cityscape

Posted by Ellen

 

Two subtle murals on rowhouse endwalls at 22nd and Walnut streets in Philadelphia recover in shadow and reflection a long-gone church that once occupied the site that is now is a gas station.

Artist Michael Webb painted every brick on the two murals, which adorn plain stucco walls that had long been covered with graffiti. St. James Church dated back to 1870, which is the era rendered in the murals' architectural details.

Sunoco commissioned the murals in 1999, hoping to put an end to the gas station's graffiti problems. The plan worked.

Posted by Ellen

 

As the latest entry in an irregular series on places I've never been and know next to nothing about, consider this image of Moroni, capital of Comoros, an island nation in the Indian Ocean between Madagascar and Mozambique.

About 60,000 people live on the volcanic islands of the Comoro archipelago. Although the country is among the poorest on earth, armies have fought ferociously to control it, leading to twenty coups or attempted coups since the end of French colonial rule in the 1970s. Beginning in 2002, however, elections have produced governments that are said to be "more or less" stable.
 
Comoros is characterized by stunning volcanic scenery and spectacular, uncrowded beaches. But outside of Moroni there are no roads or tourist facilities. Government promotional literature recommends a visit only for visitors with "independent means."
 

 

Posted by Ellen

Last week, a new condo tower opened in Philadelphia near Rittenhouse Square; its penthouse has already been sold, for $12.5 million. This picture was snapped by a glazier who was hired by the new owners to redo some of the windows.

This is only a small part of the view that $12.5 million buys. The penthouse occupies one entire floor of the new building, and its views are 360 degrees. What you see here is the view looking to the east: the art deco Medical Arts Building across the street, the vaguely Moorish Drake tower near the righthand edge of the photo, with the new glass quonset-hut-canopy of the Kimmel Center behind it.

In the distance is New Jersey, on the far side of the Delaware River.

By all accounts, the new condos are pretty nice. Each one occupies an entire floor, with elevators that are basically private for each resident. In the elevators are buttons you can push to operate the fully automated underground garage; your car will be whisked up from its underground spot and placed gently near the street-level exit, all ready for you to slide behind the wheel and venture forth into the city.

 

Posted by Ellen

 

Last week, the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn was named a Superfund site, meaning that umpteen million dollars will be poured into cleaning up its pollution. Gowanus water  has been sludged with grease and foul-smelling nastiness for a long, long time--so long, in fact, that hardly any new buildings have been constructed in the neighborhood since the nineteenth century. 

This painting was recently submitted to the New York Times by an anonymous artist, in response to a call for works remembering the canal and its neighborhood. In this scene, the neighborhood looks bright and vibrant. "The artist's eye can find something special in this unlikely place," noted one New Yorker. "But if you've been there, you know it by the smell."

"And the noise!" observed another. "Lots of old Italian men screaming words of torment and threat into the night, muttering something about busting someone’s head off with a baseball bat."

"This reminds me of the old joke," said a third. "Guy asks, 'What's the quickest way to the Gowanus?' The answer is: 'Borrow five hundred dollars from Dominic and don't pay him back.'"

Posted by Ellen

 

Looking southward down Manhattan from the top of 30 Rock, toward the Empire State Building and beyond. That's the Verrazano Narrows Bridge near the top of the photo, connecting Brooklyn and Staten Island.

Posted by Ellen

 

Fitzrovia is the London neighborhood that once surrounded the Fitzroy tavern, a long-gone, between-the-wars watering hole. Plenty of pubs remain, however, and for generations now, Fitzrovia might be best characterized as the part of town where famous writers and musicians go to drink: the long list is known to include George Orwell, Virginia Woolf, Dylan Thomas, Rimbaud, Verlaine, and more recently, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, and the fictional heroes of Saul Bellow.

 

Posted by Ellen

The old Eastland Hotel in downtown Portland has a lot of windows and a lot of bricks.

Posted by Ellen

On the roof of the little house in the middle of this Amsterdam canal-side scene is a sign that reads "Coffee Shop 36." It's a marijuana shop.

Posted by Ellen

This birdseye view of the town of Biratnagang, Nepal, was captured from ?????