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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Architecture

Thursday December 18 2014

Last Monday I was in the Covent Garden area.  Having a little time to kill before the event began which had brought me there, I naturally took photos.

The one I like best that I took at that time was this one:

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Forget that balustrade in the foreground.  I’m interested in that big round building behind it, and in the contrast between the severe repetitiousness of vertical wall, and the picturesque jumble of functionality that has erupted on the top of the building.

I’m getting out of chronological order with this next one, because I took this shot after attending the event that had got me to Covent Garden.  But never mind about that, because this is yet another study in repetitiously good mannered vertical walls, topped off with yet more rooftop anarchy:

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Nothing would make me happier than to think that the planners and the architects will continue for ever just not seeing all this rooftop anarchy.

But now take a look at the top of this building (which I photoed, from the other side of the river and with much zooming, on the same day (October 25th of this year) that I took these Shard pictures):

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Because of the new fashion for making walls which are not quite vertical, and roofs which are not quite horizontal – roofs which are consequently, from a distance, from some angles, clearly visible – all roof clutter has been banished.  To be more exact, the roof clutter has been covered up.  An indoor place has been found for it.  Anarchy has been eradicated.

Wednesday December 17 2014

When it’s finished, it will look, according to the picture on the outside of the site (which is an outdoor hard copy of the first picture here), like this:

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Here is what it and its surroundings will look like from above.  My home can be found in that picture, this Thing being only a short walk away from it.

But, as of now, in contrast to the above simulations, it looks like this, which I think I somewhat prefer (what with all that lovely scaffolding):

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Hang on.  Is that a Christmas tree I see up there (in among all that lovely scaffolding)?  Yes it is:

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After I started taking photos of this Thing Under Construction, together with its Christmas tree, one of the men doing the constructing made “stop doing that” gestures.  I was standing on a public pavement.  They were building a small skyscraper with a Christmas tree on the side of it.  Did they think they could keep this secret, and impose martial law for a quarter of a mile around all this?  I just laughed out loud and carried on, and of course they did nothing about it.

Can you spot why “Sculpture” is included in the category list below?

Monday December 15 2014

This morning I had reason to be in the vicinity of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, at about 10 a.m.  Later you will learn why, but in the meantime, just to say that this uncharacteristically early-in-the-day expedition enabled me to reacquaint myself with an old friend, in the form of the delightful footbridge that allows the ballerinas of the Royal Ballet School to make their way to the Royal Opera House, without having to risk being damaged by traffic or by the public:

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The ROH is on the right there.  I like how the squares in the bridge echo the strong right angles of the building and its roof details.

I also like the blue sky.  But, you think that’s a blue sky?  That’s not a blue sky. 

This is a blue sky.

Friday December 12 2014

I just chanced upon this list of London’s twenty tallest buildings.  What I particularly like about this list is that it includes date of construction.

No less that sixteen of these tall buildings were built during this century.  The other four are: One Canada Square (the pointy Docklands one), “Tower 42” (aka the Natwest Building), the “South Bank Tower”, and the Guy’s Tower (aka the ugly little monster now dwarfed by and right next to the Shard).  Those are all twentieth century.  All the rest are twenty first century.

That last one, the Guy’s Tower was, when first perpetrated, the tallest building in London.  I did not know this.  Now it holds the number eighteen spot.

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That’s a picture I took of the middle of the Shard and of the top of Guy’s Tower from Blackfriars Station (the one on the bridge) when both that station and the Shard were still being constructed, in 2012.  I chose that picture because in it, the Guy’s Tower looks particularly ugly and bedraggled and stained and horrible.

I recently speculated that the Guy’s Tower might have made the Shard possible, by destroying all concerns about aesthetic suitability in its area.  Now I am starting to suspect that it may have had an even more profound effect, on the whole of London.  I mean, if that horrid Thing is the tallest Thing London has, then the sooner we build lots of other taller Things the better.  That’s what I would have been thinking in the seventies, if I had been thinking about London Things at all at that time.

What I am saying, to spell it out, is that if that Guy’s Tower had not been built at all, then the subsequent architectural history of London might have been very different, and far less interesting.

Thursday December 04 2014

Busy day, so another from the I Just Like It directory (the last one having been this):

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The things roofs turn into when no one cares what they look like.

