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Category archive: Architecture

Saturday June 24 2017

Yesterday, I was outside Kings Cross Station, and while there I tried to photo one of London’s more amusing little buildings, which looks like a lighthouse.

The camera I have had for the last three years still works, after a fashion.  But it is misbehaving, in ways that cause me to miss crucial photos.  So, I treated myself to a new one, which is very fine, but very complicated to operate.  Which partly explains why, instead taking a still photo of this lighthouse building, I made a movie which merely included the lighthouse building, lasting twenty one seconds, by mistake.

Here is a screen capture from that movie, paused at a moment that makes it look a lot better than it mostly was:

image

This short movie also contained pictures of passers-b at crazy angles, of the pavement in front of me, along with occasional snatches of my bright blue bag.  (I’d happily show the whole thing, but as of right now, I don’t know how that works.)

But, the interesting thing was that there was also a soundtrack.  So, it was a real movie, rather than a silent movie.  You can hear those passers-by shouting, in some cases with their lips moving in perfect time with their shouting.

Hollywood, be very afraid.  Because, perhaps I will try repeating this, while pointing my new camera back at me (for which the twiddly screen (it has a twiddly screen (all my cameras have twiddly screens)) will be very handy), and with me saying something coherent.  Or maybe someone else cleverer than me.  Or both.  Or more.  But, I promise nothing.

The lighthouse building is in the middle of the above screen capture, and in the distance (this kind of situation being why I do love a zoom lens).  More about this building, and in particular about its recent renovation, here.

Thursday June 22 2017

Well, two really.  Theirs, and mine:

imageimageimage
imageimageimage

We are in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern, which features a huge west-facing window that sucks the afternoon sun in, creating wonderful effects.  These are sharp and dramatic when you look at the whole picture, more subtle when viewed closer up.

I observe a couple having a photo session.  I do a big picture photo of the big scene (1.1).  Then I zoom in for more detail (1.2) complete with reflections, and to see the light in a different light, so to speak, less sharply drawn, more like a watercolour.  As they look at their photos, I zoom out again (2.1), and then as they walk off, satisfied. I zoom in again (2.2).

Things were made easier for us all by the fact that there was no Art cluttering up the place, or not that I could see.  That the Art in Tate Modern is so easily avoided is one of its best features, I think.  The architectural views, both inside and looking outwards upon London, are magnificent.  The Art, on the whole, less so.

Wednesday June 21 2017

One of the many aspects of the horrible Grenfell Tower fire that makes it such a compelling news story is that the scene of the crime (which is what most now assume it to be) is so very, very visible.  This is not the kind of horror that can be sealed off by the police and hidden from view.  There it is, in all its photogenic horror, and there it will remain for quite some while yet.

Yesterday I lunched with GodDaughter 2.  She has been allowed no time to recover from her recital (the pizza in yesterday’s posting was consumed just after that happened), but instead has been plunged into rehearsals for this showVery hot, apparently.  Lots of stage lighting, and lots of standing around, as is the way with complicated rehearsals.  I, meanwhile, was also nearly immobilised by the heat, and just wanted to get home again and be truly immobile.  So, we spent less time together than we would have had the heat been less hot.

imageBut she did show me this photo, on the right there, which was taken by a friend of hers and along with a million other such photos, has been circulating on social media.  This particular photo was taken (I think I have this right) after the fire had erupted, and then been turned entirely black and dormant by the firemen.  But then, the fire got back into business, nearly a day later.  And I bet the heat made a difference to that too.

As for the politics of this, I don’t think Mrs May will recover from the bad press she has had as a result of this disaster.  (GD2 was very eloquent about that.) But my hope is that the Corbynistas are overplaying their hand.  People, says John McDonnell, have a right to be angry.  Of course they do.  But if too many of the people being angry are thought to be politicos who are merely pretending to be angry but who are really having the time of their lives, the Corbyn project might suffer.  I’m sure the Corvbyn high-ups are aware of this danger, but knowing what is happening with something is not the same as necessarily being able to stop it.  (Ask any fireman.)

