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Items of Interest

In June of 2005 I spoke at the conference Landschaftsgänge - Bewusstseinslandschaften: Zur Kulturgeschichte und Poetik des Spaziergangs, held on the Museuminsel Hombroich, near Düsseldorf/Neuss. The "island," part of which is the former site of a Pershing missile installation, is now a partially restored wetland in which an assembly of architecturally innovative pavilions, chapels, exhibition and meeting halls, dormitories, and other facilities incorporate what remains of the missile silos and bunkers. It is adjacent to the museum-island proper, formerly an eighteenth-century English garden that now, somewhat more natural in its aspect, includes exhibition and meeting pavilions. The following urls link to the conference program and to the museum-island respectively: My interest in the above has led to a more general interest in the concept of reconstruction as it pervades the ethos and aesthetics of modern Germany. Implied are not merely the attempts to restore such devastated urban jewels as Dresden and Würzburg to their former glory but also other, more experimental approaches to urban development in response to both the devastation of World War Two and, for example, industrial decline. A prime example is the project surrounding the Inner Harbor at Duisburg, a depressed industrial city at the confluence of the Ruhr and the Rhein. Said to be the world's largest inner harbor, Duisburg has been at the center of a project for refurbishing a once prosperous urban landscape that fell into a state of decay after the boom of the sixties. The following websites give a good account of the architectural innovations surrounding Duisburg and of the Garden of Memories, a large park (part of the harbor restoration) organized around rubble and building fragments, and which includes Yitzhak Rabin Square. This interest in the ethos of reconstruction also informs a course I routinely teach in the Humanities Program entitled "Venice and Dresden: Tales of Two Cities." Venice and Dresden are treated as the dual centers in an elliptical curriculum, much of which deals with urban structure and architecture. An important point of tangency between these two cities is the work of Bernardo Bellotto, the Venice-born nephew of Canaletto who was appointed court painter at Dresden. His large-format view paintings represent the best architectural record of the city (known as "Florence on the Elbe") that was incinerated by Allied bombs in 1945. The following websites present different aspects of the ongoing efforts in reconstructing (and re-conceptualizing) Dresden, including the plans for rebuilding the Neumarkt (among them a project by Daniel Libeskind) and, in particular, the restoration of the Baroque house at 29 Rampische Strasse.

These are some of the things I'm interested in. Also, I like trains.