Earlier this week Archinect interviewed me for their new series on architecture photographers.
I have updated Figure-Ground.com with two buildings from San Francisco:
I updated Figure-Ground.com with three buildings from Tokyo:
- Christian Dior Omotesando - SANAA
- Mikimoto Ginza 2 - Toyo Ito
- Tokyo International Forum - Rafael Viñoly
I still have about a half-dozen buildings that I have shot but have not had the chance to post.
I've finally gotten around to setting up a long-overdue feed for Figure-Ground.com. You can subscribe to it at: http://figure-ground.com/index.xml.
And the picture above is one I never put up before of Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall [Figure-Ground.com].
The media this week (and all month, really) has been wall-to-wall news, articles and essays about Beijing. Here's my contribution to the avalanche of Beijing coverage:
- Beijing [Figure-Ground.com]
- CCTV Headquarters - Rem Koolhaas/OMA [Figure-Ground.com]
- National Centre for the Performing Arts - Paul Andreu [Figure-Ground.com]
Incidentally, for the first time that I can remember, I'm actually excited about the Olympics. It has not much to do with the Games themselves, but everything to do with the host city and country. All the controversies surrounding this Olympics (the pollution, the media censorship, the crackdown in Tibet, the support of the Sudanese goverment) and the herculean effort the Chinese have made in successfully building a new Beijing that just screams money and power everywhere you look, have made the Olympics interesting again.
- Nakagin Capsule Tower (1972) - Kisho Kurokawa [Figure-Ground.com]
I've also expanded Figure/Ground's Tokyo (2005—2007) section to include photos from Fukuoka and Nagoya. Therefore, the section has been renamed "Japan" to reflect the expanded scope. Definitely take a look at the Fukuoka sub-section if you are interested in architecture. There are quite a few interesting buildings in that set.
I love Taniguchi's buildings. They're very elegant and understated.
- Toyota Municipal Museum of Art - Yoshio Taniguchi [Figure-Ground.com]
Another Taniguchi building I've photographed: The Gallery of Horyuji Treasures.
- Osanbashi Yokohama International Passenger Terminal - Foreign Office Architects [Figure-Ground.com]
Three recent works of Tadao Ando in Tokyo (pictured above from left to right: hhstyle.com/Casa, Omotesando Hills, 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT). You see a definite departure from earlier works with the incoporation of lots of sharp angles and diagonals. I'm not sure I like this "new" Ando. These are pretty underwhelming projects compared to his earlier work like the Church of the Light and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.
- Tadao Ando in Tokyo, 2005—2007 [Figure-Ground.com]
- Harajuku Protestant Church (2005) - Ciel Rouge Creation [Figure-Ground.com]
- Bangkok & Ko Phangan [Figure-Ground.com]
A selection of photos from four trips to Tokyo taken between April 2005 and December 2007.
- Tokyo [Figure-Ground.com]
Surprise, surprise, another update to Figure/Ground! Hot on the heels of the Indonesia travelogue, here's a small update featuring a few shots of Frank Lloyd Wright's Imperial Hotel entrance (yes, just the entrance), moved from Tokyo and planted in an architectural history theme park near Nagoya.
I thought it looked extremely sad, having been torn not just from its location, but from the rest of the building as well. It's architecture without context.
The photos of the truncated building set against a lush mountain backdrop and overlooking a lake look just so ridiculously incongruous and wrong, so you won't see those here. Some of you are probably curious to see them, but I simply cannot do that to FLW.
- Main Entrance Hall and Lobby of the Imperial Hotel (1923) - Frank Lloyd Wright [Figure-Ground.com]
Photos from a short trip to Indonesia last May:
- Indonesia [Figure-Ground.com]
I can't believe it's been ten months since I last updated Figure-Ground.com. It's frightening how time flies. I've introduced a couple of minor tweaks to the site's look as well.
See also the Indonesia (May 2007) photoset on Flickr.
These photos are from a trip I took to Seoul over two-and-a-half years ago. I've been meaning to put them up but never got around to it. I'm actually at the airport on my way to Jakarta right now; hopefully, I won't sit on my ass for two-plus years before putting the photos from this trip up. I'm planning on going to some rather out of the way places in Indonesia so wish me luck! This is the first time I'm going somewhere where I need to take preventive medication (for malaria). I almost wanted to cancel my ticket after I read about all the horrible diseases I could contract there. Yikes.
