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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Architecture

Tuesday December 11 2018

Outside Westminster Abbey, in June of this year:

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The first is just the general scene.  Big Ben smothered in scaffolding in the distance, beyond Parliament Square.  Lots of people standing around, enjoying themselves, photoing each other.  And me first noticing a classic croucher photoer, in the middle.  Photo 2, I zoom in on the croucher photoer.  Photo 4 has me including my shadow in the composition, making three photoers in all.  Top left, a photoer’s shadow.  Then the croucher.  Then my shadow.  Nice.  Or so I think.

But Photo 3 (2.1), which I believe was something of an accident at the time, is now my favourite, because of what happens to my shadow.  Part of it falls on the croucher photoer herself.  But the left side of my head’s shadow misses her and hits the ground right behind her, making it invisible to me and my camera and making it look like the side of my actual head has been removed.  In some ways, nicer.  Or so I think.

Photography is light.  And when the light is bright, and when selfie shadows are a feature rather than (as with Real Photographers) a bug, there can be some real fun to be had.

Saturday December 08 2018

Stow-Away is a recent arrival in Lower Marsh:

Stow-Away is a new sustainable and eco friendly apart hotel concept. Stow-Away Waterloo is our first London base made from 26 re-purposed shipping containers, stylishly designed to provide a snug comfortable Stow-Away sleeping experience.

Lots of people have tried to do architecture with old shipping containers, but personally I doubt if it makes much sense.  But, if your task is to sell hotel rooms, then shipping containers are perhaps a good gimmick, for attracting attention and for giving guests something to talk about.  “I slept in a shipping container.” Etc.  I’ve never done this.

It got my attention:

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I enjoy in particular the various reflections there.

All but the last of these photos were photoed in one burst, last September.  The final photo was photoed more recently, in the evening.

I think this hotel is quite good fun, especially those strange looking shades, red on the inside, that are a feature of the front.  But, I regret the trend of which this “apart hotel” is a part, which is the transformation of Lower Marsh from a fascinating and quite cheap thoroughfare, full of diverting shops and eateries, into a dreary and expensive thoroughfare, stripped of all those diverting shops and eateries.

This happens all the time.  A street contains lots of lively and amusing stuff.  Word of that liveliness spreads, and the rents then go through the roof.  The liveliness is priced off to another part of town.  Such is urban life.

What I am really saying is: RIP Gramex.  Follow that link and you find “an important message to our much-valued customers”.  That would be me.  But this “important message” is dated 4th August 2017.  I gave up hope at least a year ago.

Friday December 07 2018

You know how it is.  You go hunting, in your voluminous photo-archives, for a favourite recent photo, and damn it, you can’t for the life of you find it.  But you find other nice photos, and you stick them up on your blog instead.  We’ve all been there.

But today I did the opposite of that.  I went looking for some nice photos to stick up here, and discovered a very favourite photo, which I had previously searched for without success.

This photo was photoed outside Westminster Abbey and looking up Victoria Street.  You can surely see why I like it.

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Number one, it’s a statue.  I like statues, because I do, and in particular because they tend not to be mass produced, which means they immediately tell you where you are.  You are next to this statue.  There it is.  You can’t be anywhere else.  Knowing where you are is, I think, greatly to be preferred to not knowing where you are.  But even worse is when by the nature of the objects around you, you cannot learn where you are, because all the objects in your vicinity can tell you is that could be anywhere.

And, number two reason why I like this photo is that behind the statue, and with the most prominent bit of it clearly line up to be directly behind the statue but safely above it, there is roof clutter.  Not roof clutter that is uniquely voluminous, but still pretty good.  And mistily lit, in such a way that the building upon whose roof the clutter is cluttered does not upstage the statue by rendering it invisible.

The greenery on the right and the building bottom right I am less keen on, but they are, I hope you agree, not too annoying.  To the left, there was some somewhat more annoying stuff, which meant that the cropping on the left isn’t ideal.  But all-in-all, I like it a lot.

The statue is this one.  And the building behind it is called, at any rate by people trying to sell you office space in it, is called Windsor House.  I know it as that quite Big Thing next to the Albert.

This being Friday, is there a Cats or Other Creatures connection?  Well, yes: cats.  Big cats.  Four lions which are to be seen at the bottom of the column upon which the bloke scratching his back with a backscratcher is perched.  These lions do not appear in my photo, but there are there, at the bottom of the statue.

Also, the bloke on the top who seems to be scratching his back with a backscratcher is actually St George, and he has a dragon under his feet, which he is getting ready to clobber with a sword.

