Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Romanian soldiers in Budapest, August 1919

On 21st March, the short lived Soviet Republic of Hungary led by Bela Kun came into existence. Due to assistance from Moscow, the Party of Communists from Hungary managed to efficiently organize itself and with promises of regaining lost territories from Romania and Yugoslavia they succeeded in attracting the youth in fighting forces.

In the image bellow, Romanian soldiers enter Budapest, marking the end of Kun's aggressions. The war started after the communists gained power and decided to open hostilities with neighboring countries. The first Romanian units entered Budapest on August 3rd, three squadrons of the 6th cavalry regiment of the 4th brigade, under the command of Gen. Rusescu. The next day, the rest of the Romanian forces entered the capital and eventually took control of almost all of Hungary. The HSR officially ended on August 6th and Romania continued the occupation until the beginning of 1920.

Click image for full view

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Forest Chamber Grotto by Wang Meng

Wang Meng (1308 - 1385 ; style name: Shu-ming) is one of the great four painters of the Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1368) along with Huang Gongwang, Wu Zhen and Ni Zan. Because this dynasty was of Mongolian origin, court painters were dedicated to Mongolian traditions and arts. That is why a number of scholars like Wang Meng started painting on their own. These literati were concerned more with landscape than with the human figure, developing styles that permitted them to transmit emotions and feelings as well as ideas through the use of images from nature, real or imaginary. In the north, tall mountains and deep valleys were most often painted.

Forest Chamber Grotto at Chu-chu (scroll, ink and colors on paper measuring 68.7 x 42.5 cm)

The painting represents scenery around the Forest Chamber Grotto at Lake T'ai. Among others he pioneered the use of "ox-hair" or "ox-tail" texture when representing landscape. If you look closer you are able to see people reading in the cabins and a man in a boat. These two elements represent the need to escape difficult social and political moments. Many scholars in that period decided to take up the life of a hermit, Wang Meng being no exception.

Click image for full size

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Dark Side of Religion

In the present article we will talk about religion as it influenced the development of humanity, especially looking at the harm it did in the past. There is a reason only one side of the story will be told, theory is not like practice.

Let us start by looking at the 20th century, like all things, we will find good and bad. This period in our history is perfect if one tries to research the true nature of man, we have it all, mass killings, disasters, ignorance, but we also have developments in science and a better understanding of the world we live in. Atomic energy was used to destroy in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but it was also used to power the engines of long term development. We could say that our species barely passed the test. Science boomed, look at the space industry, genetics, computers, even engineering, all of this will help humanity in one way or the other.

Our brain capacity did not change much in the past two thousand years, so why didn't this revolution happen earlier. The reason is religion, not only Christianity, all belief systems imposed restrictions in research and the spreading of knowledge. The question is where would we be now if at least for five hundred years, humans would have been able to study this world, in the real sense. People will argue that by embracing science we started to loose control and will give examples of wars, this is false, science didn't do this, just like religion didn't kill in the Middle Ages, we did. Even now many die for their spiritual beliefs.

The real religion in my humble opinion is knowledge, the search for it, but not in a philosophical way as you would probably think. We have the brains to do more than foolish rituals so why do we persist in thinking that a God will listen to us if we act like this? We should try to understand how the world works because the vast majority of religious texts tell us that man was created to look after this world and you can't do this if you don't know where and why you are. We don't need churches, we need schools, research institutes, these are the real places where we will find God.

This was a short article but I hope at least some of you found it useful. I see our species as being designed to learn and understand. Imagine your life if this scientific revolution would have started in the 16th century or would have continued past the destruction of the Roman Empire, remember the great centers of learning in the ancient world, the great libraries that were destroyed.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

China, in the 20th century

China, in the 20th century is a series that will explore an important period in modern history, Chinese as well as global. You will be able to read about events that transformed an entire society and understand why and how this changes occurred. We will start with the 100 days of reform.

