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Category archive: Roof clutter

Sunday October 07 2018

If I had a pound for every time someone’s told me that they like to photo The Wheel from Tottenham Court Road, I wouldn’t have any more pounds than I already have, because it’s just me that likes to do this.  But, I really like it.

I’m talking about photos like this one:

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Great light there, don’t you think?  It could be an oil painting.  Exactly as it came out of the camera, no Photoshop(clone)ing.  That dates from April of 2015.  As you can see, that weird entrance to Tottenham Court Road Tube station was still under construction.

Here’s a couple more, taken in 2016 …:

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... and in 2017:

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That crane there should have told me that something ominous was in the works, but actually I was taken by surprise.

Take a look at what the same scene looked like today:

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That’s right.  The Wheel is about to blotted out of this particular picture.

I moved nearer, which moved the top of the Wheel down to the bottom gap in the structure:

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I took a final close up:

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And that may well be the last time that I ever photo The Wheel from Tottenham Court Road.

Saturday October 06 2018

On Thursday September 27th, I photoed a leaning crane, from the top of the John Lewis Roof Garden.  But that wasn’t all I photoed.  Of course not.  I wouldn’t go to a spot like that and take just the one photo.

A few more views:

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My usual preoccupations.  Big Things.  Cranes (including window cleaning cranes).  Roof clutter.  Scaffolding.

Can you spot Big Ben?  Clue: scaffolding.

Thursday October 04 2018

Yesterday I attended a Master Class at the Royal College of Music, in which five singing students, GodDaughter 2 among them, were publicly instructed by distinguished tenor and vocal teacher Dennis O’Neil.  It was fascinating.  He spent most of the time focussing on the art that conceals art, which meant that I couldn’t really understand what he was saying.  The minutiae of sounds and syllables, and of where the sound comes from, in the head or in the body.  All like a foreign language to me, but it was fascinating to expand the range of my ignorance, so to speak.  I am now ignorant about a whole lot more than I was.

This all happened way down at the bottom of the RCM, in the Britten Theatre (which you go down to get into but the theatre itself stretches up to the top again), On the way back up the numerous stairs to the street level entrance, I saw, through a very grubby window, and photoed, this:

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Okay the window is indeed very grubby, but, you know, how about that?  All that roof clutter, buried in the middle of the College.  Although, I think that this particular clutter is part of Imperial College, which is next door.

Backstage architecture, you might say.

The Royal College of Music is as amazing an accumulation of architectural chaos as I have ever experienced.  It must take about half of your first year to learn where everything is, and years later you are probably still getting surprises.  I never knew this was here!  Etc.

That corridor made of windows, bottom left, with the light in it, is something I have several times walked along, to a canteen or a bar or some such thing, I think.  By which I mean that I think I have walked along it, but that this could be quite wrong.  Like I say: architectural chaos.  I took a look at the place in Google Maps 3D, but I still have only the dimmest Idea of where I was on the map.

The night before, I was at the Barbican Centre, also for some music, and that’s almost as architecturally chaotic as the inside of the RCM.  But there, they don’t have the excuse that the architectural chaos accumulated over about a century of continuous improvisation.  At the Barbican, the chaos was all designed and built in one go.

Friday September 21 2018

The high point, literally, of the expedition that GodDaughter2 and I made to Kew Gardens back in August was our exploration of the Great Pagoda. 

From the top of the Great Pagoda, you can see the Big Things of Central London.  But what the Great Pagoda itself looks like is also worth examining.

Here is an early view we had of it:

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And here is how it looked when we got closer:

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The Daily Mail describes the Great Pagoda as Britain’s First Skyscraper.

Now look how it looked when we got closer still:

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So, what are those sticky-outy things on the corners of each sticky-outy roof?

That’s right, dragons.  And we’re not talking merely inflated dragons.  These are solid looking and scary.  You couldn’t kill these dragons with a mere pin prick, and you wouldn’t dare to try.

