uhuru park

posted in: nairobi 0

One Sunday we took a walk in Uhuru park, the large park just west of city centre. I wanted to visit because I knew from there you could see the Nairobi skyline (so what if it’s dominated by a giant Johnny Walker ad??):
Uhuru Park

“Uhuru” means freedom in swahili, and the park is actually the place where the first Kenyan flag was raised after independence (from the British) in 1963. (Incidentally, Uhuru is also the first name of the current President, who was named in anticipation of Kenyan independence. And oh yeah, he’s also the son of Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta.)

We attracted a few stares in the park… partly because we aren’t black but particularly because we were pushing a stroller, which is not commonly used here. Ironically, this was the best place in Nairobi we’ve ever used the stroller: perfectly smooth pathways–as opposed to the gigantic pot holes that we normally bump our way through.

Mostly, though, the park was just filled with families enjoying the Sunday afternoon–and the various vendors trying to sell to them. In addition to paddle boats, electric toy cars (!), and pony rides, you can also rent a camel:

camel rides

…or you can just buy an ice cream, from a guy wearing a lab coat (they always wear lab coats).

ice cream man

Will be nice to come back once baby S is bigger!

50,000 tiny statues

posted in: oslo 0

Very cool new piece of public art in Oslo: “Grass Roots Square”, in front of government building R6 (Teatergata). It consists of 50,000 tiny statues embedded into the stones of the walkway, inviting people to walk atop them.


The artist is Korean-born Do Ho Suh, and while this piece has come to symbolize a lot more since the 22/7 terror attacks of 2011, Read More

butterflies at aker brygge

posted in: oslo 0

aker brygge is a fancy schmancy place–all except for the back end, which faces several warehouses. but now even these have been camouflaged with some pretty coverings:

butterflies at aker brygge


posted in: oslo 0

I’ve visited the Oslo opera house many times but have never been tempted enough by any of its concerts to actually see the main music hall inside. So when they held an open house this weekend, I jumped at the chance to go visit.

It’s beautiful inside, lots of smooth lines and dark wood, and I really liked the “centerpiece” (shown above): it’s a simple but elegant skylight—though perhaps that can only be appreciated after you’ve been exposed to the garish 70’s style chandelier at the Met and at the New York City Opera.

the folks at Operaen claim that its acoustics are among the top 3 in the world. while I don’t know if that’s true, this building is definitely the architectural highlight of Oslo. gorgeous!

pedestrianizing torggata

posted in: oslo 0

I am often passing by Torggata, so I was pleased to see that they are making the street more pedestrian and bike-friendly! Sort of like what they did with New York’s Time Square, they’ve started painting the road itself–but in this case with green spots:

benches + pots + spots
pedestrianized... except for the loading zone

the highline

posted in: new york 0
the highline at dusk

The High Line is a new park that opened in 2009, built from an old elevated railway track running from Chelsea to the Meatpacking district. It’s still not completed, but so far it consists of pretty landscaping with bits of public art–making for a cool little walk in lower west Manhattan. And because it’s elevated, you get some nice views of the old industrial area, which is now mixed with fancy modern architecture.

The website for the project is here.

times square lawn chairs

posted in: new york 0

last week, I decided to check out the new pedestrian area of times square. it’s a public space experiment running until the end of the year, when the city decides whether or not to make the change permanent.

I had expected the entire area to be completely pedestrian, but traffic is still allowed to go cross-town: only Broadway is closed off, from 42nd to 47th street. so as I walked northward I still had to be aware of traffic crossings, but I could walk on the street instead of being confined to the sidewalk. I came through on a weekday, so things were fairly quiet–though there was a nice little brass band playing by the tkts area. all this was fine, but what I found most curious were these kitschy plastic lawn chairs spread out all over the road: on one block they were green, on the next magenta, and then blue…

times-sq chairs

these are just cheap summer chairs you can get at any walmart, so I wasn’t sure if they were put there by the city–but according to an article by the new york times today, yes indeed, they are.

The scene-stealing star of the city’s newly opened, $1.5 million pedestrian plaza project may be its fleet of folding lawn chairs, humble refugees from the Ace Hardware catalog that have colonized the Broadway pavement. […] Average purchase price: about $15 apiece, or 0.001 percent of the project’s total budget.

These bright-coloured lawn chairs aren’t staying forever, though; they are only meant as a temporary solution to the delay in permanent furniture due to arrive in August. Some people love them, others hate it–at any rate, their tackiness matches the whole of times square, no?

this is times square shortly before the makeover (taken from the novotel):

and here is a video from nytimes of times square now (including ecstatic praise from pedestrians and complaints from taxi drivers).

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