Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bucharest, Romania

This is my favorite tree in Cismigiu Garden. The trees in the garden all have nameplates with all kinds of educational latin names. The name for this tree is "Cismigiu Garden". Maybe this is the mystical heart of the Garden. Unfortunately, the nameplate was just removed; hopefully it's not replaced with a new latin name. I dont think the tree would approve. I tried again to sketch the negative spaces of the tree, but also to try to capture the surrounding space. I like the way this tree occupies the space.

I actually started this sketch first, but was so focused on the tree, I didnt feel like I captured the space underneath, so I did it again.

There's an interesting article about the gardens in Bucharest here.
I've been to maybe half of these gardens, but now I"ll have to go with the article in mind and see what I can see.

Me with Febe. Febe's a pretty patient dog for sketching, she just kinds of hangs out with me and watches the people go by.

Some of the other areas of the garden.... some of them green, some of them pink.....

...some yellow. This one at the sidewalk is "100% natural."

Monday, March 30, 2009

Bucharest, Romania

Podul Izvor, Bucuresti

Sketching along the Dambovita river this morning. This corner at the bridge is one of my favorite spots, not only because of the eclectic buildings, but because when you drive under the canopy of trees on the other side of the bridge, you come right out at Cismigiu Garden, and it's a beautiful spot. As I was standing there looking at the bridge, I realized this combination stoplight - street sign is a pretty elaborate piece of communications hardware.

View of buildings at Dambovita River

Just down from the bridge, there's a great view of this mix of buildings.... 19th century imperial style with glass and steel modern, with brutalist, with a few others. I'm sure in the 19th century it fronted out to the river.

View of buildings at Dambovita River

Sometimes the mix of eclectic styles isnt so well done. Anyway, I'm sure the building in the back used to front out to the river, probably with a beautiful open lawn or courtyard. It's one of the 19th century landmarks of Bucharest.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bucharest, Romania

Str. Stirbei Voda, Bucuresti

For some reason, I was noticing the visual clutter in the environment today; not sure if this is because of springtime, or wishing it was warmer, or the light just caught the clutter just at the right angle, but I thought I'd look at this today in a few sketches. When I think of the most thriving, and interesting cities, they often seem to have the most visual chaos or visual clutter. The variety of elements all smashed up together in one giant heap. There is the sense of the unexpected, and a city that has developed a vitality over time. Cities like this that come to mind... New York, Tokyo, Athens, Paris, San Francisco, Berlin, Bucharest.

Sos. Panduri, Bucuresti

Sos. Panduri, Bucuresti

Sometimes even the trees seem like part of the visual chaos. I started this sketch by focusing on the negative spaces in the trees, rather than the shapes of the trees. I might try that again with another tree.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sibiu, Romania

Piata Mica, Sibiu
(View from the clocktower)

The clocktower provides a number of great views for sketching. Inside the tower, there's a very old mechanical clock that, from the inside, looks like one of those mechanical gizmos in airports to amuse children. Anyway, I found it pretty amusing. :-) In Venice, San Marco Square, we found the same kind of experience in the belltower..... tall tower, great views of the rooftops, cool view of mechanical devices for the bells at the top. In Brasov, we found a similar experience in the black tower..... not so tall, but with very nice views, and the operable glass windows at the observation deck at the top..... maybe not as fancy as the clock in Sibiu, but interesting anyway. Maybe the ultimate mechanical tower device would be the elevators in the Eiffel Tower.

Rooftops, Sibiu
(view from the tower)

Carpenter's Tower, Sibiu

The carpenter's tower/guild connects with the potters tower/guild, near the outside wall of the city. On the carpenter's guild, the wooden balcony/walkway forms a really funny architectural piece sort of stuck onto the stone/plaster tower.

Roof eye, Sibiu

Sibiu is famous for the eyes on the roofs. This sketch was from a rooftop and wall that sat right next to one of the walkways and stairs.

Sibiu, Romania

Train Museum, Sibiu

Arriving at Sibiu by train, we saw an old roundhouse with a turntable, and some old steam trains. Later, we walked back down to the station, crossed the tracks, and walked down the tracks to the Sibiu Train Museum for something totally different to sketch from the medieval architecture of the city.
Train Museum website:

Train Museum, Sibiu

One of the guys at the museum told us that eventually the museum hopes to repair some of the steam trains for tourism. The trains are in all shapes, sizes, and with various features and aerodynamic experiments to try to eek out a bit more capacity, speed, or distance with each model. Some are huge and some are tiny. Sketching the trains is quite different from sketching the buildings...... maybe this is because of the different sense of spaces, and the way the trains occupy space compared with the buildings. Also, the trains are fun to sketch because of the mechanical, non-picturesque aspects.

