March 28, 2004
The towers of Docklands

For the last week or more I have been neglecting this blog and doing other things, like writing for other blogs, and having something I don't normally have, which is a life. Today has been no exception, so it's photographic fobbing off time once again. I write in haste and reserve the right, even more than I usually do I mean, to change my mind about all that follows.

Here is a snap I took through a train window this afternoon, when on the way to have yet more life, with some friends and all their friends.

dockland.jpg

What you are looking at, through the greyness of what passes here for Spring (today being the day when the clocks all went forward an hour), is the nearest thing that London possesses to a skyscraper cluster. If you think these lumps are small and near, you are wrong. They are quite large and quite far away. The tallest one, with the pyramid hat on, is, I rather think, still the tallest tower in Europe. It certainly has been.

There are other buildings in London approximately as tall, and much better looking like the Gherkin. But these other towers sprout out of the general undergrowth like isolated trees in what is basically a cabbage patch. Here, in the Docklands, the trees have been planted next to each other and are quite numerous.

I'm glad. Lumpish thought these towers now are, they have at least established the principle. This is an official Tower Block Cluster, and that means that more towers will in the future be added, including some which are taller and prettier. The planning on the ground is corporate statism at its blandest and deadest. The buildings close up sparkle aesthetically only at night, when you can only see the lights.

I don't care. With ugly buildings, size matters. Small ugly buildings, such as were sprinkled all over London in the sixties, are atrocious. But large ugly buildings do, I think, impress. At least something big is happening, even if it isn't big and beautiful.

If London develops as I hope it will, future generations will probably look back on this cluster of lumps as everything that they are now (i.e. in the future) doing better than, just as Londoners now look at all those ugly, small, stupid little towers that were built in the sixties. But these eighties and nineties towers are now making that future possible, and I'm impressed.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:59 PM
Category: Architecture