WARSAW

In order to celebrate the end of our dissertations, two friends and I decided to go on a short trip. A place that we could visit in two days, and more importantly: cheap. Warsaw turned out to be the perfect destination. Having not heard or read much about the city, we went in with a pretty open mind. Long story short: it exceeded our expectations in every sense.

As a capital, it’s pretty quiet. The city has lots of open space and is very clean. These open spaces are mostly unused and are calling for opportunities.

The city has a very eclectic architecture style. In the old town, the buildings have beautiful rustic coloured tints and are dotted with tromp-l’oeils, recalling scenes from a movie set.

With every corner we turned, Warsaw took a different appearance. It felt like a combination of different cities. Some streets felt really westernised, while others managed to maintain their Soviet characteristics.

Since writing my dissertation about Brutalism, having looked at tower blocks and social housing as case studies, I have a certain admiration for this kind of buildings. Unlike most social housing, the buildings found in Warsaw felt not very well integrated in the urban fabric but rather disconnected, as if they were blocks dropped into the city.

A visit to the Neon Museumlikely to be the most random museum I’ve ever seenleft us confused yet intrigued. It was just a room full of Neon texts on the wall, which created nice pictures.

Poland’s signature dish; pierogi, is a sort of dumpling stuffed with meats, cheese or mushrooms and cabbage, then fried or boiled. A nice, yet really understated restaurant to enjoy these is ‘Na Bednarskiej Pierogi’ in the old town.

Another signature dish is the Polish steak tartar. It’s made with pickles, pickled mushrooms, onions and capers. We went to a restaurant called ‘U Kucharzy’, where they play live music and make the steak tartar from scratch at your table. It was one of the best tartars I have ever eaten!

One of the architectural highlights of the trip was the Jewish Museum designed by Rainer Mahlamäki and Ilmari Lahdelma. The outside was a bit disappointing, but the inside was beautiful. The walls and the ceiling were woven organically into one another, recalling a cave or grotto.

Praga, on the other side of the bridge, felt like entering another city. A lot of the buildings are still derelict, yet there are a lot of new development being built. It’s full of design and architecture firms and looks like it’s an upcoming area of Warsaw. A

really nice restaurant to visit is the Soho Factory. It’s a restaurant in an old factory with an open kitchen concept serving great local dishes with modern twists.

Walking around aimlessly around Warsaw left us confused, excited and glad we took the time to visit this wonderfully eclectic city. 

SRI LANKA

My sister and I went on a twelve-day backpacking trip to Sri Lanka. We arrived really early in the morning and took a train to Pinnawalla where we visited an elephant orphanage. We booked 2nd class train tickets, because everybody said that the 3rd class was not bearable. When the train arrived we didn’t see the 2nd class train wagon so we jumped into 3rd class. People were right, this was horrible. For 2,5 hours we were squeezed against a toilet door and local people were frowning at us, probably thinking "what the hell are they doing in 3rd class".

After Pinnawalla we travelled to Kandy. In Kandy there’s a really nice restaurant with delicious food and cocktails called, Slightly Chilled Lounge Bar and Restaurant. In the morning we went to the Temple of Tooth to see the ceremony. After visiting the temple we took a local bus to Dambullah to visit the Rock Temple. This temple is situated on top of a rock. A 30-minute hike gets you to the top. The temple was filled with Buddha statues.

After our visit of Dambullah, we took a tuktuk to Siriguay to climb the Lion Rock. The surprising thing about Siriguay is that we thought it was going to be really touristic, but it was totally the opposite. In the town there’s only one street with seven restaurants and that’s it. Even the Lion Rock wasn’t crowded at all. The view from the top was amazing and the rock itself has these beautiful earth tone colours.

The next day we wanted to take the earliest train to Aragumbay, but first we needed to get to an ATM, because we were out of money and couldn’t pay the hotel. In Sri Lanka, cash is king and cards are almost never accepted. Siriguay didn’t have cash machines, so we needed to drive to the nearest town. There they had 3 cash machines. All of them didn’t have money in them. My sister and I were quite stressed at this point, because we thought the errors were due to our cards. We already missed our train so we asked the tuktuk driver to bring us to Dambullah again, which was one hour away. Apparently the big banks were there. Finally, we managed to get money!

