Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Architectural brilliance of Frank Gehry shines in Paris

I have long been a fan of the architectural brilliance of Frank Gehry, the shapes and forms of his buildings have a playfulness that makes my heart sing, so my recent visit to the new Louis Vuitton Foundation building in Le Jardin d'Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne Paris, was always going to be a homage. Gehry is the ultimate modern day architectural conjurer and this incredible building is proof beyond doubt. Visually it is absolutely stunning.

First opened by Napoléon III and Empress Eugénie in 1860, Jardin d'acclimatation, has delighted generations of children with attractions that include a zoo, water garden and puppet theatre so it is quite fitting that this exuberant building has been built in this exterior space that has entertained for well over a century.

Architecturally there is a similarity to other Gehry buildings, though I feel this is more in the overall mood of the building and manner in which one responds to it rather than the materials used or the architectural form. This time the hero material used is glass (as opposed to titanium in the Guggenheim Bilbao, or Brick in the new UTS building in Sydney) which creates a ‘lightness’ in the 12 sails as they soar towards the sky, yet simultaneously it feels grounded and solid. One can almost feel the sails billowing as if it is about to set sail. 

These sails of curved glass, steel and timber act as an exoskeleton, protecting the 11 white tile-clad galleries beneath and subsequently create a wonderful array of architectural juxtapositions of curves & angles. As an Australian one cannot help but be reminded of our own iconic architectural masterpiece, the Sydney Opera House - in all the reading I have done around this building I have not seen anyone (including Frank Gehry himself) refer to similarities but to me it seems obvious - could it be atavistic?

The interior spaces are large yet intimate, light filled and calm. They house the Louis Vuitton Foundation’s contemporary art collection as well as the delicious ‘Le Frank’ restaurant at which we were lucky enough to secure a table. The food was exceptionally good, made even better by being able to absorb the spectacular surroundings with a glass of wine.

While I admit limited time meant we didn’t view the art collection as my main focus was the architecture, this is not an issue as I will definitely return soon.

Overall the building has a modernity that is entirely appropriate for the contemporary collection it houses plus the precision and attention to detail for which its namesake is renown.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


The silence is deafening, the scale overwhelming and the kaleidoscope of “whites,” hypnotic. Antarctica exceeded all my expectations …. and then some more. 

Our 10 day G Adventure conference trip was enlightening, educational & an enormous amount of fun. Much to our delight, the Antarctic sea was bursting with marine life. Penguins galore, seals of all varieties and whales enjoying the last of the summer before they began their migration north were just a few of the wildlife we were able to view in their natural habitat.

There is nothing quite like rounding a bend to see thousands of penguins scattered across the snow & ice, some as still as statues as they gather all their effort for the catastrophic malt of their summer coats in preparation for the winter months ahead. Others playing games or tobogganing on their stomachs down a snowy slope looked like a group of children getting into mischief. The penguin chics, were so inquisitive that they would often venture right up to us as they waited for their parents to return with more krill parcels to satisfy their endless demand for food.

Watching the majesty of the whales thrusting their huge aviation like tail fins into the air (often at close range) as they take their deep dives was exhilarating. They would disappear leaving only their wet breath of cold air like a geyser rising from the sea. 

We became quite expert at spotting the difference between a leopard seal (spotted fur), a crab eating seal (pale grey in colour) and a fur seal (visible ears). Often luxuriating on a slab of ice floating in the middle of the sea, the seals looked like they were recovering from a heavy night – checking us out as much as we were them, they were natural performers for our cameras.

We have a huge appreciation of the fortitude of the Polar explorers - Scott, Amundsen, Creen & Shackleton - heroic adventurers in the true sense of the word. The immense bravery they displayed to venture into unknown territory with such extreme weather conditions – without the thermal jackets, neoprene boots and technical gear we wore which still left us feeling cold at times. 100years ago these great explorers saw largely the same things I saw last week - a statement that can't really be made about anywhere else on the planet.

I went to Antarctica wanting to see abundant sea life, but I left being in awe of the mammoth ice, snow, icebergs & glacial structures – there is a majesty & serenity that speaks volumes to the soul. They were immense, dwarfing our zodiacs with their volume. It is truly an incredible region of our planet and my overwhelming feeling during our expedition was one of immense gratitude that I was able to witness it myself.