Worth Avenue, Palm Beach

Palm Springs is among the most affluent communities in Florida. The homes, both old and new, are reminders that the “gilded age”, the age remembered for the accumulation of great wealth by a small number of individuals, has never entirely vanished.

Where do the wealthy residents–and tourists–shop? Worth Avenue. Shoppers will find retail stores comparable to those on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.  Do you want something special from Tiffany, Gucci, Giorgio Armani or Hermes?  Worth Avenue is the place to be.  It is elegant.  It is expensive.  The architecture itself is a great reason for a visit.  Oh, and it oozes old money, and new money, inherited money, earned money, all kinds of money.

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Terry and I enjoyed our visit.  We walked the avenue and stopped for lunch at Charlie’s Crab.  We’ll leave the heavy shopping to others.

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The beautiful buildings in our nation’s Capital

While visiting Charlotte in DC last week, I was able to spend some time walking around the city. I have always been amazed at the beautiful architecture we have in our nation’s Capital.  This is the style of architecture you normally see in Europe, but many of the buildings rival those in much older parts of the world. These are a few of my favorites.

Looking up while exiting the Metro station at Judiciary Square

Looking up while exiting the Metro station at Judiciary Square

Executive Office Building

The Death of Oscar Niemeyer (12-15-1907/12-05-2012)

imagesBrazil has lost a legend:  Oscar Niemeyer died in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, just 10 days before his 105th birthday.  Any description of his life and work must necessarily include words like: Brilliant, Creative, Celebrated.  These terms barely touch the genius of Oscar Niemeyer. [1]

Though he favored his works throughout Europe, he is probably most widely known for his impact on the design and structure of modern Brasilia, the capital of Brazil.

Niemeyer was educated at the Escola de Belas Artes.  His architectural career began in the early 1930’s. He almost immediately gained recognition for his unique modern style and for a series of early architectural gems.

He designed the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, in Minas Gerais, Brazil.[2]  Unknown-2Completed 70 years ago, in 1943, it was  designed in the “organic modern style”.  The church was not without its critics.  The Archbishop of the region described it as”the devil’s bomb shelter.  [3]

His most recognizable works are incorporated into Brasilia, designed in the late 1950’s and formally recognized as the capital of Brazil in 1960. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

Brasilia was designed as a planned futuristic city in which the quality of living was enhanced by incorporating forested areas into residential communities, distributing small commercial areas throughout the city, adding cafes, parks and entertainment areas as well as an efficient transit system. These attributes, combined with the gentle rhythm of the architecture are seen, even today, as beautifying and enhancing the life and culture of a community.

The Brasilia Cathedral, officially the Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lady Aparecida, built in 1958.  It is designed in the form of a crown, with its central glass roof, it is described as being opened to the heavens. [ 4]

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Niemeyer has been widely recognized and has received prestigious awards, including the Pritzker Prize in 1988 and the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture from the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1998.

While it is acknowledged he designed or influenced more than 500 buildings around the world, he is best known for his contribution to Brazilian architecture.  A modernist, he images-1shunned sharp corners and, instead, incorporated sweeping curves in his works.[5]  He described his love of curves:  “The curve I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean and on the body of the beloved woman.”

A true creative genius, his impact on urban design cannot be overstated.  His genius will live on in the buildings he designed, and those that will continue to be built in their image.

[1] Photograph from gpb.org. Taken in 1960.

[2] Photograph from Architizer.com

[3]  Fit for Prayer, Time Magazine, (April 27, 1959)

[4 ]  Photograph from Brazil.Brasilia.  Agencia Brasil

[5]  Photograph from tumblr.com

Old World Architecture Graces a Cuban Harbor

The Palacio de Valle is located in Cienfuegos, the second largest harbor in Cuba.  Sometimes referred to at the “Pearl of the South”,  Cienfuegos was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 as a result of the blending of old world architecture and modern urban design.

The Palacio de Valle is a masterpiece of styling, art and history.  When Amparo Suero married a wealthy Cuban businessman, Acisclo Valle, her father gave them Palacio de Valle as a wedding gift.  The couple renovated the property between 1913 and 1917, at a cost of 1 1/2 million pesos.

Italian architect Alfredo Colli, created this masterpiece, incorporating Italian and French into a building which is dominated by the unique character of Moorish style, carvings and color.  The Moslem crescent moon and the words Arabic words meaning “Only God is God” from the Koran, solidify the Moorish influence.

The construction of the building itself relies heavily on Carrara marble, alabaster, Venetian ceramics, Spanish ironwork and the carvings of renowned Spanish artist, Antonio Barcenas to blend much of the beauty of the old world  combining the best of Spanish, Muslim, Italian, French and even Egyptian design.

The exterior reflects the beautiful carvings seen throughout the Arab world.  The Sphinx guarding the main doorway reflect Egyptian symbols.

Bronze railings of Spanish design are seen throughout the interior and exterior of the building.

The art reflects the interconnections of the Muslim and Christian beliefs.  This lovely painting of the Magi, ie. the “Three Kings from the East” focuses on the Magi themselves, relying on the crown to symbolize the Christ child.

