Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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Kim Bergstrom on Looking in at the Zaha Hadid Design Gallery in Goswell Road
6000 on Another walk along the river
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Brian Micklethwait on What sort of duck is this?
Brian Micklethwait on What sort of duck is this?
Brian Micklethwait on Another walk along the river
Alastair on Another walk along the river
Darren on What sort of duck is this?
Architectural Visualization on Benjamin Franklin maps the Gulf Stream
Most recent entries
- White vans are becoming very informative
- My latest meeting went fine
- Pizza Express bus
- The difference between roof clutter and roof clutter
- Another photo for the traffic lights countdown set
- Centre Point through the new station entrance
- My next last Friday meeting: Patrick Crozier on the political consequences of WW1
- Keeping up appearances next to Centre Point
- A model of London now opening to the public
- Looking in at the Zaha Hadid Design Gallery in Goswell Road
- Van Art
- LON DON
- John Cage does Sudoku
- Happy couples
- Another walk along the river
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Category archive: Architecture
I spent a lot of my blogging time today writing about a talk I attended last night, given by Tim Evans. I did not finish what I wanted to say, but the attempt left me little time to do anything here. So, a photo, taken by me on the way to Tim’s talk, as I emerged from Euston Station:
That’s part of the roof of St Pancras Station. I like how my snap makes you see this building, if not with fresh eyes, then at least from a rather fresh angle, instead of the usual one you get, from in front.
St Pancras Station was first opened in 1868, and the contrast between how they did the tops of big buildings in those times and how the tops of similar sized buildings are done nowadays could not be more extreme. Now, buildings of that size tend to have flat tops, and to be covered with telecommunications equipment.
This being New Scotland Yard. And a statue of a man scratching his back outside Westminster Abbey. Well, no, but that’s what it always looks like to me. The column of that statue can also be seen in yesterday’s numerical traffic lights snap.
London’s famed Metropolitan Police are moving out of New Scotland Yard, back to old Scotland Yard. It will be interesting to see what happens to all that roof clutter. Maybe nothing.
I took this picture in lots of different versions. Same picture. Lots of different numbers. So which number to choose, to show here? I chose 5, because behind where it says “05”, Big Ben reveals the time to have been 5 past 5:
So that’s 5 ticked. 2 is already done. 8 more to go. Or maybe 7. Because, I rather think that these devices never get to say “01”
A new crossrail station is being completed, and Centre Point is being given a makeover. I doubt it will look any different, but you never know.
Any decade now, Centre Point’s exterior will burst into colour. But Centre Point right now, temporarily wrapped in this and that, is as colourful as it is likely to be for a decade or two yet. A generation of monochromist modernist architects still has to die, before colour can really start happening in London. At present (see the previous photo) Renzo Piano is the only fashionable architect being colourful.
While I’m showing you pictures of that rather angly station entrance, here is another, taken moments before the one above:
Lots of signage of various kinds there.
For another view, looking down Tottenham Court Road, of this strange station entrance, see photo 3.2 of these.
Indeed. Photoed by me next to Centre Point, this afternoon:
Another London facade which is nice but not totally wondrous is being carefully preserved, so that modernity can in due course be erected behind it. This time I photoed it from behind.
I have been assuming that this is a purely aesthetic thing. Done like this to get planning permission. But someone (I do not recall who) recently told me that if you preserve a facade you don’t have to get planning permission for whatever you put behind it. But, if you allow the facade to disappear, then you do have to get planning permission, even if what you subsequently do is re-erect the original facade.
Can anyone confirm or deny this?
Note that dash of Renzo Pianistic colour there.
The Londonist is telling me that I should Visit This Incredible Model Of Central London, Newly Open:
For many years, a wonderful secret has resided in a basement beneath the Guildhall. This highly detailed 3D model of London, used by planners, developers and architects, has been off-limits to the public, except for rare open days. From 23 April it will be freely open every week for anyone who cares to take a look.
And you should take a look - it’s fascinating on many levels. Stretching from Holborn to Wapping, the scale model gives a superb overview of the different styles of architecture that make up central London. It also looks ahead, including any building that has received planning permission. Many towers under construction are here shown complete. Below we snapped the ‘Can of Ham’, soon to rise next to fellow picnic-able skyscraper, the Gherkin.
