Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Maria Adams on Amusing cats versus important people
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Most recent entries
- Photographing while on a skateboard
- National Theatre Boo
- Red arrow?
- James II dressed as a Roman
- Ten years ago today
- Mark Littlewood photoed by me and by this other guy
- Guardian online is a group blog that trolls its own readers
- VC DSO DSO DSO DSO
- Vauxhall bus station now – and when it was being constructed
- Painted people
- A slightly foreign part of London
- Spot the owl
- Anton Howes – James Lawson – Will Hamilton
- Happiness is a wallet that I didn’t lose after all
- Battersea park in the sky
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Category archive: Architecture
Actually it’s National Theatre Bookshop. But I prefer my edited version.
Literally about three people whom I spoke with at LLFF14 may now or soon be flooding in to BrianMicklethwait.com, expecting, perhaps, libertarian profundities. But this is not that sort of place, is it? No it is not.
Here, I do things like display photos of London, like this:
On the left, a shot taken by me on May 19th 2004, showing how Vauxhall bus station looked when it was under construction. On the right, how the same building looked when completed, photoed by me last Christmas Eve.
What a very odd object this is.
The 2004 photo was taken with my second digital camera, which was a Canon PowerShot A70.
No, this is not a plan to reduce the height of Battersea Power Station until it is mostly only its chimneys. This is a roof garden:
A slice of urban heaven, if that picture is anything to go by. Alas, it may not be, and most of us may never be allowed up there to check.
It looks like London is going to get itself some Frank Gehry wobbliness.
The English language is strange.
Consider this. We’re talking football, not something we often do here, but we are.
Suppose one of us says: “Liverpool are back.” This means that Liverpool, as in the single club Liverpool, is now doing very well, and much better than they have been doing for the last couple of decades or so. Which it is. Top of the Premier League as of now.
But suppose someone says: “Liverpool is back.” It would be clear from that remark that what is meant is that the entire city of Liverpool is on the up-and-up, footballwise. And it is. Both Liverpool (the club) and Everton, the other big club in Liverpool, are doing well just now. And Everton … are.
So, “are” is singular, and “is” is plural.
In other soccer news, check out the new Spurs stadium that they are going to build, which is to be called the Naming Rights Stadium.
Prediction: Spurs will do surprisingly badly (i.e. they’ll be eleventh rather than seventh, their current default position) for the next few years. Why? Because of this syndrome.
Big Ben is the most famous Big Thing from among all the London Parliament buildings. But the other Big Thing, almost as famous, is “Victoria Tower”, by which I mean the one that’s a bit thicker than Big Ben, as tall, and with about five big spikes on top rather than just the one. Until now I had supposed that Victoria Tower was St Stephen’s Tower, but St Stephen’s Tower is another name for Big Ben. Certain wankers are fond of saying that Big Ben is really only the clock in the tower. But the rest of us long ago decided that Big Ben is Big Ben, all of it, tower, clock, the lot.
Or then again, maybe “St Stephen’s Tower” is really ”Elizabeth Tower”, because just recently they decided to call it that, instead of whatever the hell they used to be call it.
I say, screw the damn name changes imposed by the damn politicians. If everyone out here in Human World thinks that Big Ben is actually Big Ben, the clock and the tower, then I say the clock and the tower are Big Ben. Usage trumps political mucking about. What something is called is discovered, not decided from on high. Elizabeth Tower my arse. Nobody I know calls it that. Nobody I know even knows that anyone else thinks it’s that.
Here’s a bloke who says: ”It’s called St Stephen’s Tower”, and a commenter then says: “Don’t call it Big Ben”. But the test is, do you want, when talking, to be a wanker, or do you want to be understood? If you want to be understood, you’ll say Big Ben.
That Big Ben is Big Ben is a fact reinforced by all the stupid name changes flung about by the politicians. The “Big Ben is not Big Ben” tendency can now no longer agree about what Big Ben is supposed to be called instead of what it is called, so: they lose.
