Jane Austen’s Persuasion: A Bath Walking Tour

As a tribute to the Bicentenary of Jane Austen’s death, July 18th, 2017 to be exact, I’m reposting my personal encounter with the city of Bath, Jane’s home for four years and the setting of Persuasion.

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The second time I visited Bath, I was a more intentional traveller. I let Austen’s Persuasion be my guide.  With a detailed street map in my hand, I went exploring the places mentioned in the novel, many of them I missed in my first visit.

“I was not so much changed…” was Anne Elliot’s words to Captain Wentworth upon seeing him eight years after turning him down.  The termination of their relationship was not her own intention, but duty had driven her to yield to Lady Russell’s persuasion.  It would have been a “throw-away” for Anne at 19 to engage with “a young man who had nothing but himself to recommend him, and no hopes of attaining affluence, … uncertain profession, and no connections.” (p. 20)

But the star-crossed lovers are granted the bliss of a second chance, and rightly grab it this time. Austen’s setting of Bath in the book is no coincidence.  The Georgian City was the centre of fashion and the epitome of genteel society, a hotbed of social phenom for the critic and satirist in Austen. Jane had lived in Bath herself for four years, 1801 – 1805, with her sister Cassandra and their parents. Ironically, she was unpersuaded by its attractions according to her biographer Claire Tomalin.

Austen aptly uses Bath’s addresses for the purpose of her characterization. Geographical location is everything in a class-conscious society, as Keiko Parker’s excellent article Jane Austen’s Use of Bath in Persuasion points out.

First off,  there’s the Pump Room, where in Jane Austen’s days people socialized and met one another, gathered to drink the therapeutic water, catch the latest fashion, simply to see and be seen. The magnificent structure and decor makes The Pump Room a fine restaurant now:

Despite its grand decor, the areas around the baths are residences for the common folks in Austen’s time. Mrs. Smith, the poor, infirmed widow with whom Anne maintains a loyal friendship, lives in the Westgate Buildings close to the Baths. Anne becomes a laughing stock for the snobbish Sir Walter when he hears of her least favourite daughter is determined to visit Mrs. Smith instead of accepting an invitation to Lady Dalrymple’s, someone belonging to the upper echelon of society:

“Miss Anne Elliot, you have the most extraordinary taste! Everything that revolts other people, low company, paltry rooms, foul air, disgusting associations, are inviting to you.” (p. 113)

Today, the open area outside the Pump Room by the Roman Baths is perhaps the most popular tourist gathering place. Tour buses stop at the Bath Abbey for pick up and drop off, buskers perform in the open space outside the Roman Baths and Pump Room:

Nearby is Sally Lunn’s Bun, originated in 1680 by a young French refugee, in the oldest house of Bath, ca. 1482. Now a restaurant on top, the cellar a museum that houses the original kitchen and cookwares, Sally Lunn’s serves this traditional creation: a large, soft, round bun that can go with just about anything. But probably best like this, simply with garlic butter:

The beautiful street corner outside Sally Lunn’s:

Further up the town, there’s Milsom Street, a vibrant commercial area of shops and businesses.  The first time Anne saw Captain Wentworth again in Bath was on Milsom Street.  Here’s a present day view of the same site:

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As for Sir Walter himself, despite having to rent out his country mansion Kellynch Hall to avoid financial ruins, he has no intention that his retreat to Bath should compromise his status and comfort.  It’s only natural that others are curious: “What part of Bath do you think they’ll settle in?”  The answer is quite obvious: the part that is befitting their social standing.

According to Keiko Parker’s insightful article, physical elevation in Bath directly corresponds to social standing. The highest point at that time would have to be Camden Place, which is today’s Camden Crescent. While I was looking for it, the ‘Ye Old Farmhouse Pub’ was mentioned to me as the marker. I was glad to find it while walking up Landsdown Road, for it was indeed quite an uphill walk.

“Sir Walter had taken a very good house in Camden Place, a lofty, dignified situation, such as becomes a man of consequence; and both he and Elizabeth were settled there, much to their satisfaction.

Anne entered it with a sinking heart, anticipating an imprisonment of many months…” (p. 98)

Just typical Austen, the overt contrast of characters using something indirect, here, the sense of place.

