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Eric Fichtl

Architecture

From humble homes to megaprojects, and ancient to modern, I enjoy trying to capture the lines and volumes of our built environment.

<p>The gentrification of Buenos Aires' Puerto Madero district had not reached very far in the late 1990s. The now-prized warehouses were in various states of dereliction at the time, like this one.</p>
<p>A boat beckons, a cottage calls... Many homes in the area come replete with a boathouse. </p>
<p>A pair of visitors to the cemetery at St. Olaf's Church, a small and centuries-old parish.</p>
<p>A detail of the crumbling masonry that once enabled the Great Wall to traverse the terrain of imperial China's border. I understand these sections have been restored since this photograph was taken.<br /></p>
<p>A detail of the golden cladding and angular roofline of the Kammermusiksaal (chamber music hall) at the Philharmonie complex in Berlin.</p>
<p>Balconies front a modern block on Berlin's Behmstraße.</p>
<p>A spiral staircase in Vágur.</p>
<p>An old house perches on an even older wall.</p>
<p>The former 'cathedral' of Casablanca (technically a church), built in 1930 and only in operation until Morocco's independence in 1956. It is now a gallery and cultural centre.</p>
<p>Contrasting styles at the Chi Lin Nunnery, a Buddhist temple complex in Kowloon. <br /></p>
<p>With the camera positioned just so, this neoclassical cupola appears to sit proportionally atop a modernist base in the heart of Potsdam. It kind of works. <br /></p>
<p>They are, though, two separate buildings. The dome belongs to the St. Nicholas Church, which dates from the mid 19th Century when Potsdam was part of the Kingdom of Prussia. In the foreground is the facade of the Institut für Lehrerbildung 'Rosa Luxemburg', a teacher training academy built in the 1970s when Potsdam was part of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).</p>
<p>This view no longer exists. <br /></p>
<p>A 2010 decision by Potsdam city officials ordered the dismantling of the Institut, which duly occurred in 2017. It is to be replaced by a new structure that will recreate the facade of Prussian palace while masking a contemporary interior – the rationale being to create an architecturally harmonious setting on a key central square. <br /></p>
<p>Sound familiar? Berlin also recently opted to remove the DDR-era modernist Palast der Republik (itself built on the site of a Prussian palace the East German government had demolished for its symbolic associations with the imperial past) and erect a simulacrum Prussian palace (the Humboldt Forum project). </p>
<p>These decisions – which evoke one history while erasing another – are a continuation of Germany's highly contested reckoning with its past, as Brian Ladd explores in his excellent book, <em>Ghosts of Berlin: Confronting German History in the Urban Landscape</em>. For some, the frequent consensus for neoclassical lines among politicians and urban planners is a canny dodge reflecting a certain conservatism – it seeks to escape the extremes of the 20th Century (including their manifestations in architecture) by locating historically safe ground in the perceived unity of the imperial Germany of the Kaisers. But that preference is a hagiographic illusion (the clue is in the word 'imperial'), and opts for an allegorical amnesia over a challenging architectural response to the complexity of the German experience. <br /></p>
<p>There is something incredibly uninspired (not to say regressive) about rebuilding long-gone imperial palaces on sites where the ground is both hallowed and historically contested. And as beautiful as neoclassical facades may be (and Berlin and Potsdam have plenty of them to show off), as 21st Century new-builds they are dated symbols that fail equally at capturing nuanced historic legacy and at presenting the forward-looking aspects of contemporary German society. </p>
<p>A quiet afternoon at the market in the highland town of Ossu.<br /></p>
<p>The rustic structure features a functional vaulted roof covering the main trading area (useful given the torrential rainfall in the country) with a facade that mixes shapes from vernacular local architecture with a tinge of art deco, fashionable with the then-colonial ruler.</p>