So anyway, forget about Big Ben. Here are two recent snaps I took of “Victoria Tower”, both of them containing other things besides the Tower in question, which is how I like to photo London’s Big Things:
In each case, the other stuff has come out very clearly, and the tower is present only as a backdrop, in one case rather too strongly lit and in the other case not strongly enough lit. But that’s the thing about these Big Things. They are totally recognisable even if they don’t come out that well. That’s almost a definition of a Big Thing.
Why the brightly lit Union Jack umbrella? Well, I just like it.
As for why I have become so fascinated by chimneys, I think I can answer that. For me, chimneys represent a, yes, fascinating staging post between the kind of purely decorative and impressive roof clutter that the Victoria Tower makes such resplendent use of, and on the other hand the entirely utilitarian roof clutter, to do with the sending and receiving of electronic information, the accommodation of lift shafts, equipment to clean windows, as such like, that prevails now. Chimneys of the sort to be seen above are both there to do a job, and yet are also shaped to look somewhat elegant. For me, chimneys of this sort are an interesting moment in architectural history.
The umbrella photo was taken from Westminster Bridge, far side of the river from Parliament, just behind the tourist crap kiosk as you cross the river going south, on the right hand side, on July 6th of last year. The chimneys photo was taken from within the Millbank Triangle, i.e. in a spot in the middle of the triangle with, as its edges: Victoria Street, Vauxhall Bridge Road and the river, on December 12th of last year.
By the way, “Victoria Tower”, as I have been calling it, has sneer quotes attached because that used to be called “The King’s Tower”, but They (sneer capital T) renamed that in honour of Queen fucking Victoria. No wonder nobody has any idea what to call the fucking thing.
I seem to have turned into The Devil’s Kitchen.
From a report on an exhibition at the Building Centre (which I will definitely be looking in on soon), about the burst of new tower building that is about to happen in London, and in particular in Tower Hamlets, this:
Structures of over 20 storeys were usually only found on council estates or in the business hub of the city, yet new plans reveal that over 80 percent of the 236 planned towers are set to become luxury residential buildings to cater for London’s growing population. 43 percent of the all the proposed high-rises have now received approval and 77 percent of them will be focussed in Central and East London, with Tower Hamlets set to play host to 23 percent of the futuristic towers.
And, from a report about the alleged misdeeds of the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, this:
The government has ordered outside auditors to examine allegations that an east London mayor sought to shore up his vote by diverting £2m in public grants to Bangladeshi and Somali groups.
The communities secretary, Eric Pickles, said staff from the accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers were already in place at Tower Hamlets council. A file is being passed to the Metropolitan police.
Hm. A corrupt mayor. And, lots of new towers. Coincidence? I choose to doubt it.
If my guess (and I stress that a guess is all it is) is right, then to many, this would be an argument against all the towers. They can only be built if the builders find some way to line the pockets of the mayor and his favourite voters.
But I like towers. To me, this confluence of events is more like an argument in favour of local government corruption.
Besides which, doesn’t “Tower Hamlets” sound like a place where there ought to be lots of towers?
Yes, here is another strange science-fictional artificial landscape, photographed by me a few days ago, to set beside this strange artificial landscape, photoed by me last August:
Both these images were contrived in the same way with the same raw material. But what is the raw material and what did I do with it?
I still can’t get used to the internet. I never really will. You can find all kinds of stuff out in a few seconds. You know that, and so do I know it. But, unlike (probably) you, I will never get truly used to this.
Last night, for instance, there was a TV show on about Fossils, fronted by this old Fossil Professor, and mention was made of – and a little sliver of film was shown of – a building (with lots of fossils in it) called the Royal Ontario Museum. I said, that looks like that Daniel Libeskind museum in Berlin, in the saw cuts in big blocks style. So let’s see about that Royal Ontario Museum shall we? Sure enough, that is Libeskind also.
I had imagined that the saw cut style was specifically used only for that Berlin museum, to make you wince when you look at the building, same as you do when you find out the grizzly details of what happened to all those Berlin Jews.
