Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Grey days in Basel

On Tuesday, a very smart and famous architecture historian joined us on our tour of Basel. Jacques has taught at the Mendrizio architecture school in Switzerland, has written many books, and has even lectured at Virginia Tech. I was really excited for the day and for the opportunity to learn from this guy, but sometimes life just doesn't want to give you what you want.

But I did get some beautiful Swiss sunshine today!

I woke up with my bad knee hurting, I had a rough start to the day, and it was REALLY cold (and my warm sweatshirt was still wet, drying on the clothesline in my room). I wanted to put it all behind me and focus on Jacque, but he was REALLY hard to listen to. His voice was very soft and quiet, so only the closest 5 people to him could really hear what he had to say. And when you were one of those privelaged  five, you had to decipher what exactly he was trying to convey through his philosophical talk. 

A medieval wall, the mill for the paper factory, and the ferry across the Rhine

I was really upset actually at how the day was turning out. No matter how close to him I stood, I could never really understand what he was saying. And we spent the whole day walking around Basel, which made my poor knees hate me even more. It was turning into one of those terrible days where you sink into a spiraling whirlpool of despair.

Picture that occulus as the whirling pit of despair. Designed by Herzog & deMuron

But we did do some fun things with Jacques in the morning! We sailed across the Rhine on a cute ferry with sunflowers at each port, we went to the roof of a hospital to look over the city, and we went into a library and church near the university. 

We stopped to admire some brewery architecture

Stairs in the hostpital

Stairs in the library

And Wallace in the church we stopped in

Jacques is a very generous man. He took the time out of his day to roll with us and talk with us, which I really appreciated (and which made me all the more upset and guilty because I was having such a hard time taking anything away from it). But he really showed his generosity by taking all 20 of us and Heiner out to lunch. Before we went in, Heiner gently reminded us to not order anything too expensive, and to keep our selections around 20 francs. But Jacques ordered all of us the veal menu, complete with a salad, wine, and an espresso at the end. It was the nicest gesture, and I made sure to sit right next to him at lunch. I was able to talk to him and listen to him at lunch, which made me feel a lot better about how the morning started off.

After our 2.5 hour lunch, we went to the Kunst Museum, where Jacques showed us around and talked about the works of art. I saw many Monets and a couple Van Goghs (including a self portrait!), and did a couple nice sketches.

There was no photography allowed in the museum, but I captured a statue outside making a sad gyarados face.

I hate feeling like I've wasted something. I don't like to waste food (which is why I'm stoked I'm dating someone who will eat all my leftovers!), I don't like to waste paper in sketchbooks, and I REALLY don't like to waste time. I don't usually leave much idle time for myself, I usually fill it with quilting or a TV episode or cooking or something. But I was really upset Tuesday because I felt like this great opportunity was being wasted on me. I was in such a quiet mood because of how the morning started and I was having a hard time listening to Jacques, and I was so upset about it. I was in a cycle of upsetness and self pity. Luckily lunch helped me turn things around, but I'm still upset about the morning...

I found some cool trees erupting from the sidewalk and a Mario Botta building on my way home

At least fall is coming!

On Tuesday, we had the option to either follow Heiner around or to make our own trip. Since my knee had been bothering me for days and Heiner pace is not healthy for bad knees, I set out on my own architecture tour of the city. As luck would have it, I got my hands on a flyer with some architecture tours already established on a map. So Ryan, Isaac, Lindsey and I hit the road and followed the purple trail.

As luck would have it, the trail took us through the part of the city we'd already been in... yay. I was feeling a little less than confident about my role as leader. But we had some very good discussions about some very ugly buildings, and it was nice to work at our own pace.

Jacques had talked about "architecture without imagery", and we all thought it was bogus. But it sparked a good conversation about these two buildings.

We also went back to the Mario Botta building. Sadly it was grey and the tram lines are in the photo.

We made our way to the southern tram station in Basel and towards two large office complexes, designed by the same architect four years apart. One was made of thick, green, frosted glass and one was made of rippley aluminum. We had a good time studying the spaces and comparing the two buildings.

A bike path went beneath both buildings- Europeans are REALLY good about riding their bikes everywhere

The glass building had a very wide path, with courtyards connected to it. It was a big open space for people to walk through, to gather in, and to have a smoke (since everyone here smokes too- Maybe that's why they bike so much, to make up for the smoking?)

The aluminum building had a similar layout, but without the courtyards. It made it so there were no really good places to rest or pause, you just felt like you had to walk all the way down the path.

We also visited a switch tower by Herzog & deMuron. Basel is basically their architectural playground, they design and build SO MANY BUILDINGS here


After visiting the switch tower, we trammed all the way back to the main train station. I was looking for a couple of bottle shops that CJ had referred me to, looking for some specific beers. He had said they were at the train station, and I didn't realize until I was at the main station that they were actually at the OTHER station. Boo. Proper planning could have prevented this poor performance.

Lindsey and Isaac branched off to do couple things and walk around, so Ryan and I walked around near the main station before trucking back south. Long story short, the bottle shops did NOT have the beers I was looking for. Trip wasted. 

Ryan and I visited the Tinguely museum, by Mario Botta

They had a WICKED awesome steampunky exhibit on display, but I didn't want to pay 10 francs to see it, so I just creeped around the side of the gift shop

There was a beautiful moving water sculpture out front...

as well as a beautifully dynamic wind catching sculpture

Ryan liked it.

All in all, I think I did an ok job at leading a group today. Once the Heiner group returned home, I found out that I had visited many of the same buildings. So I started doubting myself, should I have gone with them? But I know I had fun today, and I know my knee didn't hurt at ALL today, so that's really what's important here. 

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