01 December 2010


Florence was the most enticing experience to my senses. It was difficult when it came time to leave. It was perhaps something to do with the cultural indulgence I experienced there... at least that is what I would like to think as I hopped on a train to Rome instead of Milan when I eventually left!

Santa Maria del Fiore - known to most peasants as Florence - is full of life and endless narratives of past glorious times which you can see, touch, smell and even taste throughout its well crafted buildings, museums and certainly, piazzas. I love stopping at bars and cafes, if possible mingling with the locals, at least I make my effort to ask for a snack such as arancini (rice balls originally from Sicily) but if the being under question turns up to be an obnoxious sod I then take my sketchbook out and courageously throw a handful of strokes (apparently I draw showing gestures of aristocratic disdain).

Now when I think of Florence, Uffizi Gallery and Palazzo Pitti firstly come to mind. I really love the Uffizi galleries and the building as a whole as it is something very especial with those long corridors framing views to the river 'Fiume Arno' and the city with its wonderful dome better known as Il Doumo or La Cupola. Along those corridors with endless series of statues mainly of roman mythological, emperors and statesmen figures solidly standing as visitors pass by under the dark timbers of cathedral ceilings is just just sublime. The heaviness of the sandstone on the bottom levels of the Galleria compensates with the lightness of the timber frames at the upper levels making it one of my favorite buildings in Florence - in part for achieving this balance of heaviness and lightness, eternal and ethereal, fortress and home and in part for having an exquisite art collection.

Amongst my favorite paintings are those from Sandro Botticelli's La Primavera and Nacimiento di Venus (which today you see on the box of Adobe Photoshop - not sure how royalties are secured or if even paid) have to be my two favorites. Caravaggio's Medusa (temporarily at the Uffizi) which is painted on a warrior's 'escudo' has to be another of my favorites ones and certainly a very disturbing image of this mythological figure. Caravaggio's Bacco (shown at the Palazzo de Pitti) is cheering for sinful events yet to come still, the tranquil Bacco has a sight of serenity (in the sense of a sleeping beast) holding his glass of wine. Not long after standing there I was holding my own glass of red while enjoying a wine tasting event at the courtyard of el Palazzo Pitti with local Lombardic producers.

Back in the streets of 'Santa Maria del Fiore' my favorite piece of architecture has to be 'La Cupola di Brunellieschi' which I climbed up to the top on a clear day at dusk. Climbing step by step feeling a sense of wonder and admiration for those who erected such a structure and asking myself: "how on earth did it happen"?!.... even dreamt on that night about the Dome and ended up getting a little book [in italian] of La Cupola di Brunelleschi "la nascita avventurosa di un prodigio dell'archittetura e del genio che lo ideó" to enlighten my [very limited] understanding of the matter. A small church named Chesa di San Miniato al Monte has to be one my favorite and most exciting small temple not just for its natural setting on the hill overlooking Florence but the warmth of its intricate interior space with a timber mezzanine and timber cathedral roofing. Watching the sunset from its portico or from a lower point by 'Piazzale Michelangelo' is just sublime.

Apparently one of those interiors one should see while visiting Florence is an old aphotheka (pharmacy) on Via di Vecchietti but could never find it, even after asking a couple of Florentine donnas. I found instead a very large couple of old bookshops in the area. A number of floors of shelves displaying 'zillions' of books clearly revealing a city with appetite (and arguably pride) for culture. Eventually the space was broken by a coffee bar or patio which I happily felt like occupying even for few minutes. The Faculty of Architecture has a great library which is not far from that of the Accademia Belle Arti. The building and the gardens are rather pintoresque but the classrooms and library gloomy and in state of decay.... enough of book browsing, time for another break, time for another café fresco macchiato!

Above: Arsenale at the 12. Mostra Internazionale di Architettura. La Biennale di Venezia.
Experimental works of Antón Garcia-Abril and Ensamble Studio. My involvement with the event was through the International Conference of the Constructed Environment where I presented to a group of architects and academics at the "Fondazione Querini Stampalia". The event took place in an old palace "Palazzo Querini Stampalia" seriously damaged in the 60's as a result of flooding and re-done by Carlo Scarpa... A Venezia c'é di nuove l'aqua alta!

I have not mentioned why I titled this blogspot "Lense to Detox" so here you go: Blanco y negro, black and white [B&W] media such as ink drawings, hatchings, photography and film is an art and communication form which means to me a medium for brain clearance or sort of detoxification. It is a way (perhaps the perfect way) of seeing and reading things for their essence rather than through the hideous amalgamation of layers of noise. We live amidst a bombardment of information in the invisible form of visual noise. On a daily basis we are exposed to zillions of images, media, information and other bits'nd pieces that surely have to have a devastating poisoning effect to our brains.

Few friends have asked if I convert my colour photos into black and white once they are in my computer. I have done that occasionally but the real joy is to wonder around with my camera on the B&W setting. It really is about trying to see the world through a different [detoxing] lense with our without camera... and then perhaps capture that instance with a camera.

My love for B&W goes back to my PhD days at The University of Reading where I used to run the photography club with few friends (James, Francois, Darrin, Steve, Francesca). We used to spend summers and weekends traveling around with our cameras and winters in the darkroom printing in the good old fashion. I do less of the chemical printing process today but the medium/format of B&W has stayed with me (and with the community). Reading was back at the turn of the century but I can now say that B&W secured a prominent niche as it communicates very specific things in very specific ways.

There are so many photographers who have excelled on B&W but to me the fathers are still Henri Cartier-Bresson, Sebastian Salgao, Helmut Newton, Rene Burri and Constantin Manos. Words that come to mind when think of B&W include: sun/shade, simplicity, essence, form without noise, frozen music, lines/shades, gestures, binary, barcode, zebra-pass, two, bicycle, monochrome, light/dark.

Delft cathedral bells have been ringing for nearly and hour. My room window opens to Markt square and adjacent buildings such as the cathedral and the town-hall. It is all like a folly. It is Christmas and that makes things even more fairy like! If anyone previously told me that architecture did not exist - I think they only need to visit Delft.

... but by being here, in Delft, I came to realise that architecture to me is more like B&W fotography. It might be a little abstract and not that exiting to a large popular taste. Still, architecture today has got a very clear and specific niche and it is here to stay just like B&W photography did - it is just a matter of being aware that the world revolves around colour!

Everyone should have a lense to detox. If you don't but are out'nd abouts you are welcome to pop in Markt Sq Delft and borrow mine. Thank you Delft for the lessons, I know I can now attempt "architecture-to-detox"!

Het Konings Huys pub at Markt Sq.
Delft, NL