My first reaction, to the photos - not to the model itself (which I have yet to see) - is how very unrealistic it looks, despite (I’m sure) everything being the exact right size and shape. I’m not complaining, just saying. Models are often like that.
Not that I need convincing to visit this thing. Fridays and Saturdays, apparently. I’ve got various things coming up, so it may be a while before I get do this, but do it I definitely will. And when I do, expect more photos.
That the model includes everything that has received planning permission will sometimes mean temporarily including Things that are never actually built, merely permitted but then abandoned. Like the Helter Skelter, for instance. Which presumably had a starring role in this model, for a while.
Circumstances had placed me at the Angel Tube. My business was concluded and the weather was wondrous. So, where to next? There is a canal near there, but I didn’t fancy another canal walk, so instead I just walked along whatever road presented itself to me, in the general direction of the Big Things of the City (one of them (the Heron Tower) having been turned blazing gold by the early evening sun). The road turned out to be Goswell Road. A place of slightly down-at-heal struggle, where you felt that for some, the struggle wasn’t worth it, but for others, maybe. That kind of in-between sort of a place. Not as affluent as you’d expect for something that close to the City, but trundling along as best it could. Big, shabby-modern university buildings. Building sites. Ethnic shops.
And then in amongst all this middlingness, a glimpse through what looked like a shop window, into a world of money-no-object designer gloss and nouveau riche ostentation. What is all this stuff?
It all looked rather Zaha Hadid, especially this shiny but strange object, presumably for sitting on:
And hey, look, there’s a picture of Zaha Hadid. This is obviously a place that takes Zaha Hadid pretty seriously, and is very saddened by her recent death:
Zaha Hadid, I should explain, is the world-renowned starchitect and designer, who recently died at the shockingly young age of 65. When a starchitect dies at 65, that’s like a rock star dying at 22. At 65, starchitects, rather like classical conductors, are just getting started. The thing is, starchitects need power, and their target demographic is old decision-makers, so they tend to be old too.
What was this rather strange place? I stepped back to see if there was any clue on the outside.
Here was a clue:
Good grief. This is an actual Zaha Hadid place of work.
I crossed the road, to photo the whole thing:
To be more exact, this is not the one place where Hadid and all her underlings did everything. This is the Zaha Hadid Design Gallery, which opened in 2013 (I now learn), which would perhaps have been open for me to walk into had I encountered it earlier in the day. The place displays many of Hadid’s numerous designs for Small Things, like furniture, lamps, sculptures, jewellery, paintings, and suchlike.
Considering what a wacky designer Hadid was, that’s a surprisingly prosaic building, isn’t it? I’m guessing that it was not built specifically with her in mind, but was adapted.
So, no wonder that this place now contains memorials to Zaha Hadid, like this:
There is some reflection of the outside in this next snap, but it gives you an idea of what the place as a whole is like, and what kind of stuff is in it:
Frankly, for me, all this indoor small stuff does not show Hadid at her very best. For that, I think, you have to go outside.
Her only building in London so far is the Aquatics Centre, which I photoed, very hastily, when I visited the top of the Big Olympic Thing. Had I know then that Zaha Hadid had been about to die, I would have taken more photos of this building, and more carefully:
I would, for instance, have placed it in a gap in that safety netting, rather than just randomly. Another time.
But notice that even in that casual photo, the beauty, I think, of the building still asserts itself. It’s like a sports helmet, of the sort worn by cyclists, and by some cricketers.
Even more remarkable is this amazing ancient-modern juxtaposition:
This is now, apparently, nearing completion. It might be worth a trip to Antwerp, just to see it.
Zaha Hadid’s underlings are going to try to keep the Zaha Hadid enterprise going, at least the architectural bit. Good luck people, but you’re surely going to need it.
The rumour I heard is that Hadid was “difficult” to work for. Maybe this was just an example of that law that says that bossy men are masterful, but bossy women are bossy. But maybe she really was difficult to work for. If so, this difficulty looks like it was all of a piece with the sorts of designs she created.
The thing is, Hadid was not some logical, everything-has-a-reason systematic, machines-for-living in, presider over a system of architectural problem solving. She was the kind of architect who unleashed drama, excitement, at vast extra expense, if what you’re comparing it all with is a big rectangular box. You only have to look at her stuff to see that any logic involved is just an excuse for a cool looking design. Why does it look that way? Because I, Zaha Hadid, say so, and I’m the boss, that’s why. I make beautiful shapes. Other people like them and buy them. Deal with it.