The New (Beiyang) Army

NEED FOR CHANGE

The one hundred days of reform are actually one hundred and three and mark an important change of direction in the destiny of the Chinese. The reforms that took place did not manage to last, instead they fed the need of change that was in the minds of almost every Chinese scholar of the time.

Emperor Guangxu
On June 11th 1898, the Qing emperor, Guangxu, decreed that Kang Youwei will be responsible for carrying out the reforms. This great step was possible after Kang tried for eight times to persuade the emperor to accept the reforms. In that period numerous intellectuals demanded the changing of the system, seeing how China was on the verge of being torn apart by the world powers and by internal factions. Feng Guifeng, a student of Lin Zexu (the one who opposed the opium trade on moral and social grounds) proposed the revocation of the "ba gu wen", a type of essay consisting of eight parts, part of the imperial examination. Many others insisted on adopting western science and education, for example Zhang Zhidong, governor-general, advocated for studies of Western subjects. In 1897, the Current Affairs Academy was extablished in Hunan, Liang Quchao, student of Kang Youwei, being invited as lecturer.

The press also tried to push for reforms, Tan Sitong, the head of "Nan xue hui" (Hunan studies society) started the publishing of the newspaper "Hunan studies newspaper", in this way playing an important role in the reform movement. Many others wrote articles and books promoting change, like Chen Qiu who wrote numerous books advocating the parliamentary system. Also, in Hong Kong, Xua Huan Ri Bao newspaper openly eulogized the Japanese parliamentary system.

The Manchus, the ruling elite simply put, were in strong opposition to the reforms. The main ideas at that time were the self-strengthening movement, parliamentary system, constitutional monarchy, republic, educational reform through the adopting of western sciences, overall the development of the country and society by mixing the west with the east and the new with the old. Let's take the example of railways, for a good period of time, Chinese officials and even the average people, initially rejected the construction of this type of infrastructure because it challenged the way people saw their lives. Because of the speed and efficiency it was the best choice compared to roads and canals and many believed that it will destroy jobs. Ultimately the Qing discovered that railways really are useful because these could be used to transport troops.

The last years of the empire could be seen just like this, a contradiction between tradition and modernization and even with the best reforms, for things to change there was a need to destroy the old order. It is worth to mention that Yuan Shikai, who will later become China's first president, started a process of modernizing in the army.


NEW ARMY

Yuan Shikai
After the Treaty of Shimonoseki, China saw the need to have a real army, that is why King Chunqin-wang (Yi-xuan), King Qingqin-wang (Yi-kuang), Weng Tonghe, Li Hongzhang and Rong-lu recommended Yuan Shikai for training the "Xin-Jun", the New Army, at Xiaozhan. The army would grow from 4000 to 7000 and then to 12 000 (eight camps of field army, two camps of cannons, and one cam each of cavalry and engineering).

In February 1899, a Manchu army was created mapping the scheme used by Yuan Shikai, responsible for this was Ronglu. It was structured in five divisions, Ronglu being marshal and general of the middle division and Yuan being in command of the army on the right side. This new army will play a major role in future events and many of its generals became warlords after the death of Yuan Shikai.

END OF REFORM

On September 21st, 1898, Empress Dowager Cixi stage a coup d'etat, many intellectuals supporting the reforms being killed while others managed to fled to Japan, among them were Kang Youwei and Liang Quichao. There, the Baohuand Hui (Protect the Emperor Society) was organized and work on a constitutional monarchy system for China was started.



In the next part you will be able to read about the Boxer Rebellion and the Revolution of 1911.


