Saturday, 28 March 2009

Casa Batlló

21 November.

Casa Batlló (1904-6) was converted from an existing apartment building (1877) when it was bought by textile merchant Josep Batlló i Casanovas, the work carried out by Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926) and Josep Maria Jujol (1879-1949) (who assisted Gaudí on many projects such as the work in trencadís in Park Güell). Gaudí redid the entrance lobby, interior well and all the rooms, transformed by curves and vortices into cavernous spaces. Light is encouraged to come in through the windows by glasswork and mirrors. The stairwell avoids the usual sharp transition from glare to gloom by the changes in texture and colour: the walls attain greater colour luminosity as they descend and become more textured in order that light be diffused and held. The windows looking onto the well decrease in size from top to bottom. The effect is that the view from the top floor down the well gives the appearance of walls uniformly coloured and lit and the depth uncertain without the plunge of perspective and diminishing light.

Gaudí and Jujol collaborated on the facade that looks on to Passeig de Gràcia, whose skeletal forms earn the building the sobriquet of casa dels ossos. Ovate stone apertures on the first floor are propped on femurs and tibias. The mosaic-covered wall rises above the piano nobile, culminating five floors up in the vertebrae of a scaly dragon-like back. The mosaic in blue, green, grey and white, punctuated by larger rounded ceramics making highlights, takes on different hues according to the way light strikes it. The building is intentionally monstrous, its symbolism from the legend of Catalunya's Saint George. Robert Hughes - Barcelona, 1992, ch. 8, VII - elaborates. The bone-like forms were echoed by Gaudí's furniture designs for Batlló's dining room, now removed, along with most of the other furniture, to leave space for the wandering tourist.

Between North Hinksey and Osney

16 December. Flooded ditch along path joining North Hinksey Lane to Ferry Hinksey Road.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Cumnor Hill

16 December.

The mist had become rain by the time I reached this hill.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

South Hinksey

(Hinksey Stream.)

16 December.
A still misty morning, the earth colours slow to emerge but leach purified through the damp.

(Long harvested field, Chilswell Farm.)

Ambient light irregularly pulsating, the sheen of wet bark at moments heightened.

(Birch Copse.)

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Nový židovský hřbitov, Žižkov

3 February.

Nový židovský hřbitov [New Jewish cemetery] was established in 1891, with space for some hundred thousand graves, or for some hundred years.

Here is to be found (and signs can be followed to) the final resting place
(21-14-21) of Franz Kafka (1883-1924) marked by the obelisk designed by architect Leopold Ehrmann (1887-1951).
The cemetery walls facing outside on the street are marked by crudely drawn graffiti, inside they bear the passing of time undisturbed. Ivy creeps up the walls, but prefers the greater heights afforded by the trees, festooned in unseasonable green. The day was of a flat dim light when I visited, and underfoot here and there the remains of snow and thawing ice.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Hlohovecký rybník, Prostřední rybník

27 January.

The village of Hlohovec lies on the southern shore of Hlohovecký rybník, the lake fringed by alder, birch, beech and other tree species I either cannot name or am wont to misname. Many were overcome by baleful mistletoe.

On the west side of the lake stands Hraniční zámeček (Little Border Château)*, a summer house built for the Liechtensteins in 1816-1819, on the then border between the Moravian Margraviate and Lower Austria - "Zwischen Österreich und Mähren" remains written on the facade. The border moved beyond neighbouring Valtice when the area became part of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1919. To the west lies lake Nesyt (the largest in Moravia), and to the east Hlohovecký rybník is connected to lakes Prostřední and Mlýnský. These, together with two smaller lakes Zámecký and Podzámecký, comprise Lednické rybníky, whose formation dates from the middle ages. Clambering up the bank of Prostřední rybník to Rybniční zámeček (1816) one sees a military bunker hugging the near shore, perfectly aligned with the view south to the gloriette (1820s) atop the bank on the other side (in the shelter of which stand the Three Graces).
On the long straight stretch of the road no. 422 that separates
Hlohovecký rybník and Prostřední rybník you can hear and then see cars approach from afar and pass by and not stop.

* zámeček (G. Schlösschen), a small château, or to use English, correction, more ancient French and Germanic words, a manor house.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009


24 January. I climbed up the hill on its southern approach, where on 14 July 1420 the Hussites under command of Jan Žižka overpowered the crusading army of Emperor Sigismund. The crusaders flew in panic down the steep northern slopes, sank into a slough of despond and gave up laying siege on Prague.

Alphonse Mucha, After the Battle of Vitkov: God Represents Truth, not Power (1916), from the 'Slav Epic' (1909-1928).

In front of the National Memorial (1927-1932) is the huge bronze equestrian statue (installed 1950) by Bohumil Kafka (1878-1942), who looked to paintings of Mikoláš Aleš (1852-1913) for inspiration and engaged in some serious hippology as further preparation. (The model for the statue survived hidden in pieces in various locations during the Second World War.) "One-eyed Žižka" in this bronze and his other numerous depictions is seen after losing his first eye in battle and before losing the other.

(This banknote has a story attached to it.)

The monument was founded in celebration of Czech statehood, used as storage space by the German Wehrmacht, after the war held the ashes of the country's legionnaires, then the ashes were ignominiously removed in order that it become a "labourer's pantheon", before becoming a mausoleum to house the remains of the first Communist president, Klement Gottwald (whose mummification was botched so he was later cremated), followed then by other communist leaders. After 1989 it was variously used for filming, adverts, a Stelarc performance, ... and finally the National Museum acquired the site in 2001.
When I visited the National Memorial was in the midst of reconstruction: it is to house an exhibition provisionally called the "Crossroads of Czech Statehood".

The snow of recent days had thawed.
I walked the length and back of Vítkov park in sunshine, my eyes becoming accustomed again to grass green, to the reascension of greys and umbers, and to the proliferation of details hidden until now under cover of white. Along the spine of the hill runs a tarmac road, splitting and patched with temporary repairs, deformed by the roots of trees.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Carrer de Bilbao, Poblenou

Just south of Poblenou metro station Carrer de Bilbao disappeared replaced by the signs and instruments of its reconstruction.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Carrer de Bilbao, Poblenou

This chimney is, I think, in the square bound by Carrer de Bilbao, Carrer de Llull, Carrer del Joncar and Carrer de Marià Aguiló. Chimneys such as these are often the only relics preserved of the old factory complexes of Poblenou now destroyed. Although standing tall, scattered as they are and surrounded by the growths of the new building, they are discovered upon turning corners, not sighted on the skyline. This one bears a protective encasement as all around is razed to foundation level.