That’s going to be a hard act to replace.
And I was deliberately retracing steps I used to do make a lot of around eight or ten years ago, to see what had changed and what had not. A lot had changed, in the form of a few big new buildings. The rest had not changed.
Did I say that that sunset I recently posted photos of was last Saturday? Yes. Actually it was the Friday. Get ill and you lose track of time. That evening I also took a lot of other photos, on and from the south bank of the river, between Blackfriars road bridge and Tower Bridge, and here are some of the ones I particularly liked:
That array of small photos (click on any you like to the look of to get it a decent size) really should not now be misbehaving, on any platform. If it is, please get in touch, by comment or by email.
As to the pictures themselves:
1.1 A Deliberately Bald Bloke standing at the bottom of 240 Blackfriars. (You can see the top of 240 Blackfriars in 3.1 here.) That Deliberately Bald look is, I think, fair game photo-blogging-wise. The guy is choosing to look this way. It’s a fashion statement, not an affliction. Blog-mocking the involuntarily bald is not right, but blog-celebrating those who embrace their baldness is fine. Especially if the guy obligingly turns his face away.
1.2 is one of my favourite weird London sites, namely the topless columns of the Blackfriars Bridge that isn’t, in between the two Blackfriars Bridges that are, the one on the right now sporting a new station on it. The twist is that this was high tide, and waves were rhythmically breaking against a corner in the river wall and filling the air between my camera and the bridges with bits of water.
1.3 is a building on the other side of the river. Just beyond the Blackfriars Station bridge. I do love what light and scaffolding and scaffolding covers sometimes do.
1.4 and 2.1 illustrate the universal photography rule to the effect that if you want to photo something very familiar, like St Paul’s Cathedral, you’d better include something else not so familiar, such as some propaganda for a current Tate Modern show that I will perhaps investigate soon, or maybe four big circles that you can see at the Tate Modern end of the Millennium Bridge.
2.2 is an ancient and modern snap, both elements of which I keep meaning to investigate. Those two buildings, the office block and the church, are like two people I frequently meet, but don’t know the names of. Luckily, with buildings, it’s not embarrassing to ask, far too late.
I know what that Big Thing behind the Millennium Bridge in 2.3 is, under wraps, being reconditioned, improved, made worse, whatever, we’ll have to see. That’s Centre Point. It even says most of that on it. I have always been fond of Centre Point, one of London’s early Big New Things.
2.4 features something I have tried and failed to photo several times previously, a Deliveroo Man. Deliveroo Men are usually in a great hurry and are gone before I can catch them, but this one was taking a breather. Deliveroo Men carry their plasticated corrugated boxes on their backs like rucksacks, which I presume saves valuable seconds.
3.1: Another ancient/modern snap. The very recognisable top of the Shard, and another piece of ancientness that I am familiar with but have yet to get around to identifying, see above. I reallyl should have photoed a sign about it. I bet there is one.
3.2: The golden top of the Monument, now dwarfed by the Gherkin and by the Walkie Talkie.
3.3: A golden hinde, which is to be found at the front of the Golden Hinde. I’ve seen that beast before, but never really noticed it.
3.4: Another ancient/modern snap, this time with Southwark Cathedral dominating the foreground. The combined effect yet again vindicates Renzo Piano’s belief that the Shard would blend into London rather than just crow all over it. Those broken fragments at the top echo the four spikes on the nearby Cathedral. It looks that way to me, anyway.
4.1: Another delivery snap, this time of the old school sort. A White Van. But with lots of propaganda all over it, notably the back door, in the new school style.
4.2: Yet another ancient modern contrast, this time the Monument, again, with a machine for window cleaning. Note that small tripoddy object on the top of the Monument. I suspect that this is to give advance warning if the Monument starts to wobble.
4.3: Two exercises in power projection, now both lapsed into tourist traps. Behind, the Tower of London. In front, HMS Belfast.
4.4: Finally! Modern/modern! The Walkie Talkie and the Cheesegrater, and probably my favourite snap of all these. Not a view you often see in other photos, but there it was. Should the bottom be cropped away, to simplify it even more. I prefer to leave photos as taken.
