And finally…

A (sometimes) light hearted look at the weird and wonderful world of construction

And finally… Bloomberg opens mysterious Roman temple below new European HQ in London

A new visitor centre showcasing the archaeological remains of an ancient and mysterious temple to the Latin god Mithras has opened under Bloomberg’s new European headquarters in the heart of the City of London next to the Bank of England.

The London Mithraeum became an instant public sensation when it was first discovered by chance in 1954 on a World War II bomb site.

Up to 30,000 people per day queued to see the temple to Mithras before it was dismantled and reassembled 100 metres (330 ft) away from its original location so it could remain open to the public once post-war rebuilding on the site was complete.

Now, under the guidance of Foster and Partners, Bloomberg’s project has seen the ruins returned to their original site and restored, deep beneath the financial software, data, and media company’s vast new base.

Today visitors to the temple can descend through steep, black stone-lined stairs to seven metres below the City’s streets where nearly 2,000 years ago, when Londinium was founded by the Romans and the then smelly, but now long lost, river Walbrook once flowed marking the limits of the empire’s first settlement in Britain.

Bloomberg London

The temple to Mithras, the virile young god from the east, was built next to the Walbrook nearly 200 years after the first Romans came to England and a century after the mysterious cult of Mithras first appeared in Rome in the 1st century AD.

It had spread across the empire over the next 300 years, predominantly attracting merchants, imperial administrators and soldiers who worshipped him by the light of flaring torches in underground temples, where the blood of sacrificial animals soaked into the mud floor.

Meetings were held in the private, dark and windowless temples which were often constructed below ground.

The mythological scene of Mithras killing a bull within a cave, the ‘tauroctony’ was at the heart of the cult, and its full meaning is still subject of much speculation.

The reconstruction of his rites below Bloomberg’s building includes the soundtrack of shuffling sandaled feet, and voices chanting in Latin the names of the levels of initiates taken from graffiti on a temple in Rome.

The sounds accompany visitors as they descend deep below the modern financial giant’s sprawling new structure where they are confronted with more atmospheric audio, lights and misty haze to bring the ruin back to life.

Michael R. Bloomberg, Founder, Bloomberg LP said: “London has a long history as a crossroads for culture and business, and we are building on that tradition. As stewards of this ancient site and its artefacts, we have a responsibility to preserve and share its history. And as a company that is centred on communication – of data and information, news and analysis – we are thrilled to be part of a project that has provided so much new information about Roman London. We hope London Mithraeum Bloomberg SPACE will be enjoyed by generations to come.”

Bloomberg’s new site, which has taken seven years to build, occupies 3.2 acres and provides approximately 1.1 million square feet of sustainable office space, two new public spaces featuring specially commissioned works of art, a retail arcade that will reinstate an ancient Roman travel route, as well as the subterranean London Mithraeum Bloomberg SPACE itself.

And finally… Montreal honours Leonard Cohen with 11,000-square feet mural

Leonard Cohen MontrealA massive 11,000-square feet Leonard Cohen mural was inaugurated in downtown Montreal this week to mark the one-year anniversary of the singer’s death.

Artists El Mac, Gene Pendon and the MU collective based their work off a photograph that was originally taken by Lorca Cohen in 2008.

Co-founder of MU, Elizabeth-Ann Doyle, said: “Leonard Cohen represents Montreal. He is the ultimate Montrealer! He rallies us, he resembles us, in our quest for freedom, in our search of humanity, in our humour. Leonard Cohen is all of us! It’s Montreal!”

Leonard Cohen’s manager Robert Kory and Lorca Cohen were present at the unveiling of this larger-than-life work of art.

And finally… ‘Weird’ Chinese architecture continues with crab-shaped museum

crab-museum-china-gudsolA Chinese city has built a museum that looks like a crab.

The three-storey museum, designed to resemble the famous Chinese mitten crab, will introduce the crustacean’s living habitat and celebrate the locals’ tradition of eating the shellfish.

The stainless steel and stands in the wide of 75 meters and 16 meters high, is expected to open late next year in Suzhou, in the Jiangsu Province.