Most of the Great Pagoda dragons look like this:

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We discovered when we got there that the recent restoration of this Great Pagoda had, only a few weeks before our visit, been completed.  We got very lucky with that.

Read more about these dragons, and about the Pagoda that they now guard, in this Guardian report.

This Great Pagoda, London’s very first Big Thing, was built by Sir Wiiliam Chambers in 1762.  The dragons were a feature of the original Pagoda, but in 1784 they were removed.  Being made of wood, and following a burst of wet weather, they had started to rot.

Wikipedia says that Kew Gardens was adopted as a national botanical garden in 1840.  Would that be when the Pagoda was opened to the general public?  Whenever exactly that was, Kew Gardens and the Great Pagoda have been what we now call visitor attractions for quite a while now.

During World War 2, the Great Pagoda was used to test bombs.  You can still see one of the holes they made in all the floors, to allow the bombs to fall.  Keeping that for everyone to see now is a nice touch, I think.

Kew Gardens contains lots of greenery, and green stuff on sticks.  What do they call those things?  Trees.  Kew Gardens has lots and lots of trees, of many different brands.

So, on the left here, the hole in the floor.  On the right there, the seat made from many trees:

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And in the middle, the seat, seen through the hole.

But back to those dragons.  The old rotting dragons have now been almost entirely replaced by 3D printed dragons, which look solid but which are actually far lighter than the timer originals.

On the lowest roof, right near the ground, there was a different sort of dragon, which looked like this:

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I wonder what the story was of that one, for there did indeed seem to be only one such blue dragon.  Had the original plan been to make all the dragons like that one?  But did its structural weakness cause them to abandon that plan, and go with the other darker green dragon with its scary red tongue, and with its rather more solid wings?  Don’t know, but whatever the story is, the winning dragon design is pretty good also.

Everything about how the Great Pagoda looks, inside as well as its exterior, says: class.  This is a visitor attraction that I warmly recommend.  There is no lift, not originally of course, and not now, but the steps, although quite numerous, are at a comfortably mild angle - rather than, say, like the ones in the Monument.  Even better, each flight of steps you go up causes you to reach another actual floor, of the sort you can stand on, with windows looking outwards.  So, oldies like me can go up two floors, say, and then have a comfortable breather, without blocking anyone else on the stairs.  If we are on the right floor, we can even use that multi-treed seat (see above).

The weather on the day that GD2 and I visited Kew Gardens was not perfect.  The dragons look rather dark and menacing in my photos.  But that look works, I think.  And as days out go, this day out was pretty much perfect.

Saturday September 15 2018

I was summoned to Chateau Samizdata (which is in South Kensington these days) for lunch today, which meant that when I walked past that Bartok statue at lunchtime today, the light was behind me, rather than in front of me and behind Bartok.

So I was able to have another go at photoing him:

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But with rather mixed results.  The change in lighting made a lot less difference than I had been hoping.

I spent the late afternoon and the evening (a) doing stuff at home, and (b) keeping track of the climaxes of two competitions, this one, which was won by pianist Eric Lu, and this one, which was won by the Worcestershire cricket team.  Which means Worcestershire have had a mixed season, having also been relegated from Division One of the County Championship.  It was like them winning the FA cup but also getting relegated from the Premier League.  However, getting relegated from Division One of the Country Championship makes far less financial difference than dropping out of the Premier League.  So Worcester are probably now pretty happy.  Counties doing well in one format but badly in another is quite frequent.  They all say that, of course, they want to win everything.  But in reality, they prioritise this and neglect that.

Tonight, Radio 3 played the last two Leeds Piano Competition concerto performances, the three others having been played last night.  I will be checking out the performance of Beethoven 1 from last night, because, while they were waiting for them to pick the various prize winners, they played part of a chamber music performance by the guy who had played Beethoven 1, which sounded excellent.  Also, this guy came second in the overall competition, so he’s pretty good.

