Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Category archive: Architecture

Saturday April 14 2018

Indeed.  Last night I was walking somewhat exaustedly from St James’s Park towards Victoria, and this took me along Petty France, which is where the Ministry of Justice is to be found.  This is the one that used to be the Home Office and which looks like an Eastern Bloc Embassy.  And in Petty France, right next to this Ministry of Justice, I spotted this:

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Yes, an urban fox.  You expect to see such beasts in the more sprawling London suburbs, the sort that contain lots of open spaces and vegetation.  But not trotting along the pavement, right past a major government ministry.

It was getting dark rapidly, and for some idiot reason I had set my camera to make movies instead of regular photos.  But that did at least mean I could pick out a less bad still shot.

Luckily, the quality of the photo is not the point here.  It’s the principle of the thing.  Cats and dogs, yes.  (At first, I thought that this fox was a cat.) Horses, carrying policepersons, exercising themselves in between riots.  Good.  Ducks.  Pigeons.  Herons (see below).  That’s all fine.  But foxes?  That was a real surprise.  And a definite first for me, in central London.

Wednesday April 11 2018

I have an abundance of CDs, and CDs last for ever, provided you don’t mistreat them violently.  I do not mistreat my CDs at all.  CD players, however, do not last for ever, no matter how well you treat them.  I was in Tottenham Court Road this afternoon, seeking another CD player, small enough to go beside my bed, to replace the small CD player there which is misbehaving.

The weather was grim and grey.  We had a couple of first days of spring a while back, but so far there has been no actual spring.  Not good photoing weather, in other words.  But I did get a few shots of this ensemble, of the BT Tower, pollarded trees, and cranes, of which this was my favourite:

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I tried a little “sharpen lightly” on that, and it looked, as you would expect, sharper.  But, the weather wasn’t sharp today, so I undid it.  That is exactly what emerged from the camera.

Tuesday April 03 2018

A reason I like to put my photos on a blog, rather than just shove them out to the world on Flickr or Instagram or some such thing, is that I often like to say complicated things about them.  I like to say why I like about them, basically.  For the photos I show here, this blog is about what’s in the photos, as well as just photoing itself.

I also like explaining the photos.  Often it isn’t obvious what they are off, or where the thing they are of is.

Distressing though it is to contemplate, not everybody in the world is able to live in London, the way I do.  Some of these unfortunates read this blog and view my photos.  Not knowing London, such persons require explanations.

Take this photo, for instance:

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Very pretty, I hope you agree.  But where on earth is it, and where was it taken from?  It was taken from the top of the Tate Modern extension, which is the brick building in the middle of this photo:

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What we also see in that photo is the big old tower of Tate Modern, and in the foreground, one of London’s more interesting railway stations, interesting because it is on a bridge.  I love that about it.  Especially if it encourages other bridges to be building, say out east, which also have buildings on them, like old London Bridge once did.

But I digress.  Which is another reason for sticking photos on a blog.  On a blog you can digress all you want.

So anyway, back to that photo at the top, of the staircase with all its shadows.  Where would that be?

Well, here’s another photo taken from the exact same spot, at the top of the Tate Modern extension, which puts the staircase in context and shows where it is.  It is right in the middle of this view:

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Or consider this rather banal view, also to be seen from the top of the TME, this time looking south:

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On the right are those flats, whose inhabitants have been complaining about being looked at through their big windows, with its big lift shaft on its left.  And further over to the left, further away, we see the three-eyed tower that is Strata, or the Razor as some call it.  Why do I show you that?  Because this ...:

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… which is what I saw by moving along a bit to the right, and looking at Strata through the lift shaft.

How would you know what that was, if I didn’t explain it?

And there’s more explaining to be done.  What is that odd brick pattern, reflected in the glass of the lift shaft, through which Strata is to be seen?

Well, here is a closer-up photo of the TME, taken around the same time, but when the sky was white rather than blue:

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Click on that and you get a closer look at that brickwork.  Or better yet, just look at this even-closer-up photo of it, that I took, also on the white sky day:

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I actually like this brickwork a lot.  It makes this extension both blend in with the old power station that Tate Modern used to be, and yet makes the new building distinctive.  In general, this extension has a highly individual look about it.  As I think I’ve said here before, Art I can take or leave, but I do like the new buildings they build for it.  Yes, see also here.

Sunday April 01 2018

I became fixated on Spurs in the 1960s, like a baby goose, because then they were so good.  Plus, I always like their Jewish angle and still do.  I have supported them, strictly at a distance and media access permitting, ever since. They’ve been sporadically good since that ancient time, but never as good.  Finally, that seems like it might be changing.

Today Spurs beat Chelsea at Chelsea, the last time they did that having been in 1990.  Spurs are now in fourth place, which if they stay there is high enough to get them into the Champions League again.  They are now 8 points clear of Chelsea in fifth.  With seven more games to be played, it’s not settled yet, but things just got a lot better for Spurs.

