You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Architecture’ category.

When I was a kid growing up in multicultural Malaysia, I noticed some neighbors and teachers would quietly disappear just before midday on the Friday before Easter. They were off to church. After I moved to San Francisco and settled as an adult in the even more diverse and multicultural Mission district, I often visited the Mission Dolores church just a block away from home.

There are actually two buildings of worship at the Mission Dolores complex. A low white structure, the actual Mission Dolores church , was built circa 1782-91 of adobe brick, and survived the earthquakes of the 1800s and the famous big one in 1906. It is the oldest surviving building in San Francisco. Next to the Mission, on the street corner (Dolores and 16th Street) is the Mission Dolores Basilica. A Victorian Gothic Revival brick church on this spot was severely damaged in the 1906 quake and was replaced by the current Basilica. Although designed in the Spanish Plateresque style, the exuberant exterior decoration is not carved of stone, as at the cathedrals of Salamanca and Santiago de Campostela, but appears to be of cast material.

Mission Dolores church and Basilica

Mission Dolores church and Basilica

One Good Friday years ago, I went to the Mission’s Basilica to watch the Stations of the Cross, a rather long ceremony performed in front of a series of plaques illustrating the significant moments on the last day in the life of Jesus. Then I understood what my Catholic neighbors and teachers had experienced.

In the evening of this most somber of Christian holidays, a service called Liturgy of the Word is held simultaneously in both buildings at Mission Dolores. Conducted in English in the old Mission, and in Spanish at the Basilica. I went to the Mission for its Old World ambience. After about an hour and with no pause—so I did not know the service had ended—the congregation was led into the Basilica by singing choristers where the next ceremony called the Veneration of the Cross and Holy Communion was conducted bilingually. There was a lot of kneeling and standing. Then a large cross was paraded up the center aisle by priests and attendants, and passed over the heads of the worshippers, pew by pew. This veneration took a while as there were a lot of pews. After the communion was celebrated, a solemn procession called Santo Entierro started from the Basilica’s portal into the street. Santo Entierro means Holy Burial in Spanish and it was interesting to witness the local, predominantly Hispanic Catholic community continue this old religious tradition at this historic church.

Santo Entierro catafalque with Christ figure on Dolores Street

Santo Entierro catafalque with Christ figure on Dolores Street

Youth carried black and white banners at the front of the procession. Next was a wooden catafalque with a painted figure of Jesus lying down and covered in white fabric. The catafalque must have been heavy as the men in black robes carrying it stopped often to change positions. A statue standing on a slightly smaller platform decked with flowers and carried by women followed. I assume the figure is of the Virgin Mary. Worshippers singing softly formed the rear portion of this short procession. The designer in me wished they did not use fluorescent bulbs in the catafaque’s canopy to light up the Jesus figure. It might have looked better with LED lights powered by batteries. The LEDs bulbs could be discretely placed along the wood frame or even under the white shroud.

Statue borne by women in the Santo Entierro procession

Statue borne by women in the Santo Entierro procession

This modest and mournful parade of about 100 participants. some carrying lit candles, slowly crept 2 blocks towards Dolores Park before turning around. In contrast, the noisy San Francisco Chinese New Year parade (see video) illuminated by klieg lamps draws an audience of over 700,000. San Francisco is certainly blessed to have such an incredible range of cultural events every year.

Driving on Cabrillo Highway (Highway 1), just south of Half Moon Bay,  it is difficult to miss this solitary white building sitting grandly on a gentle slope, set back from the road, watching over the Pacific. The house looks large from the highway but its simple New England salt box design seems perfect for its coastside setting.

Johnston House seen from the North-west

Johnston House seen from the North-west

A garden on the south side is protected by a white fence

A garden on the south side is protected by a white fence

History buffs can arrange to tour this house which has its interior and exterior renovated. Tour dates are limited. In addition, a Holiday House event with crafts for sale is held for two weeks each November. A garden on the southern side of the has also been restored. The garden seat is an aluminum replica of the iron English original.

