City of London at Sunset

London (United Kingdom). The last time I visited London was in September 2013: “The View From The Shard” – the popular observation deck on the (currently) tallest building in the European Union – had opened few weeks earlier, and I could not miss the opportunity of shooting landscapes of London from this privileged point. When I arrived there, it was few minutes before sunset and the light was simply perfect: warm and clean as it can be only in late summer. At the end, it was a great photographic experience, despite the fact that The View From The Shard is not an open air place (but thanks God, glasses were quite clean). The City of London, at that time, was growing with some new buildings, which today are part of the skyline: one is called “The Cheese-grater”, for its shape resembling the typical tool for grating cheese on top of spaghetti; another one is called 20 Fenchurch Street and today it’s famous because it hosts the Sky Garden London.

Today, almost two years after that experience, I’m reconsidering and re-editing one photo from that day. Why today? I don’t know… Why this photo? Again, I don’t know… Simply, I was surfing into my photo catalogue, and my attention was captured by this specific one. I’m remarking this aspect because – one more time – it helps me to explain the rationale and the philosophy of Photographing Around Me. I know that today the City of London is different: I guess that buildings are completed and operative, and that cranes are over. But my memory – together with my photographs – is still at that September 2013. Next time I will go to London (I hope it will be very soon) I will capture and share an update. Promised!

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Two Statues Are Talking About Milan

Milan (Italy). I already took a similar photo some months ago (this one) but the weather was not as nice as it was yesterday evening on the Duomo Terraces, one of my favorite location for shooting landscape photographs of Milan.

Watching these two statues makes me think about their possible conversation:

Left (L): “Look! The new Milan is over there!”

Right (R): “Yes, I see it… unbelievable how fast is its growth”

(L): “Until some years ago there was nothing there. Look now, isn’t it a wonderful skyline?”

(R): “Oh yes, it’s really beautiful”

(L): “From left to right, you start with the Garibaldi Towers: 25 floors and 100 meters high, they are energetically independent thanks to solar panels and a sophisticated insulating materials”

(R): “Wow! And the next one?”

(L): “The next one, at the right of Garibaldi Towers, is the Unicredit Tower complex”

(R): “Oh yes, I recognise it”

(L): “What you probably don’t know is that the towers were designed by the starchitect Cesar Pelli: he designed important buildings around the world, such as the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, the One Canada Square in Canary Wharf (London) and the second tallest skyscraper in Spain, the 250 metres tall Torre de Cristal in Madrid”

(R): “I see… the next one is famous! Isn’t it the Bosco Verticale?”

(L): “Oh yes! It’s a famous building… It even won the International Highrise Award, a prestigious international competition. The two buildings have 730 trees, 5,000 shrubs and 11,000 perennials and groundcover on its facades, the equivalent of that found in a one hectare woodlot.”

(R): “Great example of architectural sustainability! Ok, I like this lesson: let’s go on!”

(L): “Sure! The next tall building is the 143 meters high Solaria Tower. It is currently the tallest residential building in Italy. I can’t imagine the view from its top…”

(R): “It must be breathtaking…”

(L): “Indeed! Proceeding to the next one, here we are to the Lombardy Building (Palazzo Lombardia), designed by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. For the period between its completion and the Unicredit Tower opening it was the tallest building in Italy. Furthermore, it won the 2012 Best Tall Building Europe prize from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.”

(R): “It seems that most of these skyscrapers were awarded with some prestigious prizes… People in Milan should be aware of it!”

(L): “I’m not sure they are… But let’s come to the Diamond Tower, the tallest steel building in Italy. The Diamond Tower is characterised by an irregular geometry, and the perimeter columns are inclined compared to the vertical. Its layout has been developed to maximise the amount of sunlight passing through the building and to allow a view on the city, and the Diamond Tower has been awarded with the LEED GOLD certification, one of the highest ranking recognised by the Green Building Council.”

(R): “Another award!”

(L): “Yes… you are right. Last but not least, the Pirelli Tower. Although this building still today looks very modern, it dates back to 1950s and was designed by two among the greatest architects of the Italian history: Giò Ponti and Pier Luigi Nervi. It even seems that the Pirelli Tower inspired the design of the Pan Am Building (now MetLife Building) in New York It’s not an award, but…”

(R): “Oh yes, it’s amazing!”

(L): “And, at the right of the Pirelli Tower, there is the Breda Tower, built in 1959 and recently restored.”

(R): “Great! Thank you very much for this interesting lesson! I really did not know about how amazing and rich of information a skyline can be… This landscape won’t ever be the same from now on”

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Afterwork at the Esplanade de la Defense n.1

Paris (France). I frequently spend my after-work time walking around La Défense, a place where I come frequently (even now I’m on a flight from Milan to Paris); and that I have been photographing for years (most of my photos at La Defense are posted under this tag expressly created). Every time I wonder the same questions about this place. Do I like it? Honestly, I don’t know. How it could be living here? I can hardly answer this question too, and I admit I find myself watching residents trying to understand how is the quality of their lives. But the question in absolute terms most difficult to answer is always the same: how will be this place in – I don’t know, let’s say – ten years?