After this we returned to the train station. At the train station we met some really lovely people from London with whom we travelled to Aragumbay. After 11,5 hours, one train and two buses we finally arrived. Aragumbay is known as the surfers’ paradise. It’s a really popular destination for Californian and Australian people. Some of them just stay there for two weeks. There’s a really relaxed atmosphere, a bit like paradise. The beaches were really clean and the sea water was hot. This was the perfect spot to relax for two days.

After Aragumbay, we took two local buses to Tangalle. After the first bus everything went wrong. Before we were able to take our backpacks out of the trunk, the bus started driving. We were shouting to make it stop, but instead it drove faster and faster. My sister started running after it. She was so fast I couldn’t see her anymore, so I jumped in a tuktuk and said ‘Follow that bus!’. I picked my sister up who was still running on the highway, but we eventually lost the bus, it disappeared. While running my sister already sent a motorbike after the bus to let it stop. The motorbike lead us to a little dodgy street where the bus depot was. We were very lucky, because there we found our backpacks! After this fiasco we still made it on time to jump on the next bus to Tangalle.

In Tangalle we didn’t really visit anything, we just stayed two nights in the hotel. The beaches were beautiful, but it was impossible to swim. The sea was full of rocks and the strong current was dangerous.

After four days of resting at the beach our batteries were charged again to hit the adventure. A minivan brought us to Nuwara Eliya, which was a nine-hour drive, but first he stopped at a national park in Udawallawe where we did a safari. It is a small park with a lot of elephants and buffalos. The vegetation was weird: a part of the park looked like a scene from the Lion King, exactly like the place where the bad lion lives with his hyenas.

When we arrived in Nuwara Eliya the rain was pouring. After sunny beaches this was a bit of a bummer. It was freezing! The chauffeur didn’t find our Airbnb and even got himself in trouble to the extent that we were almost hanging off a cliff. This was definitely one of our scariest experiences ever! We were so angry of the risks he was taking that we decided to get out and ask a local tuktuk to bring us. When arriving at the Airbnb I noticed my bag, my money and passport were missing. I forgot it in the minivan. After several phone calls and a lot of stress, we finally managed to get a hang of the driver, who was already on his way to Tangalle, and convinced him to turn around again and bring me my bag.

After this disaster we just wanted to eat something and have an early sleep.The next day we needed to leave at 5am to Horton Plains, a national park where you can do a 9km hike to World’s End, one of the highest points in Sri Lanka. It was so nice to be one with nature. The walk was beautiful. In the beginning it was freezing, but after a while the sun rose and warmed us. The view from the top was absolutely stunning! When walking down, my sister kept saying: ‘I really feel like Frodo of the Lord of the Rings walking in the shire’ :D.

The next day we visited Nuwara Eliya and the tea plantations. I am a tea addict, so it was very interesting for me to see where tea comes from. It is actually the leaf of a plant that goes through a drying and fermentation process to become the tea we drink. We visited Mackwoods, one of the biggest tea plantations of Sri Lanka. We got a free tour and cup of tea. The tea leaves got handpicked by women, which is hard labour but creates a stunning view.

The day before the last day we visited Ella. We arrived late because of train problems, so we didn’t have the time anymore to climb the Ella Rock or Adam’s Peak. Instead we climbed Little Adam’s Peak, which was also already pretty impressive. I did not like Ella that much. It’s extremely touristic.

From Ella we took a beautiful train ride to Colombo. It was a 9-hour train ride but the views were breathtaking.

Despite all our bad luck I really recommend visiting Sri Lanka. It’s still pretty much untouched and not so Westernised yet, so go before it’s too late. 

SKETCH

I’ve heard a lot from Sketch and have seen so many pictures of it on Instagram, that I felt it was a must to go and experience the afternoon tea there. What better way than to go in the company of my mother and grandmother?When entering the building I felt quite underdressed, as everyone else was really dressed up for the occasion. I was very much impressed by the place, especially by the staircase behind the reception which had a big splash of paint onto it. It was like somebody hit over a pot of paint.

The building is divided into 5 rooms: The Gallery, The Lecture Room, The Parlour, The Glade and The East Bar. The Glade, which was created by Artists Carolyn Quartermaine and Didier Mahieu, was like entering a beautiful fairy forest. Even the furniture pieces were one with the interior.