The building is scheduled to offer recreational and entertainment facilities in the second half of 2018 and will serve as a venue for crab-related activities.

Last year, the Chinese government took steps to forbid the construction of “bizarre” and “odd-shaped” buildings that are devoid of character or cultural heritage.

This followed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s irritation at “weird architecture” back in 2014.

And finally… Trumped

trump-scotland-nDonald Trump’s five-star golf resort in Aberdeenshire is among a number of courses that could face severe flooding by the middle of this century, according to a study.

The Sunday Times reported Ordnance Survey research predicts the coast adjacent to the Trump International Golf Links resort, north of Aberdeen, will recede by tens of metres over the next two or three decades.

It raises concerns that Mr Trump’s course, once described by the US president as the “best in the world”, could be flooded from the north.

About a sixth of Scotland’s 600 golf courses are located on the coast, including the Old Course at St Andrews and Royal Troon in Ayrshire.

Other sites at risk include Montrose Golf Links, according to the study.

The Dynamic Coast project has studied coastlines dating back to the 1890s to make predictions for the next 30 years.

The newspaper reports Scotland’s seashore could recede by about 7% by 2050, threatening about £400m worth of coastal property, roads and infrastructure.

About 600 natural heritage sites are also estimated to be at risk.

Mr Trump pulled the US out of the Paris climate agreement in June and has speculated man-made climate change might be a “hoax” made up by the Chinese.

And finally… Dundee’s Royal Arch among lost monuments to be brought back to life

TriumphalArchimageArtists from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design have used the latest technology to bring Dundee’s much-missed Royal Arch back to life for this year’s NEoN Digital Arts festival.

Dr Alice Watterson and Dr Kieran Baxter combined their archaeological and animation skills to recreate the Arch in digital form. The meticulously reconstructed models can be viewed on the site of the original Arch at Slessor Gardens by anyone who downloads the Zappar app on their mobile device and then scans the engravings in the paving slabs marking the original footprints of the Arch.

NEoN Digital Art Festival, with support from the National Lottery through Creative Scotland’s Open Project Fund, will showcase the work of artists working at the forefront of digital media. More than 25 exhibitions, events, performances, screenings and talks around the theme of Media Archaeology will be open to the public at spaces across Dundee from 7-12 November.

A number of NEoN’s projects use digital reconstruction techniques that present artists and archaeologists with engaging and dynamic methods for storytelling, visualisation and research. World expert in this area, Professor Sarah Kenderdine, will speak about this at the NEoN symposium on Friday 10 November, alongside Dr Watterson.

The magnificent Royal Arch was built to commemorate an 1844 visit to the city by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The Arch was demolished in 1964, as part of land reclamation work required for the construction of the Tay Road Bridge.

Drs Watterson and Baxter accessed images of the Arch from the archives of DC Thomson, the University of Dundee Archives, and Dundee City Council and used photogrammetry, LIDAR scanning and digital animation to produce the augmented reality installation, which will be available to view from today as part of NEoN.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to explore Dundee’s lost architecture through augmented reality,” said University of Dundee Research Fellow Dr Sarah Cook, co-curator of the NEoN programme.

“Alice Watterson is an archaeologist specialising in illustration and digital survey and she is currently exploring the use of digital reconstruction as an interpretive tool, focusing on blending digital data with creative practice to generate original interpretative content.

“Kieran Baxter is a creative practitioner specialising in web design, aerial photography and visualisation. Together, they have created digital assets that bring to life four moments in the history of the Arch, including its recreation in cardboard last summer!”

“In the NEoN exhibition we also have work by artist Moreshin Allahyari, who has created 3D printed objects based on reconstructions of 12 statues from the Roman period city of Hatra and Assyrian artefacts from Nineveh, destroyed by ISIS in 2015. Visitors can also try out a virtual-reality installation recreating a work by the late video artist David Hall, a pioneer in the field of media art, created by DJCAD alumna Rhoda Ellis and DJCAD media archivist Adam Lockhart.”

