architecture Tag

napoleon museum, house, arenenberg, switzerland
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The house of Napoleon

Napoleon Museum, Switzerland There’s a house on the shores of Lake Constance in Switzerland that, albeit pretty, is quite unassuming from the outside. If you didn’t know what you were looking for, you might just mistake it for another residence of a wealthy Swiss citizen – of which there are many. But this house has a history that is revealed once you step through the doors.It was the refuge of Hortense de Beauharnais, the stepdaughter of Napoleon, who was forced to flee France and marry her stepuncle, Louis Bonaparte, who together were named King and Queen of The Netherlands.The house is called Arenenberg and in 1906 it became the property of the state. With the space, they created a museum in honour of Napoleon and his family.The museum has taken many forms in the years since it began but most recently it has been restored to resemble how it would have...

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22 November
hadrian's villa, tivoli, villa adriana, italy, world heritage site
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The old villa ruins of Tivoli

Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli, ItalyEarlier this week I wrote about Villa d’Este in the Italian city of Tivoli. Well, today I want to tell you about another villa in the city. A very different one.Like Villa d’Este, this one is a masterpiece, a World Heritage Site, and an easy day trip from Rome. But they don’t look the same at all. This one is in ruins.I’m talking about Hadrian’s Villa, on the outskirts of Tivoli. It was here that the great Roman Emperor Hadrian built his retreat from the bustle of Roman life in the second century. He built it so well that he decided he liked it more than his official residence and ruled the empire from here in his later years.The compound is huge, stretching out for at least one square kilometre. Pools, libraries, temples, palaces… it has it all. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people could comfortably have...

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15 November
villa d'este, tivoli, italy, world heritage site
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Tivoli’s masterpiece

Villa d'Este, Tivoli It’s not too hard to imagine what kind of man Ippolito II d’Este would have been. Born into a wealthy and influential Italian family in 1509, he was a lover of the finest things. Although he was made Archbishop of Milan when he was nine years old (the title was hereditary then), he saw the church as an instrument to be used to gain even more power. Vows of celibacy weren’t his thing. He would bring in musicians, prostitutes, feasts and wine to impress the people who needed impressing.When he was made the governor of Tivoli, he arrived in the town about 20 kilometres from Rome and did not like the look of the home that had been assigned to him. And so, in the style appropriate for someone who kept peacocks as pets, he decided to build a new and much grander residence.Nobody argued at the time...

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11 November
Rietveld Schroder House, Utrecht, Netherlands, architecture, design
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The house with no rooms

Rietveld Schroder House, Utrecht, The Netherlands Some of it seems pretty obvious by today’s design standards but in 1924 it was revolutionary. But even now, in 2013, some if it is still quite remarkable. That’s why this small house at the end of a row of terrace in the Dutch city of Utrecht has been included on the World Heritage List.If you didn’t know about the significance of the Rietveld Schroder House you would still notice it. Walking down Laan van Minsweerd - a quiet street in eastern Utrecht - there’s a row of brown terraces one after another, almost indiscernible from the next. Then you get to the end, just in front of an overpass, and there’s this strange small white house with yellow and red poles jutting out.The overpass wasn’t there in 1924 when the house was constructed. Back then there were just open fields as far as the...

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12 June
schieblock, rotterdam, rent office space, flexible work desks, the netherlands, architecture
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An old space made new

Urban rejuvenation, Rotterdam, The Netherlands Like the tides in the port of Rotterdam, the economy of the city has risen and fallen. It is, and has been for a long time, the most important port in Europe but the benefits of that have not always flowed to the people who live in the city.As processes in the port have become more automated, less people are now needed to do the jobs in Rotterdam. And although the maritime business has not been hurt too badly by the economic problems in Europe (in fact, some figures suggest it’s improved), from a financial perspective, it is merely a staging point for the passage of goods to the 220 million people who live within a 1000 kilometre radius.It means the grand buildings which were built in Rotterdam to provide offices for port-related businesses are no longer as needed as before. As the demand for commodities...

