Cistercians and High Modern Architecture

There is an interesting piece in Muse today by Colin Amery on a new Cistercian monastery in Czech Republic, the first new Trappist community established in former Communist Europe. The article celebrates the buildings, by John Pawson. No pictures.
Luckily, the community has a website! The Monastery of Novy Dur. I start you with the choose-a-language splash page because some of the best photos are there. Sit and contemplate for a while – let the pictures change.
The best information on the monastery’s own site about the buildings is under “Benefactors and donors.” The best reading is under “Dedication of the church.”

In a trampled, dechristianised and secularized country, one would logically expect the foundation of an apostolical convent having a charitable end; and yet we come with a monastery, a church built from the ground up, an enclosure. Certainly, there is an act of faith in this that not everyone can understand. There is even more: our monastic life, which we strive to live poorly and seriously in a western world, pagan in the east as in the west, consists in the unique praise of God and in the intercession for mankind. A limited comprehension but that we know in faith the extraordinary and mysterious extension. The Constitutions of our Order express this even better: a secret and mysterious apostolical fertility.
In the context of the actual dechristianisation, one often hears:
The absolute priority ought to be given, even for the religious, to apostolic work, the contemplative work will come after! This might appear to be a reflection of common sense, but in reality it is a shortsighted judgment that translates for the least pusillanimity of faith. We have known and we know what are societies without art, or even worse, with an art imposed by an ideology. They result in a debased, sterilized people. It is the same for the Church without prayer.

Whoops – I did that without linking to the original story that started me off. Here it is.

Woman digging in her garden finds archeological treasures.

There are times I regret living in America. This is one of them.

THESE are the first pictures [click and see!] of an ancient warlord’s treasure found at a city allotment site which has sent archaelogists into a spin.
It was a chance in a million which led forensic experts to dig up this rare seventh-century brass bowl, which has been hailed as one of the most exciting archaelogical discoveries in the past decade.
The bowl was only unearthed when gardener Helen McGlashon (26) found a human skull while digging on her vegetable patch off Palmerston Road, in Woodston, Peterborough.
Fearing it was a murder victim, she called police who launched a full-scale excavation of the site on February 17. But forensic pathologists later concluded the bones actually belonged to an Anglo-Saxon man when the ancient bowl was found nearby.
Historians believe the valuable Coptic bowl [see comment section for explanation of ‘Coptic’ in this context], which was made in the Mediterrean 1,300 years ago, could have only been owned by an extremely rich prince or warlord from the Saxon kingdom of Mercia.

The Coptic bowl is of the same type (go read about Coptic bowls here) as that found at Sutton Hoo. Golly. Or see this Sutton Hoo site.

Those who lived in glass houses . . . had better fund foundations to preserve them.

Philip Johnson’s Glass House, which puts the icon in iconic for American Modernism, is going to open to the public on May 1. Here’s a useful essay about the house and Johnson at Bloomberg .com: Muse. Johnson was an odd bird – he went from museum curator to architect, a man who introduced the International Style to America at MoMA to a practitioner of International Style.
The official website for the new study center at The Glass House, and here’s the foundation’s mission page, Preserve the Modern.

The mission of the Glass House is to be a center point and catalyst for the preservation of modern architecture, art and landscape. We will pull together and strengthen all of the existing efforts by working alongside other organizations focused on modern preservation to have the greatest impact.

Johnson’s Glass House at

The photo above – quite a good one! – is from a Flickr set of a man standing in front of National Trust Historic Sites – fun to work through in itself. I’m enjoying posting pictures here via Flickr – I search for photos with a Creative Commons license, hit BLOG THIS, leave a short note of thanks, and then come over here to fiddle with the entry. Very simple.

Oh my! Marketing Genius!

I just saw an off-season ad for The Closer on TBS (yes, I’m watching The Fugitive. I’ve just finished another rewrite of a paper from a fall conference to submit to the proceedings and it’s after 10 p.m., I love Tommy Lee Jones as an insane G-Man, and I used to love the TV series, so back off!).
To Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone Brenda walks through an empty squad room smiling in that Atlanta-girl way Kyra Sedgwick is really pretty good at. Her accent isn’t flawless, either, but she does awright.
So now I’m downloading Bill Wither’s greatest hits (well, except for “Lean on Me” – I think I’ll cut that one off at the pass). Ain’t the internet great?

Singapore Art Museum expands

The Singapore Art Museum is expanding by leasing an adjacent building – here’s the story with picture of the new building.

I spent a happy month in Singapore (gosh – that was almost 10 years ago!) visiting my sister and her family. I made a few visits to the Singapore Art Museum – pictured here – for atmosphere and for art. I didn’t realize how recent a renovation I was visiting – the article linked above tells us that the former St. Joseph Institution (a Catholic boys’ school) was turned into the SAM in 1996 – it did certainly feel fresh.