- Seoul [Figure-Ground.com]
"We were told there were ghosts in the house. I decided the ghosts were ghosts of cubism." —Frank Gehry
A small update today: a few exterior shots of the Gehry Residence in Santa Monica. I took these after I went to see Eames House in nearby Pacific Palisades.
I finally got around to seeing Sydney Pollack's documentary Sketches of Frank Gehry last night and I remembered I have a few shots of his house which I never posted so here they are.
- Gehry Residence [Figure-Ground.com]
The documentary is okay, nothing too interesting. It's basically a 80-minute love-fest of Gehry and his work. I understand Gehry is a larger-than-life figure, but can the partners in his firm come off as any more in deference of him? Craig Webb, who by the way is a splitting image of Lyle Lovett, acted more like an awe-struck first-year student assisting his famous professor than a partner in a major architecture firm.
Some Gehry Quotes from the Documentary
On starting a new project: "I'm always scared that I'm not going to know what to do. It's a terrifying moment."
On a model he's working on: "That is so stupid looking, it's great."
On Alvar Aalto: "I would say my work is probably closer to him than any of the other previous generations."
On architecture: "What bugs me are these god damn rules that my profession has as to what fits and what doesn't."
I have put up a selection of photos from my trip to Egypt last month:
- Egypt [Figure-Ground.com]
The most memorable part of the trip for me was the night spent in the Western Desert. Some of my favorite shots are from there as well.
There is also a photoset on Flickr with some photos of me being a tourist, plus other miscellaneous photos from the trip.
Over in my Flickr photostream I have posted a set of photos of Yingge Ceramics Museum, located about half an hour outside of Taipei. There's not a lot of great architecture in Taiwan, modern or otherwise. For example, with the exception of a church by I.M. Pei (which I have yet to check out), no notable architect has built here. That said, this is one of the better buildings on this island. It's designed by a local architecture firm 竹間聯合建築師事務所 (Zhujian Architecture Studio). Nevertheless, it's nothing special. That's why it's not being featured on my architecture photography website Figure/Ground; but it's worth seeing what the state of modern architecture is in Taiwan so I've uploaded the set to my Flickr photostream. These are just some quick snaps I took with my dinky pocket digicam when I went to check it out a few months ago.
- Yingge Ceramics Museum 鶯歌陶瓷博物館 [Flickr]
 Well, actually, that's not entirely true. Supposedly some highway rest stop is designed by OMA but from the pictures I've seen of it, it's not close to one of their stronger works.
- Salk Institute - Louis Kahn [Figure-Ground.com]
Another Kahn masterpiece: Kimbell Art Museum.
PS: I'd like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy new year!
- Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels - José Rafael Moneo [Figure-Ground.com]
I have seen my share of Gehry buildings and this is his most refined and beautiful. Of course, Bilbao remains a more powerful work in historical context (and it is in a much more romantic setting), but in terms of pure forms, I think Disney Hall surpasses it.
- Walt Disney Concert Hall - Frank Gehry [Figure-Ground.com]
I promised frequent updates on Figure/Ground, so here it is: another set of photos, this time of the Eames House.
- Eames House - Charles and Ray Eames [Figure-Ground.com]
After laying dormant for close to a year and a half, my travel and architecture photography site, Figure/Ground, has finally been updated! Hopefully there will be frequent updates over the next few weeks as I put up all the photos from the past 2 years (I may not have had the time to update the site, but I didn't stop traveling or taking photos!).
First up, the Caltrans District 7 Headquarters (pictured above) in Los Angeles and the new Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.