The houses on Camden Crescent has unobstructive view of lower Bath.  They are not grand mansions, but then again, location is everything. The following are some of the houses found on this road across from the escarpment:

And where do Sir Walter’s tenants Admiral and Mrs. Croft lodge during their short stay in Bath?  On Gay Street, not too high, not too low: “… perfectly to Sir Walter’s satisfaction.  He was not at all ashamed of the acquaintance, and did, in fact, think and talk a great deal more about the Admiral than the Admiral ever thought or talked about him.” (p. 121)

Elizabeth is not even half as kind as her vain and snobbish father.  Regarding the Crofts’ arrival in Bath, she suggests to Sir Walter that “We had better leave the Crofts to find their own level.” (p. 120)

In contrast, Anne has a good impression of the Admiral and his dear wife, the kind and down-to-earth couple, Mrs. Croft’s being the sister of Captain Wentworth having minimal bearing on Anne’s fondness of them. During their sojourn in Bath to mend a gouty Admiral Croft, Anne enjoys watching them strolling together, “it was a most attractive picture of happiness to her.” (p. 121)

So I’m just not a bit surprised to see their temporary lodging in Bath being on Gay Street.  Who else had lived there?  Jane Austen herself: #25 to be exact:

As for a suitable place for socializing, Sir Walter and his favourite daughter Elizabeth choose the Upper Assembly Rooms, a much newer development closer to their upper, more fashionable side of town, although he would prefer entertaining in private which is even more prestigious.

The Assembly Rooms are a magnificent architectural legacy in their own rights.  Designed by John Wood the Younger, who raised the £20,000 needed for the venture, the ground-breaking project began in 1769 and opened for public use in 1771.  It was the biggest investment in a single building in 18th Century Bath. Four public rooms made up the suite:  The Octagon, Ball Room, Card Room, and Tea Room.

“Sir Walter, his two daughters, and Mrs, Clay, were the earliest of all their party at the rooms in the evening; and as Lady Dalrymple must be waited for, they took their station by one of the fires in the Octagon Room (p. 131).

Here’s the exquisite Octagon Room:

Regarding the chandelier, there’s this interesting account in The Authorised Guide (p.7):

“On 15 August 1771 Jonathan Collett quoted £400 for supplying five cut-glass chandeliers for the Ball Room. They were up in time for the opening of the Rooms in September, but the following month disaster struck when ‘one of the arms of the chandilers in the Ballroom fell down during the time the company was dancing, narrowly missing  Gainsborough. What could be salvaged from the set was made up into a single chandelier, which now hangs in the Octagon.”

I was just simply amazed at how long these chandeliers had lasted, well over 300 years, and in excellent shape. Their brilliance had not faded, evolving from candlelight to gas, and now electric:

Anne and her party attend a music program in the Concert Hall.  That’s a function in the Tea Room. Despite the name which seems to convey a small and cozy setting, the Tea Room is a gorgeous room of 60 ft. by 43 ft. dimension.  On one end is a magnificent colonnade of the Ionic order.  Subscription concerts are regular events held in the Tea Room. Mozart and Haydn had written compositions to be performed there, with Haydn himself having graced the magnificent venue.

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But what does Anne Elliot think about all the grandeur?  After earlier in the Octagon Room talking with Captain Wentworth, who has openly expressed his long-held passion for her, Anne, overwhelmed by a great flood of euphoria, now walks into the Concert Room (Tea Room):

“Anne saw nothing, thought nothing of the brilliancy of the room.  Her happiness was from within. Her eyes were bright, and her cheeks glowed; but she knew nothing about it.  She was thinking only of the last half hour…” (p. 134)

As a visitor to the historic venue, I was captivated by the well-maintained interior and its elegance, and presently amused and surprised to find this display in between two columns: The Chair, which is mentioned several times in Persuasion. The Bath Chair was invented right here in the Georgian City to transport the rich and the sick.  It could be steered by the passenger:

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Jane might have noticed the frivolity and pierced through the façade of high society of the time with her critical eyes, but as a modern day tourist, I’m just amazed at how well history has been preserved, totally persuaded that Bath is a place I will definitely revisit some more in the future.

