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Category archive: Architecture

Wednesday November 22 2017

It’s been a while since there’s been any horizontality here. (That isn’t the most recent piece of horizontality here, just one that I happen especially to like.) So, allow me now to correct this, thus:

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Click to get the bigger original.

It’s a shop just off Lea Bridge Road, opposite the station.  Photoed by me almost exactly one year ago.

Monday November 13 2017

Busy day.  Busy evening.  So just a couple of quota photos, both taken a little under ten years ago, just before Christmas 2007.

First, Guys Hospital, looking as good as it ever could:

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At first, all I was thinking was: artistic impression.  But it also has interesting info in it.  No Shard.  Which got me noticing another, at the time very commonplace photo, of the Gherkin.  Also interesting info in it.  No nearby Big Things.  There it stands, in splendid isolation.

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I also photoed lots of photoers that day, and have so far showed you only some of them.  There are several more good photoer photos deserving of resuscitation, all with impeccably concealed faces, but these will have to wait.

Friday November 10 2017

I’m not much of a wildlife photoer, if only because others are so very enthusiastic about it.  Nature beautiful.  (Hu)Man-made world ugly.  Those are the cliches, and bollocks to them.  I prefer to celebrate, with my photoing, the human-made world, often by noticing how “natural” (that is non-centrally-dictated) that human-made world so often is, especially in a complicated place like London.

But I do keep trying to photo non-human creatures in case I get lucky, and about once every other blue moon, I do get a non-human photo that strikes me as worth showing here.

So, for instance, earlier this year I was photoing Big Things with a seagull in front of them, mostly to illustrate how recognisable these Big Things are, despite being out of focus.  Recognisable to me anyway.  Thus:

imageimageimage

On the left, a seagull lined up with the Spraycan.  On the right, the same seagull lined up with the Millbank Tower.  But then, when I lined the seagull up in front of Big Ben, I got this, which strikes me as, you know, quite good:

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Click on that to get my original photo, with blurry Big Ben behind being clearly recognisable.  But here is a case where the photo I photoed of the actual creature seemed more interesting than the Big Thing.  Because this seagull happened to be pointing its face straight at me, I got a view of a seagull face that I for one don’t regularly see.  The beak, because pointing straight at me, is taken out of the picture, and the head that remains looks more like that of some kind of fluffy baby seal or some such thing.  But with bird legs.  Scroll up so that you only see the head, and it hardly looks seagullish at all.

I was going to add a photo of a squirrel to this posting.  I even checked that I was spelling squirrel right.  But this squirrel photo, which I took about two minutes before taking the above seagull photos, although quite nice, had no architecture in the background.  It was just a squirrel, in a tree.

Sunday November 05 2017

Instapundit’s Ed Driscoll quotes two early paragraphs of a review by Theodore Dalrymple of a book about Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, aka Le Corbusier.  I like these paragraphs, from near the end:

Jeanneret’s pronouncements, and the belief in them, led to the construction of a thousand urban hells, worse in some ways than traditional slums because they were planned and because they were specifically designed to eliminate spontaneous and undirected human contact or social life. Jeanneret hated what he called derisively the street, because the street was messy, it was unofficial and unofficiated. He hated it as an obsessively house-proud woman hates dust.

But the puzzle remains: How was such a man able to obtain and retain such a hold over other men’s minds, or at least over important men’s minds? I have no complete answer, though I suspect that the First World War had much to do with it. Without that cataclysm, Jeanneret would have been a crank, or a mere antisocial misfit; but so great was the emotional and intellectual dislocation understandably brought about by the war that almost anything seemed worthy of notice or consideration afterwards, anything that was different from what went before. And so Jeanneret had his chance.

As regulars here will know, I absolutely do not share Dalrymple’s hatred of all architectural modernism.  And I even like some of Le Corubusier’s buildings, the more quirky and individual ones, although I am sure not having to live or work in them helps a lot.  But what happened to the world at the hands of the architects, and in particular the city planners, sho were influenced by Le Corbusier was appalling.

The book that Dalrymple was reviewing is cripplingly expensive, but I might just buy it anyway, on a kind of “vote with my wallet” basis.

Saturday November 04 2017

Once again today is nearly over, yet I have posted nothing here.  I have several non-quota postings about half done, but nothing blog-ready.  So, here is, instead, this:

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From the I Just Like It Directory.