I just watched Dele Alli’s two goals on the TV highlights, and with both it was not just the skill but the speed with which he did what he did that was so impressive.  Before that, Eriksen hit what the radio commentators were calling a potential goal of the season.  One of those long distance, fast and late inswingers.

So, to celebrate, here is a photo I took of the new Spurs stadium, which will get moved into next season or thenabouts.  It will be a few games before the Spurs team settles in and starts enjoying their home advantage whenever they play there.  But judging by how well they did this season at the at first unfamiliar Wembley, it shouldn’t take them too long to settle into New White Hart Lane.

So, this is how New White Hart Lane was looking last November, with one of the Walthamstow reservoirs in the foreground:

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Mmmm.  Cranes.

I haven’t checked progress more recently, and can offer no photos from since then.  But here are 103 more pictures, and counting, of New White Hart Lane’s progress.  I knew you’d be excited.

Sunday March 25 2018

Fortnum & Mason are promoting their tea with their window displays just now, with giant teapots.

Here is a giant teapot made of bits of broken mirror, promoting Royal Blend:

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And behind the teapot is me, and Piccadilly, and a woman walking along Piccadilly, into a giant pile of liquid-but-solid tea.  Reflections can be very strange.

And then, when I reached Green Park tube, I saw this, in the distance, maximum zoom:

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It’s Nova, complete with its crane for cleaning its windows.  Weird because the light is so weird.  Cloudy, just getting dark, but not dark yet.

I love these window cleaner cranes.  Roof clutter above and beyond the call of duty.  Best of all are ones like these, which sometimes you see and sometimes not.

Saturday March 24 2018

I have something I need to stick up here and then forget about.  There’s an architectural thing that I write about here, which I refer to as “keeping up appearances”.  The best photo I have ever taken of this kind of thing is this one, which is of a quite tall but not at all wide sliver of facade, that presumably still stands in Oxford Street, but now with an entirely new building erected behind that facade.

But that wasn’t keeping up appearances. this is keeping up appearances:

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It used to be a psychiatric hospital, and what it will be is the new headquarters of the USA’s Department of Homeland Security.

This newly designed building will preserve the appearance of the old, but hollow it out completely.  Behind its old facade, it will be something new.  Something else entirely.  Which is very appropriate, I think you will agree.

Tuesday March 20 2018

Today I got up at 7am, worked on and off on a big piece of writing, then dined at Chateau Samizdata, out west, and am now back here, as in home, having not done anything here, as in at this blog.

Here is a photo chosen from the archives, pretty much at random:

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Taken in March 2012, i.e. six years ago, when the Shard was just being finished.  Taken from out east, beside the Victoria Docks.

And now I will go to bed, and get up just as early tomorrow morning as I was up today, and I will finish that big piece of writing.  I promise this.  That’s the plan, anyway.  One thing is for sure.  I am in no state to finish it now.

Goodnight and see you tomorrow.

Saturday March 17 2018

GodDaughter2 having dragged me into London at the crack of 10.30am (which is when that Traviata dress rehearsal started), I of course got to Embankment Tube early, on account of being so scared of being late.  I had some time to kill.

So, instead of turning left at the Embankment Tube ticket machines and just trudging up Villiers Street to Trafalgar Square and on to the ENO’s Colosseum, I instead turned right, and went up onto the north London end of the downstream version of the Hungerford Footbridge(s).  It’s a favourite little spot of mine, concerning which, maybe, there will (although I promise nothing) be more here, soon or whenever.

For now, consider just this one photo, taken from that spot, at that time:

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Because it is the morning, the light is not what I am used to.  The Big Things of the City of London are not well light, because back lit.

The big picture story here is that the Big Things of the City of London are, slowly but surely, metamorphosing into one Great Big City Thing.

But when I got home and had a closer look, I was intrigued to see two moderately Big Things already clearly to be seen.

You probably noticed this one already:

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That’s the Scalpel.  That the Scalpel has been going up has been obvious for some time.

But this one came as rather more of a surprise.  This detail had to be enlarged, or you might miss it, as I did, until I got home and looked carefully:

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That, ladies and gents, hiding in among all the bigger Things, is the much touted but seemingly never actually happening (but it actually is) Can of Ham:

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The Can of Ham is called that because it will look like a can of ham:

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Come to think of it, I have a vague recollection of visiting those Big City Things, about … a while back.  Bear with me while I rootle through the photo-archives.Yes, here we go.  I was there on June 3rd, last year.