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All photos taken by Arti of Ripple Effects, August 2010.  All Rights Reserved.

References:

1. Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin, Penguin Books, 2000.

2.  Persuasion by Jane Austen, The Modern Library Classics, Introduction by Amy Bloom, Modern Library Paperback Edition, 2001.

3. The Authorised Guide: The Assembly Rooms, Bath. Published by the Heritage Services division of Bath and North East Somerset Council in association with the National Trust.  Written by Oliver Garnett and Patricia Dunlop.

4. “What Part of Bath Do You Think They Will Settle In?”: Jane Austen’s Use of Bath in Persuasion by Keiko Parker.  Retrieved Online http://www.jasna.org/persuasions/printed/number23/parker.pdf

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To join in the celebration of Jane Austen 200, I’ll have more Austen posts coming up this week.

British Library & St. Pancras Station

THURSDAY, OCT. 6

Well you win some and you lose some. Having tasted the delicious treat that’s the Georgia O’Keeffe at Tate Modern, I came to British Library the next day to find they’ve just finished with a major Shakespeare exhibition there marking the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death.

The British Library is another must see for me, having ‘discovered’ it the last time I was in London a few years ago. In their Gallery is their permanent collections of iconic papers and manuscripts that define the history of civilization, like the Gutenberg Bible, The Magna Carta, handwritten score of Handel’s Messiah, Middle Eastern and Asian manuscripts and sacred scripts, Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook, handwritten lyrics by the Beatles with comic drawings on the side… just to name a few of the 200 items on display, free to the public.

 

Enough of words. Here are some pics of British Library:

wall-of-books

Storeys of rare books:

storeys of rare books.jpg

Looking down to the main area:

main-area

Art works are everywhere. I like this piece by British artist Patrick Hughes, entitled “Paradoxymoron”. His signature style is the changing perspective for the viewer. A ‘normal’ painting from the front:

Paradoxymoron Front View.jpg

The painting gradually shifting to 3D as the viewer moves to the side:

Shifting Perspective.jpg

Finally, from the side, a complete 3D version:

Side View.jpg

Here’s from the other side:

The other side.jpg

 

And how did we get to British Library? We took the Tube from Victoria Station to the St. Pancras Station. You’ve seen the magnificent make-over of King’s Cross Station from my last post, here’s another superb alchemy of the old and the new. St. Pancras Station is an international transportation hub for trains. The scale is massive and the architecture style, Gothic Revival.

st-pancras-station

I’m most impressed by the interior, the public art and the huge bronze sculpture by Paul Day (2007). Here are some pics:

St. Pancras Station.jpg

Public Art.jpg

Bronze Sculpture.jpg

Amazed by how detailed this huge sculpture is. Look at the folds of the clothing:

Details.jpg

Here are some of the vignettes circling below the tall sculpture. Whimsical perspectives:

 

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perspective

 

 

Saying goodbye to soldiers going to war:

Going to War.jpg

 

… and the modern goodbye. I like this one the best:

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Day Trip to Cambridge

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 5

Trains leaving for Cambridge run frequently from King’s Cross Station in London. We bought tickets for after peak hour in the morning, more leisurely and cheaper price. We were in no hurry, and it was only an hour’s ride. But first, I was most impressed by the train station. I was there years ago for a trip to Cambridge also. But this time around, King’s Cross looks like a space station. What’s more, the old and the new co-exist comfortably :

IMG_4385.jpg

More about the train stations tomorrow. But on this day Oct. 5, 2016, I was at Cambridge again.

When we got out of the train station in the university town, high winds greeted us, sending us to look for shelter in the Hop on Hop Off Sightseeing bus. Yup, what a convenient way to reach all the points of interest, and with commentary as well.

The following are some glimpses of Cambridge, this one taken from the open top bus as we passed by the Fitzwilliam Museum:

fitzwilliam-museum

These were taken when we hopped off and took to the streets:

While all these views from the outside were free, they now charged entrance fee to go inside many of the buildings, even just walking into the courtyards and the greens. I remember years ago I could freely walk around. Also there are many more commercial establishments now, which is understandable, and in a way, good for us tourists, and I’m sure the people at the university too. There are many more selections to choose from when it’s time for lunch.