Cool trip idea nr. 11,692: The Orient Express
Despite the functional, plain nature of the trains today in Romania, the famous (or one of the famous) Orient Express went through Romania and Bucharest to connect London to the Black Sea and Istanbul. http://mikes.railhistory.railfan.net/r045.html
The route appears to have gone through Sibiu, but probably stopped at Bucharest and Brasov.

Map of the Orient Express (source: http://mikes.railhistory.railfan.net/r045.html)

Piata Mica, Sibiu
Back to Piata Mica for a sketch and lunch under one of the arches.

Sibiu, Romania

Street view, Sibiu

Sketching is interesting in Sibiu, for the variety of forms, and the cacophany of different visual elements.......cars, signs, buildings, rooftops, roof "eyes", and different architectural styles. Sibiu grew over the last 1000 years, and some sources say Sibiu was inhabited since the late stone age......... for perhaps 50,000 years. With all of this time, and with other such civilizations to follow...Dacian, Roman, German, and current, Sibiu has evolved as an architectural form to show the mixture of elements over time, sometimes visually contradictory. It is exactly this contradictory visual history that makes Sibiu beautiful.

Piata Mica, Sibiu

The road leading to the Piata entrance is part of the architecture of the Piata. The road is actually sunken below the level of the terrace, which forms part of the Piata promenade, a zone of cafes and umbrellas and people sitting out to have coffees and food. The road is bordered by large brick walls that give the road a human feeling that makes it part of the pedestrian area.

looking the other way, the road makes a few curves that form the plaza above, with a cast iron bridge crossing over the road. The bridge is called the "Podul Mincunilor" (The Liar's Bridge).... historically because of the hagglers in the market that used to be close by.... but reliable sources say that nowadays it's called the Liar's bridge, because this is where the guys in Sibiu take their girlfriends on romantic nights to tell them sweet whispers.

Piata Mica, Sibiu, Podul Mincunilor

Sibiu, Romania

Piata Mica, Sibiu

Sibiu is one of Romania's tourist destinations, one of the medieval cities like Brasov in Transylvania. Sibiu has two main squares, the large square and the small square, Piata Mare and Piata Mica, joined by a tunnel under a tower. The city is surrounded by a group of walls, with narrow passages between and around the walls, built on hills, with narrow stairways in areas, towers, and many architectural features, old and new buildings, to make it very picturesque for sketching. One of the interesting locations for sketching is in the squares, because of the abundance of interesting features and history. This tunnel through the tower is like a protected entrance in to the walled city.


Hotel Imparatul Romanilor, Sibiu

A side street from Piata Mare leads to a pedestrian mall filled with cafes, restaurants, and a famous hotel with a bright yellow plaster, a luxurious hotel. The interior of the hotel features a ballroom with a retractable glass ceiling. In the summer, the entire glass ceiling can be rolled back as one large operable piece to open the dance floor to the night sky. Right across from the hotel is a convenient cafe for having a coffee and making a quick sketch.

Piata Mare, Sibiu

In Piata Mare, looking the other direction at the tower between the two squares, there are four architectural structures side by side........ the large Catholic church, the tower, the primaria and the Brukenthall Museum.

Webcam of Sibiu:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bucharest, Romania

Izvor Park dog area, Bucuresti

One of the things that makes cities livable, is places for play. A place for play is an area that allows for exploration and freedom of movement, and freedom of activity, or provides enough visual diversity and space to allow for individuals to have fun. Unfortunately, the city recently decided to de-play one if it's central parks, my favorite park, by de-dogging it. First, by installing a tiny fenced "dog area" on one side of the gigantic park, and then by installing a team of comando "guardians" (meanies), whose entire function is to walk around the park all day and night and tell people to keep their dogs on a leash. The effect of this has been to de-play the park.... to make the park almost like a museum. Ironically, the street dogs dont seem to use the official area.

Izvor Park has a tragic story which lies beneath the grass. The park stands at ground zero for the 8 square kilometer area of shops, houses, theatres, churches, offices, and streets that was obliterated to make way for communist blocs and a huge grass lot, now maintained by "guardians" and swept daily by "the sweepers".

Some people say it is possible, walking in the park early in the morning, to hear ghosts in the park, and street carts, and doors opening and closing, and people sleeping. Or maybe it's just the wind in the trees and the mist blowing across the park.

