Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Peter Whale on On comments – and some commentary on some Brexit comments
6000 on On comments – and some commentary on some Brexit comments
Brian Micklethwait on Why I like Cricinfo
Darren on Why I like Cricinfo
Tatyana on English is weird
Brian Micklethwait on New York construction cranes in action
Andrew Duffin on New York construction cranes in action
Friday Night SMoke on English is weird
Scott Morter on 55 Broadway
Ben on Incoming imagery from Antoine
Most recent entries
- The right moment and the right alignment
- UCH footbridge
- On comments – and some commentary on some Brexit comments
- Are London’s cranes about to depart for a few years?
- The new Tate Modern extension from inside Blackfriars Station
- Brexit graphics
- Brilliant Brian’s Last Friday talk
- Referendum day graphics
- Big Things and viewing galleries in the Square Mile
- Why I like Cricinfo
- English is weird
- The Union Jack’s near death experience(s?)
- New York construction cranes in action
- Some thoughts on the Izzard effect
- Lioness eats camera
Other Blogs I write for
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Armed and Dangerous
Art Of The State Blog
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Burning Our Money
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
China Law Blog
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Coffee & Complexity
Communities Dominate Brands
Confused of Calcutta
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Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Deleted by tomorrow
Don't Hold Your Breath
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Dr Robert Lefever
Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights
Everything I Say is Right
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From The Barrel of a Gun
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Here Comes Everybody
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My Boyfriend Is A Twat
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we make money not art
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Category archive: Architecture
6k writes about the long journey from journeyman amateur snapper to Artist:
I don’t pretend to be a photo ninja. I can point, and I can shoot, and sometimes the results can be pretty good. Very occasionally, they can be startlingly good, but only very occasionally. I need to work more at not just pointing and shooting to increase the percentage of those startlingly good shots. We’ll get there.
There follows a picture of a bird spreading its wings. In other words, the capture of a fleeting moment.
6k photos his family quite a bit, as they do things like explore the spectacularly beautiful coastline near where he lives, in South Africa. Photoing your loved ones is also a matter of capturing the exact right moment.
With me, I think I get nearest to Art when I’m lining things up with each other. I have a mental list of things I like, and a picture counts double in my head, if I can line a couple, or maybe even more, of these things. The most characteristic of such alignments over the years have typically involved a digital photographer, with a London Big Thing in the background.
Here are a couple of efforts I might pick out to enter a competition, if someone told me I had to do that:
In these two cases, there is also an element of me waiting for the right moment, or more accurately me snapping lots of promising looking moments and picking out the best one.
Those two are from this huge collection of unrecognisable photographers, which I doubt many of you scrutinised in its entirety. So there are two of them again. I particularly like the one with the blue balloon.
And here is another exercise in lining things up, captured just a few days ago. This time, the object at the front is a plastic water bottle, resting on the anti-pigeon netting in the courtyard outside and above my kitchen window. Behind the bottle is a thing that regulars here will know that I like a lot, namely: scaffolding! This being the scaffolding at the top of the big conversion job that’s being done across the courtyard from me:
That picture involves something I don’t usually like to do, which is cropping. The original snap was rather bigger.
I don’t know what exactly I’ve got against cropping, but it feels to me like only one or two notches up from cheating. Maybe I take rather excessive pride in (the Art of) getting the snap I want to emerge straight from the camera, no muss, no fuss, no photoshop. The truth, of course, is that cropping is itself very much an Art. But because I don’t do cropping that much, I probably could have cropped this photo a whole lot better than I actually did.
I must have walked past it a hundred times, from Currys PC World and on my way down Tottenham Court Road towards to Maplins, seeking blank DVDs and plastic DVD sleeves. But yesterday I actually noticed it. Above a back alley called Beaumont Place, just before it arrives at the back entrance of University College Hospital, there is a a footbridge:
A rather strange one. Hospitals often have these little footbridges, connecting the Somethingtrics Department to the Somethingology Ward, or whatever, so medics and more to the point patients, don’t have to go down to ground level and into the big outdoors.