The Scalpel was already well under way, thanks to some particularly entertaining cranage:

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And it definitely was the Scalpel, because it said so at the bottom:

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But the Can of Ham was also already starting to go up:

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As you can clearly see if you take a closer look at what it says at the bottom there:

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By trying to call this thing “Seventy St. Mary Axe”, but by making it look exactly like a can of ham, and quite a big and visible one, big enough and visible enough for it to need a particular and memorable name, they screwed up on the naming front.  It was only ever going to be called the “Can of Ham”.

Some bunch of idiots long ago tried to get the Gherkin called 30 St Mary Axe, and that never stuck either.

50 St Mary Axe is also a Thing, but such a small Thing that nobody cares what that’s called, so that actually is called 50 St Mary Axe.

Saturday March 10 2018

I visit the Royal College of Music quite a lot these days, thanks to GodDaughter2 studying there.  There were those Bach Cantatas.  Last Thursday there was a recital of songs by Women Composers, in which GD2 performed.  And this evening, there was the RCMIOS (RCM International Opera School) production of Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.  All excellent.

It doesn’t feel right taking lots of photos while in the place, but here was a snap that I both liked and didn’t feel bad about taking:

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They’re hardly going to call that snooping, are they?

The RCM is a truly bizarre agglomeration of buildings.  The corridors joining this bit of it to that bit of it are labyrinthine.  I never know where I am, if only because I am usually following GD2 around the place, rather than finding my own way around.

Here is another snap I reckoned it okay to take, of some building work in progress:

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The fact that both of these snaps feature things which are only temporary is what makes me think them not to be breaches of etiquette.  I don’t know if that’s truly right, but it feels right to me.

However, the point of these two photos is, as I later (like: one hour ago) realised, that they are both photos of the same things.  The first photo is the corridor from the inside, and the second photo, in addition to all that grubbing about in the earth at the bottom, also features the same corridor from the outside.  The outside of a corridor is not normally something you get to see, is it?

The reason I found myself inside that corridor is that it is the temporary way of getting from the main part of the Royal College to the college bar and canteen.  I took the above photo on my way from that bar and canteen to the main entrance of the College.  I was on my own at the time.

Monday March 05 2018

Yes, here’s another crowd scene, photoed later on the same expedition as I took that earlier crowd scene.  (But don’t follow that link.  Quicker just to scroll down.)

We are now at Tate Modern.  I’m there to get to the top of the extension tower and to photo London.  But I pause briefly, to photo this scene:

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And later, I chance upon this forgotten photo, and stop, and look, impressed.

I could expand upon the idea that Tate Modern is amusing for lots of people to be in, regardless of the “art” which is the supposed purpose of the building.  For many, me included, this “art” is of no consequence.  The place is what matters.

Although. Presumably someone thinks that those bits of metal in the foreground of the photo are art.

But I think I am thinking of something else, with this photo, and with that earlier one.  What do I like about crowd scenes?  In interesting places?  Interestingly lit?  With colourful backgrounds?  I don’t know.

I think it may be the agreeable sight of people who are all recognisably human, and all doing things that humans do, just as cows do what cows do or birds do what birds do.  But, they each do these things in their own ways.  They are not on parade.  I like roof clutter for this sort of reason.  A crowd is, you might say, a clutter of people.  There are no rules about exactly how they must walk or stand or sit or sprawl.  There are merely places where many people find it agreeable or necessary or convenient to be doing such things, but each in their own particular way and particular shape.

But, not sure yet.

Sunday March 04 2018

Yes, some truly exceptional roof clutter, photoed by me today, just as it was starting to get dark.  The buildings all so polite and proper looking, but then on the roof, they go mental:

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There is even a bridge in there.  That aerial with its big long arms is bizarre.  Was with others so had no time to check out what all this stuff was on the roof of.

My thanks to the tree, at the front, for not having stupid leaves all over it, and thus not blocking out this wondrous view.

I find myself in the South Kensington are quite a lot these days, because that’s where I often go to see and hear GodDaughter2 and her RCM pals performing.  This time it was two Bach Cantatas.  Very good, especially the absurdly young and talented tenor soloist.  A first year undergrad, apparently.

Friday March 02 2018

A frog outside a supermarket in Brixton – a lion outside some flats off Sloane Square – a swan family at Alton in Hampshire – a sign at Battersea Park station – another swan at Walthamstow Wetlands – an octopus in a shop window – Boudicca’s horse – a book about WW2 I must remember to get on Amazon – the horses on top of the Hippodrome next to Leicester Square tube:

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This posting started out with just the top of the Hippodrome, and then I thought, I’ll add some other carbon-based-organism-angled photos, of which there were a few more that I thought I’d include.  But getting up to a convenient nine photos took longer than I expected.  It turns out I don’t photo creatures as often I thought I did, and as interestingly as I thought I did.

Wednesday February 28 2018

Twitter is good at telling you about news, and today, the news has been: snow.  I know.  Who saw that coming???  Apart from the short-term weather forecasters, I mean.

