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Category archive: Architecture

Sunday February 19 2017

This Dezeen story about robots doing construction work includes this very tasty image:

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This is when google image searching does work.  You type in “robot bridge” or some such word combo, click on images, and find the story immediately.

MX3D’s CTO Tim Geurtjens explains:

“We start with a piece of metal attached to the canal bank. The robots start from one side of the canal, they print their own support structure, so essentially it prints its own bridge. It stands on the floor of the bridge, 3D prints out more and keeps moving,” ...

There are many more pictures, including, which is how I found this linkage, this:

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That second photo being, I’m pretty sure, the original unphotoshopped version of the photo in the first photo, above.

Very pretty.  It would seem that the big difference between a regular structure and a 3D structure is that, with 3D printing, joining bits of metal to bits of metal is not a problem, because it’s all one bit, which means you can have as many joins as you like.  And the other thing is that you can make everything the exact size it needs to be, and make it like a sculpture, rather than what we are used to in a structure, where all the bits tend to have unvarying shapes in section, if you get my meaning.  Once they finally get their hands on this kit, the architects will go mad with it.

This story dates from a couple of years ago.  But never mind, these things always take a long time to go from something that is about to explode, to actually exploding.  And then when they do explode, it all happens in a completely different way to what had been envisaged.

Saturday February 18 2017

I often travel to Euston by tube, changing there from or to the Victoria Line to or from the Northern Line, but I very rarely emerge into the street at Euston.  But yesterday, I did this.  I arrived by tube and I exited via the main concourse of the main railway station, on account of these new concourses being, I think, interesting places.  And then when I exited from the main station, I noticed, for the first time, the rather handsome statue of Robert Stephenson that is to be seen out there, if you do that.

This statue is very fine, I think:

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Perhaps because of its modern surroundings, I suspected this statue of being a recent piece of pseudo-antiquity, perhaps motivated by guilt for all the architectural antiquity at Euston that got demolished.  But no, the statue dates from a mere decade after Stephenson’s death, which was in 1859.

I only discovered just now that Robert Stephenson designed the Rocket, the first ever steam locomotive.  I thought his dad George did that, but George merely did the railway.  Blog and learn.

I also learn, here, that this Stephenson statue was the work of Carlo Marochetti.

Thursday February 16 2017

Yesterday I told you about a photo I took on January 20th of this year.  Earlier that day I had journeyed to Bromley-By-Bow tube station, then walked south along the River Lea, and ended my wanderings at Star Lane Station.  It was a great day for photoing, and I especially enjoyed photoing this witty sculpture:

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But who did it?  This evening I realised that I seemed to recall Mick Hartley having something to say about this, and so it proved.

It’s by Abigail Fallis, and it is called DNA DL90.  Well, I say that’s what it’s called.  That’s what Abigail Fallis called it, but I bet nobody else calls it that.  I bet what most people call it is more like: Shopping Trolley Spiral.  I’m guessing further that Abigail Fallis regards her sculpture as some kind of critique of late capitalist consumerism.  But such ArtGrumbling need not stop the rest of it thoroughly enjoying the thing, and also continuing to relish our trips to the supermarket, there to sample the delights of early capitalism.  Because you see, Abigail, capitalism is just getting started.

Yes. I was right.  Says Hartley:

It is, says Fallis, a symbol of modern society’s consumer culture, which has now become entwined in our genetic make-up. They can’t help themselves, can they, these artists?

The usual bitch about Artsists is that they are predictable, and indeed they are.  But this was something else again.  I literally predicted this, before I read it.  How predictable is that?  Very, very.

Friday February 10 2017

As regulars here will know, I am interested by the phenomenon of colour.  I don’t mean people of colour, and all the arguments around that.  I mean the colours of things like paint, walls, modern architecture.  Red, blue, green, yellow.  Actual colours.  (Plus also: black and white.)

So, I was greatly intrigued by a piece that I recently encountered, about how blue tarantula spiders are inspiring techies to make 3D printed blue.

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Quote:

Tarantulas aren’t usually known for having a striking blue color, but the ones that do recently inspired new technology that can produce vibrant, 3D-printed color that will never fade.

Back in 2015, a team of researchers led by the University of Akron marveled at the spiders’ blue hue and concluded that it was created not from pigment but from nanostructures in their hairs. In other words, these tarantulas are blue because of structural color, which is produced through light scattering caused by structures of sub-micrometer size features made by translucent materials.

