(Un)Noticed Letters, Numbers and Street Inscriptions

Streets are full of unnoticed letters most often hand-made or designed long ago. The Lettering da is a project which put together a collection of letters, numbers and street inscriptions, whose design and typography is then analyzed and redesigned. It started in 2012 by Silvia Virgillo and was born from her fascination with urban typographic elements visible in the public space. Its aim is to create a photographic archive of letters focusing on design that mirrors the historical period in which they originated.25396083_1468864076562768_1205319442811727041_n 26805235_1888684038109213_6091959631252307289_nThe project begun in Turin, birthplace of Silvia, and then spread to other Italian cities like Milan, Genoa, Mater, Venice, Rome, Faenza, Trieste, and Lecce. Each of these cities has its own curator, with a graphic education background and a passion for letter design. The curator’s task is to collect the material in the city, and then prepare it for the archives. It is later redesigned and made available in a web archive; the project is transparent and accessible to everyone. 14199358_1189179064454075_2404615900173613716_n 21740099_1587428421295802_1875602992494782746_nEvery city has its Lettering da Facebook page that a particular curator regulates. The process of preparing material for the archive involves the digital transcription of letters, which are then compared with existing fonts. Then, their exact location as well as their origin and purpose are determined, documented and given a number.10644572_871857086263473_2729850340498690282_n 11041284_596937803777707_1413291206015837682_nThis project is just the starting point for what’s planned to be achieved in the future: designing completely new typographic letters inspired by city typography, hand-made or taken from a non-digitized alphabet.1935121_870388233077025_4053153936422595372_n10933784_499782576826564_8718073660810396114_nLettering da is constantly growing because of the rich city typography of Italy, and many cities will join the project in the future. The desire of the curator is to bring the citizens closer to the treasures they pass on a daily basis, so that the typography of the cities will receive their deserved attention and respect. In addition to archiving and designing, this team also organizes various events, exhibitions, workshops, bicycle tours, which support this basic idea of promoting city inscriptions.17264309_405335826498820_319406123692033676_n

Monolithic Marvel: The Rock-hewn Church of Saint George, Lalibela Ethiopia

There’s an instant sense of unadulterated astonishment and wonder to seeing in person the perfectly symmetrical cruciform structure of the Church of Saint George in the northern Ethiopian town of Lalibela. For although it is equivalent in height to a four story office block, not an inch of it rises above ground level. To touch its pinky rock-hewn surfaces, surrounded by sheer walls 50 feet high, is to understand the enormity of such a task, while to hear the rhythmic chanting of its religious services is to be transported back hundreds of years.5343320549_22a53afeb6_b-minKnown in Ethiopia’s Amharic language as Bet Giyorgis, the monolithic Church of Saint George was cut from the bedrock with the most basic of hand tools, and is just one of 13 of all different architectural styles and shapes in Lalibela. Located in the Lasta Mountains, more than 8,000 feet above sea level, amid the steep slopes of craggy bare mountains and vast escarpments, the town was long considered the kingdom of the legendary Christian ruler Prester John when reached by European adventurers.Rock-Hewn_Churches,_Lalibela-107572-minAlthough the church’s real origins are lost in the mists of time, with Bet Giyorgis dating back at least 800 years, local legend has it that Saint George was so upset that none of Lalibela’s other churches had been dedicated in his honor he sought to rectify the fact in a midnight vision to the king. Now the saint not only has an astonishing feat of ancient engineering to his name, but also a rather fine lager brewed in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.Lalibela_Bet_Giyorgis_23_(27886827003)-minWhat makes the UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site Church of Saint George all the more stunning, as you pass through the long trench that leads to it from ground level before removing your shoes to enter the finely-carved interior, is the sight of the church as a functioning place of worship and pilgrimage site, mired in the elaborate and sometimes mysterious ceremonies of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The keys still hang from the belts of richly-robed priests, fierce guardians of the sanctity of the structure and protectors of the unseen Holy of Holies, while hermits continue to live in small cells cut from the precipitous walls all around. (images wiki commons)4954773267_9b7cdcb47a_b-min    

Santiago Calatrava – The Architect Who Blends Art With Engineering

Santiago Calatrava is one of the world’s most celebrated architects. Born in Spain in 1951, he studied at his city of birth, Valencia, receiving diplomas in architecture and urbanism. Later he studied for a second degree in civil engineering in Zurich. As a child, Calatrava had always wanted to become an artist. These leanings have never left him throughout a very successful professional career.

The work of Swiss-French architect, Le Corbusier, an early architectural modernist, intrigued Calatrava. He realized he could combine his twin passions of art and architecture to produce memorable and stylish building designs. Calatrava was also inspired by Robert Maillart, a Swiss civil engineer. Maillart pioneered the use of reinforced concrete in his innovative arched and beamless bridges.

Calatrava has designed many bridges himself, using his own flamboyant style. One of his most famous is the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in Dallas, Texas, constructed in 2012. Visible from miles around, this stunning structure almost appears to defy gravity. Suspended from a massive steel arc over 400’ high, a cat’s cradle of 58 white cables supports the six-lane 686’ long concrete bridge deck.

Calatrava has always sought to elicit emotion from the basic dynamic principles of physics. And like Le Corbusier, he uses simple geometric shapes, for example, cubes, arranged in such a way to create stunning, ultramodern designs. Gravity is a concept he melds into his designs frequently. His structures are designed with strong, sweeping curves, reminiscent of a planet orbiting the Sun under the pull of gravity.

Nature underpins all Calatrava’s most celebrated works. Sometimes he uses aspects of human physiology. His Turning Torso, in Malmö, Sweden, is constructed with nine five-story apartment pentagons arranged on a steel support.  The ninth pentagon is angled at 90° to the first. The Turning Torso represents a twisting human spinal column, and is the first twisted skyscraper ever built.

Another example of Calatrava’s architectural connect with human physiology is his City of Arts and Sciences and Opera House. Built in Valencia, this science and leisure complex includes a central planetarium which resembles a giant human eye.

Other times, Calatrava’s aims are zoomorphic, as with the World Trade Center Path Rail Terminal in New York City, constructed after 9/11. Calatrava designed the new terminal using a spiritual phoenix-from-the-ashes theme. The central Oculus resembles a bird with outstretched wings about to take off. Like any great sculpture, the structure boasts majestic curves, but it also conveys movement and rhythm. Calatrava says he is always guided by nature when designing his monumental architectural works. He blends engineering with art, creating architecture which touches the soul. With their tilting columns and gravity-defying arches, his works symbolize freedom from conformism.

With offices in New York City, Zürich and Doha, Calatrava has designed groundbreaking works of architecture for clients all over the world. While his structures are praised for their aesthetics, they have also attracted controversy. Some of Calatrava’s projects have gone over-budget. Others, post-construction, have required remedial works.

Despite his critics, Calatrava remains a dominant creative force in modernist architecture. His sculptor’s instincts allow him to create mesmerizing, futuristic structures that are also majestic works of art.


 Wikipedia contributors. “Santiago Calatrava.Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 6 Jan. 2018. Web. 11 Jan. 2018.

Santiago Calatrava SPANISH ARCHITECT, written by: The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica

Spotlight: Santiago Calatrava, written by Eric Oh, July 28, 2017