However, it now seems (to me) that Libeskind just likes doing saw cuts. Am I getting this wrong?
Maybe I could google that question also, and find out if anyone else agrees with the above. But that’s enough answers for one posting.
Last Wednesday, I snapper a whole lot of my fellow snappers, but I did not neglect inanimate objects. Here are some of the “I just like it” photos I also took that afternoon, as afternoon turned into evening and as the sun started hitting particular parts of those objects. Click at will for the bigger versions:
I make that: four Wheels (1.2 behind trees; 2.1 behind a little scaffolding; 4.1, bottom of, end on; and 5.2, in a piece of art in a shop window, behind a bird); two Big Bens (2.3, with all its spikes (most pictures of Big Ben include the clock, which then upstages all the spikes) and 4.2, serving as blurry backdrop for two street lights); two Millbank Towers (2.2 and 5.3, the one with the crew cut hairdo of roof clutter); one Shard (3.1, weird top of); one Spray Can (2.3, next to the Millbank Tower -will “Spray Can” ever catch on?) some cranes (1.1) and some tourist crap (4.3), which I love to photo even as I would never buy.
See also a vapour trail (3.3), part white, part dark, depending (presumably) on whether the sun is hitting it or not. (One of my best (I think) postings here concerned a dirty looking vapour trail.)
And see also that St Thomas’s Hospital car park under a park with a fountain (5.1), than I mentioned in the earlier posting with the photographers.
For someone else’s earnestly anxious ruminations about London’s incurably crowded and bustling state, try this. Not enough “affordable” housing, he says. This would suggest to me that building “affordable housing” is not affordable for the builders. Why not? What rules make affordable housing unaffordable to build? He says, of course, not enough rules and subsidies. I say too many rules and subsidies.
Maybe I’d start with the Green Belt, a huge doughnut of dreary fields through which commuter trains race and commuter cars crawl. In a free market, some of the green belt would stay fields or become parks, and some of it towns, that are affordable to live in. I wouldn’t just free up all of it, in one go. I’d carve out the prettiest bits of it and say: don’t build here. And I’d point at the boring bits (very numerous) and say, build here, whatever you like.
But that wouldn’t “solve” all London’s problems. These are caused by London being a great city that millions of people want to live and work in. “Solve” whatever is considered to be London’s biggest problem now, and you merely make all other London problems that bit worse. London will always be overcrowded, and lacking in this or that thing that Guardian opinion-mongers consider necessary and regard as an excuse for bitching about capitalism and for recommending more regulations and subsidies.
First you fuck with the free market and stop it doing its stuff. Then you blame the free market and fuck with it some more. See also: environment.
But I digress. Last Wednesday was a very nice day. As is today, by the look of it.
Taken by me, Thursday evening:
This was definitely the best picture I took during that little session, between leaving the meeting at the Rose and Crown and arriving at Blackfriars Tube on the other side of the river, but it always takes me a while to be able to see which are the best. I think it is because I need to forget entirely about which ones I had highest hopes for at the time.
A while back I did a posting about an acquaintance of mine, called Victor. He had been attending my Last Friday meetings, but I was forgetting that his name is Victor. So, I did a posting, with a picture of him next to a picture of a Handley Page Victor airplane, to make me remember that his name is Victor. It worked.
So now, I am doing another posting to solve another name problem I have long had, which is knowing the difference between trendy Brit Architect Norman Foster and trendy Brit Architect Richard Rogers.
So here they are. Norman Foster on the left, …:
I am well aware that these two men look quite different. But when looking at one, in a photo or on the telly, I am unable to imagine the other, or know which is the one I am looking at, Richard Rogers or Norman Foster.
Foster first. Ffffffff. Rogers on the right. Rrrrrrrr. And I’ve given this posting a title which will enable me to get back to it easily, if ever there is more confusion in the future.
If this doesn’t work, sterner measures may be needed, but I’ll leave it at that for now.
