I am not in this photo. But I might be at the location it was taken as you read this.
The restaurant at which this unfashionably-dressed guy is hanging out is called Le Select. It's a hamburger joint-slash-bar in St. Barts. Jimmy Buffett ate here wrote a cheesy song, and the rest is history.
This is a picture of the approach to the St. Barts airport runway. The picture is taken from the top of a hill above the runway. In order to land in St. Barts, your little plane must fly over this hill, then plunge down to the runway below. Then it must slam on its brakes so that it comes to a stop before going off the runway into the sea.
It's about the most dramatic runway landing around. And one of the reasons that coming to St. Barts is so fun. What a way to start a vacation.
The other airplane landing that was legendary was the approach to the old Hong Kong airport. Anyone lucky enough to have experienced this will remember flying in -- usually on a jumbo jet -- and passing so close to the apartment buildings near the airport that you could actually look in and see people in their homes. I did that landing a couple of times. Your comments on your memorable airport landings are welcome.
It's a Google Earth shot of St. Barts. That's where I am going today. To sit in the sun. To eat well. To relax. To reflect. To read. To think positive thoughts. And to celebrate Matthew's 30th birthday!!!!
I love St. Barts. I visited in 1986 with my dad, step-mom and my friend Margot. I visited in 1992 with my friends Steve, Phil and Marcello. I visited again in 1998 with my friend Jeff.
St. Louis may have seen better days (about 100 years ago). But I'm telling you, the Arch is worth the visit today. It's simply spectacular, a construction marvel, and a poetic monument to the historic meaning of the spot on which it sits -- the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, where the exploration of the American West began.
I've been to the top a million times. You should get there too. Just once.
My friend Harold commented that he was interested in visiting Ft. Worth, TX to see the new-ish "New Modern Art Museum of Ft. Worth," designed by Japanese superstar architect Tadao Ando. You're looking at a picture of it.
I find Texas really hard to stomach. Mostly because you-know-who and his hideous family and friends are all from there. That's where they go to shoot each other and count their money. But it's also the "Don't Mess With Texas" thing. So annoying. And the strip malls. And....
That said, there are a lot of good things about Texas, and the burgeoning museum scene is one of them. (Oh, and my cousin Laurie lives there.)
I was really excited that Harold mentioned this, because I've had several interesting Ando experiences in the past few years. First and foremost, my hometown of St. Louis is the proud locale of Ando's first building in the U.S. -- the amazing Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts. My mom is a big champion of the building, and she'll happily take you there (and make you dinner) if you visit St. Louis. After hearing of Ando through this museum, I made a point of visiting his Garden of Fine Art when I was in Kyoto a few years ago. A weird and very interesting building. Most interesting, though, is that Ando designed his first restaurant (!!!!) recently, and it's located (drumroll) in New York City, just 8 blocks from my apartment in Chelsea Market. I took a tour of it last week, and it's fantastic.
Ando is a self-taught architect, which is very interesting and unusual. Cement is his primary medium. He integrates his work with water, wood , earth, sky and neighborhood surroundings in fascinating ways. After the 2008 election, I'll travel to Ft. Worth and check it out.
The other day my friend Steve and I went to see an art exhibit on the flourishing downtown New York art scene of the mid-1970s-80s. The show was not great, but part of it was shown inside the Bobst Library at NYU. I've walked by this building maybe 1,000 times in my years living in New York, but I'd never set foot in it. It's a pretty amazing International Style atrium building, designed by Phillip Johnson and opened in 1972. Its recurrent fame is partly due to the fact that a couple students have committed suicide by jumping into the vast atrium that is the center of the building. I was amazed at how cool looking the library is. Check it out next time you're near Washington Square Park.
Which brings me to today's piece of architecture to inspire a journey. Above is a picture of Seattle's new public library, completed in mid-2004 and designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. My oft-referenced architecture critic, Paul Goldberger, called it "...the most important new library to be built in a generation, and the most exhilarating."
I have to admit that Seattle has never been my favorite place to visit. It has all the pieces: a beautiful setting, a different perspective than other cities, good restaurants, a decent gay scene, grunge. But its energy has never really moved me. That said, I'd like to see this new library. Maybe it's just the thing to make Seattle sing to me.
What you're looking at is the Burj-al-Arab hotel, in Dubai. You're also looking at an A380 airplane on a test fight. Emirates Airlines is going to be one of the first to fly this double-decker super jumbo.
I've read about the Burj before. It's an over-the-top, ultra-deluxe hotel that juts out into the Arabian Gulf. Amusingly, it was rated the "Best Hotel In The World" by (drum-roll) Institutional Investor Magazine!!! Which probably provides a pretty good indication of who is staying here, and on what kind of bank accounts.
Here's how the hotel promotes itself:
"Designed to resemble a billowing sail, the hotel soars to a height of 321 metres, dominating the Dubai coastline. At night, it offers an unforgettable sight, surrounded by choreographed colour sculptures of water and fire. This all-suite hotel reflects the finest that the world has to offer."
In any event, it's a pretty cool piece of architecture, and I've never been to the Gulf States. An old friend of mine from my American Express days, Lynn Walka, works at Emirates Airlines. So the stars are aligning. One of these days I'll see the Burj-Al-Arab.
Santiago Calatrava's amazing residential tower in the Swedish town of Malmo is my next choice for architecture worth a journey. It looks stunning in the photos I've see.
Malmo, by the way, is located in southern Sweden and is linked directly to Copenhagen, Denmark by another well-known piece of architecture -- the Oresund Bridge. (This bridge has the longest cable-stayed main span in the world.)
Here is a great article on Calatrava and the Malmo building from The New Yorker. It's written by Paul Goldberger, who is my favorite architecture critic, hands down. Reading this piece, you'll understand why.
Calatrava was a sculptor before he was an architect, and his buildings are sculptural, lyrical and beautiful. He is designing the new transportation hub at Ground Zero in New York, and is working on a 115 story building on Chicago's waterfront.
In all my travels, I've actually never been to Scandinavia. When I go, Malmo will be part of the plan.
There are many things that inspire me to travel. People, food, natural beauty, high culture, low culture, seeing old friends, a great party, history. The list goes on.
One of my earliest posts (go to the right column "Archives" to get to my January 27th post) addressed of the excitement of architecture as a stimulus for my travels. I mentioned the Berlin Holocaust Memorial as a recent example. For the next few days, I am going to highlight a piece of architecture that is compelling me to make a journey. I'm pretty sure I'll see each of these structures eventually.
Today's entry is an easy and obvious one: The Guggenheim Bilbao. This building not only cemented Frank Gehry's reputation, but it nearly single-handedly launched the popularity of traveling to see architecture. I really want to see it ... as well as the Basque region of Spain in which it sits. Tomorrow's entry will be a bigger revelation.