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04 June
bang pa-in palace, thailand, royal summer palace, bang pa-in
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The Royal Summer Palace of Thailand

Bang Pa-in Palace, Thailand It would be nice to have a Thai summer palace you could head to when the days got hot, wouldn’t it? You know, you could jump on a royal barge, float down the river to your tranquil holiday home and then spend the days walking around the compound, reading by the lake and entertaining guests from across the country.Well, it does sound nice. Unless you’re Queen Sunanda Kumariratana and Princess Karnabhirn Bejraratana who died on their way there!The year was 1880 and on the way to the Summer Palace at Bang Pa-in their raft capsized. Back then it was punishable by death to touch a member of the royal family so everyone was scared to help them. As it turned out, a member of staff actually instructed everybody to not touch them… and so the queen and the princess sunk to the bottom of the river in...

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23 January
visiting luxembourg city, luxembourg's capital, unesco sites in luxembourg, history (10)
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Visiting Luxembourg City

Luxembourg City, LuxembourgI had never really known if Luxembourg actually existed. For me, growing up on the other side of the world, European geography always consisted of the beer country, the wine country, the pasta country, the tapas country and ‘the other ones’. Luxembourg, if it was ever mentioned, was spoken about in the same way that Narnia was – a magical fictional land that is virtually impossible to find.Even if you were to know what to look for, you would have to squint and zoom on a map to find Luxembourg. Eventually, it’s located, squeezed in between Germany, France and Belgium. It kind of looks like the gap that’s left when you haven’t fit together two jigsaw pieces quite right.And, as it turns out, visiting the capital (also called Luxembourg) is a bit like going to that magical land I had always imagined. The city feels like it is...

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27 December
echternach, luxembourg, oldest city in luxembourg, european cities, abbey (6)
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The oldest town in Luxembourg

Echternach, Luxembourg As I made my way across Luxembourg, walking the entire country from north to south, I had a chance to see the variety it has to offer. The capital (as you might expect) has a modern feel in some of the more commercial regions. But here in Echternach, just thirty kilometres away, you can get the best sense of the history of Luxembourg from the country's oldest town.The woman in the photo below is walking down the side of the Echternach Abbey towards the stairs which lead to the crypt. The sun shines through the stain-glassed window and is caught on the stone tiled ground...

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12 December
vianden castle, luxembourg, castle at vianden, grand duchy (1)
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The castle at Vianden

Vianden Castle, Luxembourg High up on the hilltop, the castle dominates Vianden. For a thousand years it has looked over the town in some form. And now it is people who look up to it, as one of Luxembourg’s most iconic buildings.Vianden is a small town in Luxembourg’s north with a population of about 1,500. Up from the river, the road leading to the castle has a small collection of restaurants and bars. One of them, a dark and smoky video bar with music and pool tables, seems out of place in such a provincial location. But it’s a reminder that this is not a tourist trap… this is a home and there are young people here who need some release.But once you’re at the top of that road, past the beers and the schnitzels, it is as though you have stepped back to medieval times. And the castle beckons.After falling...

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11 December
basilica cistern, istanbul, turkey, underground water tank, istanbul underground site (1)
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Why an Istanbul site reminded me of Harry Potter

Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, Turkey I couldn’t help it, you know. Think about Harry Potter, that is. The books are set in England – I shouldn’t really have been finding associations here in Turkey, in a city like Istanbul with its influences of Eastern Europe and Asia. But there was no denying it… it was all I could think about as I walked between the large stone columns.You see, it was all about the name. I was under the streets of Istanbul, in an enormous dark and cavernous vault and I had flashes in my mind of a snake. A large snake.Do you remember the enormous creature that is released in The Chamber of Secrets? No? That’s fine. I’ll remind you quickly. It is a huge serpent, with a mouth large enough for a man (or a boy wizard), which emerges from a hole in an underground labyrinth and slithers through tunnels...

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12 November