I just like it because of the contrast between the shiny windows with their out of focus, curved reflections, and the Concrete Monstrosity style concrete that surrounds the windows, the concrete being in focus, not shiny, not curvey.  I like that contrast.  That’s exactly as it came out of the camera.  No cropping or photo-enhancing.

Taken in Victoria Street, opposite where New Scotland Yard used to be.  Not that that matters.

Wednesday November 01 2017

Yes, favorite blogger-of-mine Mick Hartley has been checking out, and photoing, the now finished Havenhuis, and has this to say about it:

I noted earlier - before I’d seen it in situ - that “it looks like it’s just plonked imperiously on top of the original building, with no attempt at a sympathetic conversation between the two”. Having now had the chance to look around and check it out for myself, I think that’s still a fair summary.

There follow several excellent photos of the building, of the sort that amateurs like Mick Hartley (and I) have a habit of doing better than the hired gun Real Photographers, because we tell the truth about how the new Thing in question looks, and in particular about how it looks alongside the surroundings it has inserted itself into.  Real Photographers know that their job is to lie about such things, to glamorise rather than to describe accurately.  Their job is to force you to like the Thing.  Amateurs like me and like Mick Hartley take photos that enable you to hate the new Thing even more eloquently, if that’s already your inclination.

And of all the photos Hartley shows, this one most perfectly illustrates that “disrespect” that he writes of.  “Conversation”?  Fornication, more like, inflicted by one of those annoyingly oversexed dogs:

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I still like this Thing, though.  I mean, time was when any disrespect felt by the architect towards that older building would have resulted in the old building being demolished.  Which is worse?  Disrespect?  Or oblivion?  Perhaps the latter would have been more dignified.  Execution has a certain grandeur, when compared to a further lifetime of potential ridicule.  But I still prefer what happened.

Monday October 30 2017

Nova, the building that this year triumphed in that infallible guide to architectural interestingness, the Carbuncle Cup, is a new London building that I am already very fond of.  And this despite the apparent unrelatedness of the red bits and the other bits, as photoed in this recent photo that I photoed:

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However, even more recently, I came upon Nova from an angle and at a time of day that told me more:

image

You can probably already see what I am getting at, just from that photo.  And you can click on that photo to get an even bigger photo.  But, if you do that, you will find it even harder to see what I am getting at.

imageBecause, this is one of those instances where, in order to see what I am getting at, you need to see this same photo smaller, as shown on the right of this verbiage.  Yes indeed, there you see it even more clearly.  Diagonals galore.  Here is another example of the same thing.  Again, you have to make it smaller to see it clearly.

None of which will persuade Nova-haters that they should become Nova-lovers.  But it seemed worth noting here nevertheless, given that I had noted it.

Saturday October 28 2017

Recently I went out looking for another good shot of Richard Seifert’s One Kemble Street, of which I am very fond, having already posted some fun photos of it as seen from the ROH Bar and two more rather so-so photos of it, along with a photo of another circular Seifert edifice, also with an anarchic hairdo.

But here is a better photo of One Kemble Street, that I took over a year ago, from the top of the Tate Modern Extension:

image

The thing is, when I’m out on one of my photo-wanders, the pattern is: Photo, forget.  Photo, forget.  Photo, forget.  I hardly think at all about what I have just photoed.  Almost all my thinking concerns the next photo.

When, usually about one day later, I look back at what I got, even then I don’t pay attention to anything like everything I got.  Just some of it.  Which means that when I look back at some directory or other a longish time later, I notice more photos, basically for the first time since just before I took them.

It’s tempting to assume that this is the result of me getting old.  But I suspect that if I had had a digital camera when I was thirty, I would probably have forgotten most of the photos I took then, much as I do now.  But, I do think that age probably reinforces this effect.

Wednesday October 25 2017

imageI am starting to suffer from New York envy.

I have already speculated that the photoability of views might be a part of the reason for New York’s spate of new supertall super-skinny edifices.  The designers of the latest such, 262 Fifth Avenue, are also speaking about views:

“We didn’t want it to be too high, but at the same time be visible and provide better views for the flats,” Meganom co-founder Yury Grigoryan told Dezeen in an exclusive interview. …”

But as I also speculated in that earlier posting, a big reason for these Big But Thin Things is that now build them because they can:

Grigoryan said that the building’s structure is unique. Its lift and mechanical systems will occupy a core volume on the western side, which a stack of column-free living spaces will be anchored to like shelves.