But unlike many such bridges, which were clearly added years after the original buildings were erected, this one looks to have been part of the original design, to attach the new green building to the older dark grey and boxy building. (Form, as is usual with Modern Architecture, is following fashion as well as function.)
What is that strange lump on one side of it, on the bottom? And what’s with the big sticking-out dark grey and boxy bit that the bridge is attached to?
That strange curved pointy thing, to be seen in the left hand picture behind the bridge, sticks out high above over that back entrance. Perhaps the idea was to draw attention to the entrance, but if so, it contributes very little along those lines. Having the words “University College Hospital” and below that, in bigger letters, the word “Entrance” , does that job far better. Aside from being physically pointy, the high-up pointy thing just looks pointless. But maybe it has some other more meaningful purpose.
Usually, I do quota postings in the small hours of the morning. Today, I am doing my quota posting in the big hours of the morning, to get it out of the way before a rather busy day, at the end of which I do not want to be fretting about doing a quota posting. Although, actually, this posting has now turned into something a bit more substantial than that, and I changed the title to something more meaningful. So anyway, yes, cranes:
Ah, cranes! Those structurally perfect votes of confidence in the sky. Those cranes were snapped from the south bank of the river, looking across at The City, on the same day earlier this month that I snapped yesterday’s quota photo. What that new Moderately Big Thing is, that some of the cranes there are ministering to, I do not know, but I like how it looks, in its incomplete state.
With Brexit, will the cranes vanish for a few years, until London sorts itself out and finds itself some new business to be doing? Crexit? (You can always tell when a word has well and truly caught on, because people immediately start trying to apply the same verbal formula to other things. Brexit, verbally speaking, is the new Watergate. Frexit, Swexit, Thisgate, Thatgate, etc. etc.) I thought that the cranes were going to depart after 2008 and all that, but the money people managed to keep the plates spinning on their sticks, and London’s cranes carried on. How will it be this time?
Here is a very pessimistic piece about Britain’s prospects, for the immediately foreseeable future. Does this mean that my crane photo-archive will, in hindsight, be the capturing of a moment of the economic history of London that will now pass? If the cranes do go, how will they look when they return? When the new cranes move in, in ten years time or whenever, will cranes like those above look strangely retro, like digital cameras circa 2005?
Or, will the cranes never return, but instead be replaced by magic electric guns which fill the air with muck and sculpt a building out of the muck, 3D printing style, all in the space of an afternoon?
Taken by me earlier this month:
Blackfriars Station being the one that has its own bridge.
I’ve not yet checked out this edifice, but of course I will, Real Soon Now. Equally of course, it’s what I will be able to see from it that now excites me, rather than any of the stuff I might encounter in it. That top layer of windows looks like it has an open balcony in front of them. I hope to get out there. You can read all you want on the internet about arrangements like this, but there is no substitute for actually going there and seeing for yourself.
But, there is also the matter of other photoers to photo. They may be photoing the stuff inside. If I come across them doing this, then I will, even more of course, join in.
I found a handy little graphic – of Big Things built and Big Things soon to be built in the “Square Mile Cluster” of the City of London – in this piece:
Click to get a bigger and easier-to-read version.
As you can see, the names are all very dull and stupid. The Gherkin is called “30 St Mary Axe”, the Cheesegrater is called “122 Leadenhall Street”. The “Aviva Tower”, which will (if built) be the biggest of the lot (until a bigger one gets built), is far too big and obtrusive to go on being called the “Aviva Tower” indefinitely, by anyone except dull construction magazines terrified of their advertisers. There is also no way that the angular pointy thing (5: “52-54 Lime Street") will remain “52-54 Lime Street”. And I see that they even still calling Heron Tower the “Salesforce Tower”, which got squashed by public opinion ages ago.
Have these people learned nothing from the example of The Shard? The Shard’s owners heard people calling The Shard “The Shard” as soon as they announced it, and said, okay, that’s a name we can happily live with, we’ll call it that too. That way, there is no confusion. Everyone, even its owners, now calls The Shard The Shard. But refuse to bend with the linguistic breeze, and you end up with a building that you persist in pretending is called “34 Boring Street”, but which is really called The Dildo, or some such thing.