Tuesday December 04 2018

Indeed:

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Photoed last March, which I suppose is not yet Spring.  If that’s right, then that makes WInter the longest season.

Wouldn’t it be great, for me I mean, if leaves happened in Winter, but if all the other seasons were too hot for them?

Monday December 03 2018

October 21st of this year was a good photoday for me.  There was this, and then this.  Now let me show you nine chimney pot photos, taken on that same day:

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The first four were photoed in the vicinity of South Kesington tube station.  Then I tubed myself to the West End, which is where the rest of these photos were photoed.

I think my favourite is the fifth, or perhaps 3.2, depending on how you prefer your numbering to be done.  But I like them all, or I’d not have shown them to you.

The final one, 9 or 3.3, was taken from the inside of the top of Foyles.

I’ve called this “chimney pots” because all these photos have that in common.  But there are many other kinds of roof clutter also on show.  I rejected including “roof clutter” in the title, because although most chimney pot arrays do indeed beome very cluttered, as in randomly varied and chaotic, that cannot be said of photo 4, aka 2.1.

The satellite dish in 1.3, aka 3, looks, to a casual observer, aka me when I first encountered it in the directory (not when I actually photoed I), the moon.

Which I like.  And I also like it when there are chimney shadows, as in 1.1 (1), and 5 (2.2).  And there are other sorts of shadows in 6 (2.3).

Plus there’s a crane (7 (3.1)). and a pigeon (9 (3.3)).  But, not any scaffolding that I can see.

Saturday December 01 2018

I spent most of today, and am about to spend the rest of it, recovering from some combination of a cold, and drinking too much last night, at my Last Friday of the Month evening.  It went very well, but very well is not how I felt this morning, or feel now.

So, quota photo time.

I could rhapsodise indefinitely about this photo (which I photoed on the same afternoon I photoed this photo of Centre Point):

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The thing I want you all to realise is that the light hitting the white sheet is hitting it from both sides.  There is the sun behind the white sheet.  And there is the sun bouncing off the windows on this side of the street, a lot of it in window shaped shapes.

The next project is to track down the building and see what it looks like without all the scaffolding.

Monday November 26 2018

I often find the Tweets at Market Urbanism baffling, because they concern obscure American political disputes.  But even as I am baffled by the second half of this (what on earth does “filter hard and fast” mean?), I agree with the first half.  I also unironically love these:

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The Tweet contains a link to this Bloomberg report, which is where Market Urbanism and I got that photo, and which notes (rather gleefully/) that the builder of these things has gone bankrupt.

I do unironically love these gloriously unfashionable little stately homes, but I do not totally love everything about them.  Because what is about each one of these fake chateaux, is lots of others that are identical.  A lot of the point of living in a building like this is surely that there is nothing else like it in the vicinity.  Such a pile should be uniquely recognisable, and architecturally victorious over all the neighbours in the “my house is the poshest” contest.  If there is going to be a herd of these things, let there be a bit of variety.

But despite all those nitpicks, I do think that the world could use a lot more fake antiquity of this kind.  In particular, I wish more of this sort of stuff was allowed in England.  Uninterrupted “honest” modernity can get very dreary, I find.  I love those London Big Things that I bang on about here, but a lot of the fun of them is how, closer up, they often tower over buildings erected a couple of centuries earlier.

However, the trouble with newly minted fake antiquity is that this too can look rather dreary and soulless.

When fake antiquity really comes into its own is when it has been around for a while, and people can no longer see how fake it is.

The world seems to be full of well-connected, in-power aestheticians - who demand that every new building be modern, and badly-connected, out-of-power aestheticians - who hate modernity.  I want lots of both, all muddled together.

Saturday November 24 2018

On April Fools Day 2009 (the same day and just before I took these photos (that being how I came across this photo (which I took just north of Charing Cross station))), a man decides that he doesn’t want either a massive jacket or a crazy “T/shirt”:

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Perhaps he feared that, what with it being April Fools Day, he might discover that the T/shirts were all pretty sensible, and the jackets only of moderate size, albeit both quite persuasively priced.

I tried googling “Tommy Coopers clothing”, but could find nothing that looked like this enterprise.  Only references to a certain comedy hat.

Moments earlier, on that same photo-walk, next to St-Martin-in-the-Fields off Trafalgar Square, I took this photo, of a van:

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I love how certain very bright paint colours look all the brighter on dull days.  Hartley would surely like this one.

Monday November 19 2018

Another for the Department of I’ll-Believe-It-When-I-See-It:

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Yes, a Tulip, for the City of London, right next to (and dwarfing) the Gherkin, a Big Thing from which to gaze at and photo all the other nearby Big Things:  And to be photoed from the other Big Things, and from everywhere else in the vicinity.

