29 March 2013

Where giant ships go to be torn apart

photo by Andrew Holbrooke

Supertankers and giant cargo ships are chipped down bit by bit, usually by hand, and stripped of every last bit of value. 

photo by Brendan Corr 

Fauzdarhat, 20 kilometers northwest of Chittagong in Bangladesh, is where many of the world's ships go to die.

In 1960, when Bangladesh was still known as East Pakistan, a cyclone left a ship, the SS Clan Alpine, beached near the port of Chittagong. Since then, ship-breaking has become Bangladesh’s main source of steel.

photo by Brendan Corr

Over 20 ship-breaking yards dot the 16 miles of Bangladesh’s coastline. It is an industrial wasteland of epic proportions, where thousands of workers are forced to scratch their meager existence out of these hulking steel ruins, working with rudimentary protection, risking injury and illness, poisoned by toxic fumes and exposure to asbestos and other hazardous materials.

photo by Claudio Cambon

For Bangladesh, this is big business. Some 700 ocean-going vessels are scrapped each year, and about 100 of them are ripped apart in Bangladesh. 

photo by Edward Burtynsky

The ship-breaking market is like a parable of the promises and pitfalls of globalization.

photo by Jan Moller Hansen

In rich Western countries, ship-owners used to have to pay royally to have their craft taken apart by expensive machinery in dry docks.

photo by Jana Asenbrennerova

Now, they can sell the decommissioned ships to ship-breakers, who have them dismembered along poverty-stricken beaches, with anything from 300 to 500 workers employed on each ship.

photo by Jana Asenbrennerova

But there are snags. Ship-breaking is dangerous for its workers and damaging to the environment.

photo by John Vidal

The countries that dominate the market—Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan and Vietnam—typically offer cheap, unorganized labour and lax environmental controls.

photo by Larry Luxner

Ship-breaking relies on ill-paid casual workers risking injury, mutilation and death. 

photo by Peter Steyn

Numbers are hard to gauge, since few have an interest in publicizing them. But the Bangladeshi press has estimated that more than 400 workers have died in the past 20 years. And more than 4,000 have suffered serious injuries. 

photo by Saiful Huq Omi

They are also exposed to long-term health risks: from the asbestos used for insulation in older ships, and from paint containing lead, cadmium and arsenic. 

photo by Shabbir Ferdous

Workers are poorly compensated when injured, and often, in between ships, have no work and no income. 

photo by Steve McCurry

Many live in squalor. According to Young Power in Social Action, an NGO campaigning on ship-breaking in Chittagong, 51% of workers are under 22 years old and 46% are illiterate. 

Excepts from Iron Crows (2009), documentary by Bong-Nam Park

27 March 2013

Fagus factory

Fagus shoe last factory staircase, photo by architect_traveller (2007)

Designed in around 1910, the Fagus factory in Alfeld-an-der-Leine (Germany) constitutes an architectural complex which foreshadows the modernist movement in architecture. 

Fagus factory, unidentified photographer (source

Commissioned by owner Carl Benscheidt, who wanted a radical structure to express the company's break from the past, the factory was designed by Walter Gropius, the famous German architect and founder of the Bauhaus School. 

The Fagus factory was constructed between 1911 and 1913, with additions and interiors completed in 1925.

Fagus factory, glass facade, unidentified photographer (source

« For the first time a complete facade is conceived in glass.»
— Nikolaus Pevsner, Pioneers of Modern Design (1949)

The building that had the greater influence on the design of Fagus was AEG’s Turbine factory, an influential and well-known example of German industrial architecture, designed by Peter Behrens in 1909. 

AEG Turbine factory, photo by simplerare (2010)

Fagus factory drawing, perspective from southwest, graphite and white wash on composition board (source)

Carl Benscheidt (1858–1947) founded the Fagus company in 1910. He had started by working for Arnold Rikkli, who practised naturopathic medicine, and it was there that he learned about orthopedic shoe lasts (which were quite rare at that time). 

Shoeforms pattern room, photo by Albert Renger-Patzsch (1928)

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897–1966) was a German photographer associated with the New Objectivity.

photo by Albert Renger-Patzsch 

Fagus factory interior, unidentified photographer

Fagus factory, unidentified photographer

View from north, photo by Edmund Lill

View from east

View from south

View from west

View from north

photo by Albert Renger-Patzsch

Photos found here: Harvard art museums

All 10 buildings constituting the Fagus factory have been conserved in their entirety, in their initial ground plans and architectural forms. The complex is still operational today.

Fagus factory, photo by tatsuya krause (2010)

22 March 2013

Mischievous blue

Northern Flicker, acrylic on panel 12x12 (2013)

Frank Gonzales' recent work

Inspired by old masters, modern graphic design and musical compositions, Frank Gonzales paints birds, foliage and plants. His works are a result of the exploration and love he has for nature, with charm and rhythm through the manipulation of design, dripping effect, color and compositional elements. 

I like to challenge myself with every new work but ultimately I try to portray a sense of beauty or that feeling of energy you get when you really feel alive. 

Frank Gonzales 2013 paintings.

 Grackle and Nest, acrylic on panel 16x16 (2013)

 Bubo Bubo (Eurasian eagle owl), acrylic on canvas 8x8 (2013)

 Long Tailed Titmice, acrylic on panel 12x12 (2013)

 Healing Refuge, 36x36 (2013)

 Yellow Billed Cuckoo, acrylic on panel 12x12 (2013)

 Purple Martins, acrylic on panel 16x16 (2013)

Yellow Finch, acrylic on canvas 8x8 (2013)

Oops, not 2013 but recent.

Mischievous Blue, 20x20 (December 2012)

Last May I blogged about Frank Gonzales (28 bird paintings): Re-make/re-model

19 March 2013

L'appel du printemps

Springtime magnet on the table

I made a rustic-elegantly-springtime-inspired (!) fridge magnet for my friend's birthday last Saturday.

My drawing
Two snowdrop flowers drawn by me with graphite and ink on watercolor paper.

Snowdrop is a widely cultivated bulbous European plant of the lily family that bears drooping white flowers during the late winter, while the snow is on the ground.

Snowdrop, such a pretty name.

Estonian: Lumikelluke (snow tinkler)
Finnish: Lumikello (snow clock)
French: Perce-neige (snow pierce)
German: Schneeglöckchen (snow bell)
Greek: Galanthus (milk flower)
Italian: Bucaneve (snow hole)
Spanish: Campanilla de febrero (February bell)

Well, this flower has many pretty names.

In pale color
Then lightly two colors are added. The snowdrop drawing was cut…

Create your own photo (or drawing) magnet
… and gently disposed on a magnet sheet bought from the dollar store.  

Not yet framed snowdrop magnet
The magnetic drawing will be framed with small tree branches picked on the floor of Montreal, all around. The branches are easily cut with an x-acto. Ideally should be chosen straight ones.  

Stay still
With carpenter glue, I glued the branches. Mini clamps are used to keep the wood in place.

Next time, I'll put just a little less glue.

Springtime magnet on the fridge

Snowdrop, the call of spring, on a snowy morning in Montreal.

Springtime magnet on the floor

Thank you for your interest in my work.