Monday, November 24, 2008
Geneva - A new ceiling artwork that was meant to inspire dialogue, human rights and global solidarity was unveiled Tuesday at the United Nation's Geneva offices.
Spanish artist Miquel Barcelo unveiled his lavish, $23 million ceiling painting at the United Nation's Geneva offices on Tuesday– a project that has evoked controversy over its hefty price tag. In a ceremony with Spain's King Juan Carlos and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Barcelo gave the world its first glimpse of the 16,000-square-foot (1,500-square-meter) elliptical dome full of bright colors and torn aluminum. The most striking element may be the hundreds of small icicle-shaped pieces that dangle down from the ceiling.
The 50-year-old abstract artist used more than 100 tons of paint with pigments from all over the world. The ceiling took over a year to produce, and Barcelo worked with architects, engineers and even particle physics laboratories to develop the extra-strength aluminum for the dome.
Miguel Zugaza, the director of the Museo del Prado, defined the artwork as "Barcelo’s most important and the best public art project made by Spain in several decades.” The artwork drips off the ceiling like stalactites in a cave and is surrounded by patterns meant to symbolize the sea. The multicoloured work, with strong green-blue tones and bright splashes of red and orange, tries to promote human rights, cooperation and dialogue, Barcelo said.
Barcelo was praised for using innovative techniques and original mixes of materials to create the cave and sea-like feel of the new ceiling. However, some critics questioned the high cost of the project.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Where Superman lives...
Mexico's Cueva de los Cristales (Cave of Crystals) is buried a thousand feet (300 meters) below Naica Mountain in the Chihuahuan Desert. The cave was discovered by two miners excavating a new tunnel for the Industrias Peñoles company in 2000.
The cave contains some of the largest natural crystals ever found; translucent gypsum beams measuring up to 36 feet (11 meters) long and weighing up to 55 tons.
Reports stated that for millennia the crystals thrived in the cave's extremely rare and stable natural environment. Temperatures hovered consistently around a steamy 58 degrees Celsius, and the cave was filled with mineral-rich water that influenced the crystals' growth. At this temperature the mineral anhydrite, which was abundant in the water, dissolved into gypsum, a soft mineral that can take the form of the crystals.
Modern-day mining operations exposed the natural wonder by pumping water out of the 10-by-30-meter cave.
The mining companies is now advised to preserve the caves. Geological researchers go in prepared, wearing suits in order to protect themselves against the inhospitality of the caves. They plan to condition the caves and get them ready for public visitation. This has to be done without interfering with the natural conditions that keep the crystals in their best shape and help them grow.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Only a few caverns in the world approach the magnificent and astonishing wealth to the extent of the Jeita Grotto in Lebanon. Raindrops of more than a thousands years have worked a magic wonder in the limestone of the Mount Lebanon range.
In these caves and galleries, known to man since Paleolithic times, the action of water has created cathedral-like vaults beneath the hills of Mount Lebanon, forming one of the world's most beautiful and astonishing caverns found 20 km north of Beirut.
The caves wa discovered in 1863 by an American hunter, and first opened to the public in 1958. The Jeita Grotto soon became internationally known for the spectacular formations of stalactites and stalagmites, stone curtains and columns. The caves have attracted some 10,000 visitors a week since the site was reopened to the public in July 1995.
The caverns is on two levels: the lower caverns is visited by boat over a subterranean lake that is 623 meters long, while the dry upper gallery can be seen on foot. The lower section is sometimes closed in winter when the water level is high, but the extensive upper galleries are open all the time.
Geologically, the caves provide a tunnel or escape route for the underground river, which is the principal source of the Dog River. The cave is more than 9000 meters in length and 108 meters in height from the ceiling to the water level.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Pathway fitted for a king...or not?
el Camino del Rey, meaning 'the King’s Pathway', is located in El Chorro, near Málaga, Spain. It was constructed between 1901 and 1905 to shuttle workers across the gorge between the Chorro Falls and Gaitanejo Falls. It’s a three-foot wide concrete pathway clinging to the rock face, 700 feet above the ground!
In 1921 King Alfonso XIII crossed the walkway for the inauguration of the dam Conde del Guadalhorce and it became known by its present name.
As with most century-old, poorly maintained structures, the Caminito has fallen into serious, and extremely dangerous, disrepair. Only a small portion of the walkway’s hand rails are still intact, and vast sections of the concrete floor have crumbled into the gorge.
Two years ago the government of Andalusía allotted €7 million to restore the pathway, so if you’re willing to wait a bit, you can take your (much improved) chances following the path yourself.
If you can't wait that long for now you can latch onto a safety-wire to keep from falling. Several people have lost their lives on the walkway in recent years; after four people died in two accidents in 1999 and 2000, the local government closed the entrances. However, adventurous tourists still find their way onto the walkway to explore it.
A leopard for your living room
The exotic Ashera cat would cost you anything between $22,000 to $28,000. Besides their expensive price they are also the biggest domestic cat specie. They can stand up to one meter tall.
They resemble a leopard (a breed between the African serval and Asian leopard cat) but have all the characteristics of a domestic cat. What makes them ever more unique is the fact that they are hypoallergenic cats. This implies that they are bred without the potent cat allergen protein gene that causes humans to be allergic to them.
If you order an Ashera cat, your cat comes complete with a microchip implant as well as a complete airline certified cat transporter.
Ashera's are highly intelligent and surprisingly gets along well with people and children.
Themba, the six-month-old elephant was orphaned after his mother died when she fell down a cliff.
Vets at South Africa's Sanbona Wildlife Reserve monitored the young elephant for a week, hoping he would be adopted and suckled by another elephant cow. But that did not happen and staff from an animal hospital were forced to take him in so he did not starve to death.
Themba the elephant and Albert the sheep, first met at a water hole. Themba made a dash for the sheep and chased him around his watering hole. Albert dashed into the safety of a shelter at the far end of the enclosure and stayed there for 12 hours.
Curiousity got the better of the gentle Themba, and he started embracing Albert with his trunk.
The pair now spend every hour together at their home in the Shamwari Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.
Albert copies everything Themba does. In fact, they have almost the exact same diet. Albert is the first sheep ever to be seen eaingt a thorny acacia bush.
One day though, Themba and Albert‘s bond will have to be broken as the team‘s main objective is to get the elephant back into the wild when he is weaned off baby milk at about two years old.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
The Dongzhong (literally meaning 'in cave') primary school, at a Miao village in Ziyun county, southwest China's Guizhou province, is built in a huge natural cave. The cave was formed over the years by winds, water and seismic shifts. Students have to travel over the mountains to the cave everyday to learn.
I could not find any information on the history and origin of the school. Any more info would be great!