Thursday, April 24, 2008

Another voyage begins...

I'm off to Italy in the morning for 10 days!  It will probably be quite a while before I post again because I will be enjoying Venice, Florence, Orvietto, Rome, Naples, Sorrento, and probably Capri!  I'm excited, but I expect it will be a whirlwind trip trying to see all of the buildings we have studied in history, see K-State friends, and probably spend some time on the beach.  Hooray!  

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Visit to the National Gallery

Yesterday we took a field trip to the National Gallery in Prague for my Color & Composition art class.  It's hard to believe, but that's the first art gallery I've been to here in Prague, probably because we've been gone so much lately.  The museum was HUGE, and we only went to a small section of it.  I'll probably try and go back on one of the free admission days and see the rest of the exhibits.  The main area of the museum is a seven-story atrium, which was awesome.  While art museums are typically very spacious, all of the different areas are usually closed off from one another, but with this atrium and all of the overlooking balconies, we could see all of the different areas from anywhere in the space.  It was also wonderfully daylit from the giant skylights and felt so open.  
One of the coolest exhibits was this elevator.  The designers called it a "functional exhibit."  It was just a big glass box (with a transparent bottom!) that went from the ground floor up to the very top floor of the museum.  We rode it all the way up, which was fun, except I kept remembering the sign at the bottom that said, "limit your movement while car is in motion."  I did feel it swaying a little...
There were so many different exhibits, from furniture design to architecture to photography in the 20th century to ancient Chinese architecture and decorative detailing.  Most of the exhibits were really good, but some were boring and others were just downright disturbing.  Here are some cardboard chairs designed by Frank Gehry.  These chairs are made from layers of corrugated cardboard and reinforced by laminating.  I've seen them several times in magazines and online, but never in person.  I really liked them and the idea behind the chairs--simple, strong, environmentally conscious design that could be affordable for everyone.  However, I doubt buying a Frank Gehry chair is affordable, and it's going to take a whole lot of big cardboard sheets (with a lot of wasted negative space) to cut out 50 or so of that shape to glue together, so they're really not that environmentally conscious either...  Even still, the idea behind the chair has inspired a lot of other designers to consider making furniture from non-traditional recycled/recyclable materials, and hopefully with less waste.  It has even sparked the AIAS Chair Affair design competition in which architecture students design and build cardboard chairs.  I actually got to see the winning chairs from 2006 in Washington, D.C., and it was pretty cool to see what students came up with to take the concept of cardboard chairs even further and make so many completely different structurally sound and innovative chairs.  
There were many exhibits on architecture from around the world, but the model above is of the Dancing House in Prague, also designed by Frank Gehry in conjunction with Czech architect Vlado Milunic.  The building has been really controversial here in Prague; some people here love it, but others think it's extremely ugly.  It represents a pair of dancers and has been nicknamed "Fred and Ginger" after Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.  I visited the building several weeks ago but have yet to get some actual photos of it. 
Among all the other interesting installations at the National Gallery, this vortex-like sculpture was pretty interesting.  All of those little lights were actually miniature TVs that had different videos playing on fast-forward or in some mode that resembled a strobe light.  Pretty trippy.  There were so many other fun and weird pieces on exhibition at the museum, so click here to check out my photos to see some of the other art I saw!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Scandinavian Adventure

This weekend we took a trip to Copenhagen, Denmark to visit some friends that are studying at DIS there for the semester.  It was such a fun weekend--visiting friends, seeing the city, checking out some cool Scandinavian design, and seeing what their school is like.  We arrived on Thursday afternoon and took a mini tour of the city while enjoying some delicious gelato.  There were a lot of interesting historical buildings mixed in with new, modern architecture throughout the city.  On our tour we went down to the Copenhagen harbour to see the Little Mermaid statue, which was made in honor of Hans Christian Andersens's fairytale, The Little Mermaid
On Friday we visited the Danish Design Center, which had several exhibitions on current Danish Design.  The first one we saw was for the Danish design company, Muuto, which designs many innovative new products.  We saw some awesome product design, and I loved the exhibit and the graphics that they used to display all of the designs.  
Another exhibit at the DDC was called the FLOWmarket, a "supermarket selling consumer awareness."  The whole exhibit was filled with empty containers with different "products" on them, such as "stress killers," "addiction liberators," "consumption moderators," "pollution dissolvers," and "renewable energy."  Designer Mads Hagstrom is the director of the project, and he wants to change the way consumers buy, the way designers design, and the way we all live to make the world more sustainable and healthy for everyone.  I really liked this exhibit, and while the ideas were not necessarily new, they were presented in such a way that had a strong impact and was quite inspirational.  
On Saturday we went on a study tour with the DIS students to an open air museum that had over 70 examples of vernacular Danish and Swedish architecture dating back to the 1700's.  The buildings were removed from their original sites and transported to this museum, and when the visitors walk through the museum, they can see the progression of the architecture from long ago up until the early 1900's.  It was fun to learn more about Danish design and get to experience the way the DIS students are learning in comparison to CVUT in Prague.  
On Sunday, we went to LEGO LAND!  Since Legos were invented in Denmark, it was only fitting that we should visit the theme park dedicated to all things Legos.  There were so many cool Lego sculptures all over the park!  Near the entrance there was an entire Lego village, with scale replicas of Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and many other cities.  It was pretty incredible, and if you see photos, you almost can't tell that the cities are actually Legos and not real.  There were also several replicas of monuments from the US such as Mount Rushmore and the Statue of Liberty.  And, because Lego Land is a theme park, we got to ride lots of fun rides!  They were mostly for small kids, but there were a few cool ones for bigger kids.  The coolest ride there was called Power Builder--in it, you get a card with a smart chip in it, and you go to a computer screen, enter your height, the level of intensity you want, and what moves you want to do.  Then, you and one other person sit in a little seat which is at the end of a robot arm.  When the platform moves out from under your feet, you are like a piece of equipment on an assembly line, and the robot arm picks you up and spins you in all different directions--up, down, sideways, upside down, and backwards!  I thought it was such a cool idea for a ride--that you get to interact and choose your experience.  The whole thing took place in a big, dark room with a few neon lights and techno music playing, so it really set the mood for the ride.  We ended the day at Lego Land in the shop, which had a section that was like a candy store!  There were bins after bins of loose Legos--all different colors, shapes, and sizes (as well as little pieces like the Lego people heads, trees, animals, etc.) that you loaded into a bag like bulk candy and paid by weight.  All in all Lego Land was awesome, and I even heard rumors that they might be building one in Lee's Summit...
On Monday, we took a little day trip to Sweden because it was just so close--only 45 minutes away.  We visited the city of Malmo (pronounced Malmu).  It was a cute little city, and we were able to see all of the main attractions in the city in a couple hours.  The main sight to see there is the tallest building in Sweden: the Turning Torso by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.  The building was pretty cool and looked different from every angle.  It consists of nine cubes with a total of 54 stories and a 90-degree twist from top to bottom.  Behind the Turning Torso there was a fun little park and playground next to the Western Harbour as well as a series of modern apartment buildings that were built for the European housing expo.  Malmo also had a lot of cute little shops and outdoor cafes, so there were tons of people out just shopping and sipping coffee all afternoon.

