Friday, September 28, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
Aloft from But as
It doesn't last. As we breach the peaks the snow loses climatic stamina and recedes to whirls and slivers burrowed in shadowing creases. The ground returns, reddish brown and partially parched to tan. Folds and furrows relent to molds and wrinkles before calming to gentle modulation. And like that we’re across and the
But aswe bank eastward the hills become everything—become mountains—with rivered veins and man-made tracks etching out meager horizontals. Drama builds as uncontainable black crags pierce the snow's amelioration, propelling its white—and that of its nebulous source—to near painful brightness.
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 5:40 AM
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Longer than the longest long weekend, the Chilean Independence day is a full five days of revelry and relaxation. The nation’s biggest holiday may have limited my academic accomplishment but I feel comfortable chalking it up as a legitimate cultural experience. Latin Americans are friendly to the point of congenial coercion and, as developed and international as
I had the pleasure of attending three family/friend get-togethers over the last week. I was always the obvious outsider—a bona fide novelty, in my view—but Latins are remarkable for their ability to balance attention so I was never the object of inquisition nor was I banished to English-laden silence; instead, with patient encouragement, I bumbled in and out of the conversation, tossing in my two stuttering cents and receiving an occasional mercy catch-up when gossip spun beyond my grasp.
As a novice in the language (an admitted over-statement), I am continuously amazed at the difference between conversational spectatorship and involvement. Sitting outside a discussion is like crossing a highway; there are three possibilities. The first is that I can wait until the moment is just right, when some stoplight or lull or (god-forbid) accident slows down traffic up the road just enough that I can dart through. The second is that I can gather my balls beneath me enough to throw myself into the fray frogger-style. The third—and safest—is that some kindly driver can slow to a halt, eye-contact me, and wave me across. Thankfully, Latin Americans are better conversation-incorporators than drivers so I rarely need to summon guile or gumption to participate.
Taking the highway metaphor from another angle (dead horses are made to be beaten), my on-ramp into the conversation usually takes the form of a now-memorized scholarship spiel—which garners a smile, incredulity, and some variation of “I want that, you lucky bastard”—accompanied by a humble account of my valiant español efforts. Talking about my inability to talk turns out to be the easiest thing I can say and once my confidence gets a few give-and-takes under its belt I can wrestle the context clues enough to get by (and catch up with what I’m smiling and nodding to later).
On Tuesday, after one of my adopted-family barbecues, I walked over to visit
I spent the next day wandering through the Valparaisan hills. It was the right spot at the right time. Most of the businesses on El Plan remained closed as their clientele holed up in the hills with family and friends, taking advantage of the gorgeous day for a last round of grilling and a last attempt to fix their kites aloft in the blue sky. In the picture to the left note the pristine clarity of a view that stretches across the bay and clear out to the
A hike among the hills is an interesting endeavor. The hills stretch toward the water like a 45-fingered hand that's inverted so that the middle fingers are shorter than the rest. Ascensors lift up to hills’ cusps but, to move from one hill to the next, one has to strike out toward the heartland or descend and ascend steep stairs or the winding roads. The city’s solution is Avenida Alemania / Camino Cintura. Installed in 1930 as the city’s outer limit, this road does its damnedest to maintain horizontality by hugging the 100 meter contour wherever possible.
If you can make here, you can track around the city in continuously scenic sweep that catches radio music, charcoal fumes, and rampant kite string that dares (tragically, in most cases) to brave the electric cables’ ubiquitous tangle.
Finally, the image at right captures my later-afternoon descent back down to flatland. Note the stairs’ intimacy, the drainage-dimension-cum-front-yard to its right, the dog’s placement (firmly in the “nice dog on stoop” category), the afore-mentioned cable tangle, and the answering set of steps at the foot of the next hill.
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 4:36 PM
The latest (1912) and longest (175 m), Ascensor Artillería reclines languidly with its toe at the old customs house and its head by the city’s maritime museum. The site presents a unique tri-edge condition, allowing the ascensor to straddle El Plan and Artillería Hill while tracing the bounds of official port operations. Still visible to the existing tracks’ left is the green dimension of the ascensor’s once-doubled capacity where two defunct frames, bereft of their allotted path, now brace commemorative flagpoles as consolation.
In contrast to the lower station’s tacked-on twin vending stands (whose operational status is difficult to discern but worth pondering whilst awaiting the ascensor's arrival), the free-standing upper structure supports a cluster of balloon-framed café and shop encrustations...with flanking gazebos to boot.
The mirador (overlook) it anchors provides encompassing bay views supported by an array of smartly-designed vending stands. Artisanal hawkers are par for the tourist-trafficked course but here they are standardized, systematized, and refreshingly discrete as they package Valparaiso for popular consumption.
