Kyzyl, capital of the Tuva Republic

July 1st, 2015 | General | No Comments »

The Center of Asia monument © Dr.A.Hugentobler/cc-by-sa-3.0

The Center of Asia monument © Dr.A.Hugentobler/cc-by-sa-3.0

Kyzyl is the capital city of the Tuva Republic in southern Siberia. The name of the city means “red” in Tuvan (as well as in many other Turkic languages) with a population of 110,000. The population of Tuva is at 308,000. Forests, mountains, and steppe make up a large part of the geography. Tos-Bulak is the area of open fields and mineral springs which lies immediately south of Kyzyl. It is the location of the Naadam festival (15 August), the Tuvan Republic Day, where various competitions such as horseriding and khuresh (wrestling) are held.

Kyzyl claims to be located exactly in the geographical center of Asia. Whether these coordinates are in fact the center of Asia is disputed (e.g., Ürümqi in China makes a similar claim). However, there is a monument labelled “Center of Asia” in English, Russian, and Tuvan which asserts this claim.

Kyzyl is located where the Yenisei River meets the Maly Yenisey River to form the Verkhny Yenisey. Most development is south of the river and follow the curves of the river, with the highest development centered where the two headstreams of the Yenisei, the Bolshoy Yenisey, and the Maly Yenisey, meet. A monument was built in 1964 on the river bank to mark this.

It was founded in 1914 as Belotsarsk (lit. White Tsar’s town). In 1918, it was renamed Khem-Beldyr, and in 1926 it was given its present name. In September 2014, Kyzyl celebrated its 100th anniversary as a city.

Read more on Kyzyl, – Kyzyl, Kyzyl Airport, Wikivoyage Kyzyl, Wikitravel Kyzyl and Wikipedia Kyzyl. Photos by Wikimedia Commons.

Portrait: Le Corbusier, one of the most important and influential architects of the 20th century

June 27th, 2015 | General | No Comments »

Centre Le Corbusier Zürich © Roland zh/cc-by-sa-3.0

Centre Le Corbusier Zürich © Roland zh/cc-by-sa-3.0

Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, who was better known as Le Corbusier (October 6, 1887 – August 27, 1965), was a Swiss-French architect, designer, painter, urban planner, writer, and one of the pioneers of what is now called modern architecture. He was born in Switzerland and became a French citizen in 1930. His career spanned five decades, with his buildings constructed throughout Europe, India, and America.

Dedicated to providing better living conditions for the residents of crowded cities, Le Corbusier was influential in urban planning, and was a founding member of the Congrès international d’architecture moderne (CIAM). Corbusier prepared the master plan for the planned city of Chandigarh in India, and contributed specific designs for several buildings there.

During his career, Le Corbusier developed a set of architectural principles that dictated his technique, called “the Five Points of a New Architecture” which were most evident in his Villa Savoye. These were:

  • Pilotis – The replacement of supporting walls by a grid of reinforced concrete columns that bears the load of the structure is the basis of the new aesthetic.
  • The free designing of the ground plan – The absence of supporting walls means that the house is unrestrained in its internal usage.
  • The free design of façade – By separating the exterior of the building from its structural function the façade becomes free.
  • The horizontal window – The façade can be cut along its entire length to allow rooms to be lit equally.
  • Roof gardens – The flat roof can be utilized for a domestic purpose while also providing essential protection to the concrete roof.

It was Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye (1929–1931) that most succinctly summed up his five points of architecture that he had elucidated in the journal L’Esprit Nouveau and his book Vers une architecture, which he had been developing throughout the 1920s. First, Le Corbusier lifted the bulk of the structure off the ground, supporting it by pilotis – reinforced concrete stilts. These pilotis, in providing the structural support for the house, allowed him to elucidate his next two points: a free façade, meaning non-supporting walls that could be designed as the architect wished, and an open floor plan, meaning that the floor space was free to be configured into rooms without concern for supporting walls. The second floor of the Villa Savoye includes long strips of ribbon windows that allow unencumbered views of the large surrounding yard, and which constitute the fourth point of his system. The fifth point was the roof garden to compensate for the green area consumed by the building and replacing it on the roof. A ramp rising from ground level to the third floor roof terrace allows for an architectural promenade through the structure. The white tubular railing recalls the industrial “ocean-liner” aesthetic that Le Corbusier much admired. The driveway around the ground floor, with its semicircular path, measures the exact turning radius of a 1927 Citroën automobile.

Read more on Fondation Le Corbusier and Wikipedia Le Corbusier. Photos by Wikimedia Commons.

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