In general I hope that what I heard Matthew Parris saying on the television on the night of the election is right, to the effect that the Corbyn phenomenon will now be subjected to the sort of serious critical scrutiny by the voters which last time around they bestowed only upon Mrs May.

Friday June 16 2017

It feels hard to write about anything else in London, other than that towering inferno.  This story will run and run, because it partakes of both genuine emotions of the strongest sort, and politicians and media people eager to fan the flames.  What happened?  Who exactly has died?  Whose fault was it?  You can’t blame the media.  Their job is to tell true stories, and this is one hell of a true story.

image

Daily Mirror story about a barking dog.

Politically, if you had tried to hand-craft a disaster calculated to do the most possible damage to the Conservative government, and to most encourage what now seems to be a rising tide of Corbynism, you could hardly have done it more perfectly.  Those political people who are now fanning the flames are filled with passionate moral self-confidence.  How on earth the long-term politics of all this will pan out, I have no idea.

Would a Corbynite government really turn Britain into Venezuela?  Probably not, but why take the chance?  That’s what I say.  But will enough of my fellow Brits agree with me, when the time to say comes round again?  As of now, it feels like: no.

Oh well:

Spero infestis metuo secundis.

6k liked that too.

Wednesday June 14 2017

In the movie of that name, the inmates were all rich and glamorous.  Well, they would be, they were played by movie stars.  And the fire spread slowly enough to last for a whole movie.

This tower contained mere people, and the flames spread very quickly, like … wildfire.

I presume that the social media are ablaze with images of this tower, but for me, being the age I am, it’s the Evening Standard that really brings these sorts of things home:

imageimageimageimageimage

As you can see, they originally went with “Inferno”, but later changed it to the more politically charged “Death Trap”.  On the telly, the story was already developing, along the lines of: they were warned.  But they did nothing.

The Evening Standard story so far.

Tuesday June 13 2017

Indeed:

image

According to Laura Gibbs, this translates from Latin into this:

I am hopeful in times of danger; I am fearful when things are going well.

I love the internet.  Before the internet I would have seen this, been momentarily baffled, and would have forgotten it at once.  Now I photo it and later I learn what it means.  I then blog it and only then do I forget about it.

The building that proclaims this wisdom is now the Milestone Hotel.

Monday June 12 2017

Today I was part of a impressively numerous gang of friends and family who attended GodDaughter 2’s end of third year recital, at the Royal College of Music.

The RCM, seen from outside the Royal Albert Hall, looks like this:

image

This photo was taken from just beyond the statue of Prince Albert outside the Royal Albert Hall, to the south of it.  By most standards, this statue is pretty imposing, but it is a miniature compared to the vastly bigger Royal Albert Memorial, which is to the north, the other side of Kensington Road, in Hyde Park.

After GD2’s recital, we went out and celebrated.  We ate.  We drank.  We photoed each other.  I photoed us photoing each other.  And I also took a few dozen photos in and around the RCM and its various Albert memorials, both before and after the recital.  More of that may follow (although I promise nothing).

For now, I’ll just say that although it is very hard to be objective about a person whom I have known since she was about four or some such tiny age, GD2, who is a mezzo-soprano, really seems like she is going to be the real deal.  Her voice gets stronger and more expressive, and her command of it more impressive, every time I hear her.

GD2 herself is not in the slightest bit strange, but when singing, she does strange, wonderfully.  Her performances of two of the songs from Day Turned Into Night by Iain Bell were particularly fine.  These songs feature Queen Victoria describing the life and death of – you’ve guessed it – Prince Albert.  The two that GD2 sang are very strange indeed.

Sunday June 11 2017

Indeed:

image

Click on that sliver of horizontality to see the building in question.

No doubt this has already received much www attention.  And now, I attend to it.  Photos taken by me, outside Hampton Wick Overground Station, yesterday.

The graffiti in the Hampton Hackney Wick and surrounding areas is dispiritingly ubiquitous.  I prefer the way my part of town handles graffiti, which is for it all to happen in a tunnel.

Wednesday June 07 2017

Last Saturday, I walked from Waterloo to the City, but stopped by at Tate Modern to have another look at the views from the top of the Tate Modern Extension.  But I have learned that the things to be seen within the space at the top there can also be quite striking:

image

Click to get the bigger original picture.

