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miercuri, 4 ianuarie 2012

SWITZERLAND: Three Castles, Defensive Wall and Ramparts of the Market-Town of Bellinzona

The fortified ensemble of Bellinzone is a unique example of European architecture erected in defence of the feudal structure guarding a key strategic Alpine pass. The Bellinzone ensemble is the sole remaining example in the entire Alpine region of medieval military architecture, comprising three castles, a wall that once closed off the whole Ticino valley, and the ramparts which surrounded the town for the protection of its citizens. Bellinzone owes its origins to its strategic position controlling access, via the Ticino valley, to the main Alpine passes into the Milanese, i.e. the whole north of Italy.
Recent excavations have shown that the site was inhabited as early as the Neolithic period. It was a Roman outpost until the frontiers of the empire were pushed further north to the Danube. Under pressure from barbarian inroads from the north, Bellinzone once again became a defensive stronghold against the peoples streaming down from the plains of central Europe. In the troubled days of the declining Roman Empire, the site fell into the hands of the Ostrogoths, the Byzantines, and finally the Lombards.
In the 10th century, Bellinzone formed part of the possessions of Otto I, founder of the Holy Roman Empire. The earliest constructions still extant probably date from around this period. Around the year 1000, the castle and the county were granted by the emperor to the Bishop of Como. It was at this period that the interior of the castle of Castelgrande was divided up to accommodate houses, turning it into a small fortified town. In the 12th century, Frederick Barbarossa took possession of the fortress. The town grew up gradually around the citadel and the fortifications were improved. Between the 13th and 15th centuries, the town expanded around the castle. The Castle of Montebello was built around 1300 and soon incorporated into the system of fortifications. The Castle of Sasso Corbaro built in 1480 to the south-east of Castelgrande.
Bellinzone became part of the state of Milan under the rule of the Visconti, who strengthened its defences considerably and began the construction of a wall running from Castelgrande to block the Ticino valley: the wall was known as the Murata.
At the beginning of the 16th century, Bellinzone fell to the confederates, and the fortifications lost much of their importance but were not destroyed. In 1803, Castelgrande was used as prison and an arsenal. The modern town developed at the expense of the ramparts. In 1882, the arsenal was extended. In the 20th century the major restoration work began. The ensemble of three castles and a network of fortifications are: Castelgrande (Château d'Uri, Château Saint-Michel), Château de Montebello (Château de Schwyz, Château Saint-Martin); and Château de Sasso Corbaro (Château d'Unterwald, Château Sainte-Barbara).
The Castelgrande is the largest of the three fortresses and dominates the town from its rocky eminence with its two towers, known as the White and Black Towers respectively. The spacious interior is divided by internal walls radiating out from the Black Tower into three courtyards. The White Tower, to the east, is surrounded by its own set of fortifications, known as the Redoubt. The arsenal consists of a series of massive buildings on the western side of the south courtyard. The enceinte has two chapels, but only their foundations still survive. Montebello Castle lies on a rocky spur to the east of Castelgrande, with which it is linked by the town walls; unlike Castelgrande, it is surrounded by deep moats. Its core is the central keep, from the end of the 13th century, which was given additional protection in the form of new defensive walls in the mid-14th and late 15th centuries. Sasso Corbaro Castle does not form part of the defensive perimeter of Bellinzone: it covers a vulnerable approach route. It is square in plan, the keep jutting out on the north-eastern corner and rising slightly above the level of the crenellated walls. Some two-thirds of the original line of the Town Ramparts still survive, with interval towers, but the gates have disappeared.

vineri, 16 decembrie 2011


  Edinburgh has been the Scottish capital since the 15th century. It has two distinct areas: the Old Town, dominated by a medieval fortress; and the neoclassical New Town, whose development from the 18th century onwards had a far-reaching influence on European urban planning. The harmonious juxtaposition of these two contrasting historic areas, each with many important buildings, is what gives the city its unique character.

AUSTRIA: Historic Centre of Vienna

Received thanx to Edna.

