Category Archives: history

La Republica Dominicana

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One day last week, my fiance and I were trolling the interwebs hoping to find last minute package vacation deals. We were both frazzled from wedding planning and what seemed like a never-ending series of house guests. Seeing the promise of a three-day weekend (thank you President’s Day), we pressed the “purchase” button for the best rate we could find to a country whose average temperatures was in the tropical range. We escaped the snow in New York City and hopped aboard an airplane. Viva spontaneity!

Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic

We stayed in the Boutique Hotel Palacio, a 44 room converted villa in the Zona Colonial (Colonial Zone) of the Dominican Republic in Santo Domingo.  The property, was the old residence of Buenaventura Báez a politician who served five terms as president of the Dominican Republic and is noted principally for his attempts to have the United States annex his country.

It seems that Mr. Buenaventura Baez himself never lived in this house although he was the owner, but his sons and grandchildren did. One of them was Dr. Ramón Baez, who was born in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico and elected president of the Dominican Republic from the 27th of August till 15th of December 1914.

Dominican RepublicDominican Republic

Bursting with Spanish Colonial architecture, the small hotel is only steps from El Conde, the main drag in the old city. The hotel itself has a wonderful Moorish design with colonial Spanish accents, a prince example of villas of the time period. Believe it or not, the building itself is considered “new” in the Zona Colonial where many buildings remain etched from Coral Reef Stone from the 16th century.  There is a marvelous central courtyard with tables and umbrellas where one can dine, observe an old well, and view local birds. There are a couple of different anterooms, and smaller courtyards which are  charmingly appointed.

Image found on Creative Commons via Richie Diesterheft

Dominican Republic Dominican Republic

Knowing almost nothing about this Caribbean nation, but loving history, Michael and I embarked on a haphazard, spontaneous and eye-opening adventure. We happened upon the first Cathedral in the Americas, the first hospital in the New World (San Nicolás de Bari), and unique native histories. When Columbus first landed on the shores of this island, the Arawaks called it Haiti, signifying “high ground,” but the western portion was also called Babeque or Bohio, meaning “land of gold” and the eastern part Quisqueya, meaning “mother of the earth.” The name Quisqueya is the one by which Dominican poets now refer to their country.

Parque_Colon

Via Creative Commons user Genosonic

Ciudad Colonial is the oldest permanent European settlement of the New World. It has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Spaniards used this settlement as the first point of influence in the Americas, from which they conquered other Caribbean islands and much of the American mainland. Santo Domingo was initially the political and cultural hub of Spanish presence in the new world, but after a few decades started to decline as the Spaniards focused their attention more on the mainland after conquering Mexico, Peru, and other regions of Latin America.

Samuel Hazard: "Santo Domingo, Past and Present; With a Glance at Hayti." New York, 1873 (Harper Brothers), p. 219.Dominican Republic  Dominican Republic

Vintage maps from of the “New World” could be found throughout the hotel – they extolled faraway places such as West India, Barbary, Hispaniola and so forth. The art on the walls was of old aristocrats, long passed, and sailing vessels. A book titled “Santo Domingo A Country With A Future” written in 1918 by Otto Schoenrich explains it best, ” When Columbus, in December, 1492, sailed along the northern coast of the island of Haiti or Santo Domingo, he was more enchanted with what he saw than he had been with any of his previous discoveries. Giant mountains, covered with verdant forests, seemed to rise precipitately from the blue waters and lift their heads to the very clouds. Beautiful rivers watered fertile valleys, luscious fruits hung from the trees, fragrant flowers carpeted the ground, and the air was filled with the songs of birds of gay plumage.”

Not only did we bring back many cigars, mamajauna and a new love of mofongo, we now also want to decorate are home like that of an explorer. I don’t mean to romanticize conquistadors, the age of exploration, the spread of disease, and so forth – but I do love the typeface, arched masonry, wrought iron balustrades, styling and reserved grandeur of colonial villas.

via The Walkup

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Keren / The Walkup

My Week in Snapshots

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What a gorgeous spring week we have been having in New York City. Although I am currently living off of allergy medications and the pollen is at an all time high, I cannot help but smile at the perfect weather. Here are a few photos taken straight from my iPhone so that you can see the city through mine own eyes.

1. Walking around the cobblestone streets of Greenwich Village I was awestruck by the juxtaposition of Greek Revival Style townhouses, cherry blossoms, and industrial parking signs.

2. I grabbed a healthy and “oh-so-European” brunch at Le Pain Quotidian in Chelsea complete with fruit tarts, pan au chocolate, soft boiled eggs, ricotta, figs, and jam.

3. At 100 11th Avenue right near the West Side Highway and the water appears the luxury residential condominium located in New York City’s West Chelsea with architecture by Atelier Jean Nouvel. The sprawling, stunning, sun-drenched penthouses in the location each have unique window placements making cookie cutter apartments a thing of the past.

4. After a five hour spring meander through the streets of downtown NYC (and a brief jaunt to to Film Forum to see when The Graduate is playing), my boyfriend and I broke our no carbohydrate diet at Trattoria Toscana with a rich antipasti. Come for the handmade, homemade pasta, stay for the mascarpone cheesecake.

