30
Sep

Disney Theatrical Productions and Shiki Theatre Company are bringing Aladdin to Tokyo. This is the first international production of the Broadway musical comedy and is hitting a market where Disney’s feature animation Frozen recently grossed a record-breaking $250M. Performances will begin in May at the Dentsu Shiki Theatre Umi in Tokyo. Produced on Broadway by Disney Theatrical Productions, Aladdin opened at the New Amsterdam Theatre on March 20 and features music by Tony and Oscar winner Alan Menken, lyrics by Oscar winner Howard Ashman and Tony and Oscar winner Tim Rice, and Tony nominee Chad Beguelin. Lyrics will be translated into Japanese by Chikae Takahashi, who worked on the Japanese translation for Frozen. The Tokyo production will be cast locally and performed in Japanese. This marks the fifth collaboration between Disney Theatrical Productions and Shiki Theatre Company following the successful and current runs of Beauty And The Beast, The Lion King, Aida and The Little Mermaid.

British director Steve McQueen will be presented with the honorary European Achievement in World Cinema Award by the European Film Academy at its awards ceremony in December. McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave won the Best Picture Oscar last year, and the helmer’s credits also include Hunger and Shame. For Hunger, he won the EFA’s European Discovery of the Year prize, and Shame took European Film Awards for cinematography and editing.

Gaumont International Television is expanding its sales team and has appointed Hana Zidek to the newly created position of VP Distribution. Based in London, she will report to Erik Pack, Head of International Distribution and Co-Production, and will be responsible for sales to Central Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and Benelux. Zidek will be part of the team that is traveling to Mipcom next month. She joins from AE Television in London, where she served as Director of International Content Sales EMEA. She has also served as Director of International Sales for Lionsgate International Television.

Picturehouse Cinemas and the UK’s National Media Museum have struck a commercial cinema partnership. Starting on October 31, the new venture called Picturehouse at National Media Museum will see Picturehouse taking over the operation of the three screens at the museum in Bradford, England: the 300-seat Pictureville, the 100-seat Cubby Broccoli Cinema and Europe’s first Imax screen. “Film and cinematography are key chapters in the story that this Museum tells,” museum director Jo Quinton-Tulloch said. “Our partnership with Picturehouse Cinemas will ensure the long-term sustainability of cinema on this site.” Said Picturehouse Managing Director Lyn Goleby, “The National Media Museum is an incredibly important part of cinema geography and cinema heritage in the UK, and we are very much looking forward to becoming part of its future.

Article source: http://deadline.com/2014/09/aladdin-musical-japan-steve-mcqueen-european-film-academy-award-843006/

30
Sep

Even the most extreme of 4K naysayers would surely struggle to deny that the new ultra high definition video format makes a big difference to pictures as huge as those produced by a video projector. So the news that Sony Sony is about to launch a new 4K projector at a ground-breakingly low price feels like another key moment in 4K’s seemingly irresistible rise to mainstream adoption.

The projector in question is the VPL-VW300ES – and I recently got the chance to have an extended look at one during a launch event at the Sony Music HQ in Derry Street, London.

That Price

First things first: that price. Sony has confirmed that the projector will sell for just £5,500 in the UK. This is a whole £3000 cheaper than the next cheapest 4K projector: Sony’s own VW600ES (or VW500ES in Europe). A straight pounds to dollar conversion makes the VW300ES $8900 in the US – though this ‘best guess’ is currently the only US price information available right now for reasons I’ll come back to later…

Sony’s new entry-level 4K projector looks identical to the step-up VW600ES/VW500ES.

No other brand can currently get close to this price for a 4K projector. In fact, no other brand can currently deliver a true 4K projector for the home market at all! Which perhaps makes it surprising Sony wants to sell a 4K projector so cheaply; why not just milk the market with  more expensive models while there’s no competition?!

However, according to Sony’s Jacob Barfoed, Regional Sales Manager for the UK, Nordics and Benelux, the reasoning is simple: “For us it’s simply about expanding the market. We just want to bring 4K to more people. There’s no hidden agenda.” Which sounds fair enough, really.

Externally the VW300ES is a dead ringer for the already available – and brilliant – VW600ES/VW500ES, with its large but subtly curvaceous chassis. Inevitably given that the VW300ES is so much cheaper than the step up model, though, there are some specification differences between the two models.

