11 December 2009


well, Bavaria actually. I traveled with Amanda to Munich (known as Munchen to those who actually live there) last weekend and it was a BLAST!!! We flew over on Saturday, with a short stop in Zurich- the swiss have airtravel down right. We flew with Swiss Air, which was fast, friendly and efficent, as well as completley non-stressful. There was also free Swiss Chocolate, Yum!!! When we went through passport control in Zurich, it was painless and very fast (after landing and deboarding - it only took us about 15 minutes to be on our next flight and ready to go). After arriving in Munich, we stopped by a grocery store and bought fressh Weisswurst (white sausage) the most typical and regionally specific Bavarian sausage. We also picked up some Bretzen (pretzels) and a type of sweet mustard - which completed the meal. It was delicious. I dont usually eat mustard, but it works so well with the delicate Weisswurst and pretzels that we ate a whole small jar of it. On Sunday, we traveled by train to Strasbourg, Austria birthblace of Mozart and known for its beatuiful alpine setting. It was seriously like riding a train through a postcard. We walked around town, visited the various christmas markets and climbed to the Hohensalzburg Castle (a huge fortress on top of a crazy tall mountain in the middle of town). We also stopped in at a wonderfully old coffee house and had coffee and sachretorte (a famous Austrian cake) which was lovely and richly chocolately.

On Monday, we went into Munich and wondered around the town, visiting christmas markets, the residence or main palace of the city, drinking Gluwien (mulled wine) and eating great sausages (including the nuremburger bratworst with sourkraut) and a fantastic wild boar gulash. All in all a beautiful winter adventure. On Tuesday, we had a huge brunch prepared by Amanda's great friend Christina and her mom (who also gave us homemade jam and traditional german christmas cookies). Sadely we had to leave and head to the airport for our flight home.

I really enjoyed my first trip to Germany, Austria and Switezerland and I hope to travel back again sometime soon.

03 December 2009

Coming to the End

Well, yesterday, I gave my last presentation for my Courtauld Class. Tonight is the school Carol Service, and it is all going by so quickly. I am glad that I have made some great friends here, including everyone in my class!!!! I will miss them terribly, and am trying to maximize fun time here at the end with everyone. This includes the family - Amanda and I are jetting off to Munich on Saturday - coming back Tuesday. Another country to check off my list, and a wonderful pre-Christmas treat. I can't wait to see the Christmas decorations and hopefully see snow.

My course here at the Courtauld has really allowed me to not only learn a ton about the transitions between medieval British architecture and the early modern period, but it has also let me focus on my own scholarly habits. I really have learned quite a bit about my strengths and weaknesses in terms of writing and researching. The program here offers so much that it would be impossible to experience it all, but it also teaches the value of individual direction and interest that is key to finding your niche within the scholarly community.

I know I am babbling on, but I will truly be sad to leave this wonderful place in a few short weeks. Everyone here has been fantastic. I have explored, learned and reshaped my own world views during these last few months. I think my Thesis topic is well defined in my mind, but it still needs to be written down on paper. I have produces some great work, and some mediocre at best. I have explored the Loire valley with a van full of crazy french people, traveled to Wells on a dodgy bus [only to discover last week that it was the setting for much of Hot Fuzz, one of my all time favorite movies] eatten more boiled eggs on toast and drunk more tea that ever before, rode the L-Eye on Guy Fawkes night, saw the best fireworks show I have ever seen and watched as the entire city was crowned with brilliant bursts of light in every direction, eaten at some of the most fantastic restaurants and even some great dives, downed the best Champagne at a couple of exclusive London clubs thanks to knowing the right people, visited more than a few of the world's best museums, saw the Staffordshire Hoard and the Sutton Hoo treasures with my own eyes, experienced rememberance day and wore a poppy as everyone should, drew pretty flower pictures at Kew Gardens, nearly froze my hands off in Bristol, became more familiar with Wren, Inigo Jones and so many of the other British greats of the architectural world, saw some brilliant theatre, found time to chill and read some good adventure novels.... and still two and half more weeks to go!

London is truly one of my happy places.

