I still remember walking along Belgrade’s main street holding my grandmothers’ hand and watching life go by. At one point she told me to pay attention to the beautiful façades surrounding us: “Every building tells a different story. Each shows the enormous effort made by its creators”. I was 12 and though I didn’t really understand what she was saying, I knew someday I would become an architect.
Architecture and Travel
After graduating as an Architect and Urban Planner from the University of Belgrade, I worked for different offices both in Belgrade and Barcelona. However, I got tired of spending 8 hours a day staring at a screen and drawing faceless projects. I only felt alive when traveling! Therefore, a few years ago I decided to merge my two biggest passions, Architecture and Travel. That’s how Happy Frog Travels was born.
Architecture tells a story
Just like when I was a kid, buildings still fascinate me. Now I have the privilege of traveling around the world, so I am constantly learning about new styles, colors, shapes and materials. I believe that architecture tells the story of a place and its inhabitants. What are the different forces that lead to a building or a style are just some of the questions I ask myself.
Three dimensional thinking
I tend to think in three dimensions, so I’m a huge fan of modern architecture. Visiting a contemporary building and strolling about elaborate spaces, turns me on. At the same time historical buildings and cities amaze me. I day dream and picture myself at that time, imagining life as it used to be. That’s what I am trying to convey with our website.
Personal point of view
Here we’ll explore architecture and travel from a personal point of view. Our aim is to translate what you get from a building or a specific architectural style. Likewise, we’ll dwell on how current societies dialogue with their buildings. How they affect and shape each other. In this section together we’ll discuss about unique countries, fantastic cities and impressive buildings.
Architecture of Georgia through the Centuries
Like most of you I didn’t know much about Georgian architecture. I had no clue of the country’s rich past. Exactly, Georgia is one of the culturally most diverse countries in the world. The Persian, Russian, and Ottoman cultures can be seen all around the country. Even more, locals have somehow managed to incorporate these different influences into a unique style. From its amazing capital Tbilisi, to the colorful seaside resort of Batumi, Georgian architecture will surprise you. In Georgia you will find ancient stone towers, monasteries, medieval fortresses, traditional houses and a vast collection of neoclassical, art nouveau, cool socialist and ultra-modern architecture.
Heritage Cities of Southeast Asia
Before going to Southeast Asia I always wondered if its urban areas still had any heritage. I knew about the archeological sites of Angkor Wat and Borobudur, but I didn’t know what to expect from its cities. I happily discovered that most of the region’s big cities have fantastic historical architecture. Even more, there are some incredible well preserved historical towns too. With the exception of Thailand, every country was at one point a colony of one or several European countries (sad but true). Therefore, you can see French heritage in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, British in Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore, Dutch in Indonesia and Spanish in the Philippines. On top of that, Chinese and Japanese heritage is everywhere.
Architecture of Brasília: a traveler’s perspective
Brasília is a perfect example of a XX Century planned city. In 1956, Lucio Costa won the state organized competition to design and build a city to attract people to the centre of Brazil. He planned a city in the shape of a cross with two main axis intersecting in the center. A young Oscar Niemeyer designed most of the public buildings and became a legend. As you can see from the pictures, Brasilia is truly beautiful, but how does it function as a city? After 5 days there, I realized that the city lacks the most important ingredient: social interaction. Brasília’s streets were made for cars and there are no public spaces, except for the nice green areas around buildings.
Stockholm Metro System
One of my biggest passions is street art. To me, the gorgeous Stockholm Metro Stations feel like giant pieces of street art. While in Stockholm I took a guided tour around the Metro and learned a bit about its history, names and designs. I liked it so much, that I spent an extra day visiting far away stations. Though the stations are pretty, I think the whole ‘The Biggest Art Gallery in the World’ thing is a bit exaggerated. Some stations have basic designs with different colored tiles. At the same time, I think the symbolism used in many stations is very clever. Many bear the name of their location and designed in a way to evoke the purpose of such place. Likewise, I enjoyed seeing how design concepts change over time.
Cities of the Hanseatic League
On my extensive travels around Central and Northern Europe I noticed that many places looked similar. I saw plenty of multi-storey buildings with steep roofs and crow-stepped gables made of red and brown brick across Germany, The Netherlands, Poland, Belgium and the Baltic States. It was obvious to my eyes that something linked these beauties: they had all belonged to the so-called Hanseatic League. During the late middle ages and early modern times, this association of trade cities stretched all along the Baltic Sea coast. Though most were port towns on the Baltic coast, their influence reached Norway and Russia. Six are my all time favorite Hanseatic heritage cities.
Skopje, Macedonia’s Bizarre Capital
I remember a book I read while studying architecture that talked about Las Vegas as a bad example of architecture and urban planning. I would have never imagined that a city near my hometown could be a much better example: Skopje. It’s hard to believe that the city was beautifully reconstructed after the devastating earthquake of 1963. How could they do it so bad this time around? The idea was to revamp the city with an exaltation of Alexander the Great. Called Skopje 2014 it ended as a mixture of false grandeur and bad taste. However, not all is bad. The city has a very nice Old Town and is surrounded by green mountains.
Golden Ring of Russia
A group of historical cities and towns close to Moscow called the Golden Ring of Russia is my biggest Russian discovery. The Ring refers to over a dozen cities located along a circular route through different districts. They all have in common a vast medieval heritage that includes churches, monasteries, Kremlins and citadels. Nevertheless, these cities and towns have different sizes and structures. While some are more like villages, others are relatively large cities. Since different lists mentioned different places, Soviet Authorities decided to create an official list with only eight cities. Our favorites are the smallest ones: fairy tale towns where time seems to have stopped.
The Majestic Open Blocks of New Belgrade
I grew up in New Belgrade, the post-war district located between the two old cities of Belgrade and Zemun. Unlike Old Belgrade’s traditional streets with buildings full of content, in New Belgrade everything is upside down. Huge streets surround the buildings with nothing but green spaces within the blocks. As time passed, New Belgrade gradually became one of Belgrade’s most important areas. A massive densification process is filling up the remaining few empty blocks. This goes against New Belgrade’s original concept of an open city that breaths. This post is a resume of my master thesis ‘The evolution of open block in new Belgrade’.
7 Hip Chinese Megacities you’ll fall in love with
China inspired me to the bone! I loved everything about it. To be honest, I did expect great nature and ancient architecture. However, I didn’t think I would like its megacities. For the love of God, what a brilliant surprise! The big cities I visited are full of historical heritage, beautiful parks and super-cool ultramodern towers. These towers showcase China’s impressive economic growth: those built 10 or 15 years ago seem pretty basic, but the newer ones are truly gorgeous. Additionally, I was amazed at how pedestrian friendly these cities are, with wide sidewalks, long pedestrian streets and many green areas. One of them has an outstanding natural site right in its center.
Catalan Modernism in Barcelona: 15 must see buildings
Catalan modernism was the topic of my first architecture post. I’ve been living in Barcelona for the last 12 years admiring its beautiful architecture. In my opinion nothing distinguishes Barcelona as much as the so called ‘Catalan Modernist’ buildings. These are the Catalan interpretation of the world known Art Nouveau style, and there are tones of them all over the city. In Barcelona buildings have more decorations, colors and shapes than anywhere else. In fact, these masterpieces blend Gothic and Moorish architecture perfectly with Catalan creativity. The style was dominant at the turn of the 20th Century when Barcelona was flourishing, thus its lavish design.