- Caltrans - Thom Mayne/Morphosis [Figure-Ground.com]
- Guthrie Theater - Jean Nouvel [Figure-Ground.com]
teNeues has published a book, Ultimate Lighting Design, featuring quite a few of my photos (buy it from Amazon and earn me some measely commission). It's a 500+ page hard-cover book featuring the work of New York lighting design firm L'Observatoire. They've worked with all the top names in architecture and the book features an impressive list of cool buildings. I haven't yet seen the actual book, but from what I saw in the layout stages, it's full of beautiful photography (not least of all mine—I'm very happy with the photos I took for this book). Look for my work in the following sections: The Standard Downtown LA, The Standard Hollywood, Chateau Marmont (these three are André Balazs' hotels in L.A.), Jean Georges Shanghai, 66 and Perry St (these three are Jean-Georges' restaurants), and Beige (this one is Alaine Ducasse's restaurant in Tokyo).
With this, I have finally posted all the photos from Italy. Next up, Seoul!
Incidentally, this was actually the first thing we saw in Italy. As soon as we landed and checked into our hotel, we headed out to the Roman suburb of Tor Tre Teste to look for this church. It wasn't easy as we only had the name of the area and a picture of the church to go by. After a couple of transfers on the buses, we got to the area and just started showing the picture to random Romans to find our way there.
What did I think of it? Let's just say that I'm not a huge Richard Meier fan and this didn't do anything to change my mind.
- Jubilee Church - Richard Meier [Figure-Ground.com]
Continuing with architecture from my Italy trip, this is Tomba Brion, a cemetary and memorial for the Brion family designed by Carlo Scarpa in a little town outside of Treviso in the Veneto. If you are interested in more Scarpa, in the Italy entry on Figure/Ground, I have a photo of a footbridge he designed in Venice and some photos of Castelvecchio in Verona. The only photos left from that trip yet to come are from Richard Meier's Jubilee Church. After that, I'll probably take a break from architecture photos and work on travel photos from Seoul that I took during a trip way back in October of last year.
- Tomba Brion - Carlo Scarpa [Figure-Ground.com]
I'm slowly working my way through the backlog of photos I've accumulated since last October. This is the music auditorium in Rome designed by Renzo Piano. Still to come from the Italy trip are Richard Meier's Jubilee Church and Carlo Scarpa's Tomba Brion.
- Auditorium Parco della Musica - Renzo Piano [Figure-Ground.com]
Located in the basement of an apartment building near Hengshan Lu in Shanghai, there is a tiny gallery that has an amazing collection of vintage Communist propaganda art from the Cultural Revolution period. To get to this apartment building, you have to walk through a gated private parking lot/complex (very common in Shanghai) and find the building tucked in the back. The gallery, with a 20RMB/US$2.42 admission fee, consists of two dinky rooms in the basement. There is a talkative fellow there who is eager to practice his English on you and loves discussing the particulars of every poster and painting.
The not-for-sale posters aren't very nicely presented, just hanging here and there all over the tiny basement rooms. Some clipped to a board, some poorly framed, others covered with a dirty plexi. But the posters themselves are incredibly interesting, both historically and visually. Plus, they are sometimes unintentionally hilarious. They also have a selection of vintage posters which you may purchase (cost: 700RMB to 2,000+RMB), but those aren't nearly as nice as the ones on display.
It's worth a visit if you are in Shanghai.
See my photos of some of the posters and paintings from the gallery posted over at figure-ground.com:
- See the posters [ 22 Photos ]
Propaganda Poster Art Center
Rm BOC 868 Huashan Lu / 華山路868號總統公寓B座OC室
+86 (21) 6211-1845 or +86 (139) 0184-1246
Hours: 9am-4:30pm daily
At long last I've put up the photos from my trip to Italy last November.
There are still architecture stuff from the trip that I have to put up (Meier's church in Rome, Piano's concert hall, also in Rome, and Scarpa's Tomba Brion), not to mention all the photos from the trips I took before going to Italy (Seoul, Tokyo, Shanghai, Taipei). One of these days (hopefully soon) I'll get around to them...
In the meantime, take a look at these photos. For those of you that actually follow my visual narratives and go through the photos one by one, you'll be glad to know that I've implemented link prefetching. If you are using a compatible browser (test yours here), the photo page will automatically load the next one in the background while you're looking at the current one. Should help speed up the browsing process. Of course, if you jump around the photos non-sequentially, this is not going to help you.
And a reminder: You could use the arrow keys on your keyboard to navigate through the photos.