25 November 2009

Inigo Jones & "Imaginancy Set Free"

The Hogarth Portrait of Inigo Jones

Inigo Jones was arguably the most important English Architect of the last sixteenth to early seventeenth centuries. His most famous constructions include the original Queen's House in Greenwich, the Banqueting House at Whitehall Palace and the church and square at Covent Garden. On Monday, I attended a lecture by Professor Vaughan Hart on the Court Architecture produced for James I by Inigo Jones. This included the Queen's House and the Banqueting Hall. Professor Hart argued during his lecture that many of the classical orders used by Inigo Jones and his fellow professionals echoed a deeper protestant ethos and mythology. This was mostly evidenced by the proliferation of the Tuscan order, which Professor Hart linked to the British creation myth of the Trojan soldier who discovered and then settled in Britannia after the Trojan wars. All in all, it was an interesting lecture, with great images from various sources. In my view, there were problems of scope, which limited Professor Hart to a very specific set of viewers who may or may not have accepted this viewpoint. In relation to the civil war and the history of the Commonwealth to come, the idea of different viewers with differing viewpoints can not be neglected.

Anyway, something to think about.

I would also like to add that it has been fantastic getting to study and discuss architecture in the Courtauld Institute. The people in my MA option have been fantastic, and I will be sad to leave at the end of December. I will miss the deep theoretical conversations we can have just walking to the Tube at the end of the night or over a tea in the cafe before class.

24 November 2009

More Studying

The pictures I promised from my trip to Cambridge:

The exterior of King's College, looking toward the Senate House

The Quad of one of the colleges. You can only walk on the grass if you are a fellow of the college.

The Time Eater clock, designed by Steven Hawkings

The Round Church, also known as the Norman Church, one of the oldest structures in Cambridge, and now run by a local charity.

King's College chapel built by the Tudor Kings and Queens of England. A fabulous example of English Perpendicular Gothic

One of the many Wren College Chapels, built during the 17th century as the Cambridge colleges continued to expand.

Also, I have been swamped with class work for the last few weeks, and the deluge seems destine to continue for the next few weeks. I plan on heading to Germany some time during the next few weeks, and then home by Christmas.

Oh - and by the way, Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!

17 November 2009

Studying and Cambridge

Officially, I love Cambridge.... it was brilliant to visit the quintessential university town last weekend with Amanda.  She headed off to classes quite early, and I was able to wander around the town to my heart's consent.  The town was originally a Celtic and then a Roman stronghold, due to the easy ability to ford the Cam River.  The university in Cambridge was founded during the 13th century when dissident scholars left Oxford and established themselves in the well known market town of Cambridge.  After several centuries, the scholars at Cambridge were able to attract the patronage of several of the Tudor Kings and Queens of England.  This patronage resulted in some of the most important structures at Cambridge, including the fantastically high English Gothic chapel of Kings College as well as many of the medieval halls of several of the colleges.  

Travelling to Cambridge with Amanda was also wonderful, because she is a full member of St. Catherine's college (which is represented by the symbol of St. Catherine's martyrdom, the wheel upon which she was executed).  We both went to the formal hall dinner on Thursday evening, which basically means everyone who is a member has to dress in the formal robes.  The dinner was lovely, consisting of smoked salmon as a starter, duck with red cabbage and mixed veggies for the main, sticky toffee pudding for dessert plus a cheese board and port to round off the evening.  We also took our own wine for dinner, and Amanda is great about picking good wines.  

On the more mundane scholarly front, my research and paper regarding St. Mary Aldermary is going well.  I have a huge deadline for my final draft on this Friday.  I think I am in good shape, but am ready to be done.  The church itself is a wonderfully unique example of an ecclesiastical structure within the City of London.  [The square mile known officially as the City as distinct from the city of Westminster which is farther to the West and the other suburbs that have come to form the metropolitan area of greater London.] 

St. Mary Aldermary suffers from a general lack of research based on documentary evidence as well as a scholarly history rife with assumptions, repeated misinformation and generally poor written work.  Although several people have written very nice articles regarding the history of the structure, it has been very interesting to deconstruct previous scholarly arguments rather than just collecting information regarding a specific structure.  I think this assignment has been one of the more helpful in regards to methodological practices as well as just generally forcing me to evaluate my own writing standards.  

On the Thesis, work continues, but I definitely have a bunch of writing to do in the next few months.  I really need to get going, but it is so easy just to enjoy my life at the moment.  I hope to do a bit more work on it in the next few weeks that will really jump-start my progress before the Christmas Break.

Pics tomorrow - when I get a chance to sit down and pick some of the better ones.

10 November 2009

The Royal Academy and France Pictures

On Monday, thanks to Sarah's brilliant reminder, I was able to go to Royal Institution for a Royal Academy lecture by Prof. David Watkins about William Chambers, an English Architect who was responsible for Somerset House (where the Courtauld is located). It was an interesting lecture, even though I was not fully in agreement with some of the conclusions Prof. Watkins made in regards to Chambers practice and influence on later architects. If you look at the life and work of Chambers, it would not be hard to argue that he was one of the first architect to practice in what would now considered a very Beaux-Arts style. He was also very fond of architectural capricci - such as all of the small structures he designed for Kew Gardens, including greek and roman temples, ruined arches, pagodas, spanish pavilions and chinese temples and gardens.

