Kobe, Japan, 8.1999, Shinkobe Oriental Hotel



Over about a 10-year period in the 1990s I did a lot of traveling, which involved periodic waiting around in hotels before and after meetings. I decided that on every trip I would execute a watercolor painting of the view through my hotel window regardless of the merits of the scene. I did not cheat by asking for a room with a view or changing rooms to obtain a better one, so a fair percentage of sketches were of parking lots, light wells and rooftop equipment. Sometimes it was not possible, so the record of a number of trips is missing. The sketches typically took about 30-45 minutes. The pictures shown here are chosen from about 80 available scenes. I have selected those that I think are most successful, but the viewer will see that many of the subjects are not those that would normally be chosen.


This method of choice results in a wide range and scale of subjects and also provides a random sample of the contemporary urban scene, not as conventionally seen by the pedestrian or from the air, but from 4 to 30 stories above the street.


The captions provide the location, the date, the hotel in which I was staying and occasionally an explanatory comment.



Denver, CO, December 1993, Embassy Suites: Akasaka, Tokyo, March 1995, Capitol Tokyu Hotel



Washington, DC, June 1994 (left) and July 1994 (right; views of the same building)



Anchorage, AK, November 1996, Sheraton Hotel: Washington, DC, May 1995, Hotel Lombardy



Icon: San Francisco, May 1995, Holiday Inn: Unknown: Shantou, China, May 1999, Golden Gulf



Chicago IL, July 1994: Sparks, NV, August 1997, Nugget Hotel



Ann Arbor, MI, November 1998, Holiday Inn, N. Campus: Guam, September 2000, Westin Hotel (the ocean colors are real)



Denver, CO, March 1996, Embassy Suites: Tokyo, July 1997, Yaesu Fujiya Hotel



Washington, DC, Lombardy Hotel, June 1995 (left) a fragment and August 1998 (right), 2000 Pennsylvania Avenue



Chicago, IL, July 1994, Marriott Hotel: Waseda, Tokyo, December 1997, Hotel Rihya



San Diego, CA, June 1996, Clarion Hotel: New York, NY, May 2000, Butler Hall, Columbia University



Vancouver, BC, July 1997, Blue Horizon Hotel: Acapulco, Mexico, June 1996, Acapulco Plaza Hotel



This panorama of Kobe was executed as three separate paintings on successive days in January 2000, at the Portopia Hotel, on the occasion of the 5th anniversary memorial service for victims of the January 17, 1995 earthquake.


On January 17, 1995, the Japanese city of Kobe and its surrounding region was hit by a massive earthquake. A major port city, with a population of 1.5 million, Kobe suffered over 4000 deaths, the collapse of 200,000 buildings, and the destruction of 150 quays in the port and fires that raged throughout the city. The total damage amounted to $100 billion, 2.5 % of Japanese GDP at the time.   


Kobe City is sited on a narrow strip of land between the ocean and a mountain range, so the city had to construct artificial islands in order to expand. The first, Port Island 1 is complete. Port Island 2 was under construction at the time of these visits. Port Island 3 was beginning construction and is now completed. It is the site of Kobe Airport.



Port Island 2 from the Portopia Hotael showing construction progress from December 1997 to January 1999.



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  1. Congratulations Chris. You’ve done it again! I have collected your Christmas/New Years greetings cards over many years now, for which I thank you. The subjects of this batch of watercolours have a very original slant – things many of us may see but never study or record. I recall suggesting (more than once) that you write a historical record of the achievements of BSD, but we all write while very few of us can paint watercolour sketches like you have consistently done. I am reminded of the watercolours of a fellow British architect, Sir Hugh Casson, with which I became acquainted when I was in college, but your work breaks with convention, and in so doing places you in a unique genre of watercolour artists. Thanks for the trip.

    > Reply
  2. Chris:

    Your work is amazing!!!

    > Reply
  3. Hi Chris – great work! I lived in Kobe Japan from 1992 to 1999 and I love your artwork. I would like to know if you sale your work and if so how might I go about purchasing a large print of the city view titled “Kobe, Japan, 8.1999, Shinkobe Oriental Hotel”?

    Hope to hear from you soon!

    Best & Happy New Year!

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