More information is available at www.northeastofnorth.com.

The ZAPPAR app is available for free from the App Store or Google Play Store.

And finally…90 year-old completes world’s most expensive ever office building deal

'The  Center' (left) peeks through the Hong Kong clouds.

‘The Center’ (left) peeks through the Hong Kong clouds.

A 73-storey office tower in Hong Kong has been sold to a Chinese consortium in what is the highest transaction ever recorded for a single office building.

CK Asset Holdings, owned by billionaire and Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-Shing, sold the “The Center” for HK$40.2 billion (£4.98bn).

Li, who turns 90 next July, has been seeking to sell the building for at least a year.

According to property experts CBRE, rents for prime offices in Hong Kong’s financial district are already the most expensive in the world at £206 a square foot.

Following the deal, shares in CK Asset Holding closed the Thursday session higher by 3.55 percent.

According to analysis by financial research company Dealogic, the sale easily eclipses the previous record of £2.25bn paid in 2016 for the Century Link complex in Shanghai.

A sale that was also made by Mr Li.

The buyer of the building is identified on the official market announcement as “C.H.M.T. Peaceful Development Asia Property Limited,” incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.

The identities behind the purchasing vehicle are not officially revealed in filings, but the South China Morning Post has reported that the consortium’s largest shareholder is Beijing-based China Energy Reserve & Chemicals Group.

In turn, the Chinese Communist party is reported to have a sizable stake in the energy firm.

And finally…city fits lampposts with airbags to save ‘smartphone zombies’

Lamppost 1

(Image courtesy of KFV Austria)

Officials in the Austrian city of Salzburg have taken novel steps to address the increasing numbers of people injuring themselves by walking into lampposts while peering into the screens of their smartphones by putting airbags around the uprights.

Locally, the word ‘Smombies’ has even been coined to refer to people who come-a-cropper while paying more attention to their phone than their surroundings.

One in five pedestrians is reportedly at risk from a distraction caused by smartphones according to local research and the city council says that putting airbags on the lampposts is a way of signposting the fact that people need to be more careful when using their smartphones and walking around town.

KFV expert Martin Pfanner, said: “We are of the opinion that when people see this very public warning in the form of lamppost airbags of the dangers of not paying attention, they will change their behaviour.”

Local media interviewed people who confirmed that on seeing the lampposts it reminded them to take more care, and they stuffed their smartphones into their pockets.

Pfanner added that the situation is so severe that it is now pedestrians who are involved in more accidents than anyone else on the city streets, including cyclists, moped drivers and car drivers.

He said that the lamppost airbags are necessary because in terms of accidents, 40 per cent of the injured pedestrians were hurt because they were distracted at the time of the injury.

And finally…Scottish mountains up for ‘adoption’

Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis, the UK’s tallest mountain, is among four Scottish peaks being offered for “adoption” in one-acre plots as a gift for Christmas.

The John Muir Trust is inviting outdoors lovers to raise funds to be used to preserve the landscape of the famous peaks.

Ben Nevis in Lochaber, Perthshire’s “Fairy Hill” Schiehallion, dramatic Bla Bheinn on Skye and Ladhar Bheinn in Knoydart are being offered in one-acre plots at a price of £25 a year.

The scheme, launched last year, has already proven a resounding success, with hundreds of acres snapped up for adoption.

Daisy Clark, of the John Muir Trust, said: “For those who love Scotland’s world-famous mountain landscapes, this could be the ideal Christmas gift. Every Adopt an Acre gift purchased will help care for an acre of wild mountain landscape for a year by maintaining footpaths, enhancing the landscape and protecting wildlife habitats.

“It’s ideally suited for anyone who loves nature and the outdoors.”

Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the British Isle at 4,411ft.

Schiehallion derives from the Gaelic name Sidh Chailleann – “Fairy Hill of the Caledonians” and stands 3,553ft.

Bla Bheinn, or Blaven, is an eastern outlier of the Black Cuillin on the Isle of Skye, reaching 3,044ft at the highest point.

