Holiday 2: Iparmuveszeti Museum in Budapest

View from the Gellért Hill over Buda (left) and Pest (right)=Budapest

View from the Gellért Hill over Buda (left) and Pest (right)=Budapest

After my stay in Lisbon it was time to go to Budapest. Here the Museum of Applied Arts (Iparmuveszeti Museum) proved to be worth a visit. I prefer small museums like these over for example the Louvre (Paris) or the Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam) since they do not give me the feeling I have to rush to see everything. Also they are much less MacDonalised. Usually big state museums try to spoon feed visitors with overdone educative efforts which takes all the fun out of the special objects you see there. Praise the day when they abolish cultural education departments in museums! Well, except for children then.

The museum building shows an interesting mix between Art Nouveau and islamic architecture. It was designed by the ‘Hungarian Gaudi’, the architect Odon Lechner, during Hungary’s Golden Age around the turn of the 19th century. Nowadays it looks slightly shabby which gives it a special patina. The inner courts for example seem to be in desperate need for some repair! Although many will find the museum rather empty, it did have some small exhibitions, besides the main chamber of Turkish tapestry, weapons and so on.

Otherwise there did not seem to be much to see in Budapest except for all those 19th century Parisian facades that feature as stand-ins for other cities in movie productions. Also nice was the Gellért Hill that provided a beautiful panoramic view over Budapest. Most surprising was perhaps the great quality of information design for the transport system, even if the system itself, the metro cars for example, seemed to stem from the Warschau-pact era.

Normally I use the Netherlands as a starting point when booking holiday’s in Europe. But why not make things a little more complicated: de-centralize VS centralize. I decided to fly from Lisbon (see previous post) to Budapest, and then back to Amsterdam over Stockholm (see last picture (after: more>), those Swedish farmers have to take into account rocks on their land!). That is what cheap air tickets do for you!

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Holiday 1: Murals in Lisbon


During my holiday in Lisbon I saw some beautiful wall paintings on a stretch of buildings. It takes some time to take in the painted figures. The painters tried to make them 3D by having them interact with the windows (for example pushing arms through them). Also remarkable is the beautiful Beaux-arts building next to them.

It is my third time visiting the city and it is just a very agreeable : ). Also the air in this capital–the most westward of the European mainland–is remarkable clean, partly due to its location on the Atlantic. Thankfully the bright sun is filtered through the magnificent Jacaranda trees in the city. Unfortunately they did not bloom when I visited.




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Can I get a better apartment?

The door frames were a bit loose in the apartment we visited

The door frames were a bit loose

After living for one year in my Suzhou apartment I though it might be time to move to a new place. Currently I live in a student complex. Although being surrounded by students all day does make you feel young, one also is prone to lossing touch with society as a whole.

My apartment was recommended to me by XJTLU. It is 1 of the 4 main apartment complexes that are used for housing students and some staff. According to the human resource office I was very lucky to be able to get into ‘Parfait International Apartment’. It has two major advantages. Firstly it is only 3 years old. It was not degraded that much, as is so typical of many Chinese developments after a few years. Secondly there was heating in the living room and in the bed room!

The city I live in is below the Chinese heating border that runs near latitude 33 degrees north. Above this the state provides subsidised central heating, since it freezes there in winter. Below this–which also means Suzhou–people have to make do with individual electric heaters, when it gets cold. Remarkably even at my university it is not uncommon to have (out)doors open all the time in winter and windows wide open, while at the same time running airco in the heating mode.

I was motivated in my search for a new apartment by one of my colleagues who lived in the same complex. My colleague had made an appointment with a real estate agent, to show him two apartments near the university, one new, one old. I was going with him, as was another colleague.

The first apartment being shown was previously used by three students. It was in an apartment block, that was not older then 10 years. Sadly it was totally run down! The window frames were almost falling out of the wall, the kitchen looked like a stable . . . Price 3500 Yuan. The second apartment we were being shown was brand-new. But again, the finishing and detailing were horrible, also it was rather pricy (5000 yuan).

The bottom line was that for the price and quality we were looking for it was rather hard to find something better. So for the moment I decide to stay at my current place!
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HK5: Big Wave Bay & Shopping Mall


For my last day in Hong Kong I made a small hike to Big Wave Bay. For this I walked again through the cemetery, but instead of going right to Shek-O Beach I went left, a shorter route to the Bay. Such a nice bay it is! The village looks like it is totally isolated, but in fact it is also easily reachable by bus. Its peacefulness made for a big contrast when I went to dinner with a friend later on the day in a busy shopping centre! Suzhou is very relaxed compared to all this.
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HK3: Hong Kong Polytechnical University

Jockey Club Innovation Tower: the design building from Zaha Hadid. Unfortunately it  was so humid when I came outside that the lens immediately fogged!

