Up, Up and Away

I love to travel and I have been fortunate enough to take tours offered by Smithsonian Journeys, the travel operation branch of the Washington, D.C. based museum. These tours have been the finest and most interesting I’ve taken in my nearly 40 years of traveling.

Even the tour I took with the Smithsonian to China, which started in the middle of the SARS scare (remember that? And don’t even ask me how empty the business section was on the flight from JFK to Tokyo) and was at mid-point when we invaded Iraq (what else in the world can take place in a two-week period, I remember thinking) was very interesting not least because it was the first time I had been back to Shanghai in 20 years or so and the change was jaw-dropping. I was completely blown away by the new, innovative architecture in the city, which had been more than dowdy the last time I’d been there in the early 1980s.

Because I have participated in its tours, I get a lot of promotional material from Smithsonian on tours it offers.

The thing that struck me in the recent United States and Canada tours brochure I received from them was the inclusion of a tour called Las Vegas Art and Architecture (which included a hard-hat tour with a project architect of the new CityCenter, the glass extravaganza going up now). Lots of great glass and metal design to see on that one.

And a new tour called What’s New in New York, which included tours of “green” buildings including Sir Norman Foster’s Hearst Tower (with in addition to its dramatic use of architectural glass and metal also features James Carpenter’s glass waterfalls), as well as new apartment towers by Jean Nouvel, Annabelle Seldorf and Robert A.M. Stern. And the piece de resistance for architectural glass and metal design a tour of Frank Gehry’s billowing glass headquarters for InterActiveCorp.

Well, I’d like to take them both, but unfortunately they are not in this year’s recreation budget. I’ve seen them from the outside, of course, and I’ll have to be content with that for now.

But if you’re interested, you can get all the details at www.SmithsonianJourneys.org.