I had the feeling in 1999 that Singapore was just beginning to climb on the historic preservation bandwagon. Older buildings were beginning to look very spiffy, which in Singapore meant very spiffy indeed. There were also some moments of Epcotting – recreation of what had been torn down. I forget the name of the neighborhood now (I’m sure a reader – like my sister or brother-in-law will tell us!) down on the river front where shop houses had been recreated, complete with cracks in the plaster work.

The collection at the SAM, what I remember of it, was interesting – lots of contemporary work from SE Asia, especially Indonesia and Malaysia. I believe that was from the permanent collection rather than a traveling show, but it has been almost 10 years.

Happy news for Singapore and the Singapore Art Museum.

Yale Shoots Itself in the Foot

The stupidest response to the recent shootings at Virginia Tech has been rescinded in a reversal for dim deans everywhere. The new, more nuanced policy reveals that the willing suspension of disbelief is taken very seriously in New Haven.

Stage weapons will again be allowed in University theatrical productions, in a reversal of last week’s ban, Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said Tuesday morning.
Administrators decided Monday afternoon to require that audiences instead be informed of the use of stage weapons before the start of every performance, she said. In the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre, which left 33 students dead last Monday, Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg had told students that they would be required to substitute obviously fake props for realistic stage weapons in theatrical productions.

Can you imagine the stupid prologues announcing that no real weapons will be in use on stage and that no actors will really be in danger during the production? I can. I can imagine that a committee of deans is drafting sample language now.
Look, if you’re scared by even seeing “real life weapons,” as the Dean of Students Affairs suggests, you probably shouldn’t be exposing yourself to the moral dangers of representation on the stage.
I have so seldom been grateful that when I was setting up my blog categories I used scare quotes (a lamentable practice, I know) on the Higher in ‘Higher’ Education.

The British Museum Trustees Meeting Junkets

For a museum struggling in the red and making few new acquisitions the British Museum sure knows how to hold a board meeting – or perhaps where.

Amsterdam was the chosen location for the museum board’s most recent annual general meeting last October. Seventeen trustees, including Tusa [managing director of the Barbican Centre], [novelist Vikram] Seth, [broadcaster Bonnie] Greer, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, a Nigerian diplomat, and six members of staff who included Neil MacGregor, the museum’s director, spent two days at the five-star Radisson SAS Hotel, where guest facilities include a sauna, solarium and a gym.
. . .
The British Museum, which receives £40 million of government funding every year, said it had spent £16,500 on accommodation in Amsterdam and return flights – an average of £834 for each trustee who attended.
In 2005, the trustees’ meeting was held in Berlin and the previous year, in Paris. The museum said it was unable to provide exact costs of those trips, but said they were similar to Amsterdam.

Read the whole article. The BM makes the “but we want them to see other museums” excuse. I’m not sure its convincing. These are not untraveled people.
via the Archaeology in Europe blog.

Kimbell Gives Looted Painting Back, then Re-buys it

For $5.7 million, the Kimbell Art Museum of Fort Worth has reacquired a J.M.W. Turner painting it surrendered last summer to the heirs of the John and Anna Jaffé family of France, after it was proved that the painting had been unlawfully seized by the pro-Nazi Vichy regime in 1943.

The Kimbell bought it at auction, so there was no deal with the family. Here’s the full story in the Dallas Morning News version with a picture. It’s one of those to my mind unfortunate Turner landscapes with classically-named stick figures in the foreground. Here’s the version at – bigger picture. Putti – the painting has putti. Turner was not convincing at Italianate cherubs fluttering around major characters. Oh well – tastes differ.

Looking for Inspirational Books for the Rome 2008 Group

Piazza San Ignazio, Rome

Originally uploaded by Michael Tinkler.

We’re choosing books for the students to read next fall in preparation for Rome!

I need some help finding an elegiac and inspiring general introduction to the wonder that is Rome.

I’ve given my co-director* Judith Testa’s Rome is Love Spelled Backwards, but he thinks it’s a little to tour-guidey. The book is, I agree, itinerary driven.

Here’s an Amazon Listmania list I constructed back in 2002 – and have occasionally edited – Things to Read and Watch before you go to Rome.

I’m sure they’ll read a history of Italy (probably the illustrated Oxford history). Luigi Barzini’s The Italians is a fine book, though it’s got to be pretty old now. I’d have them read something by Paul Ginsborg, but they’re really very modern in focus and dense in prose – though he’s really helpful for understanding Italy.
I’d really like to figure something out that captures the layering of Rome – civilizations, culture, religion – but without being organized as a guide book. Any suggestions?

What a difference a week makes – Monday and Friday

Monday, April 16th – almost to Houghton House and class – I wanted to slit my wrists and be done with it.

Argyle in Spring

Originally uploaded by Michael Tinkler.

And today, Friday – it’s Spring! Argyle has collapsed on the Hobart WWI memorial overlooking the Quad-full of students. I counted 7 kinds of sporting goods – baseball, bocce, frisbee, football, lacrosse, soccer, and whiffle ball.