Also, as promised - France Pictures:

Paris at night - Above the Louvre
Below Rachel in one our fabulous Halloween Hats

Above - the Choir Screen in Chartres Cathedral, a ridiculously detailed set of scuptures and carvings all celebrating the lives of Mary and Jesus.

Above - the roof of the entrance passage at the Château de Chenonceau.
Below - the Chateau de Chenonceau which bridges the Cher River.

Above - the Chateau of Ambois - a great record of the architectural transition between a gothicizing style to a more renaissance style. The small chapel to the left is actually an 18th century structure where the body of Leonardo da Vinci was buried - after he lived the last 3 years of his life in the town of Ambois under the protection of the King of France.

Above - The Château de Chambord, a place I was really excited to visit for thesis research, as well as just because it is an amazing structure.
Below - The double helix stair - thought to have been designed by Leonoardo da Vinci while he was in Ambois.

06 November 2009


We will now continue with our originally scheduled broadcast:

I was able to travel to France last this last weekend, thanks in most part due to the generosity of Rachel ... my favorite France person! [and the best out of work journalist/vampire I have ever seen :) ]

I started on Friday meeting Rachel in Paris. She had just gotten back from an extended vacation in Sardenia (lucky dog!!!). We met up and proceded to find a hostel and funny hats to wear to a Halloween shindig on Saturday - more about that later. After procurring our funny hats, we wondered around a bit, found and fully partook of a nice irish pub near the Island, and cominced to take funny pics or ourselves wearing our new hats. Lets just say it was a fabulous evening.

On Saturday, we headed to Le Mans, where Rachel is staying for the year. On the way we stopped off at Chartres to view the important Cathedral. The church was amazing, but the stained and painted glass panels from the 12th and 13th centuries were just unbelievable. I have a truly new appreciation for just how dark and mysterious medieval churches could be, especially on days that were cloudy or rainy [as it just happened to be for pretty much my entire trip to France].

After arriving in Le Mans, we met of with Rachel's great group of friends and proceded to celebrate Halloween in a thoroughly appropriate manner. This included dressing up in silly hats and visiting a great pub for several rounds of pool and good drinks. All in all a perfect evening.

On Sunday, we went shopping at the local weekly food market, which just proved how much more advanced the art of good food in in France. Some of the stuff on sale just made my mouth water: fresh seafood, fresh bread, fresh veggies, pretty much everything you can imagine - just fresher and brighter. Following the food market, we took our spoils back to the apartment, made a great lunch and then had a generally lazy afternoon and evening.

On Monday I had booked a tour of the Loire Valley [where all the really famous French chateaux and castles are] through a local touristic company. Early in the morning, I caught a train to Tours from Le Mans and headed out on my mini-bus tour with several other coupes and families. It was fantastic. I got to see the Chateau de Chambord, Chateau de Cheverny, Chateau d'Amboise [where Leonardo Di Vinci is buried], Clos Luce [where Leonardo lived the last 3 years of his life], and Chateau de Chenonceau. After an all day tour, we ended up back in Tours, where I got a hostel for the night and generally just wandered around and took pics and read historical signs with my limited french.

In the morning on Tuesday, I headed back to Le Mans to have lunch with Rachel at one of the best restaruants in France [ This has got to be one of the top three meals of my life and included a roasted duck salad with goat's cheese on toast and roast beef with fois gras and a heavenly concotion of potatoes, cream and herbs.] After eating we visited the Cathedral of Le Mans then headed back to pick up my stuff so I could catch a train back to Paris. Upon arriving in Paris, I headed to Gare du Nord to catch my eurostar train back to London. All in all, a great exended weekend.

Pics soon - I promise :)

27 October 2009

A Further Note on Recent Research

My last big assignment has been to research the London church of St. Mary Aldermary, located not far from St. Paul's near the Mansion House tube stop.

This church is unique in that it is considered the only Wren (meaning mostly his workshop) designed Gothic church. The original Gothic structure was nearly completely destroyed during the Great Fire of 1666. The only parts of the structure that survived were the foundations as well as portions of the east and south wall. Wren and his workshop were instructed to rebuild the church in the manner of the original structure by the executor of a local merchant's will, who left 5000 pounds to the parish.

The church has a wonderfully bright interior and the staff is amazing! Also, they sell roman coins as a fundraiser - how could you not love this place.