We walked along Bridge Street where there was a myriad of international cuisines, undecided for a while and eventually went into a little restaurant called Galleria.

galleria

They offered a 3-course lunch for £12.95  Not bad at all. The appetizer and main course were both delicious, but I was most happy with the dessert, a chocolate raspberry mouse, that’s the pyramid at the front in the following pic, my cousin had the apple pie. But I can tell you, mine was heavenly:

dessert

As we came out of the restaurant and crossed the street, we saw this beautiful view:

view-from-galleria

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We spent the afternoon strolling along the streets:

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tradition

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and stayed a while in Waterstones, the four-floor bookshop. It’s been years since I set foot into a multi-storey bookshop with elevator. We used to have one in our city but it’s long gone out of business. Other than the books, I was attracted to these Penguin tote bags and the blackboard:

waterstones

Board.jpg

Soon it was time to head back to the train station. Hop on to the sightseeing bus once again and we were soon on the train back to London. The whole evening was still untapped.

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Tate Modern: Georgia O’Keeffe Exhibition

TUESDAY, OCT. 4

Six years ago I first visited Tate Modern. I was wowed by its ingenuity, a derelict power plant on the south bank of the River Thames converted into a modern art gallery. I didn’t hesitate to revisit this time around.

The Tate Modern was designed by the Swedish architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, the 2001 winner of the Pritzker Prize, the ‘Nobel Prize’ of architecture.  Their concept of maintaining the industrial motif and juxtaposing it with the artistic is a marvellous idea.  Furthermore, they have turned the massive, hollow industrial space in the centre into a welcoming people space, the Turbine Hall. When I got there on an overcast Tuesday morning, I saw people, many are families with children and babies, lay on the massive floor space, yes, actually lying down, to view the mobile, mixed media installation from the ground.

How much more ‘grassroot’ can you get? The symbolism is ingenious as the people space breaks down the barrier of ‘high art’ and ‘public art’. In another area, several large helium-filled fish ‘balloons’ floating in mid-air, kids and adults playing with them. Interactive art, like an invisible sign saying, ‘Please do touch the art objects.’

While most of the collections were free and photography was allowed, I was excited to learn their current event was a Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition, paid admission and no photography. Interesting to note that there’s no O’Keeffe works in UK public collections, thus making this exhibition all the more rare and valuable.

Before I entered the exhibition room, I only had one image in my mind: flowers. Georgia O’Keeffe was a painter of flowers, wasn’t she? And with 100 pieces of O’Keeffe’s works on exhibit, lots of flowers. How wrong I was.

Certainly, the cover of this beautifully designed accordion pamphlet uses the iconic O’Keeffe subject of flowers, but I soon found that she was a highly versatile artist, and cerebral in style and subject matter. No photos were allowed in there so I had to take a picture of the pamphlet for you to visualize. For the rest of the post, I’m afraid I’ll have to make do with my clumsy written words to describe my experience with the magnificent visuals.

 

georgia-okeeffe-exhibition

Here’s a synopsis of the exhibition in a sequence of rooms following the life of O’Keeffe as an artist. And thanks to this compact, informative pamphlet, I’m still learning even after I’ve come home.

1. The Early Years – abstractions in charcoal, made while she was an art teacher in Virginia and Texas. There are colourful watercolours and vivid oil paintings inspired by the landscapes of both States. My fave has to be the Red and Orange Streak, 1919. So here I see Georgia O’Keeffe, the emerging abstract painter.

2. Moved to New York in 1918 and produced more abstraction while exploring other artistic possibilities such as chromesthesia, where musical tones elicit particular colours, “the idea that music can be translated into something for the eye”. This is also the period when she painted more sensory content, and for some, eroticism is evoked. I like this quote: “When people read erotic symbols into my paintings, they’re really talking about their own affairs.”

3. O’Keeffe, Stieglitz and their Circle. As muse, collaborator, and finally spouse of photographer Alfred Stieglitz, O’Keeffe is presented in photography in this section. I find O’Keeffe’s personal portraits particularly revealing; Stieglitz’s portraits of her all exude a special boldness and independence. Here we see her beginning fondness of clouds, depicted in A Celebration 1924, the year they married. Clouds evolving into petals later?

