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TOPIC: architecture


When A Library Is Born On A Tiny Italian Island

Inside an old watchtower dangling over the crashing waves of the port of Capraia, dwell 6,000 books and their keeper: 33-year-old Viola, a librarian who took the time during the COVID-19 pandemic to ask herself, "What makes you truly happy?"

CAPRAIA — "The waves crashing loudly against the cliffs, the bad weather that prevents the ferry from arriving for days, the strong northeast wind making its presence felt... And then a handful of men and women , each with a kettle and their own cup of tea brought from home, protected inside the tower, reading a novel together: this, for me, is the library; this, for me, is building a community - building an identity - starting from books."

It almost seems as if, off in the distance, one can glimpse the Corsairs sailing on their galleys. Meanwhile, with the passionate gaze of someone who loves their land and the enthusiasm of someone who adores their job — actually, of someone who has realized their dream — Viola Viteritti, the librarian of Capraia, explains how the tower, built by the Genoese in 1540 to defend against pirates, is now home of what the Center for the Book and Reading has dubbed the most extraordinary library in Italy .

"I've spent four months a year on this island since I was born," she explains. "It's my home; it's the place where I feel good, where I am myself. As a child, I devoured books, but on the island, there was no place for books . When I chose to move here permanently, the library project started simultaneously. There couldn't have been a better cosmic alignment."

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La Défense Or Bust? Inside The Battle To Save Europe's Largest Business District

Deep structural problems were already pushing it to breaking point. And with teleworking becoming the new normal after COVID, Paris's La Défense business district stands as a melancholic shadow of its old, buzzing self. Can it find a way to reinvent itself?

PARIS — The days when Khadija served copious ribs of beef and bottles of fine wine to executives in suits feel like ancient history. The restaurant, located in “Les Quatre Temps” shopping center in the La Défense district near Paris , has had to adapt to a radically new world. “We have removed all the meats that are too expensive from the menu, no one orders them anymore”, Khadija says mournfully, adding that the restaurant's clientele has shrunk a lot from its glory days.

The advent of remote work has pushed businesses in this neighborhood into a mortal crisis. “Fridays, which used to be good days for us, have become catastrophic,” Khadija says. She then goes on to list all the restaurants in the area which have permanently shuttered.

A few meters down the road, Julianna, manager at a ready-to-wear store, remembers the days when it took five people to tend to customers. “Today, two employees are enough," she says. "Our turnover has fallen by almost 60% in two years." She also lists the neighboring businesses which have closed down, from clothing and lingerie outlets to ice cream parlours. Clearly, the carnage hasn't spared anyone.

Maxime Lévy can only agree. Ten years ago, Lévy's Forestland store had to sometimes close its gates in the middle of the day to control massive crowds. “It’s becoming more and more complicated to do business here,” he admits. In front of her storefront, this hairdresser reckons her clientele has been halved since COVID. She says she is crossing her “fingers, hands, feet, everything, for business to resume soon.”

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This Happened — October 20: Sydney Opera House Opens

The Sydney Opera House opened on this day in 1973.

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The Palace Of Versailles, A 400-Year-Old Construction Site

The emblematic palace of King Louis XIV, born from the will of his father Louis XIII, is celebrating its 400th anniversary. Throughout its adaptation to different eras and restoration, the work has (almost) never stopped.

VERSAILLES — On Mondays, the Palace of Versailles is closed to the public. The usual tumult coming from the crowd of visitors has been replaced on a recent Monday by the clicking of tools and pieces of scaffolding colliding. Near the marble courtyard bathing in sunlight, facing the north wing covered for the repair of its roof, craftsmen are busy, like a swarm, restoring the splendor of the Œil-de-boeuf antechamber in the south wing. Versailles is under construction, once again. Or rather, as usual.

This “permanent work site” has been going on for 400 years. Records put the formation of the second greatest French palace after the Louvre . But on Sept. 15, 1623, it was not a palace, but a simple hunting lodge that Louis XIII ordered — a place where he could stay during his outings in the surrounding, abundant-in-game forests he had roamed since his earliest childhood.

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The “modest house” quickly became too small. As Louis XIII was still reigning, it was replaced by a first castle, which was later greatly enlarged by Louis XIV. Redesigned to fit the needs of the court by Louis XV (1715-1774) then Louis XVI (1774-1792) until the French Revolution (1789), it was again reconfigured to possibly accommodate Emperor Napoleon (1804-1815) and the following kings of the Restoration. Louis-Philippe (1830-1848) turned Versailles into a museum, before the torment of successive wars required renovations which are ongoing today.

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Ammar Azzouz

How Modern Warfare Warps A City's Future — Reflections Of An Architect From Homs, Syria

It has been almost 12 years since the author left his hometown, which was at the center of the Syrian uprising. He's made an academic career studying the impact of war on architecture and cities and researching acts of deliberate destruction.

OXFORD — It has been almost 12 years since I left my city. And I have never been able to return . Homs, the place I was born and grew up, has been destroyed and I, like many others, have been left in exile: left to remember how beautiful it once was. What can a person do when their home – that place within them that carries so much meaning – has effectively been murdered?

I have spent my academic career studying the impact of war on architecture and cities and researching acts of deliberate destruction of home, termed by scholars as domicide . Domus is the Latin word for home and domicide refers to the deliberate destruction of home – the killing of it. I have investigated how architecture, both at the time of war and peace, has been weaponized; wilfully targeted, bombed, burnt and contested. It has led me to publishing my first book, Domicide: Architecture, War, and the Destruction of Home in Syria .

