Monday, June 28, 2010

Two Vienna Musical Stars

Last fall IKEA set up a truck with their catalog cover furniture minus people at the MuseumsQuartier. Passers-by could have their photo taken in the scene. Thinking quickly I went downstairs into the U-Bahn station and asked to borrow the Mozart Kugel (a type of candy) man. Back upstairs to the photo shoot and now, here it is, two of Vienna's musical geniuses together on the same stage!

Don't forget to vote for my latest music video: Flowers in your Horns!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Prague Arcades

Lucerna Arcade Prague

I've always been fascinated by arcades, those ‘shopping mall precursors’ in cities where a set of shops runs in a corridor through the middle of a building. Paris and Brussels have a couple of great old ones, I even like the modern Funf Hofe in Munich, but for some reason I never noticed Prague’s arcades on previous trips. This week, while walking around aimlessly looking for a good place to eat (one of my favorite activities), I found myself in a really cool one, the Lucerna, which made me notice many more.

Adria Arcade Prague

Like most of Prague all the arcades I visited are showing their age. Most of the shops, restaurants and cafes located in them are not flashy or the latest trends (in contrast to Munich!) but seem to cater to the normal needs of locals.

The Lucerna, like many of the arcades, was actually a series of arcades connected together so they differed stylistically and in terms of tenants and state of repair. Only one of the arcades is actually the Lucerna, the others were called Rokoko and Dum u Novaku (sorry for not using the Czech spelling, no keyboard). These were particularly interesting since the connected arcades were in very different styles.

Kino Cafe in Lucerna Arcade, Prague

The Lucerna arcade is built around a movie theater with several places to eat and a music/beer club. The architecture features lots of marble and a huge hanging sculpture of a knight riding a horse, but the horse is upside down (feet up) and the knight is riding on the horse’s stomach (see top photo). I had a coffee in the coffeehouse with windows over looking the sculpture. The coffeehouse was great, it was clear that it was used for performances (there was a grand piano), there were some children playing in a corner with the parents having a coffee and chat. The cafe probably gets lots of visitors after shows.

The Adria arcade was located on Jungmannova Street near my hotel. There I was most impressed with the old art deco architecture and decorations. The mosaic caught my eye with two railway scenes. There was a very nice old sign for a record producer around the doorway of a former tenant. As I left I noticed that the building seemed to have originally been built for one of those old transport insurance agencies (there was a sculpture with a powerful figure seeming to protect a ship in heavy seas).

Not really an arcade, but opening on to one, was the Franciscan Cloister garden. This is a truly beautiful urban open space. Located in the middle of a block, it’s a quiet oasis (except for the sound of children playing) in the center of the city. It’s well maintained with beautiful flowers and lots of benches (many of which are full). There’s a great fountain sculpture of a naked child playing with water … the children around all loved it.


Finally, I discovered the Trznice arcade on Rytirska Street. I was drawn in by a beautiful painting of a market scene over the interior doorway (photo). As I walked though I found that the arcade had been remodeled with a grocery store, drug store and a couple other 1980s style shops. The space itself had been given one of those dropped ceilings (it was still quite high) but there was a skylight through which you could see the original metal and glass roof (photo). It’s too bad there is not enough money to rehabilitate all these beautiful structures.

All my Prague arcade photos are here.

Prague - June 2010

I visited Prague last week for a conference on urban railway track construction best practices (more on the Urban Track conference in a future post).

Prague is a fantastic city: you can walk from one highlight to the next. One of my favorite neighborhoods is the old Jewish Quarter. I have visited the historic sights before and so now I just like to walk around the neighborhood, being gently reminded of the Holocaust.

Many buildings in this neighborhood were built at the turn of the 19th Century and are Jugendstyle (Art Nouveau) – perhaps my favorite building style.
I skipped breakfast in my hotel both days and walked to a really fine bakery-cafe called Bake Shop for espresso and pain au chocolat … a real treat (some Prague Bake Shop photos here).

The weather was beautiful and I could sit out doors and enjoy my breakfast. One of the things I love about Prague is that it is so quiet on the streets (at least in the center) and so you can really enjoy sitting outside eating.

As I was leaving I noticed how the roof lines were making nice patterns against the clouds and started taking photos of rooflines meeting the skyline. Many of the photos are buildings from Parizska street and the Jewish Quarter. I couldn’t help but notice that today’s contribution to how buildings meet the skyline is generally cellular telephone antennas or satellite television disks.

Another really cool thing I noticed about Prague is the very large number of arcades running through buildings between streets. I talk about Prague’s arcades in future post.