Yet, I must admit that in terms of photography, La Defense is still one of the most interesting places to explore in Paris; its architectures and its urban development are worth being analysed with attention, especially because they reveal a sort of historical stratification. Since the end of the ’50s, with the construction of the CNIT (Centre des nouvelles industries et technologies) building, through the ’70s and the ’80s with buildings such as the Tour Areva and the Tour Total, until beginning of 2000 with the erection of more futuristic skyscrapers like the Tour EDF, La Defense has become the largest business park in Europe.

Very personally, the feeling I have when I walk along its extended “Esplanade”, between the Grand Arche and the fountain close to Neully-sur-Seine, is the one of a place that has begun a slow but relentless and conscious decadence (even if embellished by marvelous early fall sunsets), and that for some aspects is even proud of it, according to the most typical Parisian style. The economic crisis, which has not spared France, the competition with other “banlieues”, which are trying to attract similar developments, and the transportation network, which has already reached its maximum capacity and therefore can’t increase the number of commuters transported daily, are posing serious obstacles to the growth of this area and probably it couldn’t be different.

If it’s true that knowing the past is necessary to understand the future, I think that the future of La Defense is written into its glorious (albeit unique) past, in its having been a symbol for the 20th century’s city planners, but also a place that has lost its leadership in favor of new different models. But It is still a place that is worth being visited and photographed, possibly posing some questions: and if someone has the answer(s) to mine, I’d be glad to know it.

Parigi. La Defense è una zona di Parigi che frequento molto per lavoro (anche adesso sono su un volo da Milano a Parigi) e dove mi capita spesso di camminare: nel tempo ho scattato diverse fotografie, che pubblico qui nel blog con un tag appositamente creato, e ogni volta mi interrogo su come sia questo posto. Mi piace? Non lo so. Come potrebbe essere vivere qui? Anche questa sinceramente è una domanda a cui rispondo a fatica, tanto che – lo ammetto – mi ritrovo a guardare con curiosità i residenti, cercando di capire la qualità della loro vita. Ma la domanda in assoluto più difficile è sempre la stessa: come sarà questo posto tra – non so, diciamo – dieci anni?

Eppure, devo ammettere che dal punto di vista fotografico rimane uno dei posti più interessanti di Parigi da esplorare; le sue architetture e il suo sviluppo urbanistico meritano di essere osservate con attenzione, soprattutto perché rivelano una sorta di “stratificazione” storica. Tra la fine degli anni ’50, con la costruzione dell’edificio CNIT (Centre des nouvelles industries et technologies), attraverso gli anni ’70 e ’80 con edifici come la Torre Areva e la Torre Total, fino a inizio 2000 con la realizzazione di grattacieli più avveniristici (tra cui la Torre EDF), La Defense ha visto uno sviluppo che l’ha portata a essere il più grande centro direzionale d’Europa.

Molto personalmente, la sensazione che si ha camminando dopo una giornata di lavoro lungo la sua enorme “Esplanade”, dal Grand Arche alla fontana in prossimità di Neully-sur-Seine, è quella di un posto che ha iniziato una lenta ma inesorabile e consapevole decadenza (magari abbellita dai meravigliosi tramonti di inizio autunno), e che per certi aspetti riesce ad andare fiero di questa cosa, nel più classico stile parigino. La crisi economica che ha colpito anche la Francia, la competizione di altre zone della banlieue che cercano di attirare analoghi sviluppi urbanistici e la saturazione dei mezzi di trasporto che difficilmente potrebbero portare nuovi afflussi di persone, stanno creando dei seri ostacoli alla crescita di questa area, e probabilmente non potrebbe essere diversamente.

Se è vero che per capire il futuro bisogna conoscere il passato, penso che il futuro di questo posto sia scritto nella sua storia gloriosa ma irripetibile, nel suo essere stato un luogo simbolo per l’urbanistica del ventesimo secolo ma che oggi ha perso la sua leadership a favore di altri modelli. Ma che rimane un posto da vedere, da fotografare, e sul quale porsi certe domande: e se qualcuno – alle mie – può darmi una risposta, sarei ben lieto di saperlo.

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Smelling Oncoming Summer Rainstom (Maire Tecnimont)

Milan (Italy). An image taken last night: these days are characterized by heavy clouds and unexpected sort-of-tropical rainstorms, which can be very annoying – except when they bring / leave such an amazing sky!

Clouds can never hide the sun forever; so don’t complain about clouds but never forget to welcome the sun [Debasish Mridha]

I took this image walking through Piazza Gae Aulenti, just at the foot of the UniCredit Tower (the building on the left): I liked the contrast between the illuminated Maire – Tecnimont building against the dark sky in the background: a very quick capture, before heading home waiting for the rainstorm – which did not happen.

