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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 February 04 2016

The following picture explains (a) why all my cameras must have a zoom lens permanently available, as powerful as is within the bounds of sanity, and (b) why this zoom lens must be instantly usable.  In other words why I will not tolerate faffing about with hand-attached lenses.  Which means that all my cameras have had to be “bridge” cameras rather than DSLRs.  I need wide-angle one moment, and then the next moment, by which I often mean the next second, I may need zoom and tons of it.

Here is the picture, which Antoine Clarke took, Twittered, and then phoned me about because he reckoned I would like it:

image

And I do like it.  A lot.  A lorry, with a panoramic photo-view of London on the side?  What, as people now like to say, ‘s not to like?

But Antoine’s attached Twitter verbiage reads as follows:

What’s a Japanese torpedo bomber doing there?!?

What Japanese torpedo bomber?  The world wants Antoine to zoom in on the Japanese torpedo bomber, to prove that there is indeed a Japanese torpedo bomber present.

I hoped that the photo above would download itself from Twitter, and it did.  Good.  But, it was only 640 pixels wide.  (This Blog is 500 pixels wide.) Not so good.

When I expanded what I took to be the Japanese torpedo bomber, I got this:

image

If you already know that you are looking for a Japanese torpedo bomber, then you will, just about, maybe, see a Japanese torpedo bomber.  But a zoomed in close-up would really have helped.

I know how hard it can be photoing vehicles that are, as it were, zooming past.  Often one shot is the best you can hope for, and equally often not even that.  Yesterday a Wicked Campervan zoomed, as it were, past me, with “DRINK TILL SHE’S PRETTY” written on its arse, and I completely missed photing it.  (But no worries.  I think it was the van in a photo you can find by scrolling down in this grumpy article.)

But something about the exact composition of Antoine’s shot tells me that Antoine’s lorry was stationary, or nearly so.  So, Antoine, is there a bigger version of this shot available, more like 4000x3000 than 640x480?  (4000x3000 being what my Panasonic Lumix FZ200 cranks out.) That would supply some Japanese torpedo bomber detail.  Or is there even a close-up of the Japanese torpedo bomber?

Failing that, does Antoine know what enterprise this lorry was working for?  Maybe they have a website, with photos?

Okay, now I’m being grumpy.  It took me a long time to get into the habit of photoing all the incidental detail around a good photo, for future internetting purposes.  But, with apologies for immediately demanding more when given something nice, … Antoine?

Wednesday February 03 2016

Early February is one of my favourite times of the year.  Income tax is over and done with for another year.  The days, although not yet long and warm, are at least getting longer and warmer.  (Already the day is an hour longer than its December 24th worst.) And that means that well-lit photography time expands, which means I can do the same amount of photography but do not need to start so early.

image

That’s another snap I took yesterday.  The Strata Tower was looking particularly fine in the evening sun.  Very metallic.

And, because it’s only February, there were no damn leaves getting in the way of everything, just artfully interposed branches:

image

And, there is the Six Nations.  It’s that time just before the first round kicks off, and so far, nobody’s team has lost any games.  Every team has a one hundred percent record!  How great is that?!?

Go England:

image

Also taken yesterday.

Tuesday February 02 2016

Yes, today I was in Burgess Park, which is the other side of the river from me.  I took the 148 bus, to see where it would go, and once in that bus, I spent my time wondering what Camberwell Green is.

I tried to take photos out of the bus, but the best seats, at the top at the front, were taken.  I had to sit right at the back.  But, in the vicinity of the Elephant and Castle, I did manage this:

image

I got lucky with the crane shadow, didn’t I?  The development is called Elephant Park.

I never did find out about Camberwell Green, because the bus got stuck in a jam next to one of the entrances to Burgess Park, and I got out at the next stop to take another look at this diverting space.  I visited Burgess Park once before, and liked it a lot.  Great views of Big Things.  Today was also good, from that point of view:

image

But the shot of the day, in my opinion so far, on the same evening, is this, of a photographer photoing the sunset:

image

You’ll have to take my word for it that the sunset is what he was photoing, and for that matter that he was even holding a camera.  But he was.