Spec Talk

For starters, the VW300ES can deliver a maximum light output of 1500 Lumens against the VW600ES/VW500ES’s 1700. Also the VW300E doesn’t provide as much calibration flexibility; there’s no lens memory feature for setting up different zoom and focus positions for easy switching between different film aspect ratios when using a super-wide screen; and most importantly of all, the VW300ES doesn’t have a dynamic iris system for boosting contrast.

The VW300ES joins its step up sibling, though, in sporting 4K-friendly HDMI 2.0 inputs able to carry 4K sources at 60 frames a second (albeit only at 8-bit colour resolution), and the HDMIs also support the new HDCP 2.2 4K piracy protection system.

The VW300ES impressively also clings on to Sony’s Triluminos technology for richer and more nuanced colours, and it even introduces a new feature: a Low Latency mode. This essentially turns off all motion processing to improve gaming performance by reducing the time it takes for the projector to render images.

The VW300ES used in the demo doesn’t seem to have had much contact with a duster lately…

During my extended demo time with the VW300ES I saw nothing to suggest that it will let the Sony 4K side down despite its affordability. On the contrary, it could be the 4K format’s most effective weapon yet.

The demo included a decent variety of native 4K clips, including 60p footage of the 2013 Beach Football World Cup in Tahiti; footage of the flora and fauna of the African plains; some remarkably gorgeous footage of the World Heritage monuments of Ravenna; the inevitable trailer for the remake of Total Total Recall; a clip from a concert by Karmin; and footage from the X Games, courtesy of ESPN ESPN. Plus we got to see the VW300ES’s Reality Creation upscaling engine working on the Oblivion Blu-ray.

So how does it look?

With all this content the VW300ES’s picture looked mostly remarkable for such an affordable 4K projector. The impact of the 4K resolution with native 4K content seems undiminished from the VW600ES/VW500ES. In other words, the so-called ‘screen door’ visible pixel structure effect you get with HD images at large image sizes is completely removed – a fact which  joins with gorgeous amounts of detail, texture and image depth to enable you to become completely lost in the image. In other words, despite its affordability the VW300ES still delivers 4K’s trademark sense that you’re looking at reality rather than a mere projected image.

The Reality Creation upscaling system, too, seems every bit as clever as it is on the VW600ES/VW500ES, sharpening and adding detail to HD sources more sensitively and thus effectively than any other 4K upscaling technology I’ve seen.

Despite ‘only’ having 1500 Lumens to work with, the VW300ES proved bright enough to deliver punchy, involving images even though it was having to compete with a little reddish ambient light in the demo room. Colours appeared to be as dynamic as we’ve come to expect from Triluminos devices, too.

Ambient aggravation

The one performance area I frustratingly couldn’t get a proper feel for was the key one of contrast. There was just too much ambient light in the demo room to form a helpful impression of the VW300ES’s ability to produce a convincing black colour without having a dynamic iris to help it out. However, I did briefly get to see the VW300ES in a properly blacked out room at the recent IFA technology show in Berlin, and during that session I was pleasantly surprised by how credible the projector’s black level response looked.

The VW300ES’s design is impressively effective at reducing running noise.

Sony’s Technical Support representative at the London demo, KL Chit, did admit that if you’re looking for a projector to go into a “bat cave”, then the VW600ES/VW500ES would be the better option. But he also stressed that the VW300ES should deliver a contrast performance at least comparable to what you get from the VW600ES/VW500ES in its full open iris mode.

From what I’ve seen of the VW300ES so far I’m hugely excited by Sony’s latest move to bring 4K to a much wider audience of home cinema enthusiasts, and can’t wait to get one installed in my own ‘bat cave’ soon for a deeper evaluation.

Coming to America?

The only weird thing about the VW300ES is that at the time of writing Sony is refusing to confirm if it will be released in the US as well as Europe. You’d think it would be a no-brainer given the relative size of the US projection market, yet the VW300ES wasn’t shown at the recent US CEDIA show, and despite initially stating during the UK presentation that the VW300ES would be launched in the US next month, Sony’s European spokespeople rapidly backtracked on the claim when pushed to confirm it.

My bet, though, is that the VW300ES will appear in the US eventually – especially if the clamour for it gets loud enough. So if you like the sound of what the VW300ES has to offer, maybe it’s time to start making some noise.

Follow me on Twitter @bigjohnnyarcher, or read my other Forbes articles via my profile page.

Article source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnarcher/2014/09/30/4k-projection-gets-cheap-sony-vpl-vw300es-hands-on/

30
Sep

ABU DHABI // When Rashad Bukhash decided to run for a seat in the Federal National Council, some were sceptical that he would win.

