To celebrate the end of a great year for culture, both in the UK and abroad, we’ve decided to share some of our personal highlights. For this, our final entry, we turn our gaze to architecture and discoveries.
Our discoveries this year come from all across the globe.
Starting closer to our London home; Tropics Café at Grow Elephant. One of the most refreshing and uncanny venues you’ll find in Zone 1 today, the half container half winter garden structure stands in the middle of a ‘mobile garden’ of 80 portable boxes. Here, community members can grow their own vegetables, as well as partaking in regular cultural events and workshops, including movie screenings and live music. The café’s revenue help support their ongoing activities supporting the local community.
In October, we were fortunate to be invited to watch the Batsheva Dance Company’s Deca Dance perform at their newly opened International Dance Centre. Located in the Hongqiao district of Shanghai, this new venue houses four dance organisations, including our recent working partner the Shanghai Theatre Academy’s two dance schools. The Batsheva Dance Company’s performance was simply stunning, where one song performers invited audiences to be their dance partners.
Zeche Zollverein is a former coal mine in Essen, Germany, built in the 1930s and once described as the most beautiful mine in the world. After closing down in the 90s, it has since become a re-purposed heritage site. Despite a BOP’er growing up nearby, she had never been before and was truly impressed at the scale, attractiveness and visionary regeneration of the site. It is now home not only to a park in which the old mining buildings sit almost like pieces of contemporary art, it also houses a fascinating museum on the history of the Ruhrgebiet and a design museum, several restaurants/cafes, and acts as event location and concert venue.
Our final discovery this year is a book; Olive Schreiner’s ‘The Story of an African Farm’. First published in 1883, this book ‘catapulted colonial literature into the international arena’. A story about a South African settler family, it contains long philosophical musings and dialogues by the protagonists, illustrating a fairly risqué storyline for the time - whole chapters setting social critiques of religion and the position of women in society.
Covering a former market in the working class neighbourhood of Alfalfa in Sevilla stands Setas. This was a project dogged by major cost overruns and delays, stemming variously from an initial design that was so innovative it was declared unbuildable, as well as more unfortunate unforeseen complications, as the discovery of significant Roman remains beneath. Finally opened in 2011, it attracted over 1 million visitors in its first year. While its creation and execution was by no means exemplary, the end result is a genuinely crowd-pleasing, iconic piece of elegant and playful architecture that offers wonderful views over the city and has become a firm favourite of both residents and tourists alike; a hard task to pull off.
A final mention went to Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum. Designed by Pritzker Prize winner Fumihiko Maki and opened in 2014, this museum houses a collection of Islamic art and heritage, including artefacts from the private collection of the current Aga Khan. The interior offers a beautiful balance of clean minimalism and elaborate geometric patterns, while the exterior is a stark white façade that leaps out among its suburban environment, providing a great contrast to the dark reflecting ponds in front.