Tonight’s Beethoven 4, from winner Lu, was excellent, albeit somewhat more subdued than I think Beethoven had in mind when he composed this piece.  Lu’s was a very “private” performance of what was actually, I think, written as a rather public piece (about private feelings).  But that’s very much a matter of (my) opinion.  Given what Lu was doing, he did it very well.  Besides which, who would want all concerto performances to sound the same?  Beethoven might have been surprised by Lu’s delicate and subtle performance, but that doesn’t mean he’d have minded.  On the contrary, he would probably be amazed and delighted that people were still playing the thing at all.

Tonight’s other concerto, the Schumann, was similar in artistic intention to Lu’s Beethoven 4, but to my ear it involved a few too many wrong notes.  The Radio 3 commentators didn’t mention these wrong notes, but I don’t think I imagined them.  I think they chose to ignore them.

Bartok wrote three Piano Concertos, each very fine in their contrasting ways.  None of these were played in the final of the Leeds Piano Competition.

LATER: I’ve just been listening to another county game, just started on Sept 18th, and I realise that the piece I linked to about Worcester getting relegated was dated 2015.  Theoretically, they could still avoid relegation this year.  But they’re not going to.  They’ve just been bowled out for 94 by Essex, and they are about thirty points shy of safety, with Yorks and Lancs both having to cock it up big time for them to escape.  As it is, Worcs and Lancs both look doomed to the trop.  But, in theory, Worcs are still in with a chance of avoiding this.

I am very sorry to have misled you, in the unlikely event that I did, and that you care.

Saturday September 08 2018

Earlier in the week, on my way to St James’s Park tube, and again on my way back home from St James’s Park tube, I photoed what I described to Google as a “concrete pump”.

This concrete pump was helping to build a clutch of apartment blocks where the old New Scotland Yard used to be, before New Scotland Yard moved to a new New Scotland Yard, back where the original Scotland Yard used once to be.

I got enough images to suggest that a “concrete pump” is indeed what this extraordinary contraption is, but not enough to suggest that I had named the contraption correctly, using the preferred words of those who deploy it.

Nevertheless, enjoy.  I did, especially the close-ups of the joints.

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All this, just to be able to squirt concrete from a lorry into a hole.  (I’m guessing, from the invisibility of building action behind all the solid fences, that his concrete was for the foundations.  This being where concrete, as opposed to steel on its own, still seems to be essential.) And with a big long arm like that one, with all its joints, I’m guessing it can reach all sorts of complicated and out-of-the-way spots.  (If you guess that I do a lot of guessing when I see something like this, then you guess right.)

There must be a reason why they don’t use a flexible tube, but have to make do with a rigid tube, but with the occasional rotating joint.  So elaborate are those joints that they end up looking biological rather than merely mechanical.  So, as with the previous posting, also about technology rather than biology, I have categorised this posting as, among other things, “other creatures”.  (I’ve also added “sculpture” to the category list.  Does regular sculpture come any better than this?  Sometimes maybe, but not very often.)

The concrete itself must be a marvel of blending and general wonderfulness.  Able to travel as a near-liquid along this elaborate pipe, under (guess) great pressure (another guess: that’s why the pipe has to be made of metal rather than of something bendier), but then able, at exactly the right time, to solidify in the deep cylindrical holes into which it is squirted.  At which point it has to stay solid for ever.  (Is something added, at the critical moment, to make it solidify?)

There is much that is very wrong with the world.  This sort of stuff is what is very right with the world.

Sunday August 26 2018

June 8th of this year was a good day for roof clutter.  In Pimlico:

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It’s the variety I like, and the mixture of the ancient (the chimney pots (including some quite superior ones)) and the modern (aerials), that I like.  The chimney pots are often very decorative on purpose, while the more modern technology is only decorative as a throw-away consequence of how it needs to be to do its various jobs.