The 53-year-old engineer, who heads the architectural heritage department at Dubai Municipality, believed otherwise.

“I think there are two reasons I won the FNC elections,” he said. “The first is because I volunteer at several places, like Dar Al Ber society. These places are close to nationals because it serves people. Also your [morals and ethics] and the way you deal with others plays a role.”

As chairman of the UAE Architectural Heritage Society in Bastakiya, home to some of the best examples of preservation, thanks to him, he also won popularity.

“A lot of the candidates were young. The more established ones in society had a bigger chance of winning.”

Although quiet in nature, standing out in a crowd has become the norm for Mr Bukhash, who in 1991 was among the first civil volunteers in the Armed Forces.

In 1998, when the Dubai Government Excellence Award was launched, he was honoured in the best Government employee category. He was honoured again in 1999.

Before joining the council, Mr Bukhash had already helped preserve 124 historical buildings across the country and completed more than 300 engineering projects.

Currently he is working on registering Dubai Creek as one of the wonders of the world, arguing that it has brought together civilisations – the oldest documented in the 15th century when Venetian merchants travelled there to purchase pearls to take back to Europe.

Already on the Unesco world heritage list are Al Ain’s Hafeet, Hili, Bida Bint Saud and Oases areas.

Although his presence is often overshadowed by his bolder peers, Mr Bukhash has not let his reserved nature keep him back.

On the very first session, he joined a fellow Dubai member in calling for a temporary committee to tackle unemployment among UAE nationals.

His motive was promises made to the people. Tucked away in his wallet from the day he won election, he has a list of goals revolving around national needs.

Another campaign promise was to preserve the country’s heritage. True to his word, the matter was brought up in the council last year when Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, was summoned to answer why a law to protect historical sites has been delayed.

“The council’s work is political and diplomatic. My work outside the council is very different,” he said. “But it was a great experience. I learnt a lot from it.”

Even with the struggle of coping with his dual roles, Mr Bukhash would not mind a second term.

Some changes he would like to see, however, include increasing the number of seats in the council to allow greater representation of the country.

And to avoid struggles encountered in the first year, he would like to see more of the council’s former members reappointed.

“I think the experience you get from being in the FNC is great,” he said. “In parliaments like the United States, a member might be a member for a very long time. It would be good to allow old members to stay on since then they are experienced with the council. We faced difficulty [in 2011] because we were all new.”

osalem@thenational.ae

Article source: http://www.thenational.ae/uae/government/dubais-heritage-custodian-cites-volunteerism-for-fnc-election

28
Sep


HERZOGENAURACH Germany (Reuters) – Adidas (ADSGn.DE) needs world-class designers, brand experts and technical whizzkids to improve its image against U.S. rival Nike (NKE.N), but persuading them to move to its headquarters in rural Germany is difficult.

Adidas has been losing market share to the world’s biggest sportswear brand Nike, which is seen as far cooler in consumer surveys and is based near the hip U.S. city of Portland, Oregon.

Adidas acknowledges it is hard to recruit at its headquarters near the Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach, particularly for design, marketing and digital roles, and admits it missed trends in the U.S. market, where Under Armour (UA.N) has just overtaken it as No. 2 behind Nike. Nike’s better than expected earnings on Sept. 25 underscored its ascendancy.

Adidas is responding by locating some key design roles in the United States at the same time as investing heavily in new facilities at its home base near the historic Bavarian town where Adidas was founded by shoe maker Adi Dassler in 1949.

“We need a lot of that top talent that is cutting edge. Ideally, they are working in the tech industry, in marketing organizations or are coming from top competitors. We need an environment that appeals to them,” said Steve Fogarty, who is responsible for employer branding and digital recruiting

“Designers tend to gravitate to very large, international cities like Berlin, Amsterdam, London and it is a bit harder to convince them to move to the center of Germany.”

Eric Liedtke, the American who took over as Adidas head of global brands in March, has promoted Paul Gaudio to the role of global creative director and moved him from Herzo to the firm’s U.S. base in Portland in a bid to turn around its fortunes in the world’s biggest market for sporting goods. Close to 1,000 Adidas staff are based in Portland, compared with Nike’s 8,500-strong workforce in the area.

Gaudio announced on Wednesday that Adidas will open a small creative studio in New York’s Brooklyn district in 2015 to be led by three young footwear designers he has poached from Nike with a mission to explore design direction for the brand.

That will complement existing creative centers in Shanghai, Tokyo and Rio, but the vast majority of the company’s hundreds of designers for football, outdoor, Originals fashion, training and running products remain based in Herzo.