This was taken in September of this year, in the vicinity of Holburn tube.

Monday December 01 2014

Today I went walkabout in the City of London with my friend Gus, father of Goddaughter 1.  This evening I found, for the first time, this short video interview at the Arup (his long time employer) website, done with Gus in 2010.

Here are four vertical favourite-photos I took:

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On the left, Gus shows me a magazine picture of the Cheesegrater, taken on a much nicer day than the day, cold and windy, that we were having to put up with today.  Next in line is one of those Big Things seen through a gap in the foreground shots, but with a difference.  This time, there are two Big Things involved.  There is a sliver of Walkie-Talkie on the right, and then way beyond it, you can see the Shard.  Then, we see Gus joke-propping-up the miniature Lego Gherkin that is to be seen next to the regular Gherkin.  On the right, Gus looks up at something or other, this being the best snap I did of him.

Now for all my favourite horizontals.

I’m too tired after all that walking about in the cold to say much about these pictures, but see in particular 2.1, which is, I’m pretty sure, some of the bolts, a few of which recently disintegrated.  Now they are having to check all such bolts, and there are a lot.

1.1: Mmmm, cranes.  Grim day, well done my recently acquired camera, good in low light conditions.

1.2: Canon Street tube.  Designed like a bridge, said Gus, ace bridge designer, because under it there are tube lines which it is built on top of, like a bridge.  This is the building I asked about in an earlier posting here.

1.3: I included this because of the sign saying “all inquiries”.  All?  You know what they mean, but there is fun to be had on the phone with this sign.

2.2: A Gherkin detail, is there because I said, when I saw it, that looks rather plastic.  And guess what, it is plastic.

2.4: Shows us the Lego Gherkin in front of the Actual Gherkin

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3.2: A more fun picture of Gus, featuring also: me, in the right hand purple circle.

3.3, 3.4, 4.1: All the Walkie-Talkie.

4.4: For scaring pigeons, something you seldom see from above.  I saw this particular cluster of pigeon scarers while descending a staircase at Liverpool Street station.  That last was the very last photo I took.

When I emerged from Pimlico tube, near my home, I was amazed at how dark it had become, at a quarter to four in the afternoon.  Like I say, my new camera really did the business today.

Sorry for all the cock-ups and mispronts in this posting.  I’m knackered and am now going to bed.

Sunday November 30 2014

Yesterday, encouraged by the weather forecast (which predicted a window of weather excellence in the midst of the otherwise dark and dreary weather that had been prevailing until yesterday and that has resumed today), I went out photo-walking.  The mission was to check out that viewing platform at the top of Tower Bridge.  How does that look from below? I will tell you all about that later, maybe.  (I promise nothing.)

Within seconds of stepping outside my front door, I knew that this was going to be a very good day for photoing, because of the light.  Photography is light.  I like lots of it, but I don’t like it to be too bright, and I don’t like it all going in the same direction.  Yesterday was such a day.

If you are a Real Photographer, and if the sort of light that is readily available is not what you would like it to be, then you contrive what you do like, or you fake it - with clever filters, Photoshop, blah blah - processes that you know all about.  I am not a Real Photographer.
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On the right there is one of the very first shots I took, a shadow selfie, which included a lady walking past me in the opposite direction.  It’s not really proper to stick photos of strangers up on your blog - photos of strangers complete with their faces, photos of the strangers complete with their faces who are doing nothing to draw attention to themselves - no matter how obscure your blog may be.  But, photoing their shadows and sticking that up is definitely okay.

And here are two more pictures I took early on in my perambulations, just after I had emerged from Tower Hill tube station.  I start with them simply because they are vertical rather than my usual horizontal, and hence it makes sense to display them next to each other:

image image

Here is a report from when that statue was unveiled, in 2006.  It is not the war memorial that it resembles, more like a peace memorial, for people killed while doing building work.  Good.  This is the least that such unlucky persons deserve.

As for the Shard, it was looking particularly beautiful yesterday, like a ghost of its regular self.  It was all to do with that light.

The Thing in front of the Shard is the highest of the four towers of The Tower of London.  The Tower of London is an odd way to describe it, what with their being so many towers plural involved.  I’m guessing they built one big Thing, called it the Tower of London, and by the time they added all those little towers, the name had stuck.