In one of them, there is scaffolding.

It helped, at lot, that the weather was so nice.  In my opinion, almost anything looks good in really nice weather,

Monday August 20 2018

Yes, earlier this evening, my mate Darren arranged for me to drop by at the Oval to witness day 2 of the first Day/Night game of four day county cricket to be staged at the Oval.  However, all I have the energy to show you for now is this new-to-me Big Thing alignment, as seen from the very superior seats way up in the pavilion, where Surrey members like Darren (and his plus one) can sit.

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Not surprisingly, these superior seats are one of my favourite spots in London (therefore in the world), because you can see things like the above, and cricket.

What we mostly observe in the above photo is the Walkie Talkie.  But behind we also see the newly erected Scalpel.  And, eagle-eyed viewers will also be able to discern, from two very small clues, the Gherkin.  Yes, that is definitely the Gherkin.

What the thing between the chimney pots in the foreground and the Walkie Talkie is, I do not know.

I especially like the two window cleaning cranes on the top of the Walkie Talkie.

Sleep well.  I am definitely about to do this myself.

Sunday August 19 2018

Earlier this evening I did some laundretting, and while I was there, this showed up outside:

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I still photo taxis with adverts on them, and I especially liked this one, advertising this..

It made me think of the last time I went up to the top of the Shard, just over a year ago.

So I took a browse through the photos I took that day, and this time around, this one particularly struck me:

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That was cropped to confine itself to the one building, and photoshop(clone)ed to resist the dullness of the day and general fogginess of the original.

Part of me wants to say that this is a classic case of the behind-the-scenes bit of a building, a chunk of it that you are not supposed to look at and get all aesthetic about.  It is what it is.

But I actuallly think that this is the facade of the building that the architects of it were most proud.  There is an exuberance about this roof, done in the equipment-as-decoration style, that is utterly lacking in the rest of the building.  The “official” bits of which are about as dull as dullness can get.  They didn’t have the budget to go full Lloyds Building, all over.  But they were able to go crazy on the roof, because the politicians whose job it was to tell them to redo the design more boringly didn’t give the roof any attention.  They thought they were building a machine for studying in, but only on the roof were they able to go mad with “expressing” that machineness.

I reckon they were delighted that the Shard was later put right next to this block of boredom with a great roof, enabling thousands of folks to gaze down on their favourite bit..  Gotcha, boredom police!

Okay, just a thought, and a thought that could well be wrong.  Maybe they really didn’t care how the roof looked.  But take a look through these photos of this mostly very dull slab, mostly taken from street level, of course, and see if you don’t share my suspicions.

Thursday August 02 2018

On August 2nd 2013, exactly five years ago today, there was a clutch of orange umbrellas above Lower Marsh.  (Also (see bottom right), 240 Blackfriars Road was under construction.) I don’t believe I mentioned these umbrellas at the time I photoed them, and now, I can’t google my way to any sort of explanation of them.  But, I think I recall investigating them at the time, and I think they were some kind of advert for an art gallery.  This guy agrees that these umbrellas were indeed there, then, but he doesn’t say anything about them either.

Anyway, here they are, as I photoed them then:

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The bottom left one looks to me like the head of some kind of oriental feline creature.

Sunday July 22 2018

When I recently went to France, there was a rail strike on.  I even took a picture of the strike, in the form of an electronic sign at St Pancras full of train cancellations:

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But, what happened to this strike?  Is it still going on?  Or has it finished?  If it has finished, who won?

I am none the wiser about the answers to these questions, but while seeking such answers, I came across this photo, of French trains, taken by someone looking down upon their roofs:

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Not much roof clutter to be seen there.  (See below.  This is now a preoccupation of mine.) Does the clutter on top of these trains not even exist?  Or, is it merely covered up?  (More research is needed.)