Beginning in the 12th century, the settlement expanded beyond the Roman defences, which were demolished. The medieval town walls surrounded a much larger area; they were rebuilt during the Ottoman conflicts in the 16th and 17th centuries and provided with bastions. This remained the core of Vienna until the walls were demolished in the second half of the 19th century. This inner city contains a number of medieval historic buildings, including the Schottenkloster, the oldest monastery in Austria, the churches of Maria am Gestade (one of the main Gothic structures), Michaelerkirche, Minoritenkirche and Minoritenkloster, from the 13th century. St Stephen's Cathedral dates from the 14th and 15th centuries. The period also saw the construction of civic ensembles, such as initial parts of the Hofburg. Whereas the monastic complexes were generally built from stone, becoming part of the defences of the medieval city, the residential quarters were of timber and suffered frequent fires.
In 1683, Vienna developed rapidly as the capital of the Habsburg Empire, becoming an impressive Baroque city. The Baroque character was expressed particularly in the large palace layouts built under Emperor Charles VI (1711-40) and Maria Theresa (1740-80), such as the Belvedere Palace and garden ensemble. A growing number of new palaces were built by noble families. Many existing medieval buildings, churches and convents were altered and given Baroque features, and additions were made to representative administrative buildings. Several historic buildings are now associated with the important Viennese residence of personalities such as Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and others, when the city played an essential role as a leading European music centre, from the great age of Viennese Classicism through the early part of the 20th century.
A new phase in the history of Vienna took place when the 34 suburbs were incorporated with the city, and the emperor ordered the demolition of the fortifications around the inner city. This opportunity was taken in order to create one of the most significant 19th-century ensembles in the history of urban planning, which greatly influenced the rest of Europe in this crucial period of social and economic development.
In 1874 the Hofburg complex was extended with the Neue Hofburg, an 'imperial forum', and joined with large museum complexes into a single ensemble. The burgtheater, the parliament, the town hall, and the university formed another ensemble linked with these. To this was added the opera house as well as a large number of public and private buildings along the Ringstrasse, on the line of the demolished walls. The late 19th and early 20th centuries testify to further creative contributions by Viennese designers, artists, and architects in the period of Jugendstil, Secession and the early Modern Movement of the 20th century in architecture.

RUSSIA: Kremlin and Red Square, Moscow

Received thanx to Nastya.

From the 13th century to the founding of St Petersburg, the Moscow Kremlin was directly and tangibly associated with every major event in Russian history. The Kremlin contains within its walls a unique series of masterpieces of architecture and the plastic arts - religious monuments of exceptional beauty such as the Church of the Annunciation, Cathedral of the Dormition, Church of the Archangel and the bell tower of Ivan Veliki, and palaces such as the Great Palace of the Kremlin, which comprises within its walls the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin and the Teremnoi Palace. On Red Square is Saint Basil the Blessed, still a major edifice of Orthodox art. Russian architecture was clearly affected many times in its history by influences emanating from the Kremlin. A particular example is the Italian Renaissance.
The Kremlin of Moscow, which according to chronicles dates from 1156, contains an ensemble of monuments of outstanding quality. Ever since the establishment of the Principality of Moscow in 1263 and the transfer to Moscow of the seat of Vladimir's Metropolitan in 1328, this was the centre of both temporal and spiritual power. Some of these original buildings border Cathedral Square, others, such as the Nativity of the Virgin (1393), were incorporated into the Great Palace when it was rebuilt. The nucleus expanded northward with the palace of the Patriarchs and the Church of the Twelve Apostles, erected in the 17th century, and especially with the Arsenal of Peter the Great which fills the north-west angle of the enceinte. The triangular palace of the Senate (today the seat of the Council of Ministers) was built by Kazakov for Empress Catherine II in the north-east sector between the Arsenal and the monasteries of the Miracle and of the Ascension, two splendid structures that were razed in 1932. In the south-east sector Kazakov built another smaller palace for the empress, known as the Nicholas palace, and also destroyed in 1932.
Red Square is closely associated with the Kremlin, lying beneath its east wall. At its south end is the famous Cathedral of St Basil the Blessed, one of the most beautiful monuments of Orthodox art. It was originally one of a pair of churches, the other being the Cathedral of Kazan, erected in 1633 in the vast open area bordering the 'Goum' by Prince Pozarsky to commemorate the victory over the Poles. It disappeared in the early 1930s along with several convents in the neighbouring area (Saviour-behind-the-Images, St Nicholas, Epiphany).
With its triangular enceinte pierced by five gates and reinforced with 29 towers, the Kremlin preserves the memory of the wooden fortifications erected by Yuri Dolgoruki around 1156 on the hill at the confluence of the Moskova and Nieglinnaya rivers (the Alexander Garden now covers the latter). By its layout and its history of transformations (in the 14th century Dimitri Donskoi had an enceinte of logs built, then the first stone wall), it is the prototype of the Kremlin, the citadel at the centre of old Russian towns, such as Pskov, Tula, Kazan or Smolensk.
The influence of the Kremlin style was felt when Rudolfo Fioravanti built the Cathedral of the Dormition (1475-79), and grew stronger with the Granovitaya Palata (Hall of Facets, 1487-91) by Marco Ruffo and Pietro Antonio Solario as well as in the towers of the fortified enceinte, built during the same period by Solario using principles established by Milanese engineers (the Nikolskaya and the Spasskaya both date from 1491). The Renaissance expression was even clearer in the classic capitals and shells of the Church of the Archangel reconstructed from 1505 to 1509 by Alevisio Novi.

luni, 28 noiembrie 2011

BRAZIL: Pantanal Conservation Area

Received thanx to Claudinei.