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 3:54 PM
Thursday, September 13, 2007
The following is a matrix of provisional categories empirically established via recent wanders through
The following is a matrix of provisional categories empirically established via recent wanders through
There are three types of dog. Dog-in-street is almost always nice but often skittish and sometimes stand-offish, Dog-on-stoop is almost always nice but sometimes stand-offish, Dog-in-yard is almost always mean but occasionally nice.
There are three kinds of cat. Cat-in-street is usually skittish but sometimes nice, Cat-on-sill is often nice sometimes skittish, and Cat-in-window is N/A; he doesn’t give a shit about you and you’re not getting to him so why bother attempting a detailed description.
Finally, to complete the tri-partite pyramid, there is the pigeon. Pigeon-in-street is audacious but elusive, Pigeon-on-perch is wary and skittish, and Pigeon-on-wire is contentedly aloof and a fecal hazard. Dogs chase pigeons, cats chase pigeons, but I restrain myself (occasional stutter-step feigned attack nontwithstanding).
The picture to the bottom right depicts an uneasy co-habitation. The dogs have placed themselves in front of their owner’s door and, comfortable with its semi-public condition, are friendly and receptive. The cat claims the same stoop where it has been reduced to a sill dimension. He has situated himself just next to the dogs but remains safely out of reach. The cat was so bold as to rub against the dogs while I was petting them but the moment I moved away he immediately (albeit nonchalantly) retreated to his defensive position. Note the fringe of fencing that protects him from the less-nimble neighbors.
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 5:47 PM
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Ascensor Florida presents a fairly typical specimen of the type. It is less elevated than some--low enough to sustain a footbridge over it--but, as the video shows, the yellow cabs are intimately visible from a variety of viewpoints along its inclined path. Many of the other ascensors embedded in the urban fabric maintain their presence only from above and below, so Florida is riper than most for amateur cinematography. The stairway at the ascensor's flank--more for descent than ascent--represents standard accoutrement. Regardless of their ascensorial association, stairs reinforce their fabric's domesticity by serving as steeply inclined pedestrian streets. Often, front doors open directly to each landing.
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 5:13 PM
Ascensor Polanco, consisting of a tunnel, a tower, and a catwalk, is the only one of
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 4:47 PM
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Situated at the interface of culture and nature, the ascensores were as much about the ground as its defiance, as much about constructing the site as creating the object, as much about topography as technology, as much about tradition as innovation. Fascinating as objects in themselves, the ascensores were part of a more complex spatial, social, and technological matrix, both more complex and more fundamental, that transcends their appeal as objects. --Rene Davids
And the city has not followed
*map image at top taken from Prof. Rene David's article, "City Limits: topography and invention"
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 7:10 PM
Thursday, September 6, 2007
A view over the city of Lima from the centrally located San Cristobal hill. This is a fairly typical scene: bare stony slopes, clustered single- or double-story houses, and the omnipresent wintertime mist. Lima is not a beautiful city. Interesting...but not beautiful. Well, with some beautiful parts, naturally, but on the whole not beautiful. I mean, it's just not.
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 7:15 AM
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Machu Picchu's architectural significance rests on a succession of scales, from its technical virtuosity to its spatial progression to its cosmic calibration. Conceptually, the ruins resemble other royal retreat masterpieces—such as Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli or Katsura Rikyu and Shugakuin Rikyu in Kyoto (see blog posts on February 28, 2007)—whose cognitive and mnemonic capacities carry their phenomenal richness beyond mere solipsism by rooting it referentially and analogically in the larger physical, social, and cosmic landscape. Like
In contrast to Teotihuacán (posted on July 20),
The pervasive phenomenon goes so far as to bestow a masculine profile on adjacent mountains. In the background of the top image one can make out the forehead to the right, chin to the left, and nose at center. I climbed up the snoz—Huanya Picchu—to capture the image at lower left.
In addition to its paranoid critical demonstration, the top photograph documents the affinity between earth and architecture inherent in Machu Picchu’s material tactility (features have been roped off to staunch erosion from millions of inquisitive hands), in its pinnacle-like roofs and serrated terraces, and in the correspondence of ground and enclosure.
Retaining walls elevate the inhabited zone from the slope below. Their dominant vertical down-slope edges suggest that the terraces progress down the slope rather than up. Attuned to the sequence, residences clamber down the slope like lithic slinkies
The building at center conjoins with its retaining walls to play upon volume and mass. First, it tapers and aligns with the uppermost wall to create an enclosure and a threshold that frames a panorama of the complex beyond. Second, it reverses the face of the upper retaining wall so that what meets the earth below presents a façade above. Third, it melds smoothly with the lower retaining wall to blur the construction’s free-standing—vs—earth-retaining distinction. Finally, the building’s offset from the camera-facing terraces creates a patio to the near side, thereby shifting the lower floor’s orientation 90 degrees from the upper floor’s orientation.
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 4:06 PM