Sunday January 31 2016

This picture of a taxi ticks two BMdotcom boxes.  First, its a black cab which isn’t, either because it just isn’t, or because it is covered in an advert.  In this case, it’s a bit of both:

image

But better, we observe in the advert on the not-black cab two Big Things.  The Big Thing on the left says: London!  And what is actually the much Bigger Thing, on the right, says: New York!  I am collecting imagery that says: London!, and this fits that bill very well, even if it does say: New York! as well.

I quite like the replacement for the Twin Towers, but it seems to me rather bland, in a picture, when you can’t see how very big it is.  Bland being what you do not want in a Big Thing for saying: New York!  But I guess, the Twin Towers having established themselves as the Big Things that formerly said: New York, whatever replaced them was going to have to do that job as soon as it appeared, bland or not.  The Empire State or the Chrysler would no longer do, them having already been dethroned as the sayers of: New York!, by the Twin Towers.

I think it is very telling that in the New York picture there is a clump of skyscrapers rather than just one.  Because New York is not any one skyscraper.  It’s a forest of skyscrapers.  Each individual skyscraper may be rather bland, but what it all adds up to is anything but bland.

But New York is not my town, and that is only me guessing.

Friday January 29 2016

Indeed:

image

Also, on her right, some of the new buildings at the top end of Victoria Street.

It’s already deep into tomorrow morning, after my meeting.  It went well, but (or and) I am now very tired.

Wednesday January 27 2016

Quota photo time, in the form of a view of the Walkie Talkie that I didn’t find when I image-googled “Walkie Talkie tower London”, which I suppose is what you want:

image

I took this photo on the day I had actually been to the top of the Walkie Talkie, and the views from this top are, as you would expect, wonderful.  But when I skimmed through all the photos from that day just now, looking for a quota photo, this was the shot that I found myself stopping at.

Most of the pictures of the Walkie Talkie emphasise how huge it is compared to the buildings around it.  But when you actually get closer, like this, it doesn’t loom so large.  I mean, it’s not as if all these old buildings have been flattened to make way for the Walkie Talkie.  The buildings nearby look quite big, and the Walkie Talkie, a bit further away, looks big too, but not as disproportionately huge as it does when you see the same contrast from further away.

Monday January 25 2016

If you like the picture that was bottom right, here, then maybe you will also like these, which were taken at the exact same time.  They were, first time around, not shown here.  But now, I think they deserve an outing:

image imageimage image

It was the sky that was so good.

Yesterday here was quite strenuous, as was my life today doing other things.  So that’s all.

Sunday January 24 2016

Earlier this month I came upon a clutch of Boris Bikes.  Boris Bikes used to be sponsored by Barclays Bank, and now, as you can see from the pictures of Boris Bikes that follow, they are sponsored by Santander, but Boris Bikes is what we all call these things.

Here are six of the Boris Bike pictures I took, on January 11th:

image image imageimage image image

Click on each of those to get six, seemingly pretty much identical, big pictures.

But actually, they are not identical pictures. 

I have recently become especially interested not just in the way that London’s Big Things look when I photo them, but in the way that others use these Big Things, or stylised representations of these Big Things, to say “London”.  In an advert for being a tourist in London, for instance.  Or, in this case, as a way to flag up that here are some bikes for hire which will enable you to bike around in London, seeing London.  And how do you make biking around London and seeing London seem more enticing?  You throw in pictures of London’s Big Things.  (You even throw in Big Things if you are advertising for sperm donors.  Had it not been for my recently cultivated alertness to the use of London’s Big Things in adverts, I’d not have bothered to photo that sperm donor advert.)

What I noticed about these bikes, and what got me photoing so many of them in this apparently way too excessive manner, is that each of them has a picture of two London Big Things on them.  I was able to find six different Big Thing duos, hence the above six pictures.