The Pantanal Conservation Complex consists of a cluster of four protected areas with a total area of 187,818 ha. Located in western central Brazil at the south-west corner of the State of Mato Grosso, the site represents 1.3% of Brazil's Pantanal region, one of the world's largest freshwater wetland ecosystems. The headwaters of the region's two major river systems, the Cuiabá and the Paraguay rivers, are located here, and the abundance and diversity of its vegetation and animal life are spectacular.


1.Brasilia's Cathedral
2. LBV Temple
3. Conjuncto Nacional Shopping Centre.

Received thanx to Claudinei.

Brasilia, a capital created ex nihilo in the centre of the country in 1956, was a landmark in the history of town planning. The 20th-century principles of urbanism, as expressed by Le Corbusier, have rarely been applied on the scale of capital cities. Only two noteworthy exceptions exist: Chandigarh and Brasilia. Its creators intended that every element, from the layout of the residential and administrative districts (often compared to the shape of a bird in flight) to the symmetry of the buildings themselves, should be in harmony with the city's overall design. The official buildings, in particular, are innovative and imaginative.
The idea of building a capital in the interior of Brazil is an old one, having been proposed on various occasions since the end of the 17th century. When elected president of the Republic of Brazil in 1955, Juscelino Kubitschek made the creation of the capital city a symbol of his policy to upgrade the image of the entire country, to expand industry, and to undertake major construction projects. In 1956 he appointed a commission to determine an exact location for the city and set up an executive body to carry out the construction work. In the same year, Oscar Niemeyer was made Director of the Department of Architecture and Urban Affairs, and Lucio Costa won the competition held for the plan of Brasilia. This choice brought back together the members of a team that had already proved its worth, Le Corbusier having previously been consulted for this project.

BRAZIL: Historic Centre of the Town of Goiás

Received thanx to Claudinei.
The origins of the town of Goiás are closely related with the history of the more or less official expeditions (bandeiras), which left from São Paulo to explore the interior of the Brazilian territory. One expedition, under the command of Fern. Dias Pais, explored the region of Minas (1673-81), and another expedition, under the command of Bartolomeu Bueno da Silva, explored the region of Goiás (1682), finding some gold. However, the discoveries at Minas were far superior and, from 1700, attracted a vast number of people; the population of Brazil went from 80,000 to over one million in a few years. As a result of wars in the coastal regions, attention was again drawn to the interior; in 1718, gold was found in Cuiabá (the current capital of Mato Grosso), and three years later the son of Bartolomeu Bueno discovered gold in Rio Vermelho, where he was nominated the superintendent of the mines of Goiás. One year later he established the settlement of Santana, and a chapel was built there in 1729.
In order to guarantee better control of the mines of Goiás, the Portuguese authorities decide to reinforce the regional government. In 1739, the governor of São Paulo chose Santana, which took the name of Vila Boa de Goiás. The mining village was thus doubled in size by adding to it a small administrative quarter. In 1748, Goiás was chosen as the headquarters of a new sub-district; its first governor was Dom Marcos de Noronha (1749-55), who transformed the modest village into a small capital. Amongst the first constructions was the Casa de Fundição (1750) for the control of gold, the governor's palace (1751), and the military barracks (1751). Under his successors the town continued being improved, including the construction of the Casa de Câmara e Cadeia (1761), improvement of the roads and streets, building of the fountains of Carioca and Chafariz de Cauda, and opening of a theatre (1772-77). The governor Luis da Cunha Meneses (1778-83) planted trees, improved the street alignment, laid out the public square of Chafariz, and opened a slaughterhouse (1778-83). He also had the urban master plan prepared (1782), providing the town with a structure that has survived till the present day.
In 1770 an inevitable decline in gold mining began and Goiás entered a long period of stagnation. It retained its status as a capital, but remained far behind Rio de Janeiro, and so further progress was arrested. In 1935-37 its administrative status was removed but the townscape remained intact. In 1950 IPHAN, the conservation authority of Brazil, listed its principal churches and the barracks, and in 1951 the Casa da Câmara, the palace, and the main areas in the centre. The inauguration in 1960 of the new capital city of Brazil, Brasilia, gave the region a new impetus. Since the 1980s Goiás has been revitalized with some new constructions. Fortunately, the entire centre area was listed by IPHAN for protection in 1978.