny’s house Washington DC’s first gay site on the DC List of Historic Sites. The Board also decided to raise the nomination to the National Register of Historic Sites at the National Park Service. Dr. Kameny’s transforming role in creating a militant, and successful, campaign for gay civil rights in employment, accommodation, and assembly and reversing legal, medical and clerical opposition to gay rights. The house was also his office and the location where he coined the slogan, “Gay is good.”

Members of the Rainbow History Project established a committee to write the nomination in 2003. After working with the Historic Preservation Office, the Rainbow Committee, particularly Mark Meinke, resubmitted the proposal. The DC Preservation Board worked on the project in 2008. ANC3D unanimously approved the nomination of the Kameny site as a DC historic landmark a year later.

The effort gained momentum through the solicitation of the support of others. The National Trust for Historic Preservation supported the nomination with a letter to the Historic Preservation Office. Rainbow History Project members solicited support from a large number of historians and organizations, including the American Historical Association’s Committee on LGBT History, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Human Rights Campaign. Mark Meinke, chair of Rainbow History commented that “This designation adds the Kameny home and office to a handful of GLBT sites recognized in the US. Kameny’s home now joins Henry Gerber’s home in Chicago, the Harvey Milk camera shop and home in San Francisco, and the Stonewall Inn in New York City, amongst a few others, as preserved historic gay community sites.”

Former Director of Diversity for the National Trust for Historic Preservation Jeffrey Harris observed that the house on 5020 Cathedral Avenue, NW and other historic designations entail a significant amount of effort. “However, I think someone should also look at the prospect of landmarking Paula Giddings place in Philly, and the home of the lady who married her long time partner in California.”

Media coverage of the designation included some gay press and coverage through the Associated Press wire service. The Washington Blade ran a feature. The Washington Post ran a super piece with details about the effort, about Dr. Kameny’s life and a nice photograph. The Minnesota Star Tribune, San Francisco Gate and Fresno Bee picked up the AP story. Intriguingly, news outlets, such as the Washington Business Journal, assigned a reporter to write a small blurb about the designation. The Las Vegas television station, KTNV (ABC) and the city’s radio station KDWN, carried the story as well. Viva Las Vegas! Other information sources featured the story. Topix, and my favorite, Slog.

Obama Day

DC is going crazy. Went to the “Manifest Hope” gallery show 3333 M Street, Georgetown. Think it used to be the Staples near Key Bridge. Local and national artists on Obama, including recent star Shepard Fairy. Lots of images of Barrack, Michelle, Black history—styles such as cubism, abstract.

The energy was really great, with people all thrilled to be there. Good music and everybody taking pictures and videos of all the pieces and the people walking around.

Saw the concert in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Excellent performances and all of us jammed into a huge crowd with people all talking to each other.

Washington DC Lively Statues

What do you think of when you think of DC’s statues and monuments?

guys on horses, abstract war memorials, the Mall?

In the days when they built most of the men on horses statues it was commonly thought that viewers would have the same reaction of thankfulness for heroic men and their heroic deeds.  They didn’t and now one wonders what visitors and residents of the capital city think when they pass another mounted warrior?

Sullivan’s article in Washington Post makes you think beyond warrior statues.

The physician Samuel Hahnemann Memorial near Scott Circle is not as glorious as the memorial for sculptor Mirian Adams in Rock Creek Cemetery.

Courtesy of DC Cultural Tourism:

I’m glad he picked Jim Henson and Kermit and the canoe rowing in front of the Canadian Embassy as they’re both fun and very unique.

A personal favorite that I share with many a DC visitor is the Boy Scout Memorial in the President’s Park on 15th Street. Most see this as a highly homoerotic piece.