Jockey Club Innovation Tower: the design building from Zaha Hadid. Unfortunately it was so humid when I came outside that the lens immediately fogged!

At the time of my visit The Hong Kong Polytechnical University held its annual design exhibition of work of graduating students. The work of the design department looked great. Something to aspire to for our own Industrial Design department at XJTLU.

I was also interested in the Communication Design Ba students. In their projects they had taken on some interesting themes, such as the neon light heritage of Hong Kong, Chinese calligraphy and health data. The design of the accompanying poster presentations though, looked like they could need a more firm typographical hand. They are only means of presentation for a project but still, you are a designer or not ; ). But I might be all to critical as Dutch guy with the large interest in typography in my country.

A dissappointment, if not maddening was the new design building, designed by the late Zaha Hadid. Officially called the ‘Jockey Club Innovation Tower’–after its major sponsor–its sculpted shape looks great on the outside, a beacon of progressiveness, a shiny example of image building for a university wanting to draw in students and researchers. But. I do pity the staff and the students who have to work inside of it. Its cramped and angled spaces made me feel slightly claustrophobic. White walls and ceilings can compensate for this only to a certain degree. Way finding was a nightmare for me. The general layout of a building should be clear.

This view is also inspired by my own involvement with the design process of our new combined Architecture and Industrial Design building at the South Campus of XJTLU. The overall architectural concept–roughly rounded and angled buildings, designed by the provincial planning office–came at the expense of a practical and efficient use of spaces for teaching, research, office space and workshops. Thankfully a joint redesign helped by the head of Architecture–on our own initiative–was able to compensate for that at least partially. Ideally teaching spaces should be designed so that they match the teaching and learning methods that you use. And that goes much further then just a division between lecture and seminars, especially in a discipline like design. Labs, teaching and office spaces should be spacy, flexible and should be designed in cooperation with staff to make them useable.

HK2: Dragon’s Back to Shek-O Beach

The first part of the Dragon’s Back trail was a concrete road, but soon I found myself on a sandy path that meandered through the shady bushes on the side of the mountain. To my surprise I could spot many butterflies, there were always a few dancing around. The cicades in the background and the lack of traffic noises, made me totally forget I was close to one of the most densely populated cities in the world.


When the path finally reached the mountain ridge there were excellent views over the sea, and surrounding islands, beaches and villages, including Big Wave Village, and Shek-O Beach. Also nice to see were the bird of prey gliding in thermals in search for food. But as I found out not carrying something to cover my head was a major mistake: there was hardly any shadow to be found on the ridge!

The reward was Shek-O Beach, a quick and short bus ride away over the main road to which I descended at the end of the ridge. The village had several laid back places to eat and drink, nothing fancy though, and a beautiful beach where you could hire chairs or sun screens. The rocks and the beach almost looked like the south of France! After a few drinks with a fellow hiker a bus took me back to an MTR station. Recommended!
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HK2: Cape Collinson Cemetery to Dragon’s Back

The starting point of my Dragon’s Back hike was the Chai Wan MTR-station (Metro), easy to be reached from my hotel at MTR-station Tin Hau. The station reminded me a little bit of a miniature Hoog Catharijne, the Dutch shopping centre famous for its labyrinth structure in which it is impossible to find the exit. But once I found it it was pretty easy to locate the entrance to the Cape Collinson cemetery, the quickest way up the mountain to the actual trail.

Cape Collinson cemetery was layed out on the steep and winding flanks of Collinson Mountain. The rising dead seemed to mirror the high rises in front of it, an important difference being that the latter did not have stairs but elevators. In the already scorching heat of June walking in the cemetery around noon was rather disorienting, also because of the glinstering white marble and concrete around. Time wise I could have planned my hike better…

No wonder that there were small pavilions placed on strategic points at the cemetery; much deserved shadow for visiting family members and maintenance workers. At the back a moist and shadowy flight of stairs took me finally to the bushes that were topping the cemetery. Here was a plateau called ‘Pottinger Gap’, a small ‘gap’ between the mountains which showed the first signage of the Dragons Back trail.

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