I love grand histories of everything, which look at the past, present and future of mankind through just the one lens.  Weapons.  Communications.  Spices.  Potatoes.  That kind of thing.  I recently purchased a book called The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World.  Well, one of the next books I am going to purchase is likely to be a history of the world seen entirely in terms of mankind’s quest for colour - natural and artificial, or, as above, and I suspect very typically, a combination of the two.

Wednesday February 08 2017

Yesterday I was at Clapham Junction.  Here is what I photoed when I went to the far northern end of platform 12 (I think it was), further from the river than I usually find myself, and looked back towards London in a northerly direction:

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I say London.  That’s mostly Battersea, in the form of all the new buildings springing up around the new US Embassy, which you can see at the bottom of the Spraycan.  The Spraycan is the big tower on the left (although if you google “spraycan”, I’m guessing that all you will get is lots of spraycans).  The Embassy is the box with the crinkly diamond pattern on it.

The only serious evidence of life beyond Battersea is the Shard, on the right of the Spraycan.

But, ... cranes!  I make it sixteen of them.  Lovely.

Thursday February 02 2017

Dezeen details here:

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Bring it on.

Friday January 27 2017

Friday is my day for cats and other creatures, but it is also David Thompson’s day for more substsantial collections of all this weird and wonderful on the internet, and one ephemeron (ephemeros? ephemerum?) in his collection today is this:

Brutalist colouring book.  Because concrete needs colour.

I followed that link.

Quote:

Brutalism lovers, sharpen your cold grey and warm grey pencils and add some colour to some great concrete constructions. First edition of 500 hundred copies. Each copy is numbered.

Ooh.  First edition.  Numbered copies.  Very arty.  Sign of the times?  I want it to be.

I have long thought that the brutalities of brutalism could use a bit of softening, and actually, a lot of softening.  With colour.  Bring it on.

Someone who agreed with me, from way back was, actually, would you believe?: Le Corbusier.  He was into bright colours to soften the brutalities of his brutalism, from the getgo.

(See also: these colourful kittens.  No softening needed there, but it was done anyway.)

Thursday January 26 2017

Recently, I have been posting (for example here and here and there) photos that I took quite a while back, of scenes that are now different or in some way ephemeral, that fact often being noted in the postings themselves.

Here is another such:

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This photo, taken in November 2003, is ephemeral in two ways.

First, there are men at work on the top of the Gherkin there.  The photo is not technically that good, if only because the camera wasn’t that good, and neither was the light on that particular day.  But, click to get it twice as big, and you will surely agree that men is definitely what we do see there.  Never before that day had I seen men at work on the top of the Gherkin, unless you count before it was finished (buildings still being built being another rich source of ephemera), and never have I seen this since that day.  It may be that these guys were in fact finishing the Gherkin, in some way that I don’t know about.  Whatever, there they are.

And the second ephemeral thing about this photo is that it dates from the time when the Gherkin stood in something approximating to splendid isolation.  The same shot taken from the same spot today (outside Liverpool Street Station) would surely contain a Cheesegrater at the very least, and probably several other Big Things.

Wednesday January 25 2017

At the end of the latest round of English Premier League football games (everyone has now played 22 games (out of 38, yes?)), the top six in the Premier League are, as of now, in order from the top: Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool, Man City, Man U.

When was the last time the top three Premier League spots were all London?  And when were both the Manchester clubs last outside the top four?  Well, maybe one or both of those things happened quite a few times very recently, but my point is, either very recently (as part of the same thing as is happening right now) or: never.  I’m guessing.  Corrective comments welcome.

Arsenal have recently built themselves a brand new stadium, and now Spurs and Chelsea are both doing the same.  Once all the confusions associated with the custom-built headquarters syndrome have calmed down, these erections will surely cement London’s Premier League supremacy.  Although it has to be said that Arsenal have perhaps punched below their new economic weight in recent seasons.

London is also, if you are a highly paid footballer, an ever more amusing and better connected place to live in, provided you can handle all the drama and excitement and combine that with continuing to be a good footballer.  Maybe Arsenal’s problem has been that their players haven’t coped with these pressures very well.  So. and contrary to my title and my earlier thoughts, will Chelsea and Spurs actually do less well once their new places are in place?