Adidas shares are down more than a third this year, most recently suffering from a third profit warning in a year in July that the firm blamed in part on a disappointing performance in North America, particularly from its golf business.

Adidas trades at 17 times expected earnings, at a discount to Nike’s 22.5 times and fast-growing Under Armour’s 58 times.

Despite the new designers in the United States, long-serving Adidas Chief Executive Herbert Hainer, himself a native of Bavaria, remains committed to the company’s base in a region proud of its strong economy and companies including BMW, Siemens, Audi, Munich Re and Allianz.

About 3,900 of the total Adidas staff of 52,500 work in and around Herzo, about a third of them from outside Germany, and Hainer said last month the company planned to add 100-150 new staff at its headquarters every year.

GLOBAL FOOTWEAR HUB

While Bavaria has a reputation for beer festivals, lederhosen and conservative politics, Nike’s home town of Portland is a city of 600,000 that prides itself on its liberal values and environmental awareness, as well as a proliferation of trendy eateries and microbreweries.

Based on a campus in Beaverton, seven miles (11 km) outside Portland, Nike’s location in the American northwest also raised questions in its early days in the 1960s, with founder and Oregon native Phil Knight saying everybody originally thought it should be located in New England or the South.

But Portland has since become a magnet for the global footwear industry, helped by the relatively short hop to Asian production hubs and a youthful talent pool, prompting Adidas to move its North America headquarters there from New Jersey in 1993, and drawing U.S. brands like Columbia Sportwear and Keen.

Herzo, by contrast, is a town of just 24,000 people set in rolling fields, though many Adidas staff commute from the nearby university town of Erlangen or the city of Nuremberg, known for its walled old town, gingerbread and sausages but not for the most vibrant nightlife or fashion scene.

Nuremberg has an airport with direct flights to many cities in Europe but not further afield and there is no train link to Herzo from Nuremberg or Erlangen, meaning most staff have to commute by car.

Herzo’s biggest employer is family-owned Schaeffler, which has 9,000 staff in the town, mostly in technical roles producing precision products for the auto and aerospace industry. It is also home to rival sportswear firm Puma (PUMG.DE).

Conscious that it was not the best location for a big global consumer brand, Adidas considered leaving Herzo in the 1990s when the company was trying to rebuild its fortunes after flirting with bankruptcy following the death of founder Dassler in 1978 and then his son Horst in 1987.

But when the departure of U.S. troops from Germany at the end of the Cold War freed up the military base outside Herzo, local authorities persuaded Adidas to stay. It moved its headquarters to the base in 1998 from an overcrowded office in downtown Herzo and has been expanding the campus ever since.

SAFE BUT DULL

Herzogenaurach mayor German Hacker said surveys showed that foreign inhabitants particularly value the high quality of life and security that the town offers.

“Herzogenaurach is a sheltered and manageable town. That is its charm, but you can get to big towns in 10-15 minutes if you want,” he said.

One former employee, who declined to be named because they still work on a contract basis for Adidas, said they left the company because they found living in Bavaria too boring. “It is so odd that this company is in the middle of farmland. It doesn’t have anything to do with style,” the person said.

Adidas recruiting expert Fogarty, who spent three years working in Herzo but moved back to Portland last year, says the vast majority of staff describe working in Germany as an amazing experience once they arrive.

He set up a website to extol the virtues of Herzo, featuring employees from around the world praising the rural running tracks near the office, local beer festivals and the proximity to Alpine ski slopes. (herzo.adidas-group.com/)

Fogarty, who often has to get up at the crack of dawn in Portland to speak to colleagues nine hours ahead in Herzo, said Adidas does not lose staff due to the location of its base as it is flexible about where people work.

    “While our headquarters is technically in Herzo, the opportunity to work in many locations is already here, so why invest in moving the headquarters?” he said.

However, the experience of Puma, founded by Adi Dassler’s brother Rudolf after the two split a joint business, shows the pitfalls of dispersing key staff.

Puma had based its product management and design team for its lifestyle range in London to be closer to fashion trends, but decided last year to move the division to Herzo as it sought to centralize functions as part of a restructuring program.

Puma is in the process of trying to reaffirm its sporting roots after sales tumbled in recent years. Puma had lost its reputation for sports performance gear by moving too far into the fashion business.

Despite investing in fashion brands like NEO and Originals, Adidas has so far stayed true to its sporting heritage.

Adidas recently announced plans to build two new buildings – with a capacity for 3,600 staff – at its “World of Sports” campus outside Herzo and is about to open a 16-metre-high climbing wall in the grounds.

