History and Culture A _ 2012-2013

A class blog Patricia Bou. English Studies. UV

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Symbols: Empire State Building-New York City

The Empire State Building is one of the most iconic buildings and one of the symbols of New York City.  
It’s located in Midtown Manhattan, at the intersection between the 5th Av. and west 34th street. It was one of the first buildings I saw when I arrived in New York City and I was amazed of its high, its architectural design and mostly of its views from the observatories.
It was designed and constructed between 1929 and 1931, during the Art Deco Period of design. But the architect, William F. Lamb from Shrebe, Lamb and Harmon wanted to design a building that would stand out, so he decided to design the building with four facades facing the street rather than one façade that buildings usually have. It is possible to see the building and always the façade of the Empire State from mostly all the different points of the City.
The building and its architectural design can be observed from other observatories of the city, as the ‘Top of the Rock’ located in the 70th floor of the Rockefeller Plaza. There is where the picture was taken and The Empire State Building appears behind me.

In 1945, the structural integrity of the building was tested when a twin-engine B-25 bomber crashed into the 79th floor. Fourteen people were tragically killed, but the building remained standing.
It was constructed where the first Waldorf Astoria Hotel was situated. It was not well communicated in that time with public transportation, and just the 25% of the offices were rented when the building was inaugurated; for that reason it was referred as the ‘Empty State Building’. They started to earn more money with the observatories than with the rents. There are two observatories, in the 86th and 102th floors and you can take one of the seven elevators or if you prefer, you can climb the 1860 stairs to arrive to the platforms. The entrance prices for the observatories are 25$ for adults and 19$ for children to go to the 86th floor and an extra charge of 17$ to go to the top, the 102th floor.

The Empire State observatory offers the most amazing views of New York City,  where you 

can see a view of 360º of the City, the Chrysler building, the downtown of Manhattan, New Jersey, Rockefeller center and the rest of the skyscrapers in New York City, and depending of the weather and the day, also the Statue of Liberty.

The Empire state building has appeared in almost 90 movies, as ‘when Harry met Sally’, ‘An Affair to remember’, ‘Annie Hall’ or ‘King Kong’ which has one of the most famous moments, when King Kong finds Ann and climbs into the top of the building where is surrounded by plane that made King Kong fall down and die.
And also has been visited by more than seventy million people, some of them famous people as Penelope Cruz, Pierce Brosnan, Mary J. Blige, Fidel Castro or the Queen Elisabeth II.

One of the most interesting things about the Empire State Building is that the top is always illuminated depending of the events, important dates or seasons, such as Christmas, Saint Valentine’s day or Independence day.

October 8                       Red/White/Green                    Columbus Day

September 11                Red/White/Blue                        In memory of September 11

July 3 - 4                       Red / White / Blue                   Independence Day

North/South Sides        Blue/White/Blue                     Yankees colors

East/West Sides           Blue/Orange/Blue                     Mets colors

March 16 - 18               Green / Green / Green             In honor of St. Patrick's Day

January 16                    Red / Black / Green                  In honor of Dr. Martin Luther    King, Jr. Day

November 23 - 27       Red / Orange / Yellow                In celebration of Thanksgiving

November 11 - 13        Red / White / Blue                      In honor of Veteran's Day

July 12 2010                 Red/Yellow/Red                          Spain won the World Cup

Video of the construction of the Empire State Building between 1939-1931 in New York City.

http://www.nyctourist.com/empire-state-building-history-and-facts http://www.generalcontractor.com/resources/articles/empire-state-building.asp

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Washington Capitol

 The Washington Capitol is one of the most famous and interesting works of architecture of the U.S.A.   as well as one of its most symbolic locations. It is the home of the US Congress and of the federal government.
It was built in 1793, the first rock being set by no other than George Washington. It has been set on fire by the English during the 19th century, and its dome has been rebuilt since then. The interior of the Capitol is decorated in Victorian style, and holds 540 chambers distributed among five floors. 

One of the most attractive parts of the Capitol is the inside of the dome, which is sort of an art gallery. The most important piece of art stands right in the center of the dome, and is called the Apotheosis of Washington, an enormous fresco painted by Constantino Brumidi in 1865. Its creation took over 11 months, finished at the end of the Civil War. The fresco represents Washington’s apotheosis, that is, he becomes a god. He is surrounded by figures from classical mythology, such as the goddesses Liberty and Victoria and other 13 maidens, making this fresco an excellent example of an allegory and making it a beacon of hope and freedom for all Americans.

Buckingham Palace

This is a photograph of the Buckingham Palace, the official London residence and principal workplace of the British monarch. Located in the City of Westminster, the palace is a setting for state occasions and royal hospitality.