And Ladhar Bheinn is Scotland’s most westerly mainland Munro, reaching 3,346ft.

And finally…Pictish carving found at £35m A9/A85 project

Workmen on Perth & Kinross Council’s £35 million A9/A85 project recently uncovered a large carved stone whilst excavating part of the site.

Contractors Balfour Beatty stopped works in the area to allow archaeologists from Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust and Culture Perth & Kinross to inspect the stone and the site of its discovery.

The stone was identified by Mark Hall, of Perth Museum & Art Gallery, (Culture Perth & Kinross), as displaying a particular kind of Pictish carving not previously known in the Perth and Kinross area. The carving is thought to be extremely significant as very few stones carved with this particular type of image have been found in Scotland and its discovery identifies the importance of the local area in Pictish times.

Pitchish AF

Similar Pictish stones have been discovered in Aberdeenshire, the Highlands and Islands and Shetland. These all show single figures with grotesque faces and holding one or more weapons.

The new addition from Perth and Kinross shows a figure walking right to left, holding a spear in his right hand. The weapon is typical of spears of the mid first millennium AD. In his left hand he holds a club or a staff however this is unclear.

He appears to be wearing a cloak and shoes and has a very pronounced hair style, with a shaven front scalp. The figure’s face is obscured by wear to the stone but he seems to have had a large nose.

No Pictish archaeological sites are known in the immediate vicinity of where the new carving was found but the stone does suggest the presence of a powerful noble locally. The fearsome figure probably served to warn travellers and visitors that they were approaching his residence or territory.

The study of the carving and what it can reveal about life in Pictish Scotland will continue. The Scottish Treasure Trove has been notified and the carving will be allocated to a museum in due course.

After an inspection of the find spot, no further archaeological works were considered necessary and the roadworks have resumed.

The A9/A85 scheme is the first phase of the Perth Transport Futures Project which started on site in October 2016, and is due to be completed in March 2019.

Leader of Perth & Kinross Council, Councillor Ian Campbell said: “I am led to believe Pictish symbol stones come in many shapes and sizes, and date broadly to the sixth-eighth centuries AD.

“I understand very little is known about the purpose of Pictish stones and the real meaning of the symbols they carry. In terms of their function, theories include their serving as grave markers or memorials to Pictish nobles, or their standing as territorial markers.

“I look forward to hearing what the experts conclude from their examination of this clearly fascinating stone.”

David Strachan of Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust added: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank the finders of the carving for drawing it to our attention.

“This is a really significant find as there are very few such stones known in Scotland, it’s a signal of the importance of the area in Pictish times.”

And finally…first phase of massive Chinese virtual reality theme park nears completion

VR

China is on course to complete the first phase of its massive virtual reality sci-fi theme park complete with huge 53 metre Transformer statue,  by Christmas.

Work on the East Valley of Science and Fantasy has been underway in southwest China in Guiyang, the capital city of Guizhou Province.

Its first phase, called ‘Alien Base,’ is scheduled to be ready in December.

Slaying dragons, going on UFO trips and communicating with aliens are just some of the VR activities planned for the park, the Daily Mail newspaper has reported.

The theme park site is part of a larger project being masterminded by the Shenzhen VR Industry Federation hosting 1/3 of all VR companies in China.

Astonishing images of the ground-breaking virtual reality theme park due to complete soon have recently been revealed.

One of the most impressive features is a gigantic Transformer statue which has been built with 750 tons of steel, the weight of two Boeing 747 planes.

The theme park attraction is part of a massive 1.3-sq km, 10-billion-yuan ($1.52 billion) project being developed by the Oriental Times Media Corp’s animation unit which is listed on the Shenzhen stock market.

However, the new venture will be devoted to virtual reality movie making, with a cutting-edge media research and development centre.

A spokesman for the park revealed that VR helmets and other gadgets will be handed out to visitors so they can interact with the environment. The VR site will give players a more lifelike feeling than playing video games.

Additionally, the park will feature China’s first VR roller coaster and 13 pavilions showcasing different UFOs, which can help children explore outer space in a digitally immersive way.