Across the plaza – Fascist Rome

During last week’s Roman excursion I was able to make a brief visit to a part of the city I’ve wanted to see for some time, the EUR district located a few underground stops south of the centre.

EUR – or the Esposizione Universale Roma – was designed in the 1930s and 40s under the supervision of Mussolini for the 1942 World Expo, which the fascist regime wanted to use to showcase the 20th anniversary of its rise to power. EUR indicates how much of urban Italy might have looked had fascism survived: this is a stark space of plazas, ramrod straight avenues and austere buildings that strive for the imagined monumentality of ancient Rome.

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Mount Herzl and Yad Vashem

I was able to visit Mount Herzl in Jerusalem a couple of days ago. The Mount’s best known feature is the Holocaust History Museum, usually referred to as Yad Vashem, but that is just a part of an extensive complex of museums, memorials and parks.

The Mount is named after Theodore Herzl, the principal pioneer of the Zionist movement. Herzl’s tomb is placed on a large plaza at the summit, which was being visited by groups of soldiers when I was there. The plaza is surrounded by a network of cemeteries and memorials to other prominent Zionists and Israeli Prime Ministers and Presidents. A series of winding paths lead to the Yad Vashem complex.

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Nazarene Brutalism

We have scarcely begun exploring the sacred sites of Israel and Palestine.

The churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and shrines marking their locations are usually, of course, ancient, dating to the first millennium or earlier. But very often they are relatively new, built some time in the last century on the ruins of earlier buildings (quite a few seem to date from 2000, built with various millennium funds). They tend to be contemporary iterations on earlier structures, sensitively designed polite pastiches employing familiar vernaculars.

The Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth – more often referred to as the Basilica – is a striking exception.

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Metro lights

Landscapes of Communism – a review

Part retro-futurist, part sci-fi, part Gotham City, part ancient Babylon, the architectural legacy of the former Soviet Union preserves the memory of a utopian future that was never realised.

Landscapes of Communism is the formidably researched and richly illustrated record of a journey by the architectural and political commentator Owen Hatherley through the former USSR, exploring how the 70-year Soviet experiment in building a new socialist society found expression through architecture.

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Astronaut's gloves

A visit to the Kennedy Space Center, Florida

I’ve taken some time to get round to it, but here, finally, are some photos of a memorable trip to the Kennedy Space Center during my holiday in Florida last month.

The Center was built for the Apollo lunar program of the 1960s and 70s, and was later used for the space shuttle missions. These pictures don’t convey the vastness of the site, and, at least at present, its poignancy: visiting the Center one has the sense that the future is on hold as NASA waits and hopes for funding for another major space program.

I’ve had the good fortune to be able to visit the Center twice, the first time back in 2000. There’s more to see now, including a spectacular new exhibition space showcasing the Atlantis Space Shuttle. Very well worth a visit. I’ve posted these and many more photos of the Center on Flickr.

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