<p>Designed by Paul Ludwig Troost in the 1930s as a showpiece for the Nazis' brand of stripped-down neo-classical architecture, this Munich museum's inaugural show was the 'Great German Art Exhibition' in 1937 – a regime-approved counterpart to the infamous 'Degenerate Art Exhibition' the party arranged nearby, where contemporary works confiscated by the Nazis were put on scornful display. <br /></p>
<p>While the 'great' exhibit featured a who's who list of names you've almost certainly never heard, many of those at the 'degenerate' show are among the 20th Century's most venerated artists. Further proof Hitler sucked at art.<br /></p>
<p>Happily repudiating its origins, the Haus der Kunst subsequently became a venue for contemporary art exhibitions from around the world.</p>
<p>St. Mary's church in the northern German city of Stralsund is an example of brick gothic architecture. It dates back to the 14th Century. This is the church's facade, leading up to a 104 metre bell tower (out of view).</p>
<p>Historic homes in Quebec City.</p>
<p>A view of the Menara, a pavilion that dates from the 16th Century and sometimes served as a sultan's summer quarters. </p>
<p>Moscow's GUM runs the length of one side of Red Square. It dates from the late 19th Century, and was designed by Alexander Pomerantsev and Vladimir Shukhov. Shukhov in particular engineered this stunning glass roof, which covers several storeys of passages and created a climate-controlled shopping experience long before the suburban shopping mall concept. <br /></p><p>The name GUM, which stands for Main Universal Store (Главный универсальный магазин), was given to the facility during the Soviet period, and has stuck around since. Today, it really is a shopping mall – but with some serious architectural pedigree. </p>
<p>Imperial Chinese architecture frequently featured porcelain figures arranged in rows atop the gabled roofs. The large dragon is said to represent imperial power, driving away a menagerie of evil spirits. These were shot in the Forbidden City.</p>
<p>An interior shot of St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow's Red Square, peering up one of the octagonal spires capped by the church's famous onion domes. <br /></p><p>Dating from the mid 16th Century, the structure is a unique oddity – an asymmetric labyrinth of chapels and corridors on the interior, with ten cylindrical domed towers each bearing their own signature style on the exterior – that has long been a symbol of Russia. </p>
<p>Escalators in a Hong Kong shopping mall prove reminiscent of M.C. Escher's drawings.</p><p>Pardon the pun in the title. Had to be done.</p>
<p>The unique contours of the Munich Olympic Stadium, designed by architect Günther Behnisch and engineer Frei Otto for the summer games of 1972. The famous suspended roof — a vast tent of glass panels held aloft by steel cables and pillars — still looks futuristic almost 50 years after it was erected. </p>
<p>A view of Jakarta's very modern Istiqlal Mosque, one of the largest in the world. It dates from the late 1970s and its style is very much of its era.</p>
<p>A pleasing clash of styles at the transition between Chinatown and the Central business district. Amoy Street is full of Singapore's characteristic shophouses, which typically combine commercial activities (shops, restaurants) on the ground floor with residences above.</p>
<p>Undeniably eye-catching, the waterfront duo of the ArtScience Museum (right) and the Marina Bay Sands Hotel also scream 'prestige project', those architectural undertakings aimed at putting a city (back) on the map. The hotel's three columns contain the rooms, and support a cantilevered terrace featuring an infinity pool looking out over the rest of Singapore's skyline.</p>
<p>One facade of the towering gothic cathedral in Salisbury, which dates back to 1220. Its spire, added later and peeking out in this picture, climbs to an incredible 123 metres — a veritable 16th Century skyscraper.</p>
<p>Designed by Viktor Andreyev (who also did the Hotel Cosmos just down the road), this 25-storey tower block dates from 1968 and is something of a Moscow landmark. The trees block the stilts that give it its unusual name, the House on Chicken Legs (Дом на ножках in Russian). </p>
<p>The spiral staircase of a modern flat takes on a different air by night.</p>