The Adidas campus already features sports fields and stylish buildings including a futuristic low-rise “brand center” clad in black glass that opened in 2006 and a marketing and operations office called “Laces” that opened in 2011 and features criss-crossing walkways above a light-filled atrium.

“You can work in a dull office in the middle of Munich or an awesome office two hours north of Munich,” said Christian Dzieia, Adidas director of property development.

An on-site fitness center with daily yoga and aerobics classes opened last year as well as a bilingual kindergarten for 110 children and a campus canteen revamped with input from German celebrity chef Holger Stromberg.

“We’re hiring a lot of people with a huge passion for sport whose eyes light up when they walk around the campus,” said Fogarty.

“You have the best of both worlds, where you can walk onto this international campus with a lot of high-tech facilities and then go have lunch in a thousand-year-old Bavarian village.”

(editing by Anna Willard and Janet McBride)

Article source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/28/us-adidas-germany-insight-idUSKCN0HN0AN20140928

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28
Sep

A century ago, bountiful grain and beef exports made Argentina the eighth wealthiest nation on Earth. Its per capita income exceeded by 50% that of various European countries, including Italy, and more than tripled that of Japan. An unstoppable wave of emigrants crossed the Atlantic to its main port and capital, Buenos Aires, where work was abundant and living conditions good. They arrived in their millions from Italy and Spain and in their hundreds of thousands from France, Germany, Austria and Poland.

The hope of becoming “as rich as an Argentinian” acted as such a powerful magnet that by 1914 half of the 1.6 million inhabitants of Buenos Aires had been born outside Argentina, most of them in Europe. Buenos Aires thus embarked on an architectural overhaul that turned it from a faraway former colonial outpost of the Spanish empire into a bustling, modern metropolis – a legacy that is now the subject of an increasingly bitter struggle.

“Buenos Aires was so rich that it was comparable to today’s Abu Dhabi,” says Teresa Anchorena, a former city legislator and a current member of Argentina’s national heritage commission. “It could afford to hire the best architects in the world to design buildings fit for a leading nation.”

Those European architects soon made Buenos Aires internationally known as the Paris of South America, a multicultural city with wide elegant avenues that rivalled the planet’s major capitals in cultural refinement and modern conveniences. New inventions, such as telephone lines, electric street lighting and underground railway lines, came to Buenos Aires simultaneously with major cities in the US and Europe, much of them built by British companies.

But Argentina sadly failed to live up to its early promise. Whether through inadequate economic decisions or because the wind direction of international markets turned against its export commodities, by the 1950s the country had crashed into the railings. It has since sunk to 55th position globally in per capita income, racked by decades of chronic inflation and a series of economic crises.

Turmoil hit again last month when Argentina was declared in default by international credit rating agencies after a US court ruled the nation must pay $1.3bn to foreign debt holders who refused to take a “haircut” on bonds they hold from the previous default in 2001. “When that old glory faded, the city was left with remarkable landmarks such as the Colón opera house [the third best in the world, according to National Geographic] that no longer correspond to the city’s ranking,” says Anchorena. “But at the same time that contrast is part of what makes Buenos Aires such a unique and complex, super-attractive, pulsating city today, so we should try our hardest to preserve what remains of that formidable past.”

Buenos Aires has not traditionally been concerned about preservation. Only a handful of buildings remain from the colonial years after the city’s founding in 1536 in what is now the old San Telmo tourist district. The Parisian architecture of the early 20th century has also been shrinking because of the property boom that accompanied a renewed spurt of economic growth in the last decade until 2013.

“The ideology has always been: this is America, everything needs to be new,” says Sergio Kiernan, a journalist who writes a weekly column in the daily Página/12 that chronicles the razing of old buildings. “That attitude is still prevalent in sectors of government today.” But recently a combination of specialists such as Anchorena and grassroots groups alarmed at the rapid pace of destruction have become a major headache for developers, as well as for the city’s authorities.

The unlikely hero of the heritage cause is mild-mannered music teacher Santiago Pusso. A devout Catholic, Pusso, when not teaching at the city conservatory, can be found giving music classes to deprived children at the Caacupé church in the Villa 21 slum.

In 2007 Pusso set up the tiny group Basta de Demoler (Stop the Demolition) with like-minded neighbours. They discovered the quickest way to stop demolitions was through the legal system. “We decided to go to the courts,” says Pusso. “This David and Goliath fight would be impossible otherwise.”