Monday January 23 2017

Here:

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Click on TRUMP to get the Opera House.

This fantastically cost-effective piece of political signage reminds me of the stuff that Julian Lewis MP used do to CND demos in the eighties.  They’d put however many hundred thousand pro-Soviet bodies on the street, and he’d put one big sign across the top of Whitehall for them all the walk under, saying something like: SOVIET STOOGES.  His sign would get about half the news coverage.  Drove them nuts.

Saturday January 21 2017

I finally arrive at the official designated purpose of my Tottenham expedition back in November, which was to check out progress on the new stadium.

Here is what this was looking like.  Lots of cranes.  Lots of scaffolding.  And big signs on the perimeter fence celebrating glorious moments in Spurs history:

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2.1, in pleasing contrast to the masculinities of football and construction, a girly bus goes by.

3.2 features how the new stadium will look from above.

It will be entertaining to return in a couple of years time, to see how it all ends up looking.

In this report, you can see more pictures of progress, viewed from above.

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At present Spurs seem to be doing rather well.  Today, they drew with Man City, having been two goals adrift, which was a result, and they are in second place in the Premiership.

I had been expecting them to be doing rather badly just now, what with this new custom built headquarters being now under construction.

Thursday January 19 2017

I took the photo with this marriage proposal in it in March of 2009, in Sheffield.  All I thought I was photoing was a footbridge (I like footbridges) with graffiti on it.  Did I even clock it was a marriage proposal?  Maybe, but if so, I immediately forgot about it.

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Click on that, and you actually get a different picture, which shows two footbridges rather than just the one, which means I prefer it.  Two footbridges on top of each other is a bit strange.

Pictures are hard to google, or hard if you are me.  Can you now say to Google: “Show me all the pictures you have like this one”?  Maybe you can, but I can’t.  But words I can do.  And I just typed “clare middleton i love you …” (helpfully, the graffitist supplied a name) and google immediately got what I was on about, and, well, here‘s the story:

One spring day in 2001 a tall man walked into Sheffield’s Park Hill flats and along a street in the sky. He strode past the brutalist flanks, out on to the footbridge. He thought: this’ll do.

Jason didn’t look down; he gets vertigo and he was 13 storeys up. He leaned over in his yellow Puffa jacket and sprayed her name. “Clare” came out haphazardly and “Middleton” hit the ledge. He planned to take her to the Roxy on the facing hill, to show her. So now he began again, bigger, clearer: “I LOVE YOU WILL U MARRY ME”. It was his two-fingers-up at the social services office opposite. He scarpered. Seeing it, Grenville, one of the estate’s caretakers, said to the on-site office: “How are we going to get that off?”

They didn’t. The graffiti stayed, high above the city, while the city argued about what to do with the flats. Park Hill, the concrete estate behind the railway station, had become notorious. The city projected abandonment on to Park Hill, so the graffiti started to look like love yelling at the top of its voice in an estate thought to be desolate.

Soon it was also looking like PR. ...

It wasn’t a happy story, ever, and it had no happy ending.

Park Hill, Sheffield, is one of those famous bits of architecture that the architects go on and on about, but which the public hated, until such time as this public said to knock it all down, at which point it became clear that a different part of the public had grown quite fond of the thing.

One of the architects of Park Hill was a man called Ivor Smith, in whose office I worked, briefly, when I was trying to be an architect.  He was personally a hugely likeable man, with a delightful family who put up with me when I was at maximum unputupwithability.  But, his politics did not appeal to me, and those Park Hill buildings were all part of that.

Sunday January 15 2017

In the cold and muggy January of 2017, I and my aching limbs are spending a lot of time indoors.  And many of the photos I am looking at were taken long ago.

Here is one that I took in, if my (very first digital) camera is to be believed, March of 2000.  It also claims that it was taken at “01.31”, but I believe Big Ben:

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The obviously out of date thing about that picture is the big Le Corbusian slabs of the old Department of the Environment, about to the demolished and replaced by less obtrusive new offices and dwellings.

But for me what was startling about this photo and its companion photos that I took that day is how few of them there were.  In those far off times of limited SD card storage, the photos were far smaller, about a tenth of the size of the photos I take now.  And, on that journey in the Wheel, no less, a trip that would now see me hoovering up views of London near and far, guess how many photos there are, in the relevant directory.  Thirty nine.  Thirty nine!!!