After the first day of the conference we had a reception at the Prague Tram Museum (website lists all Prague museums, scroll down to tram museum info). The museum is really great, many old vehicles all very well restored. It is an old tram barn, naturally, and it has been very nicely cleaned up. The descriptive texts are in the Czech language, but there is a brief guide for the museum in English. It’s one of the better tram museums I have visited. (Some photos of the Prague Tram Museum are here.) Here's a link to information about historic trams in Prague.

The reception was very nice, good food and local beer/wine. They served a very nice Goulash made with lots of cumin and also green beans. As a real Goulash fan I enjoyed it very much. Another nice touch was a six-piece jazz band. They did lots of standards including Girl from Ipanema … of course after hearing that I talked to the band leader and “casually” mentioned that I had written new words for the song (The Bus From Curitiba) thinking he might suggest that I sing it, but alias that was not to be, so the YouTube version will need to be it for now, but they were really good and what a wonderful place to perform the song. I’ll keep looking for more opportunities.

After the reception we took a night walk through the city, first stopping at the main square where live outdoor viewing of the world cup was going on, then through the old city to the Charles Bridge, it was dark by then, but everything is well lighted. Over the bridge and then up to the castle where there were only a few people, but again, everything well lighted. Then back down the hill to the hotel where I had to wake up early to make it to the Bake Shop before the conference started.

I’m writing from the train on my way back to Vienna. The fast trains between Prague and Vienna seem quite crowded (especially 1st class – many tourists). On the way to Prague there was only one 1st class wagon – with several children playing video games (with the sound turned on) and two infants crying … so it was really not relaxing. Today the air conditioning is not working very well - in the second 1st class wagon it's not working at all! The railways really need to do a better job!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Truman Show - Vienna

One of my favorite movies was The Truman Show, I thought that the plot was quite good, but also enjoyed seeing the new urbanist city Seaside Florida, the movie setting.

Anyway Oliver Hangl, the artistic director of the Vienna Complaining Choir among many other artistic projects, is doing a project this week called Kino im Kopf: Die Truman Show where the audience rides through Vienna on a streetcar (they have headphones for the soundtrack) and people on the street act out scenes from The Truman Show movie. Oliver needed extras so, along with many members of the Complaining Choir helped out. We worked at Lancaster Square (actually the Josefstadterstrasse U-Bahn - Tram stop).

Here's a photo of the people on the tram enjoying our performance. Our job was to bend down and hold our ears for the 15-seconds while the tram went by. (I had the camera balanced on my leg and just shot, so it's out of focus). More photos are on my flickr site tagged Truman Show Vienna.

EXTRA: We helped out throughout the week and on Saturday we were in the audience on the tram. The show was great and I took more photos which are also on the flickr site.

It's going on until Saturday 26 June 2010, highly recommended if you are in Vienna!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Tre Porcellini in Macelleria Falaschi - San Miniato

I helped with the Slow Food Terra Madre in Vienna last fall. My job was to help make the group of vendors from Italy feel at home (I know, tough work, but someone's got to do it!).

I spent a lot of time talking and eating with Andrea Falaschi from the Falaschi butcher shop in San Miniato. They host an annual "Jazz at the Macelleria" party at the butcher shop (macelleria means butcher shop in Italian) and this week I received this invitation for a puppet show from them ... unfortunately I can't attend but wish I could, their sausage and prosciutto are fantastic! The photo on the right is Andrea making a point, note the knife in his left hand ...


The Sergio Falaschi's Butcher, this year at the international exhibition of street theater "La Luna รจ Azzurra" in San Miniato, has decided to offer a show of puppetry, inspired by the Group " Teatro a Dondolo" from Pisa, based oa reinterpretation of the Three Little Pigs story, inspired by the three figures of pigs raised in the wild state, the ones rised in the semi-wild state and the pink pig raised in stable. The show will be accompanied by a live musical performance, conceived for the occasion by "Bill Gorazde".
During the the show, entitled " I TRE PORCELLINI IN MACELLERIA" (The Three Little Pigs in Butcher), a tasting of three different types of salami will be offered to the pubblic: The Cinta Senese Dop (from pork raised in the wild), the Grey (from pork raised semi-wild state) and classic Tuscan salame with wine (from pink pig raised in stable). The salami tasting will be all accompanied by "Annick" and "Nicole" wines by Cosimo Maria Masini.
.......We kindly requires adults accompanied by childrens.............

The evening event will be held on Thursday, June 24.
The performances will start at 21:15 and 22:15.