South garden with replica of antique English garden bench

South garden with replica of antique English garden bench

The Johnston House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a treasurel as California does not have too many buildings surviving from the 1850s.

Golden Gate Bridge from Marin Headlands, Marin County

Golden Gate Bridge from Marin Headlands, Marin County

This video was taken on Sunday, March 8, 2009.

It shows the trip from Marin County in the North, into San Francisco. The San Francisco skyline is visible for a few moments just above the railings on the left hand side of this Art Deco style bridge completed in 1937. The color is not really gold but a paint color called International Orange.

Bandelier has70 miles of trails across 33,000 acres of semi-arid canyons and mesa. Abundant and diverse wildlife can be observed in this spectacular region of the American South-west.

Cliffs with cave dwellings at Bandelier National Monument

Cliffs with cave dwellings at Bandelier National Monument

An added bonus is the excavated settlement of Ancestral Pueblo people at Frijoles Canyon. Some dwellings are created out of cavities in the ancient volcanic rock cliffs, and are reached by ladders. Other buildings are built of stones.

Excavated stone dwelling in Bandelier National Monument

Excavated stone dwelling in Bandelier National Monument

Asheville offers beautiful scenery. The nearby Southern Appalachians can be hiked even in winter. The Biltmore Estate on the edge of town features America’s largest home, built in the Gilded Age by George Vanderbilt.

The Biltmore Estate has 8,000 beautiful acres of land to explore

The Biltmore Estate has 8,000 beautiful acres of land to explore


The 8,000 acres of perfectly groomed grounds are a pleasure to explore. A large glass-roofed Conservatory with heated rooms provides Biltmore House with both exotic and native flowers and plants in all seasons. Horseback riding, biking and fly-fishing are among the many outdoor activities available on the estate.

For Valentine’s Day, I thought I would write about the romantic city of Santiago de Campostela in Spain. This city is the capital of the Galicia region, and is the famous destination of pilgrims who come to worship the relics of St. James, said to be kept at the altar of the cathedral built in 1078. The facade is in the Baroque style and built in the 1700s. Try to time your visit with one of the special masses when the great silver incense burner (Botafumeiro) is brought out and swung through the transcept by a team of athletic priests. This is aromatherapy on a grand scale.

Santiago de Campostela, Spain

Santiago de Campostela, Spain

Conveniently located next door is a luxurious Parador. Many of the rooms are furnished with canopied beds. As the city is on the western edge of Spain, close to the Atlantic Ocean, fresh seafood features prominently on local menus.

One of the relatively untouristy areas of France is south of Toulouse, in the department of Haute Garonne. Many of the towns and villages in this region have dramatic southern views of the Pyrenees which remain snowcapped even in summer. Although many communities produce cheese, wine, and foie gras, many residents have had to leave for cities like Toulouse to find work. Many of the farm and village houses are unoccupied and some are left to crumble into ruins. Native French people also seem to prefer to move into newly constructed villas rather than old buildings when they choose to settle here.

View of Alan, in the Haute Garonne, seen from the hamlet of Labarthere

View of Alan, in the Haute Garonne, seen from the hamlet of Labarthere

Photo shows view towards the village of Alan as seen from the hamlet of Labarthere. The highest building complex on the left side of the hilltop village is the winter palace of the Bishops of Saint Bertrand de Comminges. The oldest parts of the building date back to 1270.

Bilbao is best known these days for the gleaming, titanium clad Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry. Yet, this financial and industrial center of the Basque region in Spain retains medieval architectural charm in its “Casco Viejo“, or Old Town. The Santiago Cathedral was built in the 15th century on older foundations dating to 1300 or earlier. The narrow cobblestone streets are lined with shops and restaurants featuring fresh seafood from the Bay of Biscay and Atlantic Ocean.

Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum

Puppet show in the Casco Viejo

Puppet show in the Casco Viejo

June 2017
M T W T F S S
« Dec    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930