However, after reading this, which says things like this, ...:

It is not clear exactly when work started on the Conqueror’s White Tower or precisely when it was finished but the first phase of building work was certainly underway in the 1070s.

Nothing quite like it had ever been seen in England before. The building was immense, at 36m x 32.5m (118 x 106ft) across, and on the south side where the ground is lowest, 27.5m (90ft) tall. The Tower dominated the skyline for miles around.

… I would like to revise my guess.  It would seem that the four little towers on the top were there from the start, and that to start with it wasn’t the Tower of London at all.  So, what I want to guess instead is that now that the Tower of London is surrounded by London as we now know it, what we tend mostly to see of it is the four towers at the top.  But, for many centuries, the Tower of London was indeed seen by all those within sight of it as the one Big Thing (which merely happened to have a few spikes on the top), London’s first Big Thing, and for many decades, its only Big Thing.

Saturday November 29 2014

Last June I did a rather excellent walk from Erith back towards the middle of London, along the south bank of the Thames, at the part where it is working up its determination to change from a river into an estuary, but still can’t quite be bothered.

I was taking pictures like this one:

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A long path, which I had either walked along already or was about to walk along.  Sunlight on the river.  Mysterious, crumbling industrial infrastructure sticking out into the river, mostly to do with the processing of sewage if the smell was anything to go by.

I pick the picture above to show you because, moments after taking it, I though I saw – way, way in the far distance - something straight ahead of me, underneath that distant bridgelike structure on its way out into the river.

I cranked up the zoom, and took this shot:

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If you are on a long, long walk, from Erith to … London, then your first sight of London really raises your spirits.

But how can you tell that those vague shapes on the distant horizon really are London, rather than just some slightly smaller lumps, slightly nearer.  Answer, the vague shapes have to be distinctive shapes, shapes unlike any other shapes in the vicinity.

This is one of the many reasons why I have become so very fond of London’s Big Things, especially the new ones, because they are both very big and very recognisable.  In this case, of course, what we see is the Gherkin.  Had the Gherkin instead been just another rectanguloid lump, I could not have been sure.  As it is, after I had scrutinised my picture on my little camera screen, I was sure.  That was London calling.

Yesterday, I cranked up Google Maps and worked out exactly where I had been when I took that shot and all the other shots I took at around the same time.  I also worked out that I was about ten miles away from the Gherkin.

I only saw the Gherkin by chance, because at that particular spot, I just happened to have a clear view of it.  Soon, I lost sight of it, and did not encounter it again until well over an hour later, when other distinctive Big Thing shapes also elbowed their way into the view.

More zooming:

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I deliberately chose a shot with the foliage in the foreground in focus and the Big Things far away behind them blurry.  Once again, the Big Things, despite being so blurry, are still instantly recognisable, this time the Walkie-Talkie and the Cheesegrater having joined in the fun.  People moan about how ugly they reckon the Walkie-Talkie is, and maybe it is rather ugly.  I certainly thought so when I saw the early computer graphics of it.  But now I like it.  It too is very distinctive, and big enough to see from a great distance.

Soon after taking that shot, I emerged from foliage, to be greeted by views like this one, which shows how far I still had to go before I was back in more familiar places:

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This is now one of the best ways of looking at London from a distance.  It reminds me of some pictures that I have seen of Miami.  This next one, I think, is especially Miamic:

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The big H-like thing on the right is the point where a huge gob of London’s processed sewage emerges into the river.

Click on that picture to get the same thing twice the size.

But perhaps more amusingly, click on this slightly closer-up and horizontalised version of the above scene …:

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… to get a three times bigger version, and do some sideways scrolling.  For me, the particularly fun thing there is that you can see the Spraycan, way out towards Battersea, on the left, next to a pylon.  You can also see the Boris SkiLift thingy, the Dome, the Docklands Towers, the Shard, ...

Finally, more zoom:

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That looks very like the earlier zoom snaps.  But the difference is that if you are the sort that prefers older and somewhat smaller London Things, you can now see St Paul’s in among those bigger Things, in the exact middle there.