Allow me to save you the bother of looking more closely at the Big Things on these bikes, with some cropped out squares: 

image image imageimage image image

I just used google image searching to see if I could find any other Big Thing duos that I had not photoed on that day out, earlier this month.  I failed.  So far as I can tell, there are just six ways in which these bikes are decorated.

The complete set of Big Thing duos would appear to be: The Shard and Tower Bridge, the Wheel and St Paul’s Cathedral, the Big Olympic Thing and the Tower of London, the Millennium Bridge and Battersea Power Station, the Gherkin and Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the Dome.  Ancient and modern, in pairs.  I find this list interesting both for what is included, and for what is not.  I am guessing that these Big Things were not chosen just by a bunch of guys round a table picking them.  I’m guessing that a serious attempt was made to pick Big Things that really do say London to lots of different people.  In particular, this is data about which particular bits of new engineering and architecture have truly been added to the short list of Big Things that are not merely big, but loved.  Although it’s worth adding that the Millennium Bridge is not actually that big.

Even if actually this short list of six ancient Big Things and six modern Big Things actually was put together by a bunch of guys sitting around a table at an advertising agency, in the space of half an hour, well, that’s still data, of a sort.  These are the Big Things that they think say London, to the people they are trying to persuade to hire Boris bikes.

The surprises?  Well, for me, a slightly surprising inclusion is the Big Olympic Thing, and maybe a slightly surprising exclusion is Tate Modern.  Also not included here: the new Wembley Arch.  But by far the biggest surprise here is, I think, the omission of: the BT Tower.

Can anyone think of any other omissions as big as that one?

Of course, it could be that there are Boris bikes out there with the BT Tower on them, or with the Wembley Arch on them, and I just haven’t clocked them.

Friday January 22 2016

You often hear people talking about how buildings which are a lot taller than they are thick are really just penis substitutes.  This advert, which I snapped on the tube earlier this month, makes the connection explicit:

image

Want to know more?  Here.

I have noticed that the junk email I get, and the adverts that interrupt my internet browsing, seem sometimes to be related to stuff I have posted here.  So, I may regret this posting.

Thursday January 21 2016

Last night I lay awake, fretting that I might soon have to buy a new camera.

The problem was that the latest batches of photos that I took, yesterday and the day before, from the top of Westminster Cathedral, look too red.  Not blue enough.  Was there something wrong with it, like what went wrong with my very first digital camera, which turned everything that was bright white instead into bright pink.

Pictures like the one shown here yesterday, looking out to the west from the Cathedral tower, and also other pictures, looking in other directions, such as this, also yesterday, which features another London Cathedral:

image

That green crane make me think of that spoof documentary that Peter Sellers once did, about “Bal Ham: Gateway to the South”, which contained the line: “A rose red city half as gold as green.” (Golders Green.  Never mind.)

It’s a sad thing when a picture as weird and striking as that one only makes you think your camera is misbehaving, but: Is my camera turning everything rose red?

My worries were abated by me looking at earlier batches of recent photos, such as this rather remarkable snap of the Shard, taken in Eltham just before Christmas:

image

I do like how different the Shard can look in one picture from how it looks in another, and in another, and in another.  See also, on the far right above, the same other cathedral.

No excessive rose red there.  (With that old first camera, the bright white face of the Shard would have turned pink.) The truth is that the light yesterday and the day before was … very rose red.  No wind.  Lots of smoggy air.  Sun near the horizon.  Result: lots of rose red light splashing around, turning everything into rose red ghosts.  This was a case when my eye adjusted more than my camera did.  I saw slightly pink as white.  Not so my camera.

Wednesday January 20 2016

Today, went to the top of the Westminster Cathedral tower, again, to check out whether I could see the Wembley Arch.  I could.  Just.  But, then went to a Christian Michel evening.  Rob Waller speaking.  Very good.  But, me now rather drunk.  So, cannot discuss Wembley Arch.  Instead, here is a picture of west London and its cranes, from the top of the tower of Westminster Cathedral:

image

Hope you like it.  Sleep well.  I will.

I make it eight cranes.

