I am often asked, “What is your favorite museum?” The answer is simple…my favorite museum is the world!
This amazing world that we live in is an open-air museum, filled with fascinating structures created by world-renowned architects. When traveling around the world, I make it a point to experience as many architectural masterpieces as possible. They come in a variety of amazing shapes and sizes, from medieval to modern. Allow me to share with you a few intriguing structures that, in reality, are museum-quality, larger-than-life, sculptures.
MUSEO GUGGENHEIM BILBAO: From a distance, the splendid bizarrely shaped $100-million Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art in Bilbao, Spain looked like a massive steel sculpture. And then, all of a sudden, there it was…renowned architect Frank Gehry's masterpiece in flowing titanium and limestone. Gehry described his building, on the banks of the Nervion River, as a ship that has run aground. The museum, which opened in 1997, reflects Bilbao's heritage with its suggestion of maritime shapes and sails. Others have likened the silhouette of Bilbao’s Guggenheim to a roller coaster, a mermaid, a waterfall a hula girl, and a fish. The building is covered with over 35,OOO titanium tiles and pieces of glass strategically placed to catch the natural light. Maman, Louise Bourgeois' huge bronze spider, stands in front of the museum.
|MAMAN, A HUGE BRONZE SPIDER, STANDS IN FRONT OF THE MUSEUM|
Puppy, Jeff Koon's 1992 stalwart floral sculpture standing guard opposite the museum, is the Guggenheim's mascot. Constructed of stainless steel, soil, flowering plants, and an internal irrigation system, this humongous West Highland White Terrier topiary is literally still growing.
|PUPPY, THE GUGGENHEIM'S FLOWER MASCOT|
THE BINOCULARS BUILDING: The Main Street facade of this Postmodern commercial building, located in the Venice area of Los Angeles, California incorporates the architectural genius of Frank Gehry with the 1991 public artwork “Giant Binoculars” by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. The massive 45-foot high cement and plaster sculpture frames both the pedestrian and vehicle entrances to the building. Gehry turned art into architecture when he decided to use the work of Oldenburg and his wife to connect the two office buildings he was designing.
|THE BINOCULARS BUILDING|
HOTEL DEL CORONADO: The stretch of Southern California, from Los Angeles to San Diego/Coronado, has been called the American Riviera and the Victorian-style Hotel del Coronado may well be the jewel in its crown. This National Historic Landmark, a rambling white clapboard legend with red-peaked roof, crimson turrets, and lazy verandas, is said to be “one-third sun, one-third sand, one-third fairy tale”. The Hotel Del Coronado has sheltered international royalty, politicians, Hollywood celebrities, and the rich and famous since 1888. Ten U.S. presidents, from Benjamin Harrison to Bill Clinton, have visited the Del. Publisher Rand McNally credits The Del as enjoying “more fame and historical significance than perhaps any hotel in North America”.
In 1958, the Del became the backdrop for the shenanigans of Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Joe E. Brown, when they filmed “Some Like It Hot”. Looking out over the Pacific Ocean from the hotel, one can almost see Marilyn and Tony toasting their champagne flutes as they conned each other on Joe E. Brown’s yacht.
|THE HISTORIC “DEL”|
LIBRARY OF CELSUS: A 25-minute drive through the Asia Minor countryside from Kusadasi, Turkey (pronounced koo-SHAHD-ah-sea) a lovely town on the Aegean Sea, will bring you to the fabled remains of the ancient city of Ephesus. Walking along the blazing white marble Arcadian Way, one might envision Charlton Heston gliding through the ancient ruins in his chariot. Behind a large marble courtyard rises the Library of Celsus, the third largest library in the ancient world. Restorations of this beautifully preserved edifice, adorned with columns and statues, began in 1970 and continued through 1978. An inauguration ceremony was held on April 29, 1978 and the library was opened to visitors after 1716 years.
|THE LIBRARY OF CELSUS|
THE REICHSTAG: Berlin Germany’s Reichstag, the seat of Germany’s Parliament, originally opened in 1894. After the reunification of Germany, the building was fully restored by internationally renowned architect Sir Norman Foster. Completed in 1999, the restoration features an iconic large glass dome that has a 360-degree view of the surrounding cityscape. Lunch in the restaurant at the top of the Reichstag is overpriced, but worth it just for the view. Outside of the Reichstag is a memorial to the 96 Reichstag members of opposition parties killed by the Nazis.
|SIR NORMAN FOSTER’S GLASS DOME ATOP THE REICHSTAG|
SAGRADA FAMILIA: Barcelona Spain’s Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia was initiated by the world-renowned Catalan architect Antonio Gaudi in 1882 and has not yet been completed. People of all faiths flock to Barcelona to visit this “Church of the Sacred Family” with its surreal spires, said to resemble a melting wedding cake. Although Gaudi never lived to see his dream come to fruition a group of architects following Gaudi's design, have brought the west facade to an advanced stage of construction. Route Gaudi, an architectural tour of the works of this pioneer in the Modernist Movement of Architecture, also includes Gaudi’s La Pedrera, Casa Batlló, and Parc Guell.
GAUDI’S SAGRADA FAMILIA
Between 1900 and 1904, Gaudi built the surrealistic Parc Guell, an architectural extravaganza that has been compared to Dorothy’s “Oz” and Alice’s “Wonderland”. The creative magic of this eccentric architect is exemplified in this park where visitors are greeted by a curvy pink house (Casa-Museu Gaudi), a grinning mosaic frog, and a pavilion that is supported by mushroom-like columns.
|GAUDI’S CASA-MUSEU GAUDI|
FRED AND GINGER: In The Czech Republic City Of Prague, Wenceslas Square (more of a long boulevard than a square) is the location of “Fred and Ginger” (The “Dancing House”) named after the famous dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. This ultra-contemporary, once-controversial, building, whose twirling twin towers appear to be dancing, was awarded the Best Design of 1996 prize by Time Magazine. Another of architect Frank Gehry’s designs, the swaybacked structure is next to two Art Nouveau houses built by the grandfather of the late Václav Havel who served as the last President of Czechoslovakia from 1989 until the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1992, and as the first President of the Czech Republic from 1993 to 2003.
Czech it out!
|FRED AND GINGER…THE DANCING HOUSE|
TEXT AND PHOTOS BY JANET STEINBERG
JANET STEINBERG is the winner of 43 national Travel Writing Awards and is a Travel Consultant with THE TRAVEL AUTHORITY in Mariemont, Ohio.