Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Blue Gold

I love eye-opening and thought-provoking documentaries. However, the more such films I watch, the more pessimistic I got towards mankind as more and more inconvenient truth is revealed in front of me. Blue Gold is one of such documentaries I watched recently. Based on the book Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World's Water, the film provides a critical examination of the global water privatization.

As stated in the film, water is today’s oil. Water crisis and privatization is simply beyond our imagination. Some shocking facts I learned include: the French water giants Suez, RWE and Vivendi buying water all over the world including many American cities such as Seattle, Chicago and Pittsburgh; the Cochabamba protests in 2000 against privatization of water in Bolivia (even collecting stormwater was against the law!); Bush family buying vast lands in Paraguay which sits atop one of the world's largest fresh-water aquifers…

The title of the film recalls another provocative documentary Black Gold which uncovers the extremely unfair trade in Africa’s coffee planting. Actually Blue Gold also briefly mentions the unfair tea trade which prevents African countries from getting rid of poverty. Both films accuse WTO, World Bank and big corporate firms of rapaciously exploiting resources and labor from developing countries. These agencies are secretly pulling the strings only to ensure the weak always remains weak so that they can always make huge profits. Of course they never forget to play a benevolent role by donating food and money to the poor countries. Without changing the world’s political and economic system, no environmental changes (or any other radical changes) can be made, precisely the key idea conveyed in the film.

The non-profit organization Solutions for a Better Planet has been organizing environmental films and lectures around the world, and Blue Gold is on their list. I’m excited to find out about their China Green Tour -
In June 2010, a month after the official opening of the Shanghai Expo, in eight universities across China we will screen documentaries on the main eco-issues of our current environmental crisis: water, waste, energy, climate change, urbanisation, food, deforestation, desertification..., and present positive examples of pragmatic solutions from all over the world.

I'll be back in China at the time, so hopefully I can attend some of the events!

Monday, March 15, 2010

How to Feed the World?

Directed by Denis van Waerebeke, this amazing infographic video explains the reasons behind the imbalanced global food distribution and suggests solutions to the problem. Although the animation was originally made for kids aged 9-14 at an exhibition, both its illuminating content and innovative graphics are worth checking out for adults as well. I'm also reminded of a relevant documentary Food Inc. which is among the pile of DVDs I haven't found time to watch.

How to feed the world ? from Denis van Waerebeke on Vimeo.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

New Acropolis Museum

Although my trip was dominated by ancient architecture, I still hoped to check out some new buildings. Since Zaha’s MAXXI museum in Rome was not open yet, the New Acropolis Museum by Tschumi became my biggest interest for modern architecture.

The museum came into sight right after I walked out of the metro station. It’s much closer to the Acropolis than I imagined. The building has three articulated levels: the ground level is aligned with the old city grid, while the top level (the Parthenon Gallery) is aligned with the Parthenon. A visual dialogue is created between the museum and the Acropolis: first, the museum is built right above some archeological remains dated back almost 2500 years.

Second, the café terrace on the second floor both overlooks the excavations and embraces the view of the Acropolis. Third, the curtain wall in the Parthenon Gallery also offers a great view of the Parthenon itself.

The glass floors at different levels create a vertical transparency. It exhibits not only the excavations beneath the first floor, but also the people walking on the floor above. Natural light is maximized in exhibition space by the use of skylights and curtain wall. It is amazing to see the sculptures under the constantly changing daylight, quite similar to their original outdoor condition. (the interior pictures are from the internet since photos are forbidden inside the museum)

Tschumi always claims film’s strong influence on his design. Some cinematic effects are quite noticeable in the museum. For instance, in the Parthenon Gallery the marbles of the Parthenon Frieze are oriented in their original locations, with the missing portions left blank. Each framed marble panel reminds me of a single film frame displayed in sequence for storytelling. The Parthenon in direct view also provides the perfect context for appreciating the artwork.

Another filmic infusion is the evening projection of the Erechtheion caryatids on the façade. I missed it as I had to go back to the ship before dark:(

I love the simplicity and elegance of the museum which reflects the essence of Greek architecture. Admission is only 1 EUR, unbelievable for a world-class museum like this!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Art Cards for Baby

Today I met a new friend who is also a designer from China. She brought Chloe a set of art cards from Wee Gallery. I've never seen such artistic cards designed for baby! Love the fancy black-and-white pattern on each animal. They will be a sweet starter for Chloe's art education:) I couldn't help checking out their other collections. Wow, they are all beautiful!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

To Venice

You are a labyrinth interwoven with water. I don’t even try to find my direction since reading a map is both useless and unnecessary.

I understand the very charm of you is not in those famous landmarks. The best way to appreciate you is by wandering, like in the bookloft.

I can’t explain my fascination with water and anything standing in the water. But I do know why I love the intricate network of narrow alleys - a reminder of the hutongs in Beijing. You happen to obsess me with both. How can I step away from you?

I want to leave my footprints on every street and every bridge of you. Three days seem too short! Wish I can walk in you endlessly, never ever stop. I would lose my way forever, like the protagonists in Last Year at Marienbad

Monday, December 28, 2009

Surprise in Ancona

I didn’t expect much of Ancona before the trip, as Google Image only came up with some unattractive photos. However, when I walked deeper and deeper into the city , I discovered some unpretentious but interesting buildings.

One of the surprises is this contemporary apartment building among the classic blocks. It sits on a slope with its roof sloping in the same direction. The form of the building is not uncommon, a popular method of carving into one big block. A balance between individuality and unity is achieved by providing each unit a good amount of character.

Walking along the stepped street in front of the building was interestingly pleasant, as I observed the changing face of each window and various plants along the street or on the balconies. As I walked up the steps, I saw another building with a similar look further up the slope. But I found this one more appealing because of the terraced garden on the back.

The landscape design is so modest but charming, just like Ancona itself. I especially enjoyed the various paths leading to different levels and directions, and the rich texture of the paving bricks...

Thanks to Google Earth, I not only located the building, but also got to see the overall plan. The aerial photo even reveals some interesting designs on the roof terrace.

Sunday, December 27, 2009