<p>Better known for its soaring skyline and manic lifestyle, Hong Kong also retains aspects of its pre-colonial Chinese tradition, particularly in the New Territories connected to the mainland. This courtyard home called Tai Fu Tai dates from 1865, not long after the British had seized Hong Kong Island but before they leased the New Territories from China. It is an outstanding example of 19th Century Chinese architecture. <br /></p>
<p>A patisserie takes pride of place on a Parisian corner.</p>
<p>Set in a beautiful walled botanic garden, this stunning house was conceived by the French artist Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s. Architecturally, it is a unique combination of local Moorish touches, art deco flourishes, and more than a little of the (then) new school of Modernism. The distinctive blue colour bears Majorelle's name. </p>
<p>An angular modern house plays with the slope of its plot near Bressanone. The large front windows overlook vineyards.</p>
<p>A characterful old house in the Hanseatic city of Stralsund.</p>
<p>Builders on a scaffold working on restorations in the Rock of Cashel complex.</p>
<p>Hannover's landmark Anzeiger-Hochhaus is one of Germany's first high-rise buildings. Clad in brick over an underlying steel frame, it dates from 1927 and was designed by Fritz Höger. It has long housed the editorial offices of local media outlets, and survived the aerial bombardment that leveled much of the city centre during the Second World War. </p>
<p>Brightly painted bands run along the balconies of a building on Rua do Brandão. A typically tight Macanese street squeezes in alongside. </p>
<p>A detail of figures at the Temple of the Dawn, or Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchaworawihan, in Bangkok.</p>
<p>The stairwell as seen from the courtyard of this modest hotel in San Telmo. It was my temporary home when I moved to Buenos Aires in 1997 and started my search for a flat. I love this picture.</p>
<p>Edgar Fonceca's concrete pyramidal cathedral was part of a wave of modernism in Brazil in the 1960s and 1970s (including a whole new capital city built on the ideals, Brasilia). In the foreground corner you can see a bit of another modernist stunner, the EDISE headquarters for Petrobras.</p>
<p>Diffused light and swirling rain interplay with the unique contours of the Petronas Towers.</p>
<p>A woman dashes toward the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences, a striking and strange Soviet take on post-modernism by architect Yuri Platonov.</p>
<p>The transition from farm fields to high-rise blocks is sudden on some approaches to Sofia.</p>
<p>Colonnaded buildings in central Havana.</p>
<p>A gracefully dilapidated house still shows its charms.</p>
<p>Skylights and the zig-zagging roof at the Arminius Markthalle, a covered market dating from the 1890s.</p>
<p>Guangzhou's Canton Tower (formerly the self-defining TV Astronomical and Sightseeing Tower) is a twisting geometric latticework that climbs to a frightening 462 metres. Designed by Mark Hemel and Barbara Kuit, it topped out in 2011 and lights up in a swirling rainbow of colours every night.</p>
<p>Russia's largest hotel dates from the late 1970s, when it was built as part of the facilities for the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. There are over 1750 rooms in the Cosmos, which still operates today.<br /></p>
<p>An interplay of triangles from the 19th and 21st centuries in Cork.</p>
<p>This cultural centre on the banks of the Spree was designed by Hugh Stubbins and built in 1957. Its distinctive shape earned it an odd nickname: the pregnant oyster.</p>
<p>Berlin's Olympic Stadium was roofless when it hosted the 1936 Games, but during renovations in 2004 a seemingly floating roof was added to cover all 74,475 seats in the stadium (which, despite its age, still has Germany's highest all-seater capacity). The roof conceals clever lighting that creates no discernible shadows on the pitch.</p>
<p>The undulating facade of Brandenburg Technical University's hi-tech IKMZ media library, designed by Herzog & de Meuron.</p>
<p>The warm and well-worn interior of the Spiegelsaal at Clärchens Ballhaus, a beloved venue in Berlin.</p>
<p>An elegant flat with improbably narrow top floors at the corner of Juncal and Montevideo. </p>