4. O’Keeffe the New Yorker. I never knew. Here I see her stylistic depiction of the urban cityscape of NYC. O’Keeffe and Stieglitz lived on the 30th floor of a skyscraper, a convenient vantage point to paint tall buildings. “… I think that’s just what the artist of today needs for stimulus.” After the 1929 Wall Street crash, however, she moved out of NYC. The vision of the urban promise dismantled with the market crash.

5. Upstate, New York, Maine, and Canada. Lake George, trees, clouds, apples and leaves. For a change, from metropolitan New York to Nature.

6. Finally, we begin to see her flower paintings. They are huge. The photo of the pamphlet cover above, Jimson Weed/ White Flower 1, 1932, is 48″ x 40″. BTW, I just checked online, that painting is the world’s most expensive painting by a woman. Walmart heiress Alice B. Walton bought it for $44.4 million in 2014. I should have looked at it a while longer. But from the short stop when I stood in front of it, I could see the gradual change of light and shadow on the petals, meticulously painted. Most impressive was the sheer size of it.

Why paint a tiny flower this big? Here’s O’Keeffe’s answer:

“Nobody sees a flower, it’s so small… I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it… I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers…”

7. New Mexico: Taos and Alcalde. Paintings of the vast, horizontal expanse of the land in contrast to the vertical, tall skyscrapers of NYC, earth-built dwellings, crosses, Native American and Spanish colonial features. In Taos O’Keeffe met Ansel Adams and other artists.

8. O’Keeffe found the white bones and animal skulls left on the barren Southwestern desert a worthy subject for her paintings. A sharp, harsh contrast with the soft petals of flowers, but the light and shadow gradients convey the same fondness from the artist’s eyes.

9. Red earth, pink cliff of the landscape in the Southwestern expanse. O’Keeffe discovered Ghost Ranch, a tourist attraction and later bought her first home there. During the 1930’s to the 40’s, she delved into the area with immense passion, especially the flat-top mountains or mesa.

10. White Place and Black Place, two locales she continued to stylize in her painting. From the realism of the earthy desert expanse shifted to more stylized contrast of white and black.

11. The artist continued her focus on bones, in particular, the holes in them; when she lifted them up towards the sky, the blue piercing out from these holes. The bones too are symbols of death and destruction, a parallel of WWII and the death of Stieglitz in 1946.

12. The Southwest and Native American influences on her subjects while living in New Mexico during the 1930’s and 40’s.

13. Lastly, from landscapes to skyscapes. I was confronted with another huge painting, inspired from her airplane travels during the 50’s and 60’s: Sky Above the Clouds III, 1963. Since I couldn’t take any pictures at the exhibition, I just have to do this. Here, take a look at this photo of the pamphlet, section 13 on the right. The painting is on there. Clouds like ice floes against a distant, pinkish sky.

sky-above-the-clouds

 

Definitely more than just flowers.

 

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Related Posts on Ripple Effects:

 Tate Modern and Billy Elliot

Alex Colville and the Movies 

Art Gallery of Ontario

Beauty and Terror

 

Saturday Snapshot February 22: Austen Doors and Windows

Continuing with the theme of doors and windows, let’s hop over to the UNESCO city of Bath. I was there twice. These are a few photos I took on those trips.

The beloved author Jane Austen lived there from 1801 – 1806 after her family moved from her birthplace Steventon when she was 26. Their first address was 4 Sydney Place:

4 Sydney PlaceNo 4 Sydney PlaceIn their last year in Bath the family moved to 25 Gay Street:

25 Gay Street

25 Gay Street

Down the road to No. 40 is the Jane Austen Centre:

40 Gay Street Jane Austen Centre

The Great Pump Room was a social hub in Austen’s day. Her observations there must have inspired her satirical descriptions of high society in Northanger Abbey. Now an elegant restaurant:

The Pump Room Entrance

Austen used Bath as the setting for her novel Persuasion. Milsom Street was a vibrant commercial area of shops and businesses in those days as in now. The first time Anne Eliot saw Captain Wentworth again was when he passed by a shop on Milsom Street.