From the burning of housing, land and property ownership documents, to the destruction of homes and cultural heritage sites , the brutal destruction in Homs, and other cities in Syria, has not only erased our material culture but also forcibly displaced millions.

Today, over 12 million people have been displaced from their homes within Syria, and beyond in countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Germany and Egypt. This destruction has been “justified” by the Syrian government and its allies, who claim these ordinary neighbourhoods are in fact “battlefields” in what they call a “war on terror and on terrorists”.

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food / travel
Marine Béguin

How 7 Vacation Destinations Are Pushing Back Against Over-Tourism

From setting new rules, imposing tolls and fines, local officials in some of the world’s most desirable tourist spots are trying to figure out the right balance to keep visitors coming without ruining the environment, or the experience.

From the canals of Venice to the beaches of Maya Bay, the world’s vacation paradise destinations are under assault. The second full summer since the COVID-19 pandemic abated has seen a massive rebound in tourism, which has made ever more clear that the effects of mass tourism (or over-tourism) are a real threat to the places and the people who live there. Environmental damage, deteriorating cities, overcrowding, rising prices and an impediment to local people's way of life are all consequences of international mass tourism.

In response, many touristic localities are taking this issue head-on by implementing innovative strategies to combat the negative effects of excessive tourism. These initiatives aim to protect the environment , preserve local culture, and ensure the long-term sustainability of these cherished locations. From Bali to Amsterdam and Machu Picchu, here's an international look of vacation destinations that are trying to find the right balance between welcoming visitors and being overrun by them.

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This Happened

This Happened — May 28: Golden Gate Bridge Opens

The Golden Gate Bridge was inaugurated on this day in 1937. Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge began on January 5, 1933, taking a total of four years and three months.

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Graciela Baduel

Mendoza's "Recycled" Winery — Argentine Eco Architecture With A Splash

Architects in Mendoza, western Argentina, have used hundreds of tons of recycled building material, shipping containers and discarded decorations to create an otherwise high-tech winery.

MENDOZA — Winemaking and wine tourism installations are usually built with a tasteful nod at the landscape around them. In the case of the MAAL winery in western Argentina , its environment-friendly design includes use of 300 tons of discarded construction and decoration materials found in and around the district of Mendoza.

Local architects Mora Hughes wanted to make the project a badge of their "commitment to nature," but with all the "charm of a Mendoza winery." MAAL winery is in Las Compuertas , on the outskirts of the city of Mendoza and at the heart of a celebrated winemaking region.

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Ana da Cunha

Out With The Car, In With The Urban "Super-Island"

Barcelona architect Ton Salvadó explains how a new way or organizing urban areas might lead to greener, more peaceful cities.

There's no pristine white sand and palm trees framing turquoise water on Ton Salvadó's "super-islands." When the Barcelona architect uses the term, what he's referring to instead are chunks of city, in nine-block groupings, whose interior streets are closed to cars, forming pedestrian "islands" where foot traffic is king.

The idea for super-islands first emerged when Salvadó became director of Barcelona's Urban Model, at a time when the city was embroiled by civic protests over the high price of housing . After some initial success, Salvadó, a Barcelona-native, might have the chance to revolutionize his city's pedestrian geography with 500 additional super-islands in the future.

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In The News
Chloé Touchard, Lisa Berdet, Lila Paulou and Anne-Sophie Goninet

World Comes To New York, Myanmar School Attack, Vegan Bite

👋 Goedendag!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where world leaders start gathering in New York for the first in-person UN General Assembly since the pandemic, Iran faces growing protests after a young woman died following her arrest by the “morality police” for violating the hijab law and a group of scientists manage to estimate the total number of ants on Earth. Meanwhile, Jan Grossarth for German daily Die Welt unpacks the potential of “hempcrete,” i.e. bricks of hemp used as building material.


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In The News
McKenna Johnson, Lila Paulou, Lisa Berdet and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Odessa Missile Strike, Hong Kong Anniversary, Record Japan Heat

👋 Салом!*

Welcome to Friday, where at least 19 die as Odessa is hit by Russian missiles overnight, Israel gets a new (interim) prime minister and the world’s most famous cycling race kicks off in Denmark . And in French daily Les Echos , Clara Le Fort reports on the surprising trend of using clay as a building material in modern architecture.

[*Salom - Uzbek]

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Clara Le Fort

Return To Clay: Why An Ancient Building Material Is Back In Fashion

Concrete and glass are often thought of as the only building materials of modern architecture. But Francis Diébédo Kéré, the first African winner of a prestigious Pritzker architecture prize, works with clay, whose sustainability is not the only benefit.

"Clay is fascinating. It has this unique grain and is both beautiful and soft. It soothes; it contributes to well-being..."

Francis Diébédo Kéré, the first African to be awarded the prestigious Pritzker Prize last March, is paying tribute to clay. It's a material that he adores, which has too often been shunned and attributed to modest constructions and peasant houses. Diébédo Kéré has always wanted to celebrate "earthen architecture”: buildings made out of clay. It's a technique that has been used for at least 10,000 years, which draws on this telluric element, known as dried mud, beaten earth, rammed earth, cob or adobe.

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