The second part of my series on futuristic architecture is on Berlin’s Sony Center. Like a moth drawn to a bright light, I wanted to see this structure since Wikipediaing cyberpunk all those years ago.
The dome of the Sony Center glows bright and resembles a funnel, giving it the impression of a psychedelic tornado, frozen in time as it was tearing up Potsdamer Platz. The colours change every 30 seconds, causing people like me who love this stuff to tilt their necks skyward while enjoying a hot coffee in the center’s unheated square.
The Sony Center looks like a background from Blade Runner, or Johnny Mnemonic, and a dark, dystopian future has always interested me. I love Aliens, Terminator, those movies that validate the dark foreboding you feel about what is to come for us all.
Underneath the square there is a maze of tunnels and the U-Bahn isn’t far away. The whole center has the feel of a bunker, while it’s really an upscale shopping mall.
In honour of Sony Centre, I’ve created my first GIF. Watch while listening to trance music really loud to get the full effect.
Long blue lights, aluminium walkway, cables angled upwards like an X Wing. The London Millennium Bridge looks like it could have been teleported from the year 3000.
This is especially true at night when the lights glow, forming what seems like a stationary laser beam across the Thames River, a laser you can walk on.
It was once known as the “Wobbly Bridge” because it shook when people walked on it, so they closed it … for two years. The Millennium Bridge spent the first year of the new millennium as an £18 million, useless piece of metal hanging across the river.
From pitiful beginnings the bridge has become a favourite walk for tourists and locals. Taking the bridge to the north bank of the river puts you face to face with St. Paul’s Cathedral, and south leads to the Tate Modern Museum, both unmissable landmarks.
I can still hear the metallic clangs of shoes on alloy as mine and a thousand feet ahead and behind me walked along, just a few inches of thin metal separating us from the brown silted water below.
In Vienna there’s ten pretty women
There’s a shoulder where death comes to cry
There’s a lobby with 900 windows
There’s a tree where doves go to die
One of my favourite Leonard Cohen songs leads me to think to my time in Vienna and wonder if I saw the things he describes there. Pretty women were around, of course, like any European city, but I saw many more in Prague. A shoulder where death comes to cry is way too metaphoric, and I saw many trees, all of which could have been the last resting place of a dove.
The lobby with 900 windows could have been Schönbrunn Palace.
Sex. Death. Alcohol. Longing. The themes of that Cohen tune infiltrate the history of the Hapsburgs, who threw up this palace on the banks of Wein to humble the French Bourbons to the west and and the Turkish Ottomans to the east, their imperial rivals. The Hapsburgs’ greedy, jealous eyes roved over Europe, the Catholic hammer of Protestantism, marrying strategically, their spectacular triumphs and equally spectacular disasters filling the pages of history.
Nothing is left of the Hapsburgs past glory now. Their homeland is a humble little republic people associate with skiing and beer. Nothing remains except this palace which reminded me so much of Take this Waltz I couldn’t stop singing in my head as I walked through its gardens.
I found out this week Leonard Cohen is making another tour and coming to my city in April. The 78 year old just won’t quit and I won’t miss my chance to see him live for the first time. And if he plays that song in 3/4 time, I’ll think of Schönbrunn, and Vienna, and for a second I’ll be back there, surrounded by the old Hapsburg ghosts, 900 of them, each with its own window, staring out at the world of the living.
Staring at the fancy-ass West End from across the Thames River is Battersea Power Station, probably the ugliest landmark London has to offer, and, not surprisingly, my favourite. As a Pink Floyd fan I have to imagine a big pink pig floating majestically over the smoke stacks whenever I see it.
When I used to get the train home from Victoria Station I’d sit on the left side to get a good look at Battersea. No matter how many times I saw it, it never got old. Something about how different it was from everything that surrounded it, as if it refused to die while everything else gentrified, a stubborn relic of dirty old industrial London.
Another favourite London sight of mine is the iconic red telephone booth. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen a tourist holding the receiver as if they’re making a call while someone takes their photo. How original. This is fast becoming the only time anyone bothers to step inside a London telephone booth. Everyone has a mobile phone these days.
I took some photos around the city recently and lined up a good shot of the famous London telephone booth with the station in the background and a rack of Barclays Bikes. Later I found out the same man who designed the London telephone booth, Giles Gilbert Scott, also designed Battersea Power Station.
Amazing booth. Amazing building. Hopefully Scott’s legacies can stand firm while the city they call home demands everything be new, modern, expensive, and soulless. It wouldn’t be the same without them.
The train took me from Berlin to Prague and I discovered there why “Bohemian” came to be an adjective for artistic, because any trait you’d imagine being characteristic of a creative person can be found fostered in this city. It’s liberal, inspiring, ambitious and at the same time humble, poor but prosperous. Old and ragged but brimming with ideas that jump out at you every time you turn a corner.
I was walking along the river and found this monument. Couldn’t find any description in English – they don’t babysit tourists, which I respect – so I looked it up on Google Maps (shout out to Google. Bring me up in the search rankings yo).
This is the Krannerova Fountain, built in honour of Francis I, the Holy Roman Emperor. He’s probably most famous for the women in his life, which included his wife, Maria Theresa, and Marie Antoinette, his daughter who was to be executed during the French Revolution.
This monument, almost anonymous to the tourists passing by it, struck me as summing up the city so well. It has such a deep history, but at the same time no pretensions to be anything more than a really cool looking piece of stone.
The figures around its edges symbolize the different trades. There is the soldier, the farmer, the blacksmith, the merchant.