When our seats were ready we arrived at The Gallery, designed by India Mahdavi. The use of materials here is stunning: pink fabrics with brass elements, a play of herringbone parquet with pink touches. Just perfect! We ordered the set menu of afternoon tea with sandwiches and cake. When the platter arrived it was a bit too much, but delicious nonetheless. I really liked the plates on which the food was presented and the tea crockery.

The toilet at Sketch is amazing. It is a room with white eggs and a coloured ceiling, very theatrical. It felt like arriving in a futuristic bird nest. There was even a voice in the toilet. A nice detail that caught my eye were the rustic water taps, a nice contrast to the futuristic vibe.

The place and the interior are extraordinary, but the food not so much. Sketch is a place you must have visited once, but I wouldn’t go there a second time. 

WILLIAMSBURG

Until the end of the 19th century, Williamsburg in Brooklyn was a place where the elite of Manhattan went for a weekend getaway. Officially it wasn’t part of NYC. When the Williamsburg Bridge finished in 1903, it was also possible for ordinary people to take a look across the river. Brooklyn was flooded with new immigrants and people who fled from overcrowded immigrant housing on the Lower East Side. Soon Williamsburg was the most densely populated area of he city.

Nowadays it’s a place where a lot of youngsters live and come together. It’s full with little vintage shops and cozy restaurants and hipster bars. It’s a nice place to get away from the busy life of Manhattan.

Some nice restaurants and bars:
-        Rabbithole Restaurant
-        Roebling Tea Room
-        Café de la Esquina

Some nice shops:
-        Mociun
-        Mast Brothers Chocolate
-        Catbird
-        MeMe Antenna

This is just a list of my favourites but just wander around through the streets and you will bump into a lot more nice places.

Something that’s also really nice to do is Smorgasburg. It opened the weekend after I left New York so I was really devastated that I couldn’t do it this year, but I did it last year. It’s an open market full of street food stands with a beach and a view on Manhattan. A real must!

 

THE FLATIRON ROOM

The Flatiron Room is a whisky bar with more then 1000 sort of whisky’s. So if you’re a big fan of whisky this is the place to cut yourself out from the busy New York and float away on the beautiful jazzy tones of different artists performing every night. Although I’m not a whisky fan I still love this place. The cocktails are AMAZING! Not to mention the Flatiron Mac & Cheese ;).

'THE BUTCHERS DAUGHTER' & 'JACK'S WIFE FREDA'

I’m a huge avocado toast fan. That’s why every time it’s on the menu I will order it. Two of my favourite places to lunch in Manhattan are ‘The Butcher’s Daughter’ and ‘Jack’s Wife Freda’. They both serve pretty healthy and very fresh food. The Butcher’s Daughter has a really nice Interior and there is also a possibility to sit outside which is very interesting during Spring and Summer. Not to be missed in Jack’s Wife Freda is the Fresh Lemonade. This beverage is so refreshing and sweet. The attention to details in this place is overwhelming. There are even small texts on the sugarcubes, ADORABLE!

CHELSEA MARKET

In this old factory they used to bake Oreo cookies in the early days. Today you can go to Chelsea Market to eat and shop. There are several options to eat, but the lobster roll from the lobster palace is highly recommended. The shopping area I love the most is when you go all the way to the back through a door and you enter a room full of little stands with artists who sell their work.

 

WINE PHARMACY

“Inhabit, verb. To live or dwell (in a place), as people or animals. To exist or be situated within; dwell in.”

 

This project investigated how existing places (predominantly rooms and buildings) can be inhabited for specific purposes. The development of an understanding of a particular activity, use, function, task, operation or ritual will be key to this.

With the idea of the recently booming production and popularity of the English Southern Coast wine, I wanted to create a place where people can enjoy and taste the wine. I wanted to design a place where I bring wine tasting to the next, experimental level.

I made a video to introduce this idea. In the process of wine tasting all senses are involved, except hearing. In the video the sounds that are made during the tasting are made really loud in a white laboratory-like environment.

The Adult Education Centre has an almost symmetrical plan with a square skylight in the middle. The Wine Pharmacy is situated on the ground floor of the building.

Upon entering the building, one can choose between the experiential place or the informal place to enjoy the wine. The difference between both sides is made clear by the use of materials. The place is divided into a room clad with white tiles and a cork-clad room.

The two areas are connected trough the square in the middle of the floor.

