16 February 2015

photo: Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Firenze, Italia)

Photos: Lost City of Chernobyl

"In matters nuclear one thing is certain: there is no protection in an iron curtain." A letter in The Times May 3rd, 1986.

On the 26th of April 1986 shortly after midnight, to be precise, at 1:23 GMT, there occurred near the Ukrainian town of Chornobyl a tremendous explosion at a huge nuclear power plant, followed by a gradual meltdown of the reactor No. 4.

More photos here.

15 February 2015

San Vittore al Corpo (Milano, Italia)

In the 4th century AD, the area of San Vittore al Corpo was occupied by a group of Paleo-Christian burial places and by the Imperial Mausoleum, known up until the 16th century as Saint Gregory's Rotunda. Remains of the foundations of the ancient octagonal building with semi-circular niches are visible beneath the facade of the basilica. The original core of the present-day church dates back to the 8th century, when an existing building was enlarged to house the relics of saints Victor and Satyr. In 1508 the Olivetan monks began remodelling the entire Benedictine complex, which had been founded shortly after the year 1000 by archibishop Arnolfo II.

The design of the church is the outcome of a long debate between the fathers who commissioned its construction and the leading architects of the day, including Vincenzo Seregni and Galeazzo Alessi. When the basilica was recuilt (work began in 1560) it faced in the opposite direction to its medieval predecessor. It has a main barrel-vaulted nave with side aisles divided off by pillars, a high dome and apsed presdytery. The incomplete facade has a lower row of Corinthian pilaster strips which were to have aligned with the portico that was never built, and a large semi-circulate window above.

The former Monastery of San Vittore, which now houses the National Museum of Science and Technology, is organised around two large square cloisters built between 1553 and 1587 with design contributions of Seregni and Alessi.

Remains of the fortified Imperial Mausoleum are visible in the cloisters. The monastery was suppressed in 1804 and used until 1940 as a military hospital, then as a barracks. Heavily damaged by bombing in World War II, it was restored by Piero Portaluppi and Ferdinando Reggiori (1949-53), who redesigned the surviving parts as museum spaces.

13 February 2015

show notes: C-SPAN "Q&A" with David Brooks

Brian Lamb's interview with David Brooks was full of interesting references to websites, books, magazine articles -- many great thinkers over the last century. Here is a handy list of links to the people and sources he mentioned in "Q&A".

Sidney Hook’s autobiography: Out of Step: An Unquiet Life in the 20th Century

Sidney Hook and William F. Buckley Jr. on Firing Line
(video, 5 minutes) http://youtu.be/8tQaUDyBTgk

E Digby Baltzell, The Protestant Establishment: Aristocracy and Caste in America http://yalepress.yale.edu/book.asp?isbn=9780300038187

Arthur Schlesinger:
Congress and the Presidency: Their Role in Modern Times http://www.amazon.com/Congress-Presidency-Their-Modern-Times/dp/084472002X

The crisis of confidence: Ideas, power, and violence in America

Daniel Bell:

The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting

David Brooks’ favourite sources:

Ta-Nehisi Coates: The Case for Reparations

Diana Shaub’s essay on the Gettysburg address http://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/lincoln-at-gettysburg

Hana Rosin, The End of Men: and the Rise of Women http://hannarosin.com/

Isaiah Berlin http://berlin.wolf.ox.ac.uk/ and his work The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy's View of History http://www.amazon.com/The-Hedgehog-Fox-Tolstoys-History/dp/1566630193

Christian Wiman My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer

George Orwell’s essays http://orwell.ru/library/essays/index_en

12 February 2015

The Sforza Castle -- Museum of Ancient Art

With nearly 2,000 items, the Museum of Ancient Art is the most important collection of Late-Antiquity, Medieval and Renaissance sculpture in Lombardy. The Museum, housed in rooms bearing the Sforza and Spanish era decorations, displays items linked to the history of the city and the region, as well as masterpieces acquired by the City Council throughout the course of time.