- Italia [Figure-Ground.com]
And a little narcissism:
- Yusheng in Italy [24 Photos]
Photo above is from the town of Assisi.
So, I pulled the trigger and paid for a pro Flickr account. In all my years on the net, I have only paid for a web service one other time. That was in 1996 for ESPN back when it was called "ESPN SportsZone" (with the URI espnet.sportszone.com, remember that?). At that time, all their columns were part of the Insider premium content, only news and scores were free. I continued subscribing annually until it went to all free content a few years back (around '99 or 2000?). Then, a couple of years ago they slowly started having premium content again, but I haven't re-subscribed as most of what I read on ESPN are still free. But at this rate, as they gradually put more and more columns behind Insider access, I'll probably end up subscribing again before long.
Anyway, this post is about Flickr, not ESPN. I've only played with Flickr a little bit these past couple of weeks, but I've seen enough to want to give them some money (USD41.77). The way I'm using Flickr now as a moblog, I didn't really need to upgrade to a pro account, certainly not before I have 100 photos in my photostream (the free account only displays your last 100 photos). But it's a cool product from a cool company, so I thought: "Why not?" The clincher was that they are based in Vancouver, my adopted home away from home. Buy Canadian!
See my photostream at Flickr (at the moment, it's mostly photos from my crappy cameraphone).
Despite my previous claim that "The Gates" is close to being completely horrible, I went back to see it again this past weekend. This time, I entered the park through Harlem Meer (at 110th and 5th) and my reaction was much more positive. Maybe I was able to appreciate it after I got the player-hating out of my system. Or maybe up around the northern part of the park it just didn't have the crush of people that the below-reservoir parts had (there were less people up there on a Saturday afternoon then there were on a Tuesday afternoon below 86th). Or maybe the area around Harlem Meer is just an exceptionally beautiful part of the park (where I almost never go since it's so far up there).
Between my two visits, I more-or-less have seen every part of "The Gates" and the installation around Harlem Meer area is definitely the best. The gates worked well with the topology of the area and seemed to be placed less monotonously than elsewhere in the park. This last point I'm not sure, but that's how it appeared to me. I still don't think the project's that great overall, but at least I hate it less.
If you haven't gone out to see it yet, you should. Good art or not, it's still an interesting and impressive (in the sense that it was done at all) installation. You have a few days left to see it and make up your own mind about it. Make sure you enter the park through the Harlem Meer and avoid the crowd in the lower parts of the park.
My 阿嬤 (ah-ma/paternal grandmother) passed away peacefully on Sunday, January 2, 2005 at home in Taipei with my 阿公 (ah-gong/grandfather) at her side. She was 81 years old. These are some photos from her funeral.
I know I said I wasn't going to put these up because people might find them in bad taste. But after looking over the photos, I decided to share them after all. As LT reminded me: When did I ever care what other people thought? True dat. This is my way of remembering an important event in my life. Plus I think the photos are pretty interesting, to boot.
Most poignant photo: My 阿公/grandfather looking over at the proceedings.
See the full gallery: Grandmother's Funeral [ 23 photos ]
I was in Taipei for two weeks beginning of the year to attend my grandma's funeral. While that is not a happy event, it did bring together my family which is spread out over three very-far-apart cities (New York, Vancouver, Shanghai) and that was a good thing. Here's a whole load of photos from those two weeks.
I have decided not to put up shots from the funeral itself because while I don't think so, some may find those in bad taste (or at least depressing). Changed my mind.
Friends & Family in Taipei [ 76 photos ]
These are some of my favorite shots from the set:
- Dad, grandpa and uncle walking
- Yuyang avoiding the paparazzi
- Ma chatting with grandpa
- My parents and Yutai looking for our old apartment
- Ma cooking
Incidentally, from mid-September to mid-January, between all the trips I was taking, I actually spent three more days in Taipei then I did at home in New York. Just FYI, not that you asked.