Among the major projects stopped by Pusso was an 18-storey hotel approved by city planners next to the church of Santa Catalina, built in 1745, whose gardens, open to the public, are an oasis of peace in the downtown area. Probably the best remaining example of Buenos Aires’s colonial-era architecture, Santa Catalina was briefly occupied by British forces during the second failed “British invasion” of Buenos Aires, led by John Whitelocke in 1807.

“Pusso is using a highly unusual tactic, by which an uninvolved third party steps in and blocks a major construction project through the courts,” says Kiernan. “Since Basta de Demoler first stopped a demolition in 2007 that way, the method has been applied by other NGOs and private citizens in a growing number of cases.”

Pusso’s already brittle relationship with city hall snapped last week when he was handed a lawsuit claiming 24m pesos (£1.7m) in damages for blocking the construction of a new subway station underneath Plaza Alvear, a landscaped 19th-century park in the upscale neighbourhood of Recoleta. The park is a main tourist attraction because of its weekend “hippie fair” and its proximity to the Recoleta church built in 1732.

Pusso had gone to the courts to protect the park. The judge ordered the city to stop the digging for the station (ancient trees were removed with the idea of replanting them once it was finished) while the court decided if the station was being built in accordance with the city’s subway legislation, which stated that it should be built on Plaza Francia, across the avenue from Plaza Alvear. The city argued that Plaza Alvear was also colloquially referred to as “Plaza Francia” while critics said the city was twisting the wording of the law to favour a shopping mall on the hill behind Plaza Alvear.

Finally the city stopped digging and announced it was moving the subway station to the nearby Buenos Aires University law school, itself a monumental city landmark built in the 1940s in a Greco-Roman pastiche style reminiscent of European fascist architecture of the period.

That appeared to be the end of the story, until the city announced it was suing Pusso. “The NGO made an abusive use of its right to seek protection through the courts,” says Buenos Aires’s attorney general, Julio Conte Grand, who filed the claim. “Its objective was political, to cause economic and political damage to the city’s government. We are suing to recover the financial loss incurred because of the delay in completing the subway station.”

The allegation of Pusso’s “political” motives is included in the legal claim, sending chills down the spine of heritage campaigners. “This is revenge. You can’t accuse Basta de Demoler of stopping the subway station: it was stopped by the judge,” says Kiernan. “It is barbaric,” agrees Anchorena. “The authorities are completely insensitive to heritage issues. They are nowhere even close to other Latin American nations such as Colombia or Mexico when it comes to preservation.”

The city government dismisses such criticism. “We have catalogued more historical buildings for preservation than any previous administration,” says Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, cabinet chief of Buenos Aires (equivalent to deputy mayor). He points to major undertakings such as the painstaking renovation of the Colón opera house (first opened in 1908) and the new Usina del Arte, an eyecatching renovation that turned an abandoned electrical works built in 1912 into a stunning arts complex in the district of La Boca.

The mayor of Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri of the centre-right PRO party, who is narrowly leading opinion polls in the runup to next year’s presidential elections, can claim other positive advances on the heritage front. “We have turned traffic-jammed downtown streets in the historical district into pedestrian walks, breathing new life into that area,” says Rodríguez Larreta. The city has also been working hand in hand with owners of landmark buildings such as the once British-owned 1912 Gath Chávez department store in Florida Street to restore their facades.

Whatever the courts decide in the city’s lawsuit against Pusso and his group, one thing is clear. The issue of the city’s architectural heritage, long neglected by both the public and authorities, has arrived in Buenos Aires to stay.

Article source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/27/buenos-aires-citizens-courts-paris-architecture-heritage

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28
Sep

If you can make it during the pre-Christmas season, La Noche de Rábanos (Night of the Radishes) is celebrated in the city center every Dec. 23. Enormous carved radishes in the shapes of saints, animals and humans are put on display, and a carnival atmosphere prevails.

Crown the evening with buñuelos, a deep-fried pastry slathered with sugary syrup. Then, according to custom, you smash the clay plate on which they are served.

The history of Monte Albán is riddled with holes. It was founded by the indigenous Zapotecs, whose name means “people of the clouds,” and traces its history to 500 BC. The site was abandoned around 800, and centuries later, the Mixtec people repopulated the mountaintop city overlooking the Oaxaca Valley.

From its ball-game court to its temples, stone monuments and tombs, Monte Albán presents a striking and easily accessible glimpse of an indigenous capital. The site is only six miles from the city of Oaxaca, and tour buses are plentiful.