Before: A slideshow showing the area as it was:


(Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/costi-londra/2920628237/)


Izvor Park, Bucuresti

Izvor Park, Bucuresti

Toilets were recently installed, and some of the benches were removed. Fortunately the old wooden benches were replaced by the new stark modernistic rigid benches, designed with the back and seat at a perfect 90 degree angle for more efficient seating. Whereas the previous benches were moveable, and could be moved to be beneath the shade of a tree, the new benches are conveniently installed only along the path, bolted into upright position, and fixed, so that nobody can play with their perfect visual positioning.

This is not to say that Romania is alone in the creation of places that don't encourage play.

In the 1950s, 60s, into the present, many urban plazas have featured giant abstract sculptures and barren landscapes. The purpose of the sculpture, as noted by many critics, is essentially to occupy space in the urban landscape in order to prevent people from congregating. Many examples of this type exist.This one is Calder's Flamingo in Federal Plaza in Chicago. Federal Plaza is not one of Chicago's "places for play". Instead, it's one of the places to not remain too long. Fortunately the sculpture doesnt straddle 2 plastic eco-toilets.

(Source: Wikipedia)

An example of a place that encourages play, and makes the city one of the most livable places, is shown here...... (Cary is listed as one of the most livable cities).....

Town of Cary dog park

This is a community effort......they have memberships and help to keep it clean. It's a social gathering spot not only for the dogs but for the people. And a real hotbed of activity.
They even have their own website: http://www.townofcary.org/depts/prdept/parks/dogpark.htm

Sacramento, which is commited to Livable Communities even has........ The Dog Park Masterplan....... and their own website for the park.

It's important that places for play in cities include places for people and for dogs, because of the roles that dogs play in human lives, and ultimately in the quality of life of the community. Unfortunately, for post-communist Romania, this quality of life can be fragmented..... a fragment here in a cofetaria, a fragment there in the park (with your dog leashed), a fragment here at the meeting of a neighbor on the street, a fragment there in the corner store to get a can of beer.
Perhaps in 50-100 years, after the city has once again obliterated the area of Izvor Park (because nobody goes there to play with their dogs), then the city will develop a nice dog park, and a sense of community will return to make Bucharest the Paris of the East.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Transylvania, Romania

Weekend trip from Bucharest: Brasov and Fagaras

One of the best views of Brasov is from the black tower, looking toward the Black Church. The Black Church has an amazing organ, and it's a nice place to go in the evenings or during the day to hear music.

Biserica Neagra, Brasov, view from the tower

Now, Fagaras is small... about 30,000, surrounded by small villages, but the history is very interesting, going back to the times of Teutonic Knights. In the center of town is the Citadel, a huge brick walled structure with the castle in the center. Nearby is a small park and city square, now the site of wedding parties and photographs in the spring. Because of Fagaras' urban design, with small streets and continuous walled facades along the streets, the wedding parties can be heard all over town when they start the traditional wedding parade on the way to the party, with tens of cars rolling through town with the horns blaring, and somewhere inside a bride with a big white dress. The Citadel is the main historic landmark in town.

Citadelul, Fagaras

Manastirea Sambata

Manastirea Sambata, Judetul Fagaras

In Fagaras County is the Sambata Monastery, one of the monasteries in the Romanian Brancovenesque style. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Br%C3%A2ncovenesc_style

Sambata Monastery is surrounded by mountains, and one of the favorite places to go for Easter and during the summer, when the flowers and roses are out, and to go for picnics and barbeques in the summer in the surrounding area. Because of the location in the mountains, the air around Sambata always smells like trees, and earth, and the forest. There's a small lake and creek behind the monastery; because of the design of the architecture with the courtyard and the landscaping around, the monastery feels very much a part of the landscape. The lake and creek and surrounding hills part of the meditative space of the monastery.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Brasov, Romania

Weekend Trip from Bucharest: Brasov. Brasov is one of the medieval walled cities in Romania, with picturesque watchtowers, narrow streets, and the city wall. There's a nice hotel in the centru, Hotel Bella Muzica, right across from the main square, and with rooms underneath the attic ceilings, with exposed wood beams in the ceilings, and skylights where you can look out in the morning and see the watchtowers. There are a numbers of walks around the city, around the medieval city walls, up to the watchtowers, and up the hill across town to a mountain-top castle.

Piata Sfatului, Brasov

In the main square, The Black Church stands out behind the regulated buildings on the square. The Black Church stands out like something dark out of the future which dominates the buildings in the square. Sort of a combination of a sharp knight's helmet and an angular modernistic form against the regular rhythm of the regulated buildings.

Piata Sfatului, Brasov

Webcams in Brasov:

Strada Sforii, Brasov (Rope Street - the narrowest street in Europe)