[Update: 嘉嘉說上面那張很像《無間道》... 你說呢? 哈哈]
Four of my Gropius House photos have been published in a new book by Taschen titled simply Gropius. It's from their Basic Art Series and lists for US$9.99 (buy it from Amazon). It's a 96-page soft-cover book introducing Walter Gropius and his most important works. It may not be one of Taschen's fancier volumes, but it's comprehensive and has lots of photographs (some quite good). These are the four shots of mine featured in the book:
- View from garden: on page 74, full page picture
- View from southwest: on page 76, half page picture
- Front side: on page 77, small picture
- South side of the house with the terrace over the living space: on page 79, small picture
I know I said I would put these up a few days after I went to see it... Three months later I've finally got around to it. And I still have a huge backlog of photos I need to put up from all the trips I've been taking recently.
[From Figure/Ground] I was enchanted by this building the moment I saw it. The building's glass facade set on a diamond-grid reminds me a little of my other favorite building I saw this year: Koolhaas' Seattle Public Library. Speaking of whom, I wonder how jealous Koolhaas is that neither of his Prada "epicenter" designs is remotely as successful as this one by Herzog & de Meuron.
I love the way the random mix of convex, concave and flat glass panels generate a constantly changing perspective of the products and the shoppers inside. It's as if each panel is another page in a live-action Prada catalog.
I know I said I would post stories and photos as I toured Asia, but as it turned out, I didn't post that much at all. Kind of hard to sit in front of a computer when you are having that much fun, you know?
Anyway, I'm leaving for Rome in a few hours and I want to at least put up the snapshots from the Asia trip before I go. The Figure/Ground entries on these cities are still in the works, I'll put them up sometime after I get back from Italy. But what my friends and family really want to see are these (damn narcissists we all are):
- Last set of pictures from Taipei: These are almost all from one night right before I left Taipei. As they had all month long, Cube琪, 神秘欣 and my cousin 嘉嘉 provided me with hours of silly fun.
- My week in Seoul: The days blew by in a drunken blur. Nevertheless, I do have some thoughts on this city which I will share when I put up my proper travelogue entry on Figure/Ground.
- Shanghai & Xiamen: This set is mostly of my parents, who live in Shanghai.
Okay, that's it for now. Off to Rome!
More snapshots from Taipei (and a couple from Kaohsiung, too... including a shot of my notoriously camera-shy uncle). Somehow my month in Taiwan is almost over and I haven't done anything I thought I would do. Yet, the time has flown by quickly and with lots of fun.
Favorite shots from this set:
- 01: grandma and uncle.
This photo so accurately captures their relationship. Him, yakking away incessently. Her, thoroughly bewildered, yet completely engrossed by his nonsense.
- 04: Leslie and model.
- 05: Leslie conquering many, many plates of his favorite cold noodles.
To be fair, two of those plates were mine.
I've put up some snapshots of friends and family from my first week in Taipei.
Click here to see them.
[From Figure/Ground] I've been sitting on these photos for almost a month now. I think partly because I just wasn't that excited by the building. It's a bit cluttered when you try to take the whole complex in at once. But examined up close, it has its moments.
Gehry has his detractors, usually people who are suspicious of the idea of architecture as sculpture. There does not at first seem to be a lot of form-follows-function about his work. My own doubts about Gehry tend to build up over time in this way—and then I go to see one of his buildings, and come away charmed. Gehry, who for the first half of his career had an utterly pragmatic grounding in reality working for big commercial firms of architects, has never lost that practical touch. Inside, his buildings work. They are not haphazard. Every space is thought through.
I've posted some photos of me from the trip to Germany. Nothing exciting in these photos, just me. They are only mildly interesting if you knew me. Head over to my Figure/Ground site to see much more interesting photos of Germany.
I've written a review of the Arca-Swiss Flip-Lock. If you own an Arca-Swiss Monoball B1 ballhead, read the review and see if you should invest in a Flip-Lock retrofit.
Hope those of you affected by the blackout had a nice night/day... We didn't get power back here in the East Village until 9pm, a good 29 hours after power went out. We were one of the last neighborhoods to get power back. Life is unbearable without power. No cellphone. No net access. No TiVo. No A/C. No refrigerator. And obviously, no light (duh). Although I will say that it was kind of nice seeing everyone out and about at night in bars lit by candles, trying to make the best of the situation...
Here are some shots I took while walking around the city the past day and a half.