5.1 shows that thing when reflected light is the exact same colour when reflected as originally. Photography is light, so photography sees this. But eyes always try to create a 3D model of what is going on, rather than just a 2D picture. Eyes deliberately don’t see this.
5.2 and 5.4 take me back to my beautiful-women-taking-photos phase, which was big last decade. These two were too good to ignore. They were just so happy! But, mobile phones, which is very this decade. Just like my cameras, the cameras in these just get better and better.
5.3 is another view of that amazing cluster of footbridges.
Being sick as in feeling sick, and occasionally being sick as in being sick. As in expelling stuff I had previous eaten from my mouth.
Quota photo time:
There is so much light crashing across London from west to east that evening the eastern clouds were lit up pink, like they were a sunset or something. So I know what you are thinking. It must have been one hell of a sunset to do that. And you are not wrong:
If I wasn’t sick I probably wouldn’t indulge in such a lurid sunset, which I photoed last Saturday evening on Tower Bridge. But I am sick. I can do what I like.
Actually, it’s already getting better. But wish me well anyway.
It’s been a long day. It’s been a long day partly because I spent a lot of it out and about, taking photos, of which the above is just one. But it was still a long day.
I hear a lot of complaints from my fellow Londoners, to the effect that the Shard is all very nice and tall and pointy and everything, but that it doesn’t look finished. That weird top. It ought to be a smooth, single point. Instead, well, look at it. It looks like someone shot the original top off of it with a giant catapult.
But although this strange and “unfinished” top may make the Shard look less conventionally pretty, it does make that top very recognisable. You only need to see the very top of that weird top peaking out above something else nearer, and you know at once what you are looking at. And I more and more find myself believing, about architecture in London, recognisable trumps pretty. (I more and more feel this way about the entirety of the Walkie-Talkie.)
Recently I wrote about footbridges, one in particular, in theatreland. As that posting illustrates, I especially like footbridges that join buildings (in that case theatres), rather than merely convey members of the public who are on a journey through the city, even though I myself cannot cross such bridges, because I too am only a member of the public.
The London epicentre of such footbridge action is situated near Tower Bridge, on the south side of the river. Footbridges of greatly varying heights above the ground and almost beyond counting connect the tall brick buildings on each side of whatever the street is where all these footbridges are to be seen.
I knew that on various journeys along the river I had photoed these bridges, but where were such photos to be found? Oh well, I thought. They’ll turn up.
Last night, they did turn up. I was idling through photo-directories past, looking for something entirely different which I may, or may not, be telling you about Real Soon Now, and suddenly I came across a clutch of photos of the very footbridges I had in mind. I immediately copied all these photos across into the rather recently created Footbridges directory. Photos like this:
None of the photos I took that evening of these bridges were technically very accomplished. The light was tricky and I think I was rather tired by the time I took them. But, there they were, the bridges, and the photos of the bridges.
I chose the above photo from the half dozen or more that I had not because it is the best of these photos, but because it contains this vital piece of information, in writing. Close up:
Le Pont de la Tour? Google google. Apparently it’s a posh eatery, for the kind of posh people who now live in these now very posh buildings. And immediately I had the name of the street.
Don’t ask me how you are supposed to say that. Shad? The Shad? Shad Thames? I don’t know. But there’s the name. Shad. Sounds like Sean Connery saying Sad. (Do you suppose that the reason Sean Connery pronounces S as Sh is because of how Sean is pronounced? Jusht a shuggeshtion.)
Armed with this address, I could pin down exactly as opposed to approximately the location of this footbridge clutch, so that I can return there, and take better photos, and look them up on the www some more, and generally celebrate these striking structures.
And the moral is: when you are (I am) out and about taking photos, always get wherever you are (I am) in writing, by photoing writing. Photo signs of shops, signs outside places, street signs, or, in this case restaurant signs. That way, you can work out where everything was, even years later. The above picture was taken nearly six years ago.
Here is a sunny evening photo from a few days back, just after the clocks had moved forward. The sun got the email, and was shining enthusiastically at an amazingly late hour. But the tree is still in its winter, skeletal form. Which I like:
Today will be a day out with G(od)D(aughter) One, in weather that now looks like it was ordered via a website where you can decide, except that apparently there’ll be rain in the early evening instead of a sunny early evening like it was for the above photo. “Showers”, they said last night on the telly. That could mean anything from spectacular clouds to total dreariness. We shall see.