This is the principal façade, the East Front; originally constructed by Edward Blore and completed in 1850. It acquired its present appearance following a remodelling, in 1913, by Sir Aston Webb. 

(I haven’t uploaded a picture of me because I've never been to any English speaking country.)



Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The Crooked Spire Church in Chesterfield

Its ponderous steeple, pillared in the sky
Rises with twist in pyramidal form,
And threatens danger to the timid eye
That climbs in wonder.
Samuel Bromley 1822

Although I have never actually stopped to take a picture in front of this peculiar church it is the first monument that drew my attention when I first arrived in the UK.  Soon after that I found out that there is a very interesting story behind the construction of this church and that the spire was not part of the initial design.
The construction of the church of St Mary and All Saints, the world famous Crooked Spire Church at Chesterfield, began in the late 13th Century and was finished around 1360. It is the largest church in Derbyshire and its unusual Spire stands 228 feet from the ground and leans 9 feet 5 inches from its true centre. This was not the original design of the church but only the result of an error. The Spire was ‘twisted’ when unseasoned wood was used during its construction with 32 tons of lead tiles placed on top and as the timber dried out the weight of the lead twisted the spire.

As the spire was being built at the time of the Black Death in 1349, a theory has been put forward that the original craftsmen may have died. As a result, less experienced men completed the job and they made the mistake of using green timber. There is also a lack of cross bracing in the structure.
There are of course other controversial versions of how the twist was caused and the Devil figures in the most popular version although there are several variations on this theme.
One version is that a blacksmith from the nearby village made a poor job of shoeing the Devil who, lashing out in agony as he passed over Chesterfield, gave the spire a violent kick.
Another claims the Devil was resting on the spire when a whiff of incense from below made him sneeze, and as he had his tail wrapped tightly round the spire at the time this caused it to twist.
A controversial version brings the virtue of the local ladies in to question as it says that whilst resting on the spire the Devil twisted round in surprise because the bride was a virgin.
An even more slanderous version says that the spire twisted when a virgin married in the church but will straighten when another one does.
On 22nd December, 1961 a fire broke out in the North Transept and flames swept through the building threatening the spire. It took two hours to get the blaze under control and the cost of the damage came to ₤30,000.

The Parish Church of St Mary and All Saints is a Grade I listed building and the spire is open to the public most days (except Sundays and Good Friday) and can be climbed part way up. The views from the top of the tower on a clear day stretch for miles. The spire, which is used as a symbol of Chesterfield, can often be seen from the surrounding hill poking out of a sea of mist, on a winter’s morning.  

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Monday, 8 October 2012

The beginning of the Viking Expeditions

Thursday, 4 October 2012


Hello everyone,

Vanessa- London 2007
This is me and I took this image in London (2007) when I went there with my friends. London fascinated me and I hope to come back soon!
I am sure this image  is well-known to you, but...I am going to tell you some curiosities about one of the most famous British icons, the 
red telephone box:

-What's this? It is a telephone kiosk for a public telephone.  

-Who designed it? It was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.

-Is it only in London? No, it isn't. It is a familiar sight on the streets of the United Kingdom, Malta, Bermuda and Gibraltar, and despite a reduction in their numbers in recent years, red boxes can still be seen in many places and in current or former British colonies around the world. 

-Why red? Because the colour red made them easy to spot.

-When was the first public telephone kiosk introduced? In 1920 (designated K1)

-Why was it created? It was created because in 1924 took place a competition to design a kiosk that would be acceptable to the London Metropolitan Boroughs. The boxes were the same idea as the police boxes.

-Is there only one design? No, there isn't. 6 different models have existed:
          K1 (1920)

K2 (1926): Scott's winning design in cast iron deployed in and around London. 
k3 (1929): Similar to K2 but constructed from concrete and intended for nationwide use. The standard colour scheme for both the K1 and the K3 was cream, with red glazing bars.

K4 (1927): designed by the Post Office Engineering Department. It incorportaed a post box and machines for buying postage stamps on the exterior. Only 50 kiosks of this design were built.
K5 (1934):  a playwood construction designed to be assembled and dismantled  and used at exhibitions.

K6 (1935): designed to commemorate the silver jubilee of King George V. K6 was the first red telephone kiosk to be extensively used outside London, and many thousands were deployed in virtually every town and city, replacing most of the existing kiosks and establishing thousands of new sites.