London has indeed changed, quite a bit.  But digital photography has been transformed.

Also of interest is that among those few photos are photos of strangers, who were obviously happy to pose.  As were their children.  Not long after then, photos of other people’s children pretty much vanish from my archives.

Friday January 13 2017

Sport yet again.  And yes, I’ve still got plenty to tell you, in January, about one of my favourite days out last year, which was on November 28th, which I have already written about five times already.  There was the shining moment described in this, and the three earlier moments linked to from there.  And there was this next shining moment.  And now there is the Spurs Shop, which looks like this:

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Not very exciting, I think you will agree.  But the stuff inside, the sort of stuff I have never ever seen before gathered together in one place, was, for me anyway, a remarkable sight:

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So, what do we see there?

1.1: is a cardboard model of the old Spurs stadium, the one they are about to trash and replace, yours for £30, but you have to construct it.

1.2: Spurs clothes.  Lots of Spurs clothes.  Plus big Spurs slogans.

1.3: Spurs cards to tell your associates that this is your room.  Really.  Very blurry.  Only realised that this was what they were just now.

1.4: Spurs mugs.  It says everything about the state of the Premier League that I looked at this photo, and read Kane as “Car Nay”, like he’s from Africa.  Alli, like Kane, also plays for England.

2.1: More Spurs mugs, this time with the tasteless cartoon cock, rather than the tasteful and elegant proper one.  AIA is an Asian insurance company.

2.2: Spurs clocks.

2.3: Spurs wall stickers and, click and look on the right, Spurs flags.

2.4: Spurs luxury rugs.  (And more Spurs clothes.)

3.1: Spurs luggage tags.  And I don’t know what those yellow striped things on the right are, if you click on that.  Some kind of Spurs bags, I think,

3.2: Spurs 5M retractable dog leads and Spurs dog collars.  For actual Spurs supporter dogs, I mean.  Not Spurs-supporter priests.

3.3: Spurs doormats and Spurs thermometers.  Like a lot of the stuff in these pictures, I only noticed the Spurs thermometers now.

3.4: Spurs tea towels and Spurs trays.

4.1: Spurs fridge magnet pens.

4.2: Spurs jelly babies and Spurs “snowies”.  (Learn more about snowies here.)

4.3: Spurs white teddy bears.

4.4: Spurs flipflops.

5.1: Spurs footballs.  So Spurs supporters actually play this game?

5.2: Spurs scarves.

5.3: Spurs sterling silver earrings.

5.4: Spurs iPhone cases.

Out in the open, there were also Spurs cranes, although there was no price tag on any of them:

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No, not really.  Not Spurs cranes for sale, just Spurs cranes working away on constructing the new Spurs stadium.

Wednesday January 11 2017

This afternoon I read in the Evening Standard that Chelsea FC were hoping to get planning permission for a big new stadium, and sure enough, this evening, they got it.  I guess they’re all pretty happy there, what with Chelsea being top of the Premier League and all.  (Although, I can’t help mentioning their recent winning-streak ending loss by Spurs.)

Here’s how it is reckoned the new stadium will look (I found this picture here), from above, when it’s dark:

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The architects are Herzog de Meuron, the same firm that did the Tate Modern Extension.  And, they also did that amazing new opera house out in the estuary in Hamburg.  And hey, that opened today, according to that report.  Blog and learn.

But back to that Chelsea stadium, what strikes me, yet again, about this major eruption of architectural modernism is that while it is very modern, it is also very carefully crafted to fit the inevitably rather oddly shaped site.  Indeed, the architects make use of this odd shape to give their stadium its rather particular, asymmetrical shape, while nevertheless contriving an exact rectangle in the middle, in the manner required by the rules of football.  Form follows site plan.  That’s the way modern architecture is now done.

(It would seem that the exact same principle applied to the new Hamburg opera house also.  It was put on top of an “historic brick base”.  A brick base, I’m guessing, which was whatever shape it was, and could not be otherwise.)

And what also strikes me, yet again, is what a total nightmare it would have been to have attempted a design like this Chelsea stadium without computers to keep track of everything and handle all those asymmetrical shapes.

(The Hamburg opera house was plagued with delays and cost overruns and defects and took a famously long time to finish.  But that’s a different story.)