Whatever. Spring is definitely here.
This morning’s weather looks, from out of my kitchen window, like this:
The building work opposite will probably never look as pretty again as it does now. I feel rather the same about many new buildings, of the more serviceable and vernacular sort, as I do about trees, preferring such buildings also when they are still at the skeletal stage.
I took a ton of photos, including this one, of the Wheel:
And then this one, of Big Ben:
And then this one of the Wheel again, and a general view of the River:
I don’t think I’ll ever quite get used to being able to enjoy a cricket match and a walkabout, simultaneously.
The T20I, as they now call it, has worked out perfectly. England are in the final (see above) by beating NZ. Good.
And the West Indies are in the final also, because they beat India. Even though Gayle was out in only the second over of their very difficult chase. The Windian Ladies are also in their final. Also good.
Good because cricket needs the West Indies to care about cricket and to go on playing it and playing it well. (Indians are not going to lose interest in cricket any time soon, no matter what their team does or doesn’t do.)
Time was when the Windies were great at test cricket. Then they became crap at test cricket and fans like me feared that they might soon switch their attention to a quite different sort of game. Well, now they have. Twenty-twenty cricket.
I’m posting the photos below of these various ladies which I took yesterday outside Westminster Abbey, (a) because I like them and hope that you do too, but also (b) because I am checking out a new way to present photos here.
The problem has been how to contrive horizontal spaces between little photos. I’m doing it a different way here, which I hope gives me tighter control over the ultimate width of space occupied, and thus avoids the final one of a horizontal set of them (in this case just the two) spilling over, at some magnifications and/or on some devices, onto a newly created next line.
Well according to my posting software, that’s working.
If anyone sees anything weird of ugly, rather than two photos on the top next to each other (with a small gap in between) and then another below them and exactly the same width as the combined width of the two photos above plus the gap, please leave a comment.
All three photos are the result of my quest to make faces unrecognisable to computers. The top two show no faces at all. The two faces below? Well, do those sunglasses do the anonymity job? I hope so.
Reflective sunglasses like these certainly provide me with lots of photo-fun. The lady on the left as we look has both Big Ben and the selfie stick she was using reflected in her glasses, twice. The lady on the right has this church, next to Westminster Abbey, reflected in her specs. Click on it and you’ll see all this more clearly.
And I love those coloured finger nails, top right.
Indeed. While searching through the archives for this picture, I came upon this one:
I’d just seen a Superman v Batman poster in the tube, so this 3D Batmovie advert jumped out at me, metaphorically speaking. The photo was taken in May 2008, so anyone who cares can work out which Batmovie that would be.
I like the highly appropriate architectural background. That being, I think (supercommenter Alastair may want to correct me), County Hall.
Here’s a Superheroine, photoed moments later:
I’m guessing that’s Lara Croft.
Later I took this snap, of the appendages of a slightly less superheroic figure:
The South Bank of the River Thames abounds with people dressed up in strange costumes, soliciting money. I say not so superheroic, but these figures do at least remain superheroically immobile.
Now that the weather has at last changed from wintry to springy, I am about to go out to take more snaps, and I wanted my blogging duties here done before all that. And now they are.
Indeed. The old Eurostar Terminal at Waterloo is finally coming back to life again, for boring rush hour services, but life.
Until late in 2007, Eurostar trains used to come and go from the new station they built at Waterloo for that exact purpose. But then they shut the place, and the Eurostars operated from St Pancras instead. Since 2007, the Waterloo Eurostar terminal has been a corpse.
After much searching, I managed to dig up a photo I took in 2007 of some Eurostar snouts poking out of the Waterloo terminal, just before it died:
Once again, we see Century House in the background of a photo here that is basically of something else. The previous posting in which this happened is here, at which there is a brief explanatory comment about Century House’s history. Spooks, basically. Now just flats.
Even older Waterloo Eurostar photos can be viewed here, posted here in 2013, but taken in 2003. I also just re-listened to a conversation involving Patrick Crozier, Michael Jennings, Rob Fisher and me, about the new St Pancras, which we all liked a lot, and presumably still like a lot.