But the particular new tower which this article is about, now called “1 Leadenhall”, could quite well remain that, because it looks pretty unremarkable. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The fundamental purpose of the City – London, actually – is to get things done, not to look pretty.
But although unremarkable to look at, “1 Leadenhall” may prove very remarkable to look from. For here is yet another City of London Big Thing which will, assuming they mean it, have a viewing gallery at the top. The views of nearby and bigger Big Things will, I surmise, be pretty spectacular.
I actually think that they do mean it, just as they meant it with the Walkie Talkie. The City’s rulers seem to be making viewing galleries – free and public viewing galleries – at the top of new City Big Things a condition of planning permission. This is, I surmise, because they want to liven up the City at the weekend, by attracting out-of-City-ers there.
The City at the weekend is now about as exciting as the inside of a coffin. When I visited that model of the City (which at the moment is open only on Fridays and Saturdays), I stayed nearly an hour and saw only two other people there. They want to change that.
Trouble is, one of the things that gives the City at the weekend its coffinian atmosphere is its semi-darkness, on all but the brightest days. This is because of the Big Things of the City are not built with daylight in mind. They are built to create as much office space as possible, and maybe look cool from a distance, and they are now starting to cluster in a solid lump. I recently wrote about the difference between London and New York in this respect. In New York, daylight is a very big deal, and the Big Things of New York have always had to be rather further apart than these new London Big Things.
Here is a photo taken by a friend with her mobile, of a construction site in New York, complete with cranes:
I love it when friends send me snaps of things they know I will like.
I am particularly glad to see New York construction cranes in action. After doing that posting about how there has been no construction in the southern end of Manhattan, mentioning absence of cranes as evidence of no construction, I started to wonder if, in New York, they do things differently. I wondered if they built skyscrapers without using cranes, but just lifting all the stuff up the building, as they built it. Or something. But of course they use cranes in New York, same as everywhere else.
Just to be quite sure about that, I googled “construction cranes new york”. And I was greeted with scenes of crane carnage like you would not believe.
Apparently cranes in New York occasionally fall over, and this is the one time when the average person is interested in them. As a result, the average person has a totally distorted idea of the positive contribution made by construction cranes to modern society.
New, big and impressive bridges have been somewhat rare here, recently. All the great bridges of my time seem to have been done at least a decade ago, or of course longer ago. Very recently, not so much. Financial crisis, I guess. Not so much “infrastructure”.
But, feast your eyes on this (that being a link to a recent posting about it at Dezeen):
Click on that to get it bigger.
The Guardian has more:
Tabiat ("nature") bridge, the largest of its kind in Iran, was architect Leila Araghian’s first project. She designed it five years ago while a student, winning a local competition for a plan to connect two parks separated by a highway in north Tehran.
It was built over two years and was unveiled in late 2014 by Tehran’s mayor, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf. It has since become a popular place for hangouts and morning sports. Last month, as Iranians celebrated an ancient festival of outdoor picnicking, thousands flocked to the bridge.
“I didn’t want it to be just a bridge which people would use to get from one park to another,” said Araghian, who is now 31. “I wanted it to be a place for people to stay and ponder, not simply pass.”
Built on three large pillars, the 270-metre curved structure has broad entrances, multiple pathways and three floors of restaurants and cafes and sitting areas. It was recently named among the winners of the Architizer A+ awards, a global architectural competition based in New York.
I love it when bridges are not just things to go across, but places to be in. London used to have a great example of such a bridge. It should again.
So I photo this guy outside Westminster Abbey who is wearing a Chicago Lions shirt:
Later I ask him what sport the Chicago Lions play. He doesn’t know, but the magic WWW in the sky knows, because it knows everything that there is to be known. Turns out the Chicago Lions play rugby. I couldn’t find any Chicago Lions shirts looking like that one, that colour. But I could find no other Chicago sports team called that, so that must be it.
In the course of googling I also came across some Lion statues in Chicago, and further news of how these Lion statues were made to wear Chicago Bears helmets (American football), and Chicago Blackhawks helmets (ice hockey):
Such is the world. Such is Chicago. Such is the internet.
