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Walking Across Continents

December 29, 2013

It is nice to see that walking, like cycling, is becoming fashionable. For example look at these romantic, silly, commercial and yet lovely short stories, shot in Florence, Los Angeles and Shanghai by Luca Guadagnino and produced by Salvatore Ferragamo.

On the road from Oradea to Cluj-Napoca

December 4, 2013

Some more images from my recent trip in Romania. This time the subject is the landscape along the road from Oradea to Cluj-Napoca, in a beautiful sunny day. I know it’s too many pictures for a post, and you can find much better ones on Google streetview, but what can I do? These are my pictures and I like them all!  

The first images are taken driving out of Oradea, out of the Jugendstil city centre, through the socialist housing complexes of the suburb, some already refurbished, most of them still waiting.

Out in the industrial periphery, cities looks all the same: car dealers, outlets, building  sites, budget hotels, office buildings, logistic centres etc.

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Spare monuments from the socialist past and new capitalist developments in the background. Romania has gone its own way to sprawl and real estate blind speculation after the change. The economic crisis just stopped it, preventing the little Rumanian bubble to burst, but it hasn’t solved the situation at all.

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Out of town the landscape becomes rural, single family houses in vernacular style stay aligned along the straight roads.  I remember them from a trip in the mid eighties, when the country was still under Nicolae Ceausescu. Nowadays more homes have been built along the street, in the second and third row. Some of the old ones are renewed, others not. Somehow I like them.

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Cables, cables from one electricity pole to another. All these cables along the roads (this phenomenon is much more radical in the cities) are due to the success of cable TV. They do not have the permission or the time or the money to dig under the pavements, they sell subscriptions. Once you buy in very short time you get it at home. In Italy we had satellite dishes instead, another statement of individual freedom.

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A stork nest on a concrete electricity pole. A flock of sheep. A gasoline station.

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After the political change a lot of new churches were built all over the country. Orthodox, catholic, protestant… in every shape, colour and material. They stay very bold in the landscape as a landmark of revenge after many decades of oppression. Unlikely the results are mostly poor and the resources poured into these churches are not always for the benefit of the community.

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This village features large villas with flamboyant roof, door, windows and balconies decorations in shiny metal cladding. Every home has bold round shapes in a naive castle style. At the beginning you think it must be a peculiar guy. But then you see it is a mass phenomenon! Amazing!   driving from cluj to oradea - october 2013 (64)

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The same housing blocks we left back in Oradea are in the suburbs of Cluj. To reach the airport we have to cross the whole city, right through the central square.  driving from cluj to oradea - october 2013 (81)

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The bigger city, the more cables are along the street. driving from cluj to oradea - october 2013 (86)

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Folk Dances of Transylvania

November 24, 2013

Few weeks ago I was invited by the European Urban Knowledge Network (EUKN) to hold a seminar on urban policies for energy efficiency in Oradea. The seminar went well and a report about the whole conference can be found here. The hosting city was Oradea, well known cultural and economic centre of the region and the city with the largest Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) heritage in Rumania, witness of the city’s golden age as part of the Habsburgs empire.

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Besides the tours in the historic city centre and famous citadel, we also became a flavour of Transylvanian culture through an amazing performance of folk music and dances.

On the train from Cluj to Oradea

November 5, 2013

Today I had a comfortable trip by train from Cluj to Oradea, on the train to Budapest.

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 This was the second class carriage.

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The first class carriage had a different but definitely coherent colour concept.

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And this was the dining carriage, with an impressive menu, but we didn’t taste it.

From Zaventem to Brussels on Bus 12

October 28, 2013

Frequent travellers to Brussels appreciate the bus service that takes you from Zaventem Airport directly to Schumann and Place Luxembourg, in the heart of the European quarter. It is the cheapest way to get there and thanks to a smart route rather quick even at peak hours.  I find this route also quite interesting from an architectural/urban fabric point of view and last time I took some pictures with my phone.

 The pictures are the kind of random streetviews I like to make when arriving or living a city. I still have many to publish, if I just had the time to do it. I think I love them because they are random like the environments they reflect and sometimes random+random=composition.

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I agree, the beginning is not so spectacular, especially if you seat on the driver’s side of the bus and take pictures with 24mm equivalent camera. Just road, cars, industrial or office buildings in the distance.
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Some buildings show more attention to the way they relate to the highway and sunrise. Here is a post-modern office complex which in a way says  good morning or good-bye to the people passing by.

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Other buildings show their commercial destination in a direct way.
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Here is the beginning of an urban fabric: the highway flows into the network of roads of the city, which accommodate tramways, bike lanes, walkways, tram and bus stations, public lights etc.

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This building is another postmodern, outdated office block, nevertheless it has the right scale and architectural language at this place.  It reacts to the randomness of the environment with an abstract and funny pattern that brings it exactly to the point.

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Brussels is one of most congested cities in Europe in terms of private traffic. A legislation that provide subsidies to single family houses has caused the so-called “brusselisation” and produced a heavy sprawl all around the city.  Here you can see the cars standing in line to enter the city, meanwhile nobody is driving in the opposite direction.  Only few mothers with children and kids wait for the bus.

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Social housing at the edge of the city. As a matter of fact you find these blocks often also in the city center, scattered around.

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Also in this car dominated landscape you can recognise the city is taking good care of green areas.

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Large buildings scattered around do no harm to this random landscape. They relate to the high-speed of people passing by. Trees have to grow and urban life has to reach out here yet.
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This nicely designed underpass marks the entrance to the historic city.

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Art nouveau houses are the architectural landmark of Brussels. Viktor Horta is only one of the many great architects who has designed these architectural artworks in various parts of town.   These houses were very well designed and built and today the most requested business and residential  locations. #Brussels_Oct2013_ (37)

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Empty sharing bikes stands. Does it mean the system is very successful and everybody use this, or is there an insufficient re-distribution system to balance the main flows?

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When in the middle of the historic city you see again anonymous office blocks, it means you are arriving at the European quarter, the main concentration of European institutions, member States representations etc. .

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Some existing buildings should be integrated in the real estate development of the European quarter, yet they are not the priority.

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