Because my camera has better eyesight than I do, a lot of the fun I get from these expeditions comes when I scrutinise the photos afterwards, in the comfort of my kitchen.  When I took the last photo, for instance, I probably had no thought of St Paul’s.  I was merely seeing that crane.

Monday November 24 2014

A common complaint about modern architecture is that it is “faceless”.  Tending not to feature single separate windows, but rather showing a bland expanse of featureless outsideness to the world, modernistical buildings do not allow the viewing human to see what the viewing human always wants to see, faces, turning the windows into eyes, doors into mouths, and so forth.

But there is no problem with seeing faces in this building, in Rome, because someone has painted twenty seven faces on it, with the windows being – what else? - eyes:

The pieces utilizes nearly 50 windows to create the mouths and eyes of some 27 bizarre faces all vying for attention.

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Although, I see that two of the windows there are mouths.

It all looks a bit graffitiish to me, although as this lady says, this is “artful, thoughtful graffiti”. (In other words the kind of thing that favourite-blogger-of-mine Mick Hartley likes to photo.) And I think it’s a bit of a shame to do this to an old building, rather than to a new one.  But if the alternative is for this old building to just continue crumbling, then this is surely better.  I’m sure it is already a tourist attraction.  It would definitely attract me.

But, I look forward to the day when buildings like this one get decked out with lots of different colours (that being another Mick Hartley photo).

Tuesday November 18 2014

I was in Paris in the freezing February of 2012, and while there, on the coldest day of the lot, I visited an amazing exhibition of Relief Maps.  Thank googleness for the internet, because instead of having to explain this, I can just give you the link, and let you learn as much or as little about this event as you want to.

Here is the photo:

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I can’t remember how exactly all the things that you see there came to look the way they do in that photo, but I’m pretty sure that a big mirror was involved, and also the glass of the big case that this map was in.  I can say with absolute certainty that no Photoshop(clone)ing is involved.

The big near-white thing in the middle is a map, on the floor, of France.

Go to the very middle of the picture, and then across a bit to the left and then down a bit, and you will see: me.  Wearing a scarf indoors, as was everyone else.

Saturday November 15 2014

Classic photo of photoers (which I found here):

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It’s the new see through walkway at the top of Tower Bridge.  All the reportage concentrates on what you can see looking down through it.  But when I visit, I am going to check out what you can see photoing through it from below.  Which will have the added benefit of being far cheaper.

Zoom lenses are rather good these days.

And guess what, I actually want other people to have the same idea, so I can photo them photoing upwards also.

Monday November 10 2014

A new student accommodation building is currently being erected on the far side of Westminster Bridge from me, i.e. next to the equally rotund hotel in the middle of the roundabout there.

There is a rule in architecture (which I just made up), which says that if you build a very big and very boring lump, but put another very big and very boring lump of the same shape next to it, the result can be quite pleasing.  Think Twin Towers.  They seem to be following this rule here.

I have been photoing the erection of this erection ever since erection began.  Here are two of my latest snaps of it, taken last Friday.  The picture on the right was taken from right next to the little roadside sign that you see on the bottom right of the picture on the left.

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It’s hard not to interpret that two dimensional picture as three dimensional, I think you will agree.  After all, the real building above the sign is also only a picture, in my pictures, and that looks suitably three dimensional, even though, in my pictures, it is actually every bit as flat as that sign is.

Subtitle for the photo above left: This is not a building.  Subtitle for the photo above right: These are not buildings.

Sunday November 09 2014

Those Tower of London Poppies are causing quite a stir, with politicians of all parties, and people too, saying they ought to stay there longer, beyond Remembrance Sunday (today), beyond 11am on Tuesday, and maybe as long as Nov 11th 2018, so as many people as want to can get to see them.

I’ve checked them out twice myself, and took many photos of the sort that are presumably now tsunaming all over cyberspace.  I already mentioned these Poppy trips in passing, in this and in this and in this, but this is the first Poppy Posting here that is specificallly about The Poppies, hence the number in the title.

Here are a few of my “what it looks like” snaps (click to get them larger):

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What these snaps of mine don’t show (although 2.1 and 2.3 hint at it) is the panoramic hugeness of it all.  For that I turn to Goddaughter 2, who accompanied me on my first Poppies visit.