To you, yes, I hope that you had one, but actually what I’m saying is: I did.
England came belting back against Sri Lanka at Lords. After sampling the London weather last night, I had a feeling that might happen. It was not bright and sunny, more overcast and sweaty. It felt like swing bowler weather, which made SL’s reply yesterday afternoon (to England’s 416) of 162-1 rather strange. Dropped catches apparently. Well, this morning, order was restored and SL are now 218-6. Woakes, luckless yesterday, got a wicket with his first ball. England now look likely winners of that series 3-0. The longer the series goes on, and the more the Lankans get acclimatised (following seriously inadequate practising games), the more it counts beating them. The first game, where SL collapsed twice, meant nothing, I reckon. I’ve been following the score here.
Deep thanks to Michael Vaughan, who mentioned on one of the bits of cricket commentary I listened to that England were also playing Australia. At rugby. Aus 28 Eng 39. Must have been some game, and according to the BBC live updates, it was.
And before all that, I even managed a quick (they’re often the best) Samizdata posting, about something odd I heard on the radio, about the EU.
Here is one of the funner pictures I took while out and about last night, this one taken at the Parliament end of Whitehall:
Great reflections in her sunglasses, right? On the left, as we look, the two devices she is holding, and on the right, you can just see a tiny Big Ben. Is that red thing she is holding a charger?
Plus an elephant.
The onward march of mobile phones into photography continues apace.
I haven’t always been blogging here as early as I’d like to in recent days, but today, I did it.
If you had as good a morning as I did, lucky you.
Indeed, with cranes and with intervening roof clutter in the foreground:
One of the oddities of the internet is that if you google new us embassy london, you get lots of Big Boxy Things, all looking different from each other. By which I mean, it’s the same box, but the architectural wrapping is different. Basically what you are looking at is all the different guesses or early suggestions about how it was going to look or how people thought it ought to look, which then just hang about for the next few years. Until such time as the Big Boxy Thing is finished, at which point huge numbers of new photos of it will drown out the guesses and the failed propaganda. This makes it hard to know, now, when the Big Boxy Thing is still being constructed, if what you are seeing is the Big Boxy Thing in question, or some other Big Boxy Thing.
But, in among all the imaginings, I found actual photos of the new Embassy as it actually is, in the process of being built, and the above photo is definitely of the actual US Embassy. No doubt about it. More views from the same spot, above my head as I write this, here.
What is happening is that Spook Alley, which starts near Waterloo Station, continues via all those James Bond enterprises in anonymous Big Boxy Things, and then takes in the new MI6 building, is now being added to with an American strip of boxes of comparable scale, further up the river on the south side. This is the Special Relationship in steel and concrete form, and the idea that this relationship is now cooling is visibly absurd. It has never been more solid. A whole new district of London is being created, basically for spying on terrorists, and on anyone else that the spooks take against.
As the rest of London expands down river, towards places like the new Container Port way off to the east, governmental London moves in the other direction, up river, west.
Well, not quite a decade. I’ve been photoing photoers since well before this, but the first of these particular snaps was taken in July 2007. They illustrate that I have been concerning myself with the photoing of photoers while contriving, in one way or another, not to photo their faces, for a long while now. When I started taking photos of photoers, face recognition was a mere idea, used by implausibly attractive detectives on the telly but not yet a real thing in the real world. Now, with the social media and ubiquitous digital photography, faces (not just big faces but faces in crowds) can be dated and placed and identified, of everyone, and very soon by everyone.
I just picked out a few photos that I like (although, it soon became a bit more than a few). I like them because the pose is fun (6.2, 6.4), or because they’re strongly back-lit (1.1, 3.4), or because the screen is so clearly visible (6.1), or because the faces of photoers are hidden by bubbles (7.3), or by a coat (7.1), or by an orange bag with the Eiffel Tower on it (that one is the one snap of these that was not taken in London (that’s Paris, Feb 2012)), or because they’re photoing through some bars (in this case at the top of the Monument (1.3)), or because they were just too far away (in one of the pods of The Wheel and on the other side of the river (5.3)), or because they are simply facing the other way or holding their cameras (or their arms or their hands holding their cameras (1,2, 1.4, 4.1, 4.3, 5.1, 6.4, 7.2, 8.1, 8.2, 8.3, 8.4)) in front of their faces. My favourite face-blocking device here is the blue balloon (2.1) saying visit Mexico. The balloon goes very nicely with the Testicle (click and look on the blue square below if you are baffled). Happy times:
The most recent of these was taken when I was photoing that model of the City of London (8.4). Someone else was also.