Seconds after I’d finished photoing that camel, I took this photo:
But whereas I was quickly able to find out about the camel, and about how there’s a pub called that (partly), and so on, I was unable to find out anything about “SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS” other than a phone number, which I dare not ring because I don’t really have a proper question to ask them other than: do you exist? There is no website. The www knows of no buildings that have been designed by SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS.
So, if you work for SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS or if you know anyone who works for SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS, please add a comment.
My theory is SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS used to exist, which is when they put up that big sign. But, before the www came into existence, they went out of existence. And now, nobody can be bothered to take the sign down.
There are some spectacular pictures now up at English Russia, taken from the air over the Russian Far East, i.e. Vladivostock and surrounding parts.
Here is a good one (scroll down at page 3 of the posting):
What’s good about that is that it shows how roads stop fires. On the right, fire! On the left, the other side of the road, no fire.
Other pictures in the set include several of two rather spectacular bridges in Vladivostock, of which this snap is my favourite (scroll down at page 2):
That is the bridge over the Golden Horn Bay. The other and bigger Vladivostock bridge joins Vladivoskock to Russkiy Island. See this Guardian report. This map, if you reduce its size and go north a bit, shows where both the bridges are.
Tonight on BBC4 they just showed a programme about Carl Faberge, blingster to the Czars.
I learned a lot. Next up, a show done by Jonathan Meades, about Brutalist architecture. He’s for it.
This seems an appropriate juxtaposition, and I am recording both. The insanely ornate and extravagant trinkets unleashed by Faberge, and all the other riche and nouveau riche junk that flooded into the world in and around 1900, had a direct cause-and-effect relationship with the anti-ornamental puritanism of architectural brutalism. Many, including me, some of the time, react to Faberge eggs not just with indifference but with aggressive hatred.
I also beheld Brutalist architecture for most of the last half century with even greater loathing. This loathing is only now abating, as the buildings themselves start to diminish in number.
That building used to adorn the roundabout on the other side of the river from Parliament. It is now no more. I photographed it. Then, I photographed its demolition. I did not mourn its passing.
Meades is now, as promised, rhapsodising about Brutalism. Why, he asks, does architecture have to be nice? He is likening it to Victorian architectural oddities of earlier times.
What he misses, or is missing so far, is that Brutalism’s aesthetic aggression went hand in hand with huge collectivist power grabs. Brutalism was the architectural face of state centralism. For me, Meades makes a big distinction between “Brutalism” and regular modern. I don’t really see this. Both went hand in hand, I’d say.
Meades’ injunction that people should not hate Brutalism is rather like expecting conquered Europeans not to be such philistines about the obviously beautiful design of Junkers 87s or Tiger Tanks. Ah, correction. Now he is acknowledging quite explicitly the roots of Brutalism in second world war concrete bunkers, most notably those constructed by the Nazis. “Forget” that the Nazis built these things, says Meades. But I suspect that the Brutalists actually liked the very quality that made the Nazis do this kind of thing. Nazis conquered twee old Europe. Brutalism assaulted the twee architecture of post-war Europe, the Europe that is still awash with Fabergerie. There is a deep affinity here.
The show is still going as I post this, and is in any case only part one of two. This was live blogging.
Tomorrow evening the 2014 BAFTA Awards shindig will be happening, at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. Roger Hewland, proprietor of Gramex (Records and CDs), Lower Marsh, told me this afternoon that BAFTA is paying the ROH three quarters of a million quid for this privilege. Where RH picked this titbit up, I do not know, but it sounds a lot, doesn’t it?
Below is a picture that I recently took myself of the ROH. If you google for pictures of the ROH, you mostly get either interiors, or else the big Parthenon-like front entrance. But when I was at that Rooftop Bar I recently visited, I took this snap of the ROH:
What strikes me is how modern it looks. It’s just a big box. The decoration is no more than a gesture. I know, I know, that’s because nobody can see this bit, this being before the age of buildings taller than this, from which people can look down. But even so, you can see architectural modernism all present and correct, just waiting to emerge.