26 October 2009

A Few More Kew Gardens Photos

The Oriental Pagoda

A view of one of the iron supports for the large victorian glass and iron Greenhouse

Through the supports of the Palm House

Kew Gardens

Entering Kew Gardens is just like going to a Victorian Theme Park. The park grounds include two of the oldest and largest glass and iron Victorian greenhouses in the world, as well as some of the rarest plants, collected by English explorers for the past 250 years. This includes the world's tallest flower, the worlds tallest indoor plant at over 18 meters, the oldest potted plant (which happens to be a very contorted palm), some of the worlds largest water lilies, and plants that have been growing at kew since the 18th century.

Above is a photo of me in front of the Oriental Pagoda, which is actually made out of a substantial brick core. It is such an intresting product of the eastern architectural influence of traveler's stories and sketches during the 18th and 19th century. Below is a photograph of the Alpine House, a recent addition to Kew Gardens, surrounded by the Grass Garden and Rock Garden. The Alpine House houses some of the most delicate looking flowing plants I have ever seen. Each flower seemed designed to be perfectly suited to its enviroment, yet extremely delicate.

Above - me in the largest of the greenhouses - walking on the catwalk, which allows visitors to overlook the extensive plantings as well as walk among the treetops of some of the most amazing indoor plants in the world.

Below - a palm towers above visitor's heads, barely scraping the iron and glass dome. This structure is probably the closest anyone can come to visualizing the extensive iron and glass structure of the Crystal Palace - which was designed for the Great Exhibition under the patronage of Prince Albert. Sadly, this structure was moved from it original site and was eventually destroyed by fire during the early 19th century.

23 October 2009

A Little Bit About Studying in London

Me at the Royal Crescent - Bath, UK. [and the real reason I took this picture = directly behind me is a HA HA wall. Originally this wall was designed as a way to keep the cows and other livestock that grazed on the commons area off the park land directly in front of the Crescent. HA HA walls are my favorite bit of English landscape architecture...... basically because they are usually designed so that you can't see them until you literally fall over them.]

So... Just a note on some of my studies her at the Courtauld Institute. It has been a whirlwind of reading and writing. Our first assignment was to discuss Type, while our last discussion session focused on Function. It has been nice to get back into some theoretical discussions, as well as learning new things about early modern British Architecture. I had never realized the scope of architectural diversity and innovation during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. It has also been fantastic to look at the ways that Medieval architectural styles in Britain changed during the 15th and 16th centuries. It always fascinates me just how much the Panofsky-esque view of high and low historical points has permeated through all levels of art and architectural history.

I have always found that the actual artistic production of any one period is just as sophisticated as any other, just on different levels or in different ways. The Gothic churches of the 12th and 13th century will always be just as meaningful as the churches constructed during the Italian Renaissance in the 16th century.

The information I have learned has also been influential on my continued thesis work. The romanticism of the late 18th and early 19th century has helped me to craft a framework for the romanticism of Fay Jones.

In other news - I went to Bath, Bristol and Wells this weekend. All of these great cities are in Somerset, and it was a wonderful trip - using all forms of transportation except the airplane.

The structure above I found while on an MP3 walking tour of Bath - a great purchase if you are traveling by the way. It is the only grade 3 listed bathroom structure in England.... it was put in when the park was designed during the late 19th century.

This is a photo of Wells Cathedral - the scissor arch is contemporary to the structure - even though it does look amazingly modern.

Bath Cathedral - a wonderful Medieval structure, mostly restored during the 20th century after damage during the second World War.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge, nearly 150 years old that spans the Avon Gorge in Bristol. Designed by the famous engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

14 October 2009

Last Thursday night, I went with a friend to Leicester Square, which is the official heart of the West End Theatre district and got tickets for Avenue Q. It was a hilarious comedy, combining puppets and real life problems to amazing effect. I recommend the show if you grew up on the Muppets and Sesame Street and ever wondered what happened to those puppets when they went home for the weekend. (Caution – crude language and humor make this show to adult for those of the young teen crowd)

Luckily for my theatre addiction, the Courtauld Institute is situated right on the southern edge of the London Theatre district. As with any study abroad opportunity, the chance to take advantage of local culture and entertainment is a large part of the experience. London has always had a great reputation for theatrical excellence, starting well before the time of Shakespeare and continuing through today. This theatre season, several great musicals continue to draw in the mostly tourist crowd, while other smaller venues keep the critics writing about great performances across the West End.