No comments on that Dezeen report (with lots more photos (i.e. fake photos)) as of me now writing this, but I expect a lot of derision from people who dismiss it as a mere Foster publicity stunt.  Which I dare say it is.

I’m for it of course, even if it will surely cost a fortune to actually go up it.  So I won’t be doing that very much, I don’t suppose.  But I will photo it constantly, from near and from far.

What’s the betting it does get built, but not in London?

Sunday November 18 2018

Yesterday, my friend Nico invited me to an orchestral concert that he was playing in.  He was playing the drums.  But this was not some ghastly rock and roll ordeal, it was an orchestral concert, in Blackheath. 

Blackheath has a place called Blackheath Halls, and last night, the Blackheath Halls Orchestra performed, in the particular Blackheath Hall called the Great Hall, works by Debussy (the Nocturnes) and Sibelius (the 7th Symphony).  I’d offer a link to the announcement of this eventy, but now that it’s happened, the announcement of it has disappeared, like it never happened.

This Great Hall actually is pretty great.  Just recently, it has had its seating redone, with a flat floor being replaced by a slab of raked seating.  I photoed these after the concert had finished, and they looked like this:

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What that meant was that we in the audience had a great view of the everything.

Here is a photo I took of how things looked as the orchestral players were making their way onto the stage at the beginning:

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Here is a photo I took of conductor Christopher Stark, just before he embarked on the Sibelius symphony.

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And here is a photo taken at the end, when the applause was loud and long, which includes my friend Nico and his drums.  Was Nico the best?  Maybe.  I really couldn’t say.  But he was, at any rate in the Sibelius, the highest up.

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So, what to say about the music, and the performances?  Well, the Blackheath Halls orchestra is an amateur orchestra, and if the sounds they made are anything to go by, the hardest task facing an amateur orchestra is when its violin section must play very high notes, very quietly.  That is when ensemble is tested to destruction.  I blame nobody for this.  On the contrary, this was exactly the sort of thing I was eager to learn about, not having witnessed an amateur orchestra in action for about half a century. 

Today, I played a CD I possess of these Debussy Nocturnes, with Pierre Boulez conducting the Cleveland Orchestra, on Deutsche Grammophon.  And guess what: it is a more polished performance than the Blackheath Halls Orchestra managed last night.  But having heard, and watched, amateurs play these piece, I now know them a lot better.

In the second Nocturne, there is a big march, and Nico was in his element.  He did an excellent job, then and throughout, with his usual dignity and exactitude and his usual total absence of fuss.  I never caught the conductor looking at him, which, I believe, was because the conductor wasn’t worried about Nico.  He had other worries to attend to.

That these Blackheath violinists had nothing to reproach themselves for became clear during part two of the concert.  There was a particularly striking passage in the Sibelius, when, instead of having to play high and soft, they played very low and very loud.  They sounded terrific.

So did the rest of the Sibelius, to me, but only after I did something rather surprising.

Christopher Stark, as conductors tend to do nowadays on occasions like this one, said a few words about each piece of music before he conducted it.  And what he had to say about the Sibelius included how this symphony, instead of being chopped up into separate movements, quick and slow, with silent gaps in between, is instead all in one movement, but that during this one movement, the music “morphs” (his word) from one rhythm to another, fast to slower, slow to faster.  At certain points of the piece there are both a fast little rhythm and a bigger and slower rhythm, both happening at the same time, in time with each other.

Stark’s conducting was as good as his words.  However, when I watched him conduct, I was only able to hear the fast little rhythm.  I missed those longer and slower rhythms.  This was probably because not only Stark’s arms and fingers but his entire body were all concentrated on communicating exactly how that fast little rhythm should be played.

So, I closed my eyes.

And, immediately, I heard both rhythms, just as he had described them.  There was absolutely nothing wrong with the musical results he was getting.  It was just that the visual methods he was using were preventing me from hearing those results properly.

I kept my eyes closed for the rest of the performance, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  As did the rest of the audience, judging by the enthusiastic applause at the end.

What the hell, you may be asking, was the point of going to a concert, at which I could see, very well, all the musicians in action, if I then shut my eyes?  The point is: I was able to experience the extremity of this contrast.  Had I only been listening, as with a CD or a radio performance, that contrast would not have registered.  As it was, the moment when I shut my eyes was, for me, extraordinary.

Usually, I experience this effect at chamber music concerts, where the “body language” of the musicians constantly illuminates the nature of the music, and causes me, literally, to hear it better.