But then Grigorian goes back to talking about those views, which are presumably a big selling point:

“It is a completely flexible frame, like shelves in the air with good views,” the architect said. “We think that this structure can be the future.”

What I hope is that London will get a few of these sorts of super-skinny towers.

Remember Renzo Piano’s Paddington tower, that never happened.  Piano had to redesign it shorter and fatter.

The nearest things we have in London to these Big But Thin Things are the BT Tower and the Shard, which both seem to be pretty popular.  It’s the short fat stuff that gets on everyone’s nerves.

Tuesday October 24 2017

I have photoed this cluster a lot in recent weeks, and why not?  It’s one of the most dramatic crane clusters London has ever seen.  But most of my photos of it have fallen rather flat, metaphorically speaking.  On the whole, I have failed to capture the feeling of hubbub, of a lively cluster, of a cluster of things that are getting “up close and personal” as the modern phrase has it.  But this photo, which I did late last Sunday afternoon, does communicate something of the excitement I get when I actually see this crane cluster:

image

I think the sky helps.  In fact I know it does.  The photo was taken from the downstream of the two Hungerfood Bridge footbridges.

When the cranes have done their work it won’t look nearly as dramatic.

Sunday October 22 2017

Last Sunday, in among photoing leaning tower cranes and Twentytwo.

I also photoed photoers.  I could probably do blog postings for the next fortnight based on nothing but the photos I took that day.  Don’t worry, I won’t.  But I probably could.

Maybe I am not as keen on photoing photoers as I was a decade ago.  Or maybe it is just that there are now lots of other things that I am also keen on photoing, and so my fellow photoers loom smaller in my thoughts when I am now out and about.  But they still loom.  I still like to photo photoers, whenever the opportunity presents itself:

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It was such a lovely day (3.3), and all the better for being a bit misty (3.1 (a lot of zoom in that one, I think)).  There was lots of interesting hair (1.2, 1.3, 2.1, 3.1, and best of all 3.2).  There was even a very old-school small dedicated digital camera (1.2), of the kind that has been totally replaced by the mobile phone (unless, like this old guy, you have your old-school digital camera and you like to keep using it – this makes a lot of sense to old guy me.)

My keenness to photo architecture just grows and grows.  I notice, and like, a new building, and from then on want to photo it from all angles and distances, basically from wherever I can see it, and aligned with whatever else I can find that is aligned with it.

I also delight in photoing architecture which is on the screens of my fellow photoers.  The guy in 1.2, in addition to having interesting hair, is photoing the Boomerang.

Thursday October 19 2017

Last Sunday, I photoed those wonky looking cranes.  I also took this photo:

image

That’s not at all what I think, but lots of people do think that those City of London Big Things are indeed follies.  Follies being a show that the National Theatre, that concrete thing on the right, was advertising when I walked past it.

I find the Big Things of the City hard to keep track of, given that I do try.  Let’s have a closer look at those vertical concrete lumps, that look they will turn into something very big:

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There you go.  Once you have a name like that, the gates of the Internet open.

So, what’s the City of London about to look like next?  The most useful answer I got was this:

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That being the picture at the top of a Londonist posting from last July.

Quote:

Based on the visuals, these projects are a mixed bag of ho-hum and coo-wow. Taken together, they make for a crowded cluster that’ll almost entirely obscure the much-loved Gherkin building, once so dominant on the skyline.

A particularly coo-wow part of the story being the Scalpel.  See above.

The rather ungainly 22 Bishopsgate, which is going up where the Helter Skelter would have gone until the financing for it collapsed, is going to be the tallest Big Thing in London, for a short while, just until that big boxy tower ("1 Undershaft") with the diagonals on it goes even higher.

22 Bishopsgate will have a free viewing platform, according to this report from two years ago:

At the top of the building will be a double-height public viewing gallery, which will have dedicated lifts, be free to the public and sit alongside a two-storey public restaurant and bar.

I can’t wait, as people say when they’re just going to have to wait and are actually quite capable of waiting, in a state of impeccable mental equanimity.