Milsom StreetMilsom Streetscape  Here’s a modern day shop window, Milsom & Son, a music store:

Milsom & Son

No, Jane would not have stepped in there to shop for CD’s or DVD’s. But she would likely have gone into this place, Sally Lunn Bun, the oldest building in Bath dating back to 1482 and a business that was present in Jane’s time. There’s a Kitchen Museum in the basement of the restaurant:

Sally Lunn's Bun

Sally Lunn Bun entrance

How can I resist showing you what’s inside the door and window:

Sally Lunn Bun

You might like to explore more of Bath in my other posts Jane Austen’s Bath and Bath’s Persuasion in which I recorded my walking tour using the novel Persuasion as a guidebook.

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda of West Metro Mommy Reads. Click Here to see what others have posted.

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Saturday Snapshot February 8: Cabin Fever continues…

The snow and cold persist. I’ve to revisit Southern France to assuage cabin fever. Here are more photos from my Provence travels in the summer of 2010.

Avignon, the historic centre of Western Christendom in the Middle Ages. Its Palais des Papes, or, Palace of the Popes, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Medieval Gothic architecture was designed as a fortress and palace, residence for the Popes. Six papal conclaves were held there in the 14th century.

Palais des PapesSigns pointing to others historic monuments:

Signs

The Bridge of Avignon, Pont St. Bénezet, or Pont d’Avignon, was built between 1177 – 1185, rebuilt in 1234 after it was damaged in a siege by Louise VIII, King of France. It was an important crossing over the Rhone River. Only four arches now remain:

Pont d'AvignonNot all serious history though… Right outside the Palais Des Papes, I saw an elephant doing Yoga:

Elephant outside Palace of the PopesA closer look:

Elephant doing YogaAnd in the town centre, this beautiful merry-go-round:

Entertainment in town centreAnd puppeteers getting ready for a skeleton show:

Street performersSnap back to reality… no elephant in the room or dancing skeleton. And it’s -16C outside. Just let me hop back on that merry-go-round…

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Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda of Metro Mommy Reads.
CLICK HERE to see what others have posted.

ALL PHOTOS TAKEN BY ARTI OF RIPPLE EFFECTS.
DO NO COPY OR REBLOG

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Is This A Library?

(Title inspired by Stefanie of So Many Books)

I gasped and asked myself this question. For Saturday Snapshot Sept. 21, here are some views:

Indoor pond at entranceIMG_1170IMG_1174IMG_1175IMG_1173The answer to the question of course is Yes. It’s the Toronto Reference Library. I was most excited to have made a serendipitous find in there too.

There was a gallery in the library. Its current exhibit was entitled
FLIGHT: A THRILLING HISTORY OF AN IDEA.

Human has long been mesmerized by the idea of flight.

From Daedalus:

Daedalus

to Da Vinci:

Leonardo Da Vinci and FlightFrom Jules Verne:

Jules Verneto Audubon:

Audubon

Yes, it’s a library all right.

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Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda of West Metro Mommy Reads. Click Here to see what others have posted.

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Saturday Snapshot May 18: The Bow

The Bow is the newest addition to our downtown cityscape. Design architects are the acclaimed, London-based Foster and Partners. This new kid on the block has put Cowtown Calgary on the map as it is recently named one of The World’s Most Spectacular Corporate Buildings by the German building database Emporis.

You can see how spectacular it is on Foster and Partners’ website with their professional presentation. But for Arti, the Cowtown inhabitant roaming in the midst of the buzz and the dust, weaving through busy downtown traffic, these snapshots are personal and authentic, no posing, and believe it or not, shot with just her iPhone:

The Bow 1

The Bow is named after the river that winds through our City. So it’s apt to design the building in a crescent shape, fluid as the river, and shaped like a bow:

The Bow 2

A bit closer now, you can see the art installation in front of the building. It’s a 12 m. tall wire sculpture entitled ‘Wonderland’, created by the renowned Barcelona-based designer Jaume Plensa whose works can be found all over the world:

The Bow 3

It’s the head of a girl, intriguing when you think of the title ‘Wonderland’. Why, of course, it must be a wonder to enter someone’s head. Here, you can do that through a door. See the green balloon inside her nose?

Wonderland

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Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books. Click Here to see what other bloggers have posted.