She had her mobile phone with her, which has an app for taking extremely wide photos.  By combining these two snaps …:

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… she arrived at this:

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That is about two thirds of it.  You can see all of it only in pictures like this one

I can entirely see why thousands upon thousands of people have wanted to come and gaze at these Poppies, because the effect is very striking, and the vast scale seems entirely appropriate.  There is one poppy for each British soldier who died, the Britishness of the poppies being the excuse for the Guardian to have a go at it all, in such postings as this one and this one.  But if I was French or German or Turkish and I saw this huge spread of poppies in London, I don’t think I’d feel that my dead ancestors were being dissed in any way.  And actually, I think I did hear quite a few foreign languages being spoken when I visited.  I mean, why wouldn’t a nation mourn its own dead?  I didn’t feel any resentment, when I recently visited a French graveyard with lots of war dead in it, that the ancestors of me and my fellow countrymen were being omitted from the story, any more than I do when I chance upon a war memorial in England with only local local names on it.  Why would I? 

The odd thing is, my two personal sets of ancestors had no WW1 deaths in them, or not one that anyone in my particular little family ever talked about.  This was not because of any general reluctance to talk about such things.  In WW2, we lost my mum’s older and only brother, Uncle John, and that was talked about every now and then, as were the two uncles who fought in WW2 and survived.  But stories about my ancestors in WW1?  Nothing.  I’m guessing this is a bit unusual.

Friday November 07 2014

The way to photo “iconic” buildings is to muck around with them.  You can’t just stick up your basic passport photos of them, so to speak, because everyone’s seen that, even the foreigners.

You have to put your iconic building next to something else, perhaps iconic in a different way ...:

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… or, you bounce your IB off a non-iconic building covered in slightly bendy glass.

Or you photo it through a Riverside Thing …:

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… or behind an Iconic Bridge (the one that wobbled (see the posting immediately below)).

Or you put something else in front of it, like a photographer, and have the IB itself behind and way out of focus.

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That works fine because the whole point of an IB is that you can recognise it even if it is ridiculously blurry, the way you never could a regular building.

Or, you photo it on the screen of another photographer, perhaps even a bald bloke photographer.  I am now collecting bald bloke photographers, and believe me, the species is now very abundant.  And by the way, if you click and look at bit carefully, you can see that the bald bloke had the same idea as me about photoing the reflected version of the Shard, rather than just the Thing itself:

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As the autumn light fades, the screens of other photographers shine ever more brightly.  (LATER: And, on the right there, I see cranes.)

I picked those four snaps of snappers entirely because I liked them.  But, they are all pictures of snappers using their mobile phones.  Mobile phone cameras are getting better and better.  But of course.  I mean, would they be getting worse?

But having said all that, I do like this:

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No frills, no complications, just the top of the IB itself, with a bit of orange light from somewhere.

All of the above photos were taken on my way to and from the Tower of London, about tendays ago, to see all those poppies.

LATER: How in the world could I possibly have failed to include, in this, this?

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Shard on camera screen, and poppies.  But, this time, a clunky old camera camera rather than a mobile phone camera.

Thursday November 06 2014

This sounds dramatic:

The area below London’s 737ft landmark ‘Cheese Grater’ skyscraper has been condoned off, after two metre-long steel bolts broke.

Earlier in the week, one bolt slid from the nineteenth of the slanted building in the City of London but remained in place. But another broke off from the fifth floor yesterday and part of it hit the ground.

The word “floor” (after “nineteenth") has presumably slid from that first sentence there.

Let’s hope it’s only a wobble.

The buildings contractor, Laing O’Rourke, and its structural engineers, Arup, have launched an investigation to ensure the building’s remaining bolts are safe.

Arup were the engineers who presided over that wobbly bridge.  That all ended well.  The bridge looks great, and it never now wobbles.  Let’s hope something very similar applies to the Cheesegrater.

A while back I predicted that sooner or later there is going to be a big skyscraper collapse, probably in China.  Wouldn’t want to be proved right about the skyscraper collapse bit, but wrong about the country.

LATER: See also at Dezeen:

In a statement, British Land confirmed that two bolts had broken but said there is “no risk to the structural integrity of the building”.

The answer to the obvious question, but still slightly scary.