After assembling these thirty two snaps, I did more browsing, and I soon realised that I could easily have found another thirty two more, and more, many more, of equal fun-ness.
Like with everything else, good photography comes from doing the same thing again and again.
Here is a picture of the Lower Manhattan end of New York, the bit with the tallest skyscrapers, topped off in 2001 by the Twin Towers:
And here is another picture of the exact same scene, taken fifteen years later in 2016, this time topped off with the single replacement tower for the Twin Towers:
The guy who took these pictures was interested in which photograph is photographically superior. The first one was taken with old-school film and the second is digital.
To me the two pictures look nearly identical. Their technical identicality does not interest me. But their architectural identicality, aside from the Twin Towers alteration, is something that I find fascinating.
Skyscrapers have exploded all over the world in the last decade and a half. New York is one of the world’s great cities. And yet, here are two photos of New York taken at opposite ends of the last fifteen years, and aside from the rather dramatic change imposed upon the place by terrorism, nothing at all seems to have changed.
Things were not changing in 2001 and they aren’t changing now. Consider the cranes in these pictures. Basically, barring a few microsopically invisible ones, there are no cranes.
I don’t know why this is, but it strikes me as an extremely remarkable circumstance.
It’s not that you aren’t allowed to build towers in New York any longer, unless you are replacing something like the Twin Towers. In the part of New York a bit further to the north, just to the south of Central Park, there is an explosion of skyscrapers under way. Skyscrapers that are very tall, but very thin.
Here is a picture of how these new New York Thin Things look like they will look:
People have long feared that skyscrapers would make all big cities the world over look alike. But the shape of individual skyscrapers varies from city to city, and does the shape of skyscraper clusters as a whole, and as does the variations in the heights of buildings. A city where the newest and tallest towers are a lot taller than the older buildings is one sort of city. A city where new towers are only slightly taller than old ones looks very different.
New York’s newest towers are, as I say, these tall Thin Things, a lot taller than their surroundings. In London, the typical new tower is a much fatter looking Thing, the extreme recent case being the Walkie Talkie which is big on the ground compared to its height, and which then bulges outwards as it goes upwards.
Interestingly, the Walkie Talkie is the work of Rafael Vinoly, as is this new Thin Thing in New York. (You can just see the top of this new Thin Thing in the second of the two Lower Manhattan photos above, bottom left, in the foreground. That’s the one big change in these photos aside from the Twin Towers having been replaced.) It’s like Vinoly wants to do his bit to make great cities look distinct and recognisable, rather than them all looking the same. Good for him.
I constantly walk to St James’s Park tube, and often past it. Seldom do I actually notice what is above it, namely the until recently) headquarters of London Underground, 55 Broadway. This evening, on my way to a Libertarian Home meeting, I did notice this extraordinary, Mussolinian edifice:
According to Wikipedia, when 55 Broadway was completed in the late nineteen twenties, it was the tallest office building in London.
Yes, quota photo time. I have spent the day doing ... other things, and am in that familiar tizz of having to shove up any old thing before going to bed. So here is another snap, to add to the one I earlier showed of all those bridges, of that model of the City of London, in the City of London, which I visited last Saturday:
The point of this picture being that it doesn’t just show what is there now. It shows what it is intended will soon be built.
The biggest of those Big Things there is, I presume, this.
Isn’t it terrible how horrible modern skyscrapers are ruining the view of the Gherkin.
I was very proud of this photo of seven London bridges ...:
… when I first posted it here.
Today I took another photo of these same seven bridges:
I wish this model included Westminster as well as the City, but it’s a model of the City.