But, because (I surmise) the conductor last night was more bothered about getting his musicians to play the music as well as he could make them, than he was about explaining the music to us, the audience, with his visual gestures, I actually heard the music differently, and less well, when I watched him conducting.  Again, I am blaming nobody.  On the contrary, it was a most interesting thing to see and hear.

It helped a lot that Stark was able to explain something of the music, and in particularly this rhythmic aspect of it, with … words.  Things conductors don’t usually bother with, on the night, for the benefit of the audience.

Another aspect of the evening that was fun was how the audience and the musicians mingled.  I mean, how often, at an orchestral concert, does the man on the drums come and talk with you during the interval, and thank you for coming?  That would never happen with the London Symphony Orchestra.  During our conversation, I thanked Nico for telling me about this event and telling me also, beforehand, that the hall was architecturally interesting, in itself and because it had recently been remodelled.  That helped to persuade me to come, and I am very glad that I did.

Thursday November 15 2018

I have a friend who roams the earth working in exotic places.  Friend supplies this photo of where Friend will be staying tonight:

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It’s alright for some.  Taken with a smartphone (what else?), in Rotterdam, earlier today.

More seriously, what this building makes me think is what I have long thought, which is that modern architecture is, a lot of it, about what kind of aesthetic experiences architects had when they were little kids.  Does this Big Thing not look like big bricks of the sort given to small children, piled up rather inexpertly on top of each other, and now looking as big as it looked to a small kid?  That’s what it looks like to me.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Good to have the arse of the ship there, to show how big this Big Thing is.

Saturday November 10 2018

Here are two photos that go nicely together.

First there is this photo:

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Not the greatest shard photo ever taken, although a bit better of Guy’s Hospital, next to it.  That is because it’s maximum zoom.

But now, taken with minimum zoom, with me standing in the exact same spot, pointing my camera in the exact same direction:

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You can actually see the Shard in the faraway background.

I bought the Lumix SZ150, then the Lumix SZ200, and now my current SZ300, because these cameras all have in common that they have both quite impressive zoom for very distant scenes, and an quite impressive wide angle coverage on close-up scenes.  Both features help a lot with architecture.

These two photos taken at the beginning of last month, at East India DLR station, on my way home from a photo-expedition.

Wednesday November 07 2018

One from the I Just Like It directory:

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That’s the view you get of Central Hall Westminster, that you now get looking over where New Scotland Yard used to be.  I walk past this view whenever I go to St James’s Park tube.  Well, that’s the view you get if you go to as much trouble as I did to frame Central Hall Westminster with a concrete pump.

There is now a glut of new luxury apartments in London, so I suppose it’s possible that this view may become a bit less temporary than it would have been two or three years ago.  But my guess is that Ten Broadway, which (from a helicopter) will look very approximately like this…:

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…, is now too far advanced for it to make sense for them not to finish it.  Although maybe not as ostentatiously as that picture suggests.

Monday November 05 2018

Incoming from Darren:

Took this photo a couple of weeks ago and couldn’t help think of you. …:

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… I didn’t discover that the photoer had been caught in the picture until later. Taken from on a train while going through Blackfriars station. As you can probably tell, it was just taken using a phone.

I emailed Darren back, saying I’d feature his photo here.  He then said that I shouldn’t feel in any way obligated to do this.  He just thought I’d like the photo.

I thought about why I was so glad to receive this photo, and so keen to show it here, along with what he says about it.  I think the reason is that Darren clearly “gets”, as they say, this blog.  He gets that I am fond of the unfolding and ongoing drama of the architecture of central London.  He gets that I notice how others like to photo London, too, it’s not just me.  He gets that I am fond of the new Blackfriars railway station, straddling the river the way it does, and that I love the sort of views you can see and photo from it.  And, Darren gets that I am deeply impressed by the photographic prowess of mobile phones.

He even refers to his photographer as a “photoer”.  Until now, that was just me.

Saturday November 03 2018

Photoed by me, on the same day that I most recently photoed Bartok:

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As I get older, I find myself, every so often, getting crosser.  Not all the time, you understand, just in occasional eruptions.

But I am not cross about this photo.  That is exactly how it came out of the camera.  No cropping or Photoshop(clone)ing.  Just as was.  I love that light, as I have been saying here for about a week now.

I love that effect when the light is very strong and almost exactly in line with the wall but not quite, at a just sufficient angle to light it up, and at the slightest excuse cover it in big shadows. If it didn’t say: “City of Westminster”, you’d think you could be in the South of France or some such sunlit place.

More about the Compton Cross.