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‘Breathless’ is word of the day in Cuzco and Machu Picchu, Peru

Smallpox rather than swords became the weapon Spanish conquistadors unwittingly used to vanquish the Incas, who had established the greatest empire of the Americas in the lofty heights of Peru’s Andes.

Visitors arrive in Lima by air and generally must overnight there before the quick flight — or 21-hour bus ride — to scenic Cuzco, the Inca capital city.

You will want to spend a night or, even better, two in Cuzco to acclimate to the altitude. At 11,000 feet, Cuzco is twice as high as the mile-high city of Denver, and headaches and shortness of breath may prove unwelcome companions.

In the picturesque Plaza de Armas, you can browse shops and marvel at the colorful clothing. Insistent street vendors will urge you to buy from them, but it’s all part of the atmosphere, like the Inca stonework that can be seen in the streets nearly 500 years after Francisco Pizarro rode in at the head of an army fewer than 200 strong.

What tourists generally come to Cuzco to find, though, is not Cuzco itself but the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu that Yale University history lecturer Hiram Bingham III rediscovered in 1911 (lat.ms/1CXDYRT).

Purists will preach to you the merits — nay, the necessity — of arriving at Machu Picchu by way of the three- or four-day (or even longer if you choose) hike on the Inca Trail, between April and October. But for my wife and me, novice hikers at best, we chose the convenient train and bus, which cart hordes of tourists for 70-plus miles and deposit them at the ruins.

Between the altitude (Machu Picchu, at nearly 8,000 feet, is lower than Cuzco but still a long way up) and the mystical aspect of the ruins set in the mist-shrouded Andes, you can expect “breathless” to be the word of the day.

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Thomas Jefferson’s legacy at Monticello, University of Virginia

Anyone who has ever flipped a nickel has seen Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home about 115 miles southwest of Washington, D.C., but experiencing it requires a winding drive through rural Virginia and up the “little mountain” that likely gave the plantation home its Italian name.

The standard tour (www.monticello.org) begins on the portico, where a guide may ask visitors what they think of when they hear Jefferson’s name. In our group, “Declaration of Independence” was quickly followed by “UVA” (University of Virginia) and “dumbwaiter” — a device he installed in the dining room to bring up wine from the cellar.

Indeed, as we discovered on the tour, Monticello is full of gadgets that the inquisitive Jefferson loved, from a polygraph that allowed him to write two letters at once (Jefferson wrote more than 19,000 letters) to a double-faced Great Clock that tells the time whether you’re outside or inside.

Monticello is also littered with endearing imperfections, such as the holes cut into the hall floor for that same clock, because Jefferson miscalculated the length of rope needed to suspend the cannonball-like weights that power it and indicate the day of the week.

A behind-the-scenes tour reveals more flaws, such as the giant steps created by oversize beams and angled brick walls in an attic that show where Jefferson added onto the structure during Monticello’s expansion in 1796, 24 years after he and his bride occupied an original one-room dwelling here.

The expanded tour also allows for a top-floor glimpse of the Mars-yellow Dome Room, which, despite its beauty, wasn’t often used.

Just as the house’s imperfections creep into view on closer inspection, Jefferson’s legacy shows its cracks during a guided Slavery at Monticello tour.

As we gathered in the shade of Mulberry Row, overlooking the terraced garden that the estate’s slaves created on the hillside, guide William Bergen offered a frank and fascinating dissection of Jefferson’s attitude toward slavery, including how it shifted after he inherited slaves. The talk also addressed slave Sally Hemings and how Jefferson probably fathered her six children.

“Jefferson’s entire life was involved with slavery,” Bergen said. “His decision to own human beings allowed him the leisure to become the man he was.”

As Jefferson passed from his 70s into his 80s, he tackled the design of the University of Virginia (www.virginia.edu) in Charlottesville.

“As his own body’s fabric was disintegrating, he poured his spirit into a physical expression of intellectual activity,” author Garry Wills wrote in “Mr. Jefferson’s University,” describing his design of the university between 1817 and 1826.

Jefferson frowned on the common quad layouts of Cambridge and Oxford, preferring instead what he called a Neoclassical “village” of 10 red brick pavilions with white columns modeled on buildings Jefferson had seen in books or during European travels.

The design of the central library building, the Rotunda (closed for a two-year, $50-million renovation), was drawn from the Pantheon in Rome — a building Jefferson knew only from engravings.

David Neuman, architect for the university, noted that Jefferson’s design had withstood the test of time in both form and function.

“This is not a museum but a living, breathing, hard-use facility being used every day,” Neuman said, “just as Jefferson intended nearly 200 years ago.”