Sources:

http://www-chaos.umd.edu/history/modern3.html
http://net.lib.byu.edu/estu/wwi/bio/xyz/yuansh.html
http://www.imperialchina.org/Qing_Dynasty.html#yuanshikai
WILKINSON, Endymion - Chinese History, a manual, Harvard University Press, London, 200

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Hitler and von Bock

German Field Marshal Fedor von Bock, one of the commanders of the German army during the campaign in Russia, shakes hands with Hitler, the picture probably dates from 4 August 1941. On 15 July 1942 Hitler blamed von Bock for the failure in Operation Braunschweig, the second part of the German offensive in Russia, this ultimately ending his military career.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Burj Khalifa


Burj Khalifa, formerly named Burj Dubai, is widely known as the tallest building on the planet but the tower is much more than a super-tall skyscraper. Seen from below, this impressive example of human ingenuity seems like a stairway to heaven, a spiraling construction that seems to disappear into the sky. The building was designed by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill of Chicago, with Adrian Smith as chief architect and Bill Baker as chief structural engineer. The main contractor was Samsung C&T from South Korea. The project's developer was Emaar Properties who is also responsible for building King Abdullah Economic City.

The United Arab Emirates is bordered by Oman and Saudi Arabia, and has access to the Persian Golf. This little patch of land at first sight has nothing to indicate a potential for development, a long time being the home for sea pirates. At the beginning of the 20th century, the pearl industry has seen some good times, but only for two or three decades, the Second World War marking the end of it. Having no more than sand we can imagine what the economic predictions were. When oil was discovered in the 60s, an economic boom started to resonate along the coast, now, the Emirates enjoy one of the highest life standards in the world, clearly offering them the possibility to build from virtually zero in a few decades what others built in a couple of centuries.

This burj (tower in Arabic) in spite of its height, is of a very simple design. The plan borrows from architectural elements prevalent in Islam, like the onion dome and the pointed arch. Some are of the opinion that Frank Lloyd's Mile High Illinois project from 1956 inspired the Burj Khalifa, also, the Tower Palace III from Seoul, also designed by SOM, has some resemblances with this Arabic tower.

Here you can clearly see the onion shaped dome and the pointed arch similarity.
Tower Palace III

In the center we have a concrete core that is buttressed by the three wings. The 60 cm thick corridor walls on either side of each wing give a great degree of stiffness, offering good resistance to earthquakes. Overall, the entire building is designed in such a way as to deviate the wind-flow around it, reducing the stress caused by the forces of nature. Baker says that the Burj "is really a series of 30-story buildings stacked on top of one another". Every 30 floors or so, two or three story mechanical levels (seven of these to be more exact) are placed in order to maintain the building in working order. Here we can find water pumps, tanks, electrical substantions and things like that.

The climate and geography of the area require different approaches. In a country where even the bus stops have air-conditioning, a building as big as the Burj Khalifa will need some way to efficiently ventilate the air. Because the outside temperature and moisture are considerably higher than in the building, the stack effect is reversed, hot air is sucked in from the top and directed downward. Another problem is water, or the lack of it. Dubai relies on sea water that goes through a process of desalinization so there is a real need to make use of the tower's full potential, the cold water is collected through condensation, providing 15 million gallons per year. Also, sand has the habit of getting into every hole, and to cover every space it can find, that is why ledges were kept to a minimum and the windows are washed every couple of months.
Here you can see the position of the Burj Khalifa complex inside the wider Downtown Dubai project.

Some 26 thousand low-E anti-glare glass panels are used in the exterior cladding. The tower used over 330 000 cubic meters of concrete and 43 000 tons of steel rebar. Burj Kalifa contains 57 elevators, the main service elevator rising to 503 meters, making it the world's highest, there are also two double-decker.

Samsung C&T Corporation, the main contractor, used an automated self-climbing formwork system for building the concrete structure. For pumping the concrete at heights of 600 meters, special pumps were used. The structural steel spire was built inside the building and then jacked to its full height of 200 meters through the use of hydraulic pumps.

Having such a high-end image, the tower incorporates the first Armani Hotel, something that for most of us does not mean much, but it's interesting to look at... to say the least. At levels five through eight, 160 guest rooms and suits were created, with suits on the 38 and 39 floors. Also, over 1000 works of art have been commissioned for being placed inside the burj.

A typical Armani Hotel floor plan.

 The typical Armani room.

Great view for the lucky few.

A great view of Dubai


Other Architecture Articles / دیگر مقالات معماری / Alte Articole de Arhitectura
This article is extended in Awil-um Magazine (August-September 2010)