-Is King George V the only one  related with the red telephone box? No, it isn't.
In 1952 the new Queen, Elizabeth II, decided to depart from the practice of using the purely symbolic 'Tudor Crown' as the symbol of her government, and instead use a representation of the actual crown generally used for British coronations, the St Edward's Crown. This new symbol therefore began to appear on the fascias of K6 kiosks. In Scotland, the Post Office opted to use a representation of the actual Crown of Scotland, in line with the new practice for other parts of the Government.
Prior to these changes, the Tudor Crown had been used in all parts of the United Kingdom, and the British Empire.
To accommodate the two different Crowns on the K6 kiosks, the fascia sections were henceforth cast with a slot in them, into which a plate bearing the appropriate crown was inserted before the roof section was fitted. (This change happened in 1955 and is a very useful way of dating K6 boxes manufactured thereafter.)
Kiosks installed in Kingston upon Hull were not fitted with a crown, as those kiosks were installed by the Hull Corporation (later Hull City Council, then Kingston Communications). All boxes in Hull were also painted in cream.

-Has it been modernised? Yes, of course!In 1959 architect Neville Conder was commissioned to design a new box. The K7 design went no further than the prototype stage. K8 was introduced in 1968 designed by Bruce Martin. It was used primarily for new sites; around 11000 were installed, replacing earlier models only when they needed relocating or had been damaged beyond repair. The K8 retained a red colour scheme, but it was a different shade of red: a slightly brighter 'Poppy Red', which went on to be the standard colour across all kiosks.
The K8 featured a single large glass panel on two sides and the door. While improving visibility and illumination inside the box, these were vulnerable to damage. Only 12 remain — most having been replaced with the KX100 — making the K8 as rare as the K3.

-Has it been used in contemporary art? Yes, it has.


Wednesday, 3 October 2012


There's a town in the isle of Anglesey (North Wales) whose size is inversely proportional to the length of its name:
This town, usually known as Llanfair PG or Llanfairpwll, has the longest name place in Europe, and is the second longest name in the world, following the isle of Taumata in New Zeland.

Depite this being a rather small town, its index of population is one of the five highest in the island (According to the census of 2001, over 3,000 people) and more than the 76% of them, are fluent in Welsh. 

The peculiarity of this little town's long name has caught the attention of many tourists and curious over the years, who come to visit it and can't leave without taking a picture near a sign with the name on it, usually the one at the train station, the first one they encounter.

The translation of the name from Welsh, is as it follows:
Llanfair - pwll - gwyngyll - goger - y chwyrndrobwll - llantysilio - [a]g og ogoch

[St] Mary's church - [in] the hollow - of the white hazel - near - to the rapid whirlpool - [and] the church of Llantysilio - of the red cave
Learning how to pronounce it can be very hard. Here is a musical video that makes it a little bit easier:

+ Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerych... The longest URL on the Web!
+ Wikipedia "Llanfairpwllgwyngyll"

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Monday, 1 October 2012

Hello everybody! This is my firts post in this blog and as a personal introduction I think it would be interesting to talk you about my experience in this place: Victoria square, Birmingham.

I am the one in red pants, my name is Núria Siscar, and my friends and I were visiting Birmingham for the first time when went to Coventry.

There are many interesting things  to be told about this place, for example it is worthy to know that the square is the centre of Birmingham city and that it is the home of both the Town Hall and the Council House.
This square was renamed in 1901 to honour Queen Victoria; before there were Christ Church Buildings, demolished  in 1970 and replaced with a grassed slope.

But what will make me remember this square for the rest of my life are not its historical traits but the horror I suffered when that man on the top left of the picture (who was notably drunk) came and interrupted our next photo shouting at me that I was a liar (pointing at my pants with a Scottish print).  He meant, we deduced,  that I had dark hair and brown eyes, so I was not Scottish, and he was really angry because I was wearing those pants.

We couldn’t appreciate Victoria Square because of him, he and his friend followed us shouting and insulting us until we entered a shop searching for refuge. It was a pity we couldn’t enjoy the art in the Square.

They held an international design competition for a central water feature in the square, which was won by Dhruva Mistry. The result was Mistry's fountain The River , which is the largest sculptural piece in the square. Its construction started in 1992 and was completed in 1994, when it was officially opened  by Diana, Princess of Gales.

But there are other pieces not commissioned for the 1992 redevelopment of the square. One of them isAnthony Gormley's Iron Man which was donated to the city in March 1993 by the Trustee Savings Bank.

And there are also statues that were there before the square was. Only one of them remains, it is the statue of Queen Victoria, which was originally created in 1901 by Thomas Brock, but recast in bronze by William Blove in 1951.

In conclusion my experience in Victoria Square was definitely not pleasant, but I have to say it was not because of the square, but because of the people in it. An advice? Go and visit Birmingham! It is an amazing place, but be careful with the choice of your clothes.

If anyone has the explication to the anger of the man, I will be glad for knowing it!