I really had an awesome time in Denmark, and it was good to see familiar faces from home and just get to spend some time with them.  I am happy to be back in Prague now for a few days.  Traveling can get so exhausting!  

I have finally gotten all of my pictures up to date, so click to see pictures from last weekend's trip to Geneva, Interlaken, and Zurich, Switzerland, as well as this week's photos from Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmo, Sweden.  The photos of Copenhagen are in a new Picasa web albut because I ran out of room on the first one, so just use the link here and you should find them.  I'll be putting all my future pictures in the album if you have it bookmarked.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Swiss Alps...Swiss Cheese Fondue...Swiss Chocolate...MMM

This weekend we took a bit longer trip to what I think will end up being my favorite country...Switzerland!  It was so gorgeous--I just couldn't believe that everything I saw outside was actually real!  We started the weekend in Geneva.  It truly was an international city, built around the lake with some of the prettiest blue water I had ever seen.  There were so many parks and green space, too, so it was relaxing just to sit in the sun and watch the sailboats.  We took a bus to the top of the city, and I think we actually crossed into France for a couple minutes, but I will definitely have to go back in order to say I've been there.
The next morning we went to Interlaken, which I had heard was beautiful, but when we arrived there was a snowstorm and there were so many low clouds we couldn't even tell we were in the mountains.  I was a little disappointed because we had planned on going hang gliding when we got there, but it just wasn't possible.  Instead, we found a spa in town and got to try out some different saunas, steam rooms, and whirlpools, which made up for not being able to enjoy the outdoors. 
The next morning, however, we woke up to the most beautiful day ever--perfect for hang gliding!  The view from the top of the mountain was breathtaking, and hang gliding was AWESOME!  It was so much fun, but over way too soon.  Here is a picture of me in flight with my pilot Ed.  I loved just being in Interlaken--such a cute little mountain town with hardly any residents and even fewer tourists because skiing season is coming to a close.  It was nice and peaceful, and with a day like Monday, I could have stayed there forever the scenery was so amazing.For our last stop we visited Zurich.  I also really enjoyed this city--another small city (although large for Switzerland, but much calmer than Prague).  I like cities of this size where you can spend a couple hours and see all the main sights and still have plenty of time to relax.  We spent a lot of time on the main shopping mile, which is equivalent to 5th Avenue in New York.  After a long lunch and some souvenir shopping, we decided to call it a day and head back to Prague.  It had been nice to stay in one place for a day, but I will be headed out again tomorrow to go to Denmark to visit a friend.  I am really excited to see her and see Copenhagen!

I am working on getting all of my pictures from Switzerland online, but in the meantime I have uploaded all of my photos from Glasgow, Scotland, so click here to see those!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Fish & Chips

This past weekend we took a trip to Scotland and stayed with a friend who has been studying at the Glasgow School of Art.  We had such a fun weekend, and it was interesting getting to see where other K-State students are studying and how their life is different from ours here in Prague.  We visited both Edinburgh and Glasgow, and I have to say I loved them both.  It's hard to compare the two because they are very different, but I know I could have spent more time in both cities.  My only regret about the trip is not getting to go up to the highlands and see the beautiful Scottish countryside.  We did, however, get a little preview on the trip between cities and at Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh.  
I haven't had much of a chance to write about the trip because we got back late Monday night, and I've had a lot of homework to catch up on since then!  It's been especially crazy because we are leaving for Switzerland tonight, and after I get back at 5 am on Wednesday morning, I leave early Thursday morning to go to Copenhagen, Denmark to visit another friend and see some awesome Scandinavian design.  I can't wait to get to Switzerland and see the beautiful scenery.  We will be visiting Geneva, Interlaken, and Zurich.  I am excited about all of these trips, but I know the time will fly by--all the while I'm supposed to be working on projects for all of my classes!  But as I've learned here, it will all work out, so I should just enjoy myself!  
I've uploaded pictures from Edinburgh, Scotland, and I'm working on getting the ones from Glasgow uploaded as well.  Click here to view the Edinburgh photos--enjoy!