Sunday, September 07, 2008

Turning Torso and Ceruse Poisoning

from Rebecca Mead's essay (TNY, Sep 1, 2008) on Santiago Calatrava:

The first completed Calatrava skyscraper, the Turning Torso tower, in Malmo, Sweden, which is fifty-four stories high and twists through ninety degrees, was derived from a sculpture that Calatrava first made in 1985, and this, in turn was prompted by his sketches of the human spine. . . . Calatrava's bridges, for which he initially earned his fame, often evoke the shapes of lithe human forms, bending or lunging with Olympian vigor.

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More recently, he built a library for the University of Zurich's law school--an ovoid structure topped with a glass oculus--that fits snugly within the courtyard of the school's existing hundred-year-old building. A visitor standing inside the splendid skylit atrium will see no books or students; the workspaces are hidden behind five levels of pearwood-clad balconies, as if the library were a beehive in which all honey-producing activity had been cunningly concealed. The oculus is equipped with a brise-soleil that silently opens and closes according to the available daylight, and the library is so popular that even students not enrolled in the law school have taken to working there.

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Movement, he argues, is an essential part of the natural world and of human life, and is profoundly related to our experience of time. "Even if people want to do monuments that are timeless, like the pyramids of Egypt--well, they are moving," he says. "We don't see that, because they move very slowly, but they are shorter than when they were built. The stones are falling down. Everything in our universe moves."

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It is no accident that a station might evoke the atmosphere of a temple, Calatrava says. "The word 'religion' comes from the Latin religare, meaning 'creating links,'" he explained. "Physically, what a station does is to create links with the rest of the world, as do bridges. Look at the George Washington Bridge in the middle of the landscape: it is like a priest opening his hands."

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from John Updike's essay (TNY Sep 1, 2008) on Max Factor:

In the slim and frivolously titled "Read My Lips: A Cultural History of Lipstick," by Meg Cohen Ragas and Karen Kozlowski (1998), we learn that an ancient Egyptian papyrus shows a woman applying lip rouge. "Inventing Beauty," by Teresa Riordan (2004), points out that as photography became, from 1870 to 1900, more popular so, too, did cosmetics, and that "as the depression deepened, cosmetics sales climbed steadily," and that, in the nineteen-fifties and sixties, the proliferation of synthetic compounds freed cosmetics from the drawbacks of naturally viscid and odorous oils and solvents.

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Even as Gascoigne wrote, his monarch, Elizabeth I, was poisoning her complexion with ceruse, a lead-based skin whitener used in ancient Rome and revived in the Renaissance. Ceruse persisted into the eighteenth century in potent "washballs," long after many a woman of fashion had died of such toxins.

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(in Kansas in 1915 a law was proposed making it illegal for women under the age of forty-four to wear cosmetics "for the purpose of creating a false impression")

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