Tuesday January 19 2016

Today the weather was forecast to be clear all day, and I didn’t want to waste it.  But, clear equals cold, so I didn’t want to be out too long or journey too far.  I needed a nice spot, preferably near by, from which I could hoover up lots of great snaps and then get back home again to the warmth of my kitchen.

Well, it so happened that while trawling through the archives, I had encountered a fine clutch of snaps taken from the top of the tower of Westminster Cathedral, in the Spring of 2012.  How about I try that again?  So I did.  The people at the Cathedral are really nice, and six quid gets to up to the top of the tower (by lift, which is a big deal for people like poor old me) for as long as you want.  Six quid for the care and maintenance of one of my favourite buildings in London is a price I am extremely happy to pay.  (I think I could have got in for £3, by being old.  But never mind.  That means they think I am not old.)

I took a ton of shots, but I took them today, and am not yet ready to be rational about what I got.  I can still remember the shots I was trying to take, which causes disappointment, which makes me unable to see what I actually did get.

But I already like the shots I took of the big new buildings that have risen up at the top end of Victoria Street, like this one:

image

Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on there:

image

And let take an even closer look:

image

I wonder if those guys relax by climbing rocks, of the sort found on the sides of mountains.  I’m guessing: not.

Although the sky above was cloudless, the light didn’t seem that great.  Kind of fuzzy.  But those shots came out okay.

Monday January 18 2016

An informative piece by Rowan Moore in the Guardian, about the hoped-for replacement for the dismal failure that is the Royal Festival Hall:

It’s an amazing thing that for the sake of some fractions of a second of reverberation time, and some other acoustic niceties, and for the sake of acoustic properties that can only be described with vague adjectives such as “warm”, it is proposed that several hundred million pounds be spent on a completely new concert hall in London, to improve on the existing Royal Festival Hall (built in 1951, extensively renovated in 1964 and 2007) and the Barbican (built in 1982, extensively renovated in 1994 and 2001).

This is what Simon Rattle, future music director of the London Symphony Orchestra, is saying, and he has got George Osborne and Boris Johnson to support him.  Rattle says that London needs the best possible concert hall, where you can “experience the sound of a great orchestra with brilliance, immediacy, depth, richness and warmth”, to attract the best possible musicians, which means shifting very many tons of building materials to fine-tune the vibrations of air. And if there is one thing that almost everyone agrees on in this contentious project (why spend so much in straitened times? Wouldn’t it be better to back performers directly rather than their carapace? Should so much be spent in culturally well-endowed London?), it is that the acoustics of the city’s existing large auditoriums definitely don’t work well enough.

Which means that if this project is to go ahead, it definitely, absolutely, without a shadow of doubt, must get its acoustics right. ...

Indeed.

Moore also writes about the surroundings.  These must be nice, but not attention seeking.  Satisfying for concert-goers, but not “ikonic” if that in any way jeopardises the accoustics, or the satisfaction of concert-goers.  Play your shots and don’t get out, as the cricketers say.

The logic of what Moore says tells me that they should first build the concert hall with absolutely no “surroundings”, and keep on building it until the acoustics are world class.

The basic fact here is, as Moore explains, that you only know for sure if you have a great concert hall after you have built it.  And a bad concert hall, well architected, will be a total failure.  London already has at least one of those (or two, depending on what you think of the Barbican’s architecture), and the last thing it needs is another.

So: build the new hall, as a separate process from all the subsequent architectural tarting up.  If the acoustics are unfixably bad, smash it down and do it again, until the acoustics are satisfactorily superb.  When the acoustics are superb, then get to work on the surroundings, and if that is fucked up first time around, well, do that again too.  And then, if anyone feels inclined, why not then slap some ikonic stuff on the top?  But: one thing at a time.

This is not the usual way that big architecture is done.  The usual way is to do everything at once, and make damn sure you get everything as right as you can.  But then, concert halls are not your usual architecture.