Saturday July 21 2018

6k has Flickred a wonderful little collection of photos he took on a recent expedition to France (he blogs about these here), of which this was one of my favourites:

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I particular like the extreme middle of this photo, which I have taken the liberty of cropping out and lightly sharpening:

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I love roof clutter.  So it’s no surprise that I also love rail clutter.  And France, so excellent at roof clutter, also does rail clutter exceptionally well.

Rail clutter embodies the exact same aesthetic contrast that roof clutter points to.  One part of what you are looking at is obsessed over, aesthetically.  The facade of a building is minutely contrived to look the way it should look.  And then on top of it, you can just shove up anything you like, to let out smoke, receive and send signals and generally do stuff on the roof.  Well, rail clutter is a lot like that.  The trains (especially the trains in France (and especially the high speed trains in France)) are aesthetically magnificent, or at least are intended to be are are considered to be by their creators (and I happen to agree with them).  Yet all around them is rail clutter, to feed the power into the trains, and this clutter is built in a totally functional manner, to do that job, no matter what kind of a jungle of mess that results in.

Let’s see what the photo-archive tells me about how this obsession played out on my own most recent expedition to France.

Here are two rail clutter photos, both featuring one of those beautiful trains, and both taken at Quimper railway station:

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On the left, you can pretend that the rail clutter isn’t there, if you really want to.  But on the right, the photo is photoed in such a way that you really can’t do that.  Look at that clutter!  I lined it all up with itself, just like 6k did in his rail clutter photo.

Here are a couple more photos of Quimper, taken from the footbridge over the main railway line off to the west of the city, right near where my hosts live, and in particular of the twin towers of Quimper Cathedral.  These two photos point to that same rail clutter aesthetic contrast by shoving it next to a cathedral, instead of next to a train.  But it’s the same point.  The cathedral has been obsessed about aesthetically for centuries.  The rail clutter just looks how it looks and to hell with that.

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But for me, perhaps most interesting of all, here are a couple of photos which point to a closely related phenomenon, which is the matter of clutter actually on the top of the trains.  That’s right.  Trains also, themselves, have roof clutter on their roofs:

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I remember noticing this phenomenon, pretty much for the first time (as in really noticing it), when I took this little clutch of photos.  From that same footbridge in Quimper.

I have the feeling that British trains are not so roof cluttered.  Memo to self: look into that.  But that can wait.  There’s been more than enough cluttertalk for this posting.

Saturday July 14 2018

Indeed:

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Photed by me in Warwick Way, this afternoon.

Thursday July 12 2018

Photoed by me last Monday, from the train on the way back from Denmark Hill (which is where I also photoed that helipad (better to scroll down to that)):

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The train being the explanation for that reflection, on the right there.

At the time, of course, I was merely going for that rather splendid Big Thing Alignment, of The Shard with The City Big Thing Cluster.  And at the time, I was merely regretting that it probably wouldn’t come out quite as sharply as I’d have liked, and so it proved.

What I was not going for was a machine in a foreground with the words “REACH FOR THE SK...” on its arm.  Presumably reach for the SKY.  Which is, I think, rather suitable.

Shame I didn’t quite get all of that little slogan, but I got enough for the photo to be worth showing here.

Saturday June 30 2018

Yesterday, before Gurrelieder, I had twenty minutes to fill, and ran up to the top of the RFH, and took photos.

This was one of my favourites, of a favourite London building, and a favourite other place to photo London buildings.

That’s Richard Seiffert’s One Kemble Street, with its seldom noted other than by me hairdo of roof clutter.  And lined up right in front of it, the ME Hotel Radio Bar, from which, a while back, I photoed those seven London bridges:

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There is also some older-school roof clutter to be seen there, in the form of a chimney array.  You see those a lot.  If you want to, that is.

The funny thing is, I didn’t need to be attending a concert in order to make this short climb.  I could just go to the RFH, go in, go up to that viewing spot, photo my photos, go down again, and leave.  Memo to self: do this, soon, and quite often.