One of the recent triumphs in Theatre Land was the staging of Trevor Griffiths play about the life and work of Thomas Paine, entitled “A New World”, provided a thoroughly engrossing narrative of a man who loved, lived and wrote during two revolutions on two continents. about the life of Thomas Paine at the unlikely venue of Shakespeare’s Globe. I was lucky enough to see the last performance of this tour de force of a biographical play. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is always a treat as a venue (especially if you pay the few pounds more to get a seat rather than standing in the yard). The construction of the Globe was based on only a few sketchy primary sources which were roughly contemporary with the original wood structure, but while the design may or may not be accurate, the experience is absolutely genuine. Watching actors persevere and provide a thoroughly enjoyable performance while the crowds are wrapped in blankets and coats against the chill and drizzle engenders a new appreciation of the triumph of Shakespeare’s original staging.

Richard Attenborough was also highly influential in the research and preparation for this production. (who was actually at the theatre that night) Griffiths' play about the life and work of Thomas Paine, entitled “A New World”, provided a thoroughly engrossing narrative of a man who loved, lived and wrote during two revolutions on two continents.

12 October 2009

My View

So, this is a quick update - mainly for pictures.

Above - the front door of the Courtauld Institute of Art, it is nice to be able to just walk right in to the building while tourists stand back and take pictures from across the street. It is tough to read in the picture, but the inscription above the door reads "ROYAL & ANTIQs SOCIETIES" meaning this was entry was originally designed for the Royal Society and the Antiquarian Society of London, who had offices here by special permission of the king.

Below - the view from my window --- Thanks mostly to my lovely cousin who provided the place to stay :), Canary Warf and the O2 Dome in all their glory, right after sunset a few nights ago.

Next - A couple shots of Somerset House, my school's home


The Front Facade

The Courtyard Facade

28 September 2009

Induction and Deduction

So, I am officially a Courtauld Institute of Art student today. I was "Inducted", which pretty much just means I was taught how to log onto the computer system without crashing the internet, so all in all a very productive day.

Somerset House is an amazing place to study art and architectural history. It is just fantastic to be ina building that is worthy of study while actually studying. :) I think the semester is going to run pretty smoothly - although starting the semester with a huge used book sale (where I want to buy at least half the books) was fantastic if not necessarily good for my packing later. I will just have to figure out how to get my new treasures home, but i will leave worrying about that until December. I also found my favorite art store in London again.... its right near to the National Gallery of Art, which is not to far from school, so its perfect all around. I now have my sketchbook for the semester as well as a brand new set of Conte Crayons so bring on the Architecture. l0l!

More soon .... Cheers!

24 September 2009


So, this is the first official post from the UK. London has been fantastic so far. I haven't actually accomplished a lot yet, as classes really don't start until next Monday, but it has already been an experience worth having. Amanda my cousin (who is so generously putting me up for the next few months) met me at Paddington Station, and we made it to her house after an extremely long ride on the tube and then the DLR (Docklands Light Rail). I am now all settled and finally recouped from the two days it took to get here (which included two cancelled flights, a hastily rescheduled departure from Dallas-Fort Worth, a marathon through DFW airport and a trip across London with three months worth of clothes and stuff). I am also completely legal as a student visitor - more on that subject in a later post. I promise to have touristy type pictures in the next blog after I figure out the Internet situation at the school.

Again, if you want a hand-selected post card, please email me your address and I promise you will get one by December at the latest (lol).

If you need to get in touch, just leave a comment, or email me at cw3sn@virginia.edu or calliwilliams@gmail.com

14 August 2009

First Things First

I thought I would start this off with a little dedication to the previous year at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. For those of you who may not have been aware, I have spent the last year at the University of Virginia studying for a masters degree in Architectural History. It has been wonderful to wander around the campus as a student, participating in the long tradition of "academical" pursuit. I have also thoroughly enjoyed spending a little bit of each day communing with Thomas Jefferson as I walked back to my apartment through the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the "academical village".

During the last few months, I have been diligently researching my thesis topic, focusing on the architecture of E. Fay Jones. Although well known within the world of professional architects, Jones has been a relatively obscure figure in popular culture. However, his Thorncrown Chapel was recently listed as one of the best buildings of the 20th century in a poll taken by the American Institute of Architects. Also, four of Jones's buildings have been already added to the National Register of Historic Places (some even before the required 50 year life-span requirement). As my research continues to pile up, I am sure I will post more about this subject.

I am also gearing up to head to London in September to attend the Courtauld Institute of Art. I will be working on knocking out my final required course work, as well as working on my major area of study. Hopefully, I will also be able to work in a little time to do some extra travel for my thesis topic, including sites that Jones visited during his career as well as a few of my favorite historic sites. I am sure that Bayeux will definitely be on the list of sites I must visit (I recently wrote a paper on architectural representation in the Bayeux Tapestry).