We are waiting for you!

Friday, June 18, 2010

A little more to the left please!

Here's a photo from my recent visit to Trieste. On the Piazza Italia, it looks like the main figure in this statue is directing the crane operator. Well, a little bit. My Trieste flickr photos.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rate My Street

Here's my street in Vienna rated on Rate My Street.

Just found a cool new website called Rate My Street that allows you to rate your street according to several criteria. It was developed in the United Kingdom, but since it uses Google Maps as a base you can rate any street anywhere.

Other great sites that can be used to rate streets and indicate problems that I discuss in my TRB Paper: Web 2.0 Applications for Improving Public Participation in Transport Planning include:

seeclickfix - Twin Cities Minnesota Area

The ultimate goal of my Bus Meister project is to develop a similar application that helps city residents use an internet application to help identify, plan and support public transport priority measures that improve the attractiveness and efficiency of public transport routes they use every day. I'm struggling to finish a proposal right now ... more later!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Vienna Linchpin Meetup - June 14, 2010

MuseumsQuartier Vienna from my flickr photos.

We held our Vienna Linchpin Meetup at the MuseumsQuartier. The highlight was meeting a group of people who wanted to discuss Seth Godin's ideas. On the way home I was amazed to note that three hours had passed, although the fact that they pretty much had to throw us out of the cafe should have been a hint.

We discussed a wide variety of subjects, listed below. We decided to meet again in September to continue our discussion with more people.

Can cleaning people be linchpins? We think that it's possible to bring art to cleaning and cleaners can be an important connection between people working in an office. Our model is not the outsourced cleaning companies, but rather the cleaners who were really part of the organization, like the janitors in our elementary schools in the old days (Mike Mulligan of steam shovel fame). Maybe not forever, but being a linchpin cleaner (to pay the bills) while you are doing some other art at night.

How do you transfer Seth's ideas to old businesses and institutions? An especially important question in cities like Vienna with long traditions.

Can you be a linchpin in a large business or do you need to work for yourself? Of course Seth discusses this, but it was on our minds. We felt that learning to get along in existing structures can provide you with the freedom to implement innovative ideas. But, it's a balancing act.

We should always ask, "Where's the fun?" at work. Work should be a playground where you can fail. Interestingly some organizations allow failure but sweep it under the carpet preferring to ignore it rather than learn from it.

What about colleagues to whom work is simply 8 hours plus a paycheck?

Finally, as a mixed German and English speaking group, we had a lot of fun translating and debating how to interpret Seth's work (starting with "What does linchpin mean?") in another language.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bus Meister and BRT

Bus Meister will help citizens lobby city hall (this is Vienna) in support of public transport priority (from my flickr photos).
I just returned from a meeting in Udine (Italy) where I spoke about my Bus Meister idea of creating an integrated suite of web applications (game, social network and wiki best practices library) to help educate citizens on how to improve public transport operations (by introducing public transport priority measures) and to empower them to help actually implement these ideas. It's a general approach that I think could be used to solve many urban problems.

Going through my e-mail I was glad to read about Barcelona's new BRT lines which one of my UC Berkeley professors, Carlos Daganzo, is helping plan. The article in the ITS Berkeley News is a very good summary of for the importance of public transport priority and BRT. Daganzo is a brilliant scientist, it's great to see him working on improving public transport!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Web 2.0 for citizen involvement

Schedule information screens on Zurich public transport vehicles, from my flickr photos.

The Infrastructuralist just had an interesting article about IBM's Smart Cities program and some work they are doing in Viet Nam. I added a comment suggesting that a good solution for many urban problems is the use of Web 2.0 techniques to involve the public in planning and operating urban services. Read the article and my comment here.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

New broom?

Here's a photo from my visit to the Melk Monastery. A broom standing in front of the garden pavilion (link to photo from my flickr photos). It got me thinking about the need to clean up all that oil in the Gulf of Mexico, Robert Reich has a good article with suggestions.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Rivets are not just for frogs!

One of my civil engineering professors at RPI used to always talk about the 'built up' columns in the New York City subway stations. The "I" beam shape is very strong and efficient, but it was impossible to make "I" beams directly before the 1908 when a man named Henry Grey invented a mill machine that could roll the shape. So steel workers needed to build their own "I" beams in the field by joining steel plates with rivets. I was reminded of my civil engineering studies when I visited Melk last week and used the pedestrian bridge to cross the tracks.

By the way, Grey worked for Bethlehem Steel, my first employer after graduating from RPI. I actually worked in one of the original "Grey" mill facilities in Bethlehem.