That’s all for today.  Tomorrow, I will try (although I promise nothing) to do something rather more substantial.

Sunday May 28 2017

The rule at this blog is simple.  Something every day no mattter how rubbish, barring computer disasters or worse, actual disasters.

But here is a hand-done sign, which I photoed in the summer of 2015, that reveals a very different attitude towards rubbish:

image

Somehow, as with political demonstrations, hand-done signs reveal a depth of feeling that a more professionally produced, printed sign just would not communicate.  I sense the presence of a particularly rubbishy pile of rubbish which caused whoever it was to snap.

I like how he decided that the original exclamation mark, squeezed in at the end of RUBBISH didn’t quite do the job, so he added another exclamation mark, just to make sure that the whole passing world knew exactly how he felt, about rubbish.

Friday May 26 2017

That’s not a big cat.  This is a big cat:

image

Details here:

Sculptor Dengding Rui Yao has carved this incredible wooden lion from a single tree trunk. The artist led a team of 20 assistants on a three-year journey to complete the sculpture, which was made in Myanmar and was transported to its permanent home at the Fortune Plaza Times Square in Wuhan, China.

I chose the photo with the Big(gish) Things of Wuhan in the background.

This lion was linked to in these David Thompson ephemera, this time last week.

Featured in the latest lot, a baby hippo called Fiona.

Thursday May 25 2017

I don’t remember how I recently found my way back this piece in the Telegraph, but I do remember noticing it when it was first published in 2014, because I remember the graphic in it about preserving various public views of St Paul’s.

However, I don’t think I actually read it right through in 2014.  In particular, I don’t remember reading this:

It’s no secret why developers want to build towers as tall as possible. The higher an apartment block is, the more money it makes. A rule of thumb is that each floor adds at least 1.5 per cent onto the value of an apartment.

“The fact is someone will pay more to be on the 29th floor than they will to be on the 27th floor,” says Mark Dorman, head of London residential development at Strutt and Parker. They are marketing the two new towers at Nine Elms (56-storey City Tower and 45-storey River Tower, ready in 2017).

“Surprisingly, too, as has been discovered in New York, you will get as much money for a high-rise apartment facing another high-rise block as you will for an apartment facing the river.

“The same rule applies in London; you’ll get more for an apartment with a view of The Shard or the Gherkin than you will for one with a view of the Thames. People in high-rises like to look at other high-rises.”

The piece then goes on to note that others, notably the Price of Wales, don’t like high rise buildings.

So, the people who like living in high-rise apartments are willing to pay for them.  Some of those not willing to pay for them don’t like them.  Guess who wins.

Plus, there are lots of people, like me, who are not willing to pay for high rise apartments, but who do like them, because they (we) like how London is and how London looks because of all these other people living in London, making all manner of interesting business and pleasure ventures viable, and making the entire place more interesting to live in and look at, and in my case a lot more interesting to take photos of.

Here is how the Telegraph piece ends:

As for those people who worry that it’s all foreigners who are coming over here and taking our high-rises, they shouldn’t get upset, says Challis. …

Challis being “head of residential research at Jones Lang Lasalle”.

… That battle is already lost.

“The fact is, one-third of the population of London was not born here,” he says.

“Take me – I’m Canadian. When it comes to internationalisation, I have to say that this is not a new phenomenon. This city is founded on its contribution to the globe.

“It’s time everyone woke up and realised what has happened. There’s no doubt in my mind that London is now the de facto capital of the world.”

All of which was written before Brexit happened.

And I’m guessing that Brexit won’t make much of a dent in any of this.  Some voted Brexit, I am sure, to put a stop to all this, or at least to slow it down.  I voted Brexit for other reasons, and also because I didn’t think Brexit would make much of a difference to the cosmopolitan nature of London.

In the longer run, I think and hope, Brexit will make London even more the “de facto” capital of the world.  In other words (see also “fundamentally”, “essentially") not really the capital of the world at all, but you know what he’s (and I’m) getting at.