 

Let us know which U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization sites have been worthwhile visits for you. Write to travel@latimes.com.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

Article source: http://www.latimes.com/travel/la-tr-d-unesco-20140928-story.html

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26
Sep

A stark, 13th-century brick façade with swallow-tail battlements heralds our arrival at the city’s Ducal Palace. This is the expansive home of the Gonzagas, who ruled this city with an iron fist – a prison cage still hangs from a nearby tower – as well as remarkable cultural patronage. Moveable works have mostly been dispersed; many were sold by impecunious late Gonzagas, including to our own King Charles I. But much remains: large-scale frescos, classical statuary, tapestries, carvings and hanging gardens. There’s also the glorious Camera degli Sposi (Bridal Chamber) by Andrea Mantegna which has reopened following restoration work.

Just across the medieval centre of town, the church of San Andrea is a Renaissance masterpiece, and the burial place of painter Andrea Mantegna. It is newly restored and looking splendid after eight years and €9m of work. We revel in the new clarity of the frescos before meandering back through evocative streets of pastel-shaded townhouses, 500-year-old palazzi and narrow canals, to our floating home.

The engine gently humming, La Bella Vita pulls away from the shore and purrs under a low bridge (“heads down on deck!”) on to the River Mincio. Trees replace fortress walls; herons, egrets and cormorants are our only company. It is immensely peaceful. We moor near Governolo, where the Mincio meets the Po. Bikes are prepared by the crew and three of us set off for an evening ride.

I am glad to work up an appetite; our chef, Andrea, crafts wonders in the galley and there are local specialities at every meal. We enjoyed pumpkin ravioli and crumble cake from Mantua; seafood risotto (rice is grown in this watery region); aged asiago cheese with delicious pear marmalade, Grana Padano (Padana is the valley of the Po); and much more, served with local wines and liqueurs. Over long, leisurely meals the 15 passengers quickly merge into a rather unlikely houseboat party.



I awake to find we are on the move. Pulling up the blind in my cabin I see a fish leap from the water. We pull into a large lock beside which goats are grazing while a handsome cockerel struts among them. If water levels are too high or too low La Bella Vita travels on the ancient canal parallel with the river but we are entering the Po itself – the longest river in Italy, Fluviorum Rex (King River) as local boy Virgil called it. It is the source of this region’s wealth: the Po created the nation’s most fertile plain and a complex trading network of watery highways. Now, though, the traffic is largely on land; the river is quiet as I gaze from the sundeck.

Over the flood-defence embankments peep bell towers and churches. Altars here do not point east; churches face the river – God-like giver, and taker, of life. The Po’s high-water marks are recorded on a slab of white marble in the centre of Ferrara. This “Padimetro” goes back as far as 1705 and the peak is the devastating flood of 1951.

Today, Ferrara lies a few kilometres from the water but at the time of its Este family rulers the city-state sat right on the Po and the court retained a full-time river official. The medieval fortress-palace that was childhood home of Isabella d’Este – and once marital residence of Lucretia Borgia – dominates the centre of town.

A tour of Ferrara’s Unesco World Heritage sites takes in other Este palaces, Italy’s best-preserved Renaissance city walls, the medieval old town and the towering duomo. I am reluctant to leave, but we have much to do. We have wine to taste at a classic Italian villa, and a visit to 17th-century Villa Ca’Zen, where Byron’s illicit assignations with a lady of the house resulted in his Stanzas to the Po (“What if thy deep and ample stream should be; A mirror to my heart”). The Po travels many routes to the sea. We take the Po Levante to charming little Chioggia – a mini, more intimate, Venice.

Our destination is now in sight. The campanile of St Mark’s and the long wall of the Doge’s Palace rise up ahead. This is the perfect way to arrive in the city-state that is the region’s superpower.

We moor along the waterfront. We visit the Doge’s Palace and St Mark’s Basilica before dinner and drinks on deck, marvelling at the view. In the morning we are obliged to take our leave of the aptly named Bella Vita, but life still feels pretty good as I wend my way into the heart of Venice.

Getting there

European Waterways (01753 598555; gobarging.com) has a six-night Bella Vita cruise between Venice and Mantua, including all food, wine, open bar, excursions and local transfers. Cruises run from late March to late October and the price is £2,290pp in “value season” (selected dates in March, April, July, August and October), and £2,590 at other times. Excludes flights.

Article source: http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/europe/italy-by-water-all-aboard-for-la-bella-vita-9757150.html

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