After you pass through the arch of the Pusteria dei Fabbri, once one of the gates of the Medieval walls of Milano, your attention is drawn to the 14th-century funerary monument of Bernabo Visconti, a masterpiece by Bonino da Campione, and to the elegant sculputres by the Tuscan Giovanni di Balduccio, called to Milano by Azzone Visconti to decorate the churches and gates of the city walls. The history of the city is shown in the friezes from the Medieval Porta Romana, depicting events following the capture of the city by Frederick I Barbarossa in 1162, and in the 16th-century Gonfalon of Milano featuring the portrait of Saint Ambrose.

The Sforza period of Milano is represented by the Sala delle Asse, designed by Leonardo da Vinci, who was called to Milano by Ludovico il Moro, the frescoes of the Ducal Chapel and the private rooms of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, where Late-Gothic (Jacopino da Tradate) and Renaissance (Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, Antonio and Cristoforo Mantegazza) works are displayed.

After the Armoury, housing a selection of arms from the Late Middle Ages to the 18th century, the itinerary is completed by two outstanding masterpieces: the funerary monument of Gaston de Foix, commissioned by the King of France Francis I and sculpted by Bambaja, and the famous Rondanini Pieta by Michelangelo, his last and unfinished work.

27 January 2015

Chiaravalle Abbey (Milano, Italia) -- Part 1

Chiaravalle Abbey was founded between 1134 and 1135 in an uncultivated and marshy area to the southeast of Milano beyond Porta Romana, a region populated by numerous villages that were then encompassed into the property of the monastery. There was active support from the Milanese population, with regards to both the donation of land for constructing the complex and raising the necessary funds, bolstering the connection between the Cistercians and Lombardy's main city.

Nothing remains of the first settlement, probably consisting of provisional structures. The construction of the current church started around 1150-1160. The work began with the choir and the apse, in order to allow religious practices to begin as quickly as possible.  In 1196, the first alters were completed, and on 2 May 1221, the archbishop of Milano, Enrico Settala, consecrated the finished church.

The work then continued with the building of the first cloister, located to the south of the church. During the 13th century, there were significant transformations in Gothic style; the originally planned barrel vaults were replaced by cross vaults, the transept was raised, and the originally square pillars were replace by circular structures in brickwork.  The bell tower was added in 1347-1349, perhaps designed by Francesco Pecorari, who is credited with the building of the bell tower of the Milanese church San Gottardo in Corte which shows similar characteristics.

Signpost (Praiano, Italia)

14 January 2015

Chiesa di San Filippo Neri (Torino, Italia)

The building was designed and erected by Filippo Juvarra after the collapse, in 1714, of the domed structure in an advanced stage of construction, commenced in 1675 and designed by the Lugano-born architect Antonio Bettino.

After producing many designs, Juvarra eventually plumped for a large single aisle covered by a barrel vault with large windows. The continuous polychrome trabeation and the curviliniear link at the corners of the vault helped conjure up the perception of a unitary space.

Externally, the vault is buttressed by robust brick separators. The entrance is on the same axis as the atrium of the palazzo Asinari di San Marzano and is withdrawn from the street to allow access to the Oratory. Juvarra's designs for church and convent were completed by Giovanni Battista Sacchetti and Giovanni Pietro Baroni di Tavigliano, Pietro Bonvinci (presbytery and sacristy), Giuseppe Talucchi (from 1825) and Ernesto Camusso (facade with Corinthian pronaus, 1891).

Piazza Carlo Felice (Torino, Italia)

In 1822, on the city limits architects Lombardi and Frizzi planned an arcaded street marking the entrance to the Baroque city (via Roma) with roads leading out to Nice (via Nizza) and Stupinigi (via Sacchi) as well as the new royal avenue (Corso Vittorio). In 1851 Carlo Promis completed the square, with the station on one side, and on the others the continuous arcades that were a feature of other new city developments. In 1861 inauguration of the central garden with its cast iron railings.