Friday January 15 2016

Today I was in Borough High Street, doing some things with some people, and after that ended I was able, finally, to enjoy some proper winter weather.  Instead of warm and grey, it was cold and blue.  Bright blue:

image

That’s the Slug and Lettuce in Borough High Street, which I assume to be but one link in a franchised chain of some sort, which is very ordinary.  But behind this slug and this lettuce is: the sky, which is not ordinary, given the very ordinary indeed weather we’ve been having lately.

This posting is my attempt to emulate the great Mick Hartley.  I know that won’t work, but as soon as I got home after my wanderings and saw his blue sky posting, done this morning, I knew that I had to find the snap with the bluest sky in it that I had taken.  The secret is to light the building very strongly, by firing the the sun straight at it.  This turns the sky dark blue.  There were not that many dark sky pictures like this one to choose between.  A lot of my snaps today were taken down in those shadows that you see down at the bottom of that picture.  So the above snap was my clear winner.  Very clear.  Hartley probably had dozens of dark blue sky snaps to choose between.  Either that, or he’s a Real Photographer and he took only the pictures he blogged, and gets every shot right first time.

More blue sky, from another of my blog-favourites.  “Zuma”.  That’s a dance/exercise craze, right?

Thursday January 14 2016

In a piece that I just linked back to, from this posting, about keeping up appearances, I wrote this:

What this ...

...this being “facadism” …

… tells you is that architectural modernism has utterly conquered indoors, but that out of doors, modernism is only popular because its totalitarian impulses have been held at bay, by what you might call ancientism.

But I realise now that this is not quite right.

The key point is not that modernism has triumphed indoors, but that indoors, we are not at its mercy.  We can decide about whether to keep it.  We control indoors, with furniture, wallpaper, carpets, etc.  If we want ancientism indoors, in the living room, say, or in the bedroom, we can unleash it at will, and there is not a damn thing that any interfering architect can do about it.  Therefore, we do not mind if indoors is totally modern, when we move in.  We can change it, just as much (or as little) as we want to.

Outdoors, however, we cannot just change things at will to suit our personal preferences.  Therefore, if a large number of us want some ancientism to go alongside all the newly arriving modernism, we have to bully the architects and planners into allowing it, or even into doing some more.  We did, and we did.

Modernism has definitely triumphed in the kitchen.  In the kitchen, a place which did not exist in its current and highly mechanised form in ancientist times, it makes such total sense to have smooth white rectangles everywhere.  Kitchen cupboards are for storing stuff, not for showing stuff off.  You want the cupboard and fridge doors to be a vertical note pads for stick-on notes, not sculptures.  You do not want your work work surfaces and wall areas and cupboard doors in the kitchen to be elaborately decorated like the outsides of ancientist buildings, or shaped like curved like car bonnets.  You want them flat, to do things on and put things on.

Above all, you want everything easily cleanable.  What if someone bangs into a saucepan and spreads slurpy food everywhere.  In the kitchen, you want clean, clear, white surfaces, like outdoor Modern Movement modernism.  You want horizontality and verticality, whiteness and cleanness, because you want convenience and cleanliness.  The kitchen is a machine for cooking in.

Here is a picture I took when I recently visited my brother’s new home.  It is a new home in more ways than one.  It is new for him, and it has just been built.  This is what the kitchen looks like:

image

Okay, once again, zero points for artistic impression.  But look at what is being photoed.  The Bauhaus is stationary in its happy, plain white, rigidly rectangular modernistical grave.  This was what buildings were all going to look like.  They don’t, thank goodness.  But this is what most new kitchens now look like.

I wish I had also photoed the outside of the building where Pete lives.  This is rather kitchy and cutesy, not at all purely “modern”, although you can clearly tell that it’s recent.

As with the work done in kitchens, so for the work done in other places.  Modernism prevails wherever work is done, of the sort done by “workers”, work that involves doing stuff, to stuff.  (When the work involves creating appearances, setting a particular tone, all bets are off.) The world of work is the world in which modernism evolved.  When we want beauty and pleasure (and particular sorts of appearances or tones), modernism is just part of the mix.  It is kept in its place.