5. In The Rubin Museum of Art’s gift shop I learned about Buddhist chanting, the wheel of existence, Nepalese jewelry, and almost purchased these vintage ledgers from Thailand.

6. My local bodega is undertaking in its spring cleaning and signage fix-up.

7. The New York Police Department’s mounted officers — sometimes called “10-foot tall cops” by Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly — belong to one of the biggest mounted units in the country. The officers were keeping the neighborhood safe during confusing construction routes in high trafficked areas.

8. Near the Cherry Lane Theater on Commerce Street, one feels as if she time warped into 1876. The architecture, streets, and quaint neighborhood feel transport me to another time. These just budding tulips were found on a resident’s perfectly manicured lawn.

9. The Garden of St. Luke in the Fields is hidden behind tall brick fences and facades. Originally built as a summer chapel for Trinity Church, this austere Federal Style building is the third oldest Church in New York. Named after St. Luke, the physician evangelist, in recognition of the Village’s role as a refuge from yellow fever epidemics, the Episcoal church was organized in 1820. Now the space is a lively, inclusive parish refusing to deny access based on gender, sexuality, culture, socio-economics, or special needs. The space’s garden is an urban respite and park.

10. A 24/7 Cuban diner called Coppelia has some of my favorite hot-weather drinks (poured with a heavy hand). On the left is the HEMINGWAY ROYAL (Ginger infused dark rum, mint, lime, Royale Combier, champagne with a lemongrass salted rim) and on the right is the MATADOR (Heradura Blanco tequila, lime juice, jalapeño cointreau, cucumber, mint) created by Alex Valencia. Cheers!

Concrete Jungle

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Concrete is a composite construction material composed primarily of aggregate, cement and water. Technically speaking, concrete is a heterogenous mixture that has several variations – it’s recipe can include sand, ash, pumice, silica, quicklime, pozzolanic ash, crushed limestone, and crushed granite (to name a few). The chemical process in which concrete solidifies and dries is actually (and ironically) called hydration. The substance and invention actually date from the Roman Empire – indeed the word comes from the Latin word “concretus” (meaning compact or condensed).  Apparently though, after the fall of the Roman Empire this technology became extremely scarce and all but forgotten until the 18th century – that’s thousands of years people!  HOW does something like that happen? The romans used the substance to shape domes, aqueducts, and archways. Several concrete bathhouses still stand from the era. That seems pretty advanced for the time period – and yet POOF! The discovery just disappears.

Via Knight Frank

In the town of Zwickau, Germany, concrete architecture peppers the rivers. Image found HERE. 

 LicenseCopyright All rights reserved by Ty Cole.

Brutalism was an architectural style that flourished in Critics of the style find in the 1950’s to the mid 1970’s. Many viewers found it unappealing due to its “cold” appearance, projecting an atmosphere of totalitarianism (this was the Cold War, folks). Others were upset that the material of concrete was used in residential areas as it lent itself easily to urban decay and graffiti.  Alison and Peter Smithson (British architects) coined the term in 1953, from the French béton brut, or “raw concrete”, a phrase used by Le Corbusier to describe the poured board-marked concrete with which he constructed many of his post-World War II buildings. To learn more about the styles origins, go HERE. 

Concrete is extremely susceptible to environmental damage. The mixes tensile strength can be damaged by wetness, sea water, freezing, and erosion. Today we have a bevy of materials that can hinder this process – however in the ancient days of yore – the Egyptians, and subsequently the Romans, learned to add horse-hair to the mixture in order to stop cracking.

A concrete wall becomes the new neutral. 

Reflective, glossy, air, and bright. Concrete becomes a minimal lover’s landscape. LicenseCopyright All rights reserved by Stebbi.

Concrete floors found in the Dutch Mountains, image via Design Milk HERE.

Brutal concrete stairs via Sisters Agency, HERE.

Sideboards by Eric Degenhardt for Böwer, image found HERE.

As far as being a decorative material, concrete actually can come in colors other than a drab grey! It all depends on the initial mix. Concrete even takes to staining, just like wood! The rock is also extremely energy efficient because it does not allow air seepage (like wooden house frames) – it can help to insulate and keep a building’s temperature constant.

A modern and white space complete with burnished and sleek concrete floors. The material takes on a natural and calming quality. Image found via House to Home, HERE.

This Spanish abode is 1/3 rustic cottage, 1/3 bohemian, 1/3 brutalist minimalism. Image found HERE.

Concrete loft in the West Village, NYC. Bricks, Concrete, Plastic, and Wood mingle in this airy space. Embrace materials. Found HERE. 

For the record, there is an abstractionist art movement called “concrete art”. It was first introduced by Theo van Doesburg in his “Manifesto of Concrete Art” (1930) – it has NOTHING to do with the rock mixture and EVERYTHING to do with casting off the strictures of interpretation. The art form aims to be devoid of symbolic influences or implications, in this way it is a concrete thought, not able to be read. Also affected by the varied uses of the word, “concretism”, is a practice of poetry wherein the visual arrangement of words form a pattern on the page are more importance than phonetic aesthetic. Oh the joys of the English language, etymology, and homonyms!

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