To enter the light from the skylight I opened up the square of the ground floor ceiling and placed an endless looking wall of wine bottles. To enhance the endlessness of the wall I also opened the square in the floor and put a glass flooring, so the bottle wall goes all the way trough the basement.

On the experiential side, the design language of 2D and 3D grids is coming back trough the design of the tasting area, repeated trough the arrangement of the tasting tubes and large boxes, tiles and table constructions, floor and ceiling surfaces.

At the reception you will get a check list. With that check list you go further to the smelling and tasting area where there are smells and tastes displayed that refer to certain characteristics of wine. After you ticked the smells and tastes you like, you can go further to the “Wine Doctor”. He/she will give you some samples of the wine that suits you best. In the end of the wine tasting you will receive a prescription for your favorite wine.

After the wine tasting you can go further to the informal area covered in cork to enjoy a glass of wine. Everything in the middle wine wall area and the cork area is self service. There are wine taps in the middle area and design vending machines in the cork area. The wine bar area has two large tables because in the end enjoying a glass of wine is a nice social event which is enjoyable at a “table commune”.

WINETASTING RESEARCH

For the second term I’m doing a project about wine tasting. I want to design a place where I bring wine tasting to the next level. I made a video to introduce this idea. In the process of wine tasting all senses are involved, except hearing. In the video the sounds that are made during the tasting are made really loud in a white laboratory-like environment.

ALCOHOLIC ARCHITECTURE - BOMPAS & PARR

Because My next project for school is about bringing wine tasting to a next level, I really wanted to visit the exhibition Alcoholic Architecture at Bompas and Parr. I read on the internet that it was a whole new experience where you could breathe alcohol through your nose and eyes. I thought it was going to be an interactive exhibition where you could walk around in different rooms and learn more about alcohol and the interaction with your body. I was wrong ...

We entered this cellar in a building where we got rain ponchos. After that we entered a room with a bar and next to it a room with a walk-in cloud of Gin and Tonic. The room changed from blue coloured fog to a pink coloured one and there was music playing in the background, but that was it. So basically we needed to stand in that sticky fog for 50 minutes and didn't even get a free cocktail. In the end, we bought a cocktail at the bar, stayed in the G&T mist for 50 minutes and that was it. Overall it was a waste of money and a bit of a disappointment, but it created nice pictures.

PLEIN PUBLIEK

When I was in London I heard and read a lot about a new place that opened its doors in Antwerp called Plein Publiek. When I went back to my hometown during the Christmas holidays, a visit to this new place-to-be was on my list.

Plein Publiek is housed in a wonderful interbellum building in the Nationalestraat, right in the city centre. The initial plan was to abolish the building. Luckily that plan got rejected, and now the building will be renovated. In the time before the renovations start, Plein Publiek has been installed there as a temporary seasonal concept place.

The initiators, Thomas Wijnen and Yves Schellekens, installed 300 m2 of greenery in the courtyard of the buildings. This greenery is a playground for entertainment, art and food.

Plein Publiek is a seasonal concept. Everything changes with the seasons: the program, the menu, the decoration and the activities.

I went to this place three times and every time there was a long queue, but it was worth waiting for. When I finally got in, I entered a tropical arty and trendy oase that’s shut off from the busy city life. The place was full of happy vibes. It’s a place where you can have a nice chat with someone and at the same time get a bit closer to the dance floor and let yourself go on delightful beats.

 

THE CHURCHILL ARMS

Every week I’m meeting with a friend to play a Belgian game called Yam. The place where our tube lines cross is in Notting Hill, so we tried to find a nice pub in that area. I found a pub on the internet called the Churchill Arms. When we arrived at the pub we couldn’t believe our eyes. I think this is by far the most decorated pub I ever seen! It’s one of my favourite pubs in London.

 

CHEZ ELLES

Everybody knows Brick Lane is thé curry street of London. Between all the curry restaurants however there’s a little French restaurant called ‘Chez Elles’. The interior is very idyllic, with birdcages all over— including little fake birds—and a lot of flower patterns. It has exactly the atmosphere of a picturesque French restaurant, which is only reinforced by the staff and most of the customers speaking French. We took the charcuterie platter as a starter which was really delicious. As a main dish I had the steak which melted on my tongue. On a second visit, I also tasted the steak tartare which was perfectly cut and prepared. I can safely say this is one of my favourite London restaurants. It’s only just a pity that it is far away from where I live.