This tile Crusader depicts a Christian in full battle attire presumably prepared to fight the Moors.

There is little to explain the reasons for this combination of clashing cultures, representing the images and art of all the involved cultures with beauty, accuracy and respect.  Yet the flow of interweaving of the best of the old world, works effectively, playing the grace of Venice with the power of Spain.  It is not surprising then, that this building, now a restaurant, is itself recognized as a National Heritage Memorial.

By the standards of any religion or influence, the Palacio is a masterpiece.  While the cultural aspects of the building predominate our visit, the timeless beauty of the rooftop bar, with its view of Cienfuegos and the ocean, completed the experience for all of us.

The Beautiful Bridges of Midland, MI

I just returned home from a long weekend visit in Midland, MI where my Dad and Auntie Carol grew up. I’m still going through pictures of their childhood homes, grade schools, and local hangouts, but in the meantime, I was really impressed by all the beautiful sites Midland, MI has to offer. In particular, I was fascinated by its beautiful bridges.

This is the tri-bridge, or “Tridge” in downtown Midland. It has three bridges that meet in the middle over the water where two rivers merge into one.

This next bridge is part of Dow Garden, where visitors can see the Dow family property. The estate is comprised of Herbert and Grace Dow’s home, which was completed in 1915, the home of their son, architect Alden Dow, and surrounded by a huge garden designed by Herbet.

Okay, so this bridge is actually in Bay City along the shore of Lake Huron. We saw it when we took the short (15 min) drive over to see the Lake, and the Harley shop of course!

There were many beautiful sites, and I will share them all with you soon!

Oneida Community–Where Giants Walked

“Where giants walked”.  Those are the words our tour guide, the curator of the Mansion House in Oneida, New York, used to describe the Oneida Community.  Disbanded more than 120 years ago, the community grounds still emit a feeling both vibrant and tranquil.

I didn’t know what to expect when the “cousins trip” arrived in Oneida.  What we found far exceeded even my enthusiastic expectations.  We spent a night in the Mansion House where our rooms were simple but lovely.  The environment was so much more.

The Oneida Community was founded in the belief that individuals can become free from sin while still here on earth.  Beyond their religious aspirations, their practical reality involved a focus on hard community labor, culture, music, art and literature.  These values resonated throughout the community.  Beautification of the grounds of the Mansion House and of the surrounding community are evident today.

While much of the Mansion House is plain, befitting a society based on de-emphasizing private property, there was an emphasis on beauty of the common areas.  The great hall that was a central meeting area demonstrates the community’s commitment to perfection in its culture and art.

The grounds are lovely, incorporating gardens, simple fountains and open areas surrounded by trees.


Artistic endeavors were encouraged.  The museum displays beautiful art such as this unique braided rug that are  wonderful works of craftsmanship.

The library was a focal point of daily life, filled with books that were identified as incorporating all of the knowledge important to a learned community.  It remains a great place to visit and study.

While long disbanded as a religious community, descendants of community members continue to live in the shadow of the Mansion House.  While their homes are not elegant, they are as graceful, well-groomed and inviting as the people who live there.

Welcome to “Utopia”.

The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy

The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore/Flower, dominates the central square in Florence, Italy.  Construction began in 1296 and was completed in 1436. It stands on the site of an earlier church erected during the 7th century.  Identified as a basilica or duomo, the complex of buildings at the site a cathedral, it is the home congregation for the Archbishop of Florence.  Wow.  When Terry and I visited Florence in 2011, 575 years after it was completed, I had to marvel at the comparatively pristine condition of the complex.

Our day in Northern Italy would not have been complete without visiting this architectural marvel. The architecture is alternately described as  Gothic, Classic and Romanesque, because it has elements of each of those styles and more.  The world was changing in the late 1300’s and the early 1400’s. The architecture of this magnificent structure was changing with it.

At the extreme right in the photograph is the bell tower, or Campanile, the second of the three buildings in the cathedral complex.  It’s design and construction were overseen, until his death, by the famous Italian architect and painter, Giotto di Bondone.  The pink, white and green facade reflects the natural colors of the marble from which the facade of the building was constructed. The intricate designs, exquisite windows and interior and exterior sculptures and Biblical works of art, are characteristic of the churches of Northern Italy built at that time.  But this is no less a masterpiece.

I particularly focused on the gilt bronze panels on the doors that  are situated on three sides of the duomo.  Additional, similar doors are on the baptistery, the third buildings in the cathedral complex.  Like every other aspect of the cathedral, the craftsmanship and detail are of the highest quality.  They evidence that the finest artists and intellectuals gravitated to Florence and helped usher in the Italian Renaissance.  Look at the detail of the faces and the elegance of the horns.

Surrounded by galleries, palaces and museums, the cathedral establishes Florence’s role as a center of  culture in the 1400’s.  Not surprisingly, the historic centre of the city is designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.  It shares that designation with Dubrovnik, Croatia, which has also been featured on this blog.