This is the kind of building of which it will be said: The view from 22 Bishopsgate is magnificent.  From 22 Bishopsgate, you will not see 22 Bishopsgate.  They used to say this about the National Theatre.

I sseem to recall taking some closer-up photos of all this activity a few months back.  I must take another look at those.  And … I just did.  June 3rd, earlier this year.

I particularly like this one:

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Very stylish.

Tuesday October 17 2017

I love cranes, especially those big tower cranes they use to build Big Things.  So tall. But so thin.  But they do trouble me.  How do they stay up?  Why don’t they ever fall over?  Well, they do, sometimes.  But mostly they don’t.

And, as I couldn’t help noticing when I was out and about last Sunday, these tower cranes often lean over, in a way that looks like it is asking for headline-making trouble.

Consider one of these cranes, the one on the right, that’s leaning over, about four degree off of the vertical.  How does that not fall over?  (Thank you vertical lamp post for telling us what vertical is.)

image

Well, I’m guessing these people know what they’re doing.  No, scrub that, I’d be amazed if they didn’t know what they’re doing.  This kind of thing just has to be business as usual, no matter how crazy it may look to mere passers-by.  As I discovered when I went looking for other leaning cranes in my photo-archives, and I found one that I had photoed just an hour earlier, on the same walkabout:

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I think we may assume that the BT Tower is the very definition of vertical.

In each case, the crane is bent backwards by the big concrete blocks that compensate them for the lifting job they do with the other end of their tops.  But when no lifting is happening, the compensating weight has no weight to compensate … it.  And the result can look very scary.

No London cranes have been reported collapsing during the last few days.  So, like I say, no problem.

Sunday October 15 2017

For me, it’s the most expensive penny I ever spend.  I’m referring to the toilet in Gramex, the services of which I often avail myself, in between hunting for keenly priced second-hand or ex-review-copy classical CDs.

This shop has kept moving over the years and is now seeking yet another new location, because its current location is about to be turned into a hotel.  But for now, until the 17th of this month, when you pee there, you beyold, in a very bedraggled state, a reproduction of a famous photograph, of New York’s Grand Central Terminal:

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There seem to be several versions of this photo, because more than one photoer noticed this remarkable phenomenon.  The phenomenon being how the presence of smoke or steam in the atmosphere turns any light that journeys through the smoke or the steam into a solid block of light.

This being well known to showbiz of course.  Here is a recent 6k photo, of a pop combo in action, being lit with smoke and searchlights.

The nearest I have ever got to anything like this myself is a set of photos I took one rather misty day in September 2015, when I was officially checking out the first of London Gateway’s cranes.  I have already shown this photo here, but here it is again because I like it so much:

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Here is another photo that I took moments earlier, which I have not shown here before:

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What I especially like about that one is that is shows how solidified light of this sort blocks out what is behind it.  You can’t see past such light.  But when there is no light crashing through and lighting up the mist, you can see through the mist.  Look how, when there isn’t lit up mist, you can see, past all the closer-up drama, another world of clouds, in the darker distance.

The above photo reminds me of another favourite photo of mine, this time where my reflection in a shop window, dark because back lit, makes it possible to see through the shop window into the shop, which otherwise you can’t because of brightly lit reflections from behind me.  In this case it is those bright reflections that are the solid light:

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That was photoed in the south of France, in Ceret, a town famous for its light and much loved by artists, in particular by Picasso.

I love that what we actually see through the shop window is someone else taking a photo.

Photography is light.

Thursday October 12 2017

I had a nice surprise today.  As time passes, the number of places I can buy the Gramophone and the BBC Music Mag keeps on diminishing, one of the few that remains being W.H.Smith in Victoria Station.  It was once again a beautifully lit late afternoon, and when I stepped outside the station concourse, I encountered this beautiful sight:

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Yes, the wraps have come off Pavlova.  And far sooner than I had been expecting.

Several of the above photos feature the new Nova building.  This fine edifice was awarded this year’s Carbuncle Cup.  The dreary grumblers who award this award think that it’s a badge of shame, but I generally find it, and its accompanying runner-up collections, to be a great source of information about interesting and often excellent new buildings.  Nova is wonderful, I think.  I intend (although I promise nothing), to say more about this enjoyably showy yet elegant addition to Victoria’s mostly rather lumpish architecture.

In 3.2, I got lucky with an airplane.