Long before London became the “de facto capital of the world”, it was also the “de facto”, as well as actual, capital of England, in the sense that it has always been a Mecca for non-Londoners.  William Shakespeare for example.  He too was, by the standards of his time, an immigrant into London.  (Who went back home to die, as most immigrants don’t, but that’s a different story.)

Saturday May 20 2017

Around five years ago, the dominant architectural story of London was all the Big Things that had recently been erected, starting with ther Gherkin, continuing with the Shard and the Walkie Talkie.  There are few more Big Things about to arrive in The City, but the bigger story now is the much more numerous, rather less big things.  less big things like these: 

image

As you can see from the cranes, lit up by early evening sun against that cloudy sky (an effect of which I have always been fond), some of these particular Less Big Things are still being completed.  They are on the far (i.e. south) side of the River from me.  Behind them are the railway approaches into and out of Waterloo.

Call it the Benidorming of London.  By this I do not mean that London will become entirely Benidorm, merely that this is the way the architectural wind happens to be blowing just now.  Soon, another wind will blow, and people will be grumbling about that, and maybe even lamenting the end of the Benidorm phase.

Photo taken from the roof of my home, earlier this month.

LATER: To provide some context, here is another photo, photoed moments later, from the same spot, which tells you both more about where these Less Big Things are, and where I was doing the photoing from:

image

On the left, the Millbank Tower (with its glorious roof clutter cluster).  The Millbank Tower is a truly Big Thing.  As you can tell, from the fact that it has a name, and that, if you are yourself a Londoner, you have almost certainly heard of it.

Tuesday May 16 2017

This looks like an everyday urban scene, towards the end of a rather gloomy and cloudy day, with nothing much of any great interest to see:

image

But observe that cluster of chimneys, to the right of and a bit higher than the bus stop sign.

I’m talking about this:

image

I’ve lived a walk away from this delightful urban sculpture for about a third of a century, but I never noticed it, until today.

I’ll bet you anything there was a time when most people thought that the plague of chimney potted brick buildings that was marching relentlessly across London was the quintessence of ugliness, the way people think traffic jams are ugly now.  But now that such chimneys are no longer being built, but are instead merely being destroyed from time to time, we can relax and enjoy them.  And in a fifty years time, when the traffic jams start to retreat, people will realise that they look rather cute also.

Monday May 15 2017

Last night Spurs played their final game at the old White Hart Lane stadium.  They beat Man U 2-1, with Man U’s Wayne Rooney, no less, having the honour to score the very last goal there.  That will make a fine trivia question in years to come.

And today, the digging up of the old pitch has already begun:

image

Ouch.

I then ran the video for a bit, until there were cranes:

image

At the top there, you can see that open wound where the digging up has started.  And you can also see how the new stadium is replacing the old one, on an expanded version of the old site.

Here is a rather more pastoral photo of those same cranes, taken by me from out east, beside the River Lea, looking back across the Tottenham Marshes:

image

I am not surprised that they are now in a hectic rush to complete the new stadium as quickly as they can.  Home advantage is a very real thing in sport.  Spurs did superbly at old White Hart Lane this last season, the one now coming to an end.  But not nearly so well at Wembley, where they played their “home” Champions League and Europa League games, and where they will play all their “home” games next season, or in their regular away games, at other club’s stadia (-iums if you prefer that).  Typically, it was an away loss to West Ham which finally saw them lose all hope of winning the Premier League, and let Chelsea gallop away with it.

I don’t fancy Spurs for next season, or for the season after, when (and this is if all goes well with the new stadium) they will still be new to their new home ground.  Spurs will bust all the guts they have control over to get the new ground ready for the season after next, and I believe they’ll manage it, if only because the amount of money at stake will cover all the costs of rushing.

They also face the problem of keeping the likes of Kane and Dele Alli from signing for Real Madrid, Gareth Bale style.  It might have been better for Spurs if Dele Alli had postponed proving what a great player he is for a couple of seasons.

So, the sooner Spurs settle into New White Hart Lane the better.  But it won’t be easy to combine all this commotion by topping their third place in the Premier League in 2015-2016 and their second place this time around.

Hope I’m wrong.