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Paris from La Defense (With its Architectures) at Sunrise

Paris (France). My followers could start thinking that I have a sort of obsession for Paris, and particularly for the district of La Defense, since I have been posting photos from these places for several days. No, it’s not true – at least I don’t believe so. The point is that I’m frequently travelling to Paris for business, and I love bringing my camera with me to capture some photos and relax a little bit. With the fall arriving, there are marvelous sunrises with the sky getting red just behind the Tour Eiffel, and it’s a shame not getting the opportunity of photographing it!

Yesterday early morning, just after my wake-up, I was watching outside my hotel’s window and my attention was catalyzed by a huge condominium, similar to those ones in the peripheries of Moscow or Shanghai, made with many apartments all alike, but incredibly captivating. I took advantage of the warm sunrise light to photograph it, including the Tour Eiffel just to add a typical Parisian contrast to this composition.

At a later time I tried to find some more information and I discovered that the name of this condominium is “L’immeuble Bellini” (from the name of the underlying street) and that it is the first residential building at La Defense. It was designed by the architect Jean de Mailly in 1957 and it hosts 560 apartments. The following year, de Mailly designed the CNIT and in 1966 the opposite tower, known with the name “Tour Initiale” (the original name was “Tour Nobel“), which today houses the RTE’s headquarter.

I’m more and more convinced that to know – and at a certain extent to further appreciate – Paris, it’s necessary going beyond its “arrondissement” and its glimpses seen thousands of times (I’m talking as a photographer and as a tourist) to discover its recent past that in one way or another, has many stories to tell.

Parigi. Chi segue il mio blog potrebbe pensare che ho una specie di ossessione per Parigi e in particolar modo per il quartiere de La Defense, dal momento che ultimamente sto postando parecchie foto da questi posti. No, non è così – almeno non credo. Il fatto è che sono spesso lì per lavoro, e amo portarmi la macchina fotografica per scattare qualche immagine e rilassarmi un po’. E come ogni anno, con l’arrivo dell’autunno si iniziano a vedere delle albe bellissime, con il cielo rosso proprio dietro la Tour Eiffel, ed è un peccato non approfittarne!

Ieri mattina appena alzato, mentre guardavo fuori dalla finestra del mio albergo, la mia attenzione è stata catturata da un enorme condominio, simile a quelli che si vedono nelle periferie di Mosca o di Shanghai, fatto di appartamenti tutti uguali, eppure nel suo genere incredibilmente affascinante. Ho approfittato della calda luce dell’alba per fotografarlo, includendo la Tour Eiffel giusto per aggiungere un contrasto tipicamente parigino a questa composizione.

Successivamente, volendomi documentare, sono andato a cercare alcune informazioni, e ho scoperto che questo condominio si chiama “L’immeuble Bellini” (dal nome della strada sottostante) e che è stato il primo edificio residenziale a La Defense. Fu progettato dall’architetto Jean de Mailly nel 1957 e conta 560 appartamenti. L’anno successivo lo stesso de Mailly ha progettato il CNIT, e nel 1966 il grattacielo antistante a L’immeuble Bellini, conosciuto con il nome di “Tour Initiale” (ma una volta si chiamava “Tour Nobel“) che oggi ospita la sede di RTE.

Sono sempre più convinto che per conoscere – e per certi versi apprezzare maggiormente – Parigi, sia necessario uscire dai suoi “arrondissement” e dai suoi scorci visti mille volte (parlo anche da fotografo, oltre che da turista) per andare alla scoperta del suo recente passato che in un modo o nell’altro ha molte storie da raccontare.

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From My Room at Sofitel Hotel La Defense (Residence Vision 80)

Paris (France). I frequently photograph the landscape out of the windows of the hotels where I stay. I do it to give a sense to an experience – staying in the room of a hotel – otherwise anonymous and a bit alienating. Sometimes I’m very lucky (such as in this case); some others not so much (here’s an example)…

Days ago I was one more time in Paris, and I staid at Sofitel La Défense hotel. This is the landscape from my room: the strong contrast between the low horizontal residence (its name is Residence Vision 80) inspired by Le Corbusier’s architecture, and the vertical skyscrapers rising in the background, has captured my attention immediately. For this reason, I waited for the sunset’s light painting the facades with a soft orange tone to capture this image, in my opinion quite interesting.

Paris. Fotografo spesso il panorama che vedo dalle finestre degli alberghi dove alloggio. Lo faccio per dare un senso a un’esperienza – quella di stare in una stanza di hotel – altrimenti anonima è anche un po’ alienante. A volte sono molto fortunato (come in questo caso), altre volte meno (ecco un esempio)…

Giorni fa ero di nuovo a Parigi, e ho soggiornato al Sofitel La Défense. Questa era la vista dalla mia stanza: il forte contrasto tra il residence basso e lungo (si chiama Residence Vision 80) fortemente ispirato ai principi architettonici di Le Corbusier, e i grattacieli retrostanti che salgono dritti verticali, ha catturato il mio interesse da subito. Per questo ho aspettato che la luce del tramonto dipingesse di un leggero tono arancione le facciate per scattare questa foto a mio avviso abbastanza interessante.

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