Here are some snow pictures:

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That would be a photo of the Shard.  Would be because it is mostly a photo of snow, and the Shard is only just make-out-able behind the snow.

Here are two more conventional snow photos, where you can see buildings but very boring ones, the ones outside my kitchen window:

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On the left, the snow descends.  On the right, my neighbours make a bendy triangle of footmarks.  I didn’t find those photos on Twitter, for I took them myself.

Without doubt my favourite snow-photo today was this:

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Says @MisanthropeGirl: Satisfying.  I agree.

But if we are talking about snow and cold, nothing since then has touched 1963.  According to that story, in 1963 the sea froze.

Ah, 1963.  Marlborough lost its entire hockey season that term, early in 1963.  The frustrated school hockey captain was a famed future hockey international.  I still regret that I never got to see him play.

It gets worse.  That Christmas, the “house”, Littlefield, where I was a boarder at Marlborough College Marlborough Wilts, got burnt down, just before the “spring” term began.  We lived in huts, like prisoners of war.  The dormitory was another hut.  I had a hot water bottle.  When other Littlefieldsmen first saw this hot water bottle they sneered, but they were soon wanting to hire it from me, but I wasn’t having that.  I needed it in my bed.  And I distinctly remember, one morning, that this hot water bottle, in my bed, in the morning, had … frozen.  I swear.  There were icicles in it.

So, February 2018, I spit on your cold.  Your cold could not even freeze my spit.

Saturday February 24 2018

No, I’ve not bought yet another camera.  I refer to the new Panasonic Lumix FZ150 that I bought myself, as a late Christmas present, in January 2012.  When I look back through my photo-archives it becomes clearer and clearer that this was the moment when my photos really started looking pretty.

On February 1st 2012, I posted nine of the photos I had taken on January 30th, of my fellow digital photographers.  Here are nine more photos of photoers, that I took on that same expedition:

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In these photos, we observe some dedicated photographers, with their SLRs, some hobbyists with what are still only cheap cameras, and, inexorably on the rise, smartphones.

One more for luck, an example of a genre I grow ever more fond of, the perhaps rather (in this case very) blurry bird, in flight:

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I cropped the original, to hide the photoer’s face.

Yes, I picked nine good ones to show you, back in February 2012.  Now I can easily show nine more just as good, and then another that I only now noticed.

That was the change that new camera brought with it.  Before it, I took the occasional good photo, and many bad ones.  When the FZ150 arrived, I took quite a lot of good photos, and as many bad ones as ever.

Wednesday February 21 2018

One of the photos illustrating this report:

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Can we please have a Lego London?

I just typed “lego london” into google, not expecting anything helpful.  A Lego cow in London.  Lego shops in London.  General Legonic activity of all kinds, in London.  I did not expect to be told, right at the top of the list, about making London in miniature, out of Lego.  But, I was immediately shown this:

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Cancel my request for Lego London.  It already exists, and it is very bad.  Indeed, I would say that using Lego to mimic a very particular looking thing on a tiny scale is the very essence of what Lego is bad at doing, and the fact that Lego seems to spend so much of its time and trouble and focus and resources doing this exact thing spells its long-term doom.  The whole point of Lego, surely, is that you can make everything – everything, that is to say, that you can make out of it – with a few generic shaped objects.  Just like the Meccano of my youth, in other words, but architectural rather than mechanical.  A big Tower Bridge, yes, good idea.  A big Big Ben, not bad.  But tiny versions of these, stupid and totally unrealistic? See above.  Stupid.

For that, what you need is a 3D printer. And the smaller you make your small buildings, the more of them you can have in one spread.

A subset of them could be made to be exactly the right size for making buildings to attach to miniature railway layouts.  So, do railway modellers use 3D printers, to make, not trains, but train layout appendages?  It would make sense.

I just image googled railway modelling 3d printer, and got mostly 3D printed trains and train bits, rather than architecture.

Could making such models be the domestically owned 3D printer killer app?  Because so far, a domestically owned 3D printer killer app has been conspicuous by its total absence, and any company which has tried to make its fortune making domestically owned 3D printers has gone bust.  Such modelling – trains and houses and mountains and stuff - was all the rage when I was a kid, but all that has since been replaced by computer games.  But might not those computer games in their turn come to seem rather dated?  As is not the making of things now returning to the rich countries again, now that the computer guys are applying their wizardry to stuff-making?  Conceivably, toys may some time soon become three dimensional and material again, with swarms of robot cars and lorries replacing the trains.

Probably not, because things seldom just come back into style like that, any more than dance bands ever did or ever will.  More likely, the kid’s games of the future will involve some variation on virtual reality, which is to say they’ll be computer games only more so.  If so, we might see a further reduction in the crime rate (see below).