Thursday, February 1, 2007

London's Convent Garden

One of the most enjoyable people places in the planet has to be Covent Garden in London. Whether an adult or child, it is a destination for some very happy and entertaining moments. Covent Garden dates back to the early 1600s when it used to be part of Westminster Abbey although it is thought that the Saxons occupied the area as a trading post long before.
So, Earl of Bedford, Charles I, and Inigo Jones come along in the 1600s and created the first public square as an experiment for urban planning.Today is a center of attraction for what is generally family oriented activities and shopping. At Convent Gardens it can be found among others: Govent Garden Market, London's Transport Museum, Jubilee Arts and Crafts Market, Royal Opera House, Theater Museum, and St. Paul's Church or Actor's Church. But what really brings life to Covent Garden are the many public acts that bring a smile to pedestrians.
Public performances that test the limit of the imagination such as a semi naked man in freezing temperatures asking a French man to toss him some knives prior to diving into a cup full of water.
Or superman jock testing the public into conducting a number of physical activities that range from super funny to super ridiculous but all accompanied by the laughter of the audience.
Of course, the public signature of Covent Garden has to be the 'buskers' in particular creative mimes as the ones below performing for the camera.
And there are instances when the people interact with the "buskers" like the fellow behind the wind blown mime.
Covent Gardens is a heaven for all in particular children and grownups who dare to become children for few minutes.More information on the history of Covent Garden can be found at Covent Garden History.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

London Thames River South Bank

My most favorite urban walk is along the Thames' south bank, starting by the Eye of London ending at the Tower Bridge.
The south bank offers a number of activities, destinations or brief moments of contemplation
and some unique public art that takes a different dimension at night.
By the TATE Modern Art Museum is located the Millennium Pedestrian Bridge that leads to St. Paul Cathedral.
Before reaching the Tower Bridge a very unique building gets the attention of those not familiar with the city of London City Hall.
At the Tower Bridge the south bank continues east through narrow streets.

Suzhou gardens

Dating back to 6 hundred BC the city of Suzhou flourished with commercial activity and a number of merchants and scholars that resided in the city. Today Suzhou is considered to be the garden city of China because of the many beautiful gardens that at one time were developed for the enjoyment of its private owners. The experience of walking through these home gardens is emblematic of the pensive and beautiful nature of the Chinese culture.
A characteristic of the gardens is the combination of vegetation with promenades and water. Streams of water are crossed over via stupendously decorated pedestrian bridges made out of stone. And linear paths are broken by inviting diversions that challenge the mind to slow the passage of time.
The course of promenades are briefly narrowed by garden portals of many shapes, forms and sizes.

Walking Beijing Streets

There are basic elements in a street environment that make walking a pleasant experience. Texture, vegetation, urban activity are some elements that invite people to participate in the walking experience.

Although parked bicycles can at times crowd sidewalks sharing the street demonstrate urban tolerance. Whether commercial or residential streets, the mix of pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles and automobiles provides a unique interaction that is dominated but its urban culture.
The charm of old Beijing comes to reality walking through the alleyways or "hutongs" created by the walks of residential courtyards. Unlike the modern concept that pedestrians need ample and safe walking space "hutongs" offer narrow passages shared by pedestrians, cyclists, automobiles and others.
Of course, Beijing has its share of boulevards with beautiful tree lined promenades.

Shenzhen's Dongmen Old Street

Located in the city of Shenzhen, Dongmen dates back to the 1700's. Dongmen is a pedestrian only commercial area that has become a heaven for shopping.
With its towering palm trees and commercial signs, there isn't a dull moment when visiting Dongmen.

Although some areas of Dongmen maintain the historic element of the area the modern sky line of Shenzhen is a reminder of China's modernism.

Shanghai Nanjing Lu

One of the most popular streets in Shanghai is Nanjing Lu. With a number of shops and claiming to have Asia's largest department store, Nanjing Lu is the destination for about one million visitors per day.
Colorful, ample and busy in particular during weekends. Nanjing Lu is active and the attraction for many foreign and Chinese tourists.
One of its unique attractions are the life size figures depicting happy families.
And during the early mornings a number of retirees can be found taking part in activities like playing checkers, playing drums or dancing.
At night the many neon lights change Nanjing Lu into an energetic boulevard filled with flashing and ever changing neon signs.

Santiago downtown pedestrian streets

In the heart of Santiago is located the Plaza de Armas, the city's main square. With over 5 million people traffic congestion is a major concern for Santiagenos. However, the problem of traffic congestion around the Plaza de Armas was easily solved by turning some streets into pedestrian only boulevards - such as Ahumada, Huerfanos and Estado Streets. It is indicated that these streets are "indisputably busiest social, commercial and financial axis of Santiago."
With some clever street design, Santiago has managed to merge pedestrians and vehicular traffic creating an urban sinergy unique to Santiago's urban culture.
One of the many intersections of the pedestrian boulevards with downtown streets.
Although not unique to Santiago the following photo shows a sky-walk.
And perhaps an idea borrowed from other cities that exhibit similar weather conditions, Santiago has many pedestrian arcades.