Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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Brian Micklethwait on Deirdre McCloskey - The Great Enrichment – Using a smartphone as a mirror
Rob Fisher on Deirdre McCloskey - The Great Enrichment – Using a smartphone as a mirror
Rob Fisher on A bridge in Narbonne
Rocco on Benevolent Laissez-Faire photos
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- Played 6 – Won 0 – Drawn 3 – Lost 3
- I want to write more here about music
- South of France signs
- Keeping up appearances at One Palace Street
- Goodbye PhotoCat – hello PhotoPad
- Incoming imagery from Antoine
- A bridge in Narbonne
- South of France electronic clutter
- Deirdre McCloskey - The Great Enrichment – Using a smartphone as a mirror
- Bird takes off from a TV aerial
- Benevolent Laissez-Faire photos
- Horizontal French signs
- A house in France that is not faceless
- Safe cracks in an airplane window
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Category archive: Architecture
Pictures taken by me earlier this month:
I keep telling myself to take notes during photo sessions like this, but I didn’t, and it took quite a bit of googling to work out where all this keeping up of appearances was. But here it is:
It’s the big block in the red rectangle. The big spread to its left as we look is Buckingham Palace. Hence, I suppose, the Palace in Palace Street.
The former civil service block is being demolished, apart from its Grade II listed façade, and converted into 72 homes within yards of the perimeter wall of the palace grounds.
Then there’s a lot of sales babble, the gist of which is that if you have to ask you can’t afford it. And then there’s this:
The building, designed by Chelsea Barracks architects Squire & Partners, will be completed in 2017 and reflect five architectural styles: 1860s Italianate Renaissance, 1880s French Renaissance, 1880s French Beaux Arts, 1890s Queen Anne, and contemporary.
Presumably “reflect” here means “preserve the outsides of buildings done in: ...”.
Or, it means “fake”.
Another French picture, but this time taken in Paris, by my friend Antoine Clarke (to whom thanks):
That would be La Defense, unless I am much mistaken, that being Paris’s new Big Thing district.
I cropped that photo slightly, to moderate that leaning-inwards effect you get when you point a camera upwards at tall buildings.
The email that brought the above snap to my desk, earlier this month, was entitled “warmer than when you were here last”. When I last visited Paris, it was indeed very, very cold, so cold that water features became ice features (see the first picture there).
Today, Antoine sent me another photo, also suffering somewhat from leaning-inwards syndrome, and also cropped by me, more than somewhat. See right.
Mostly what I think about Antoine’s most recent picture is: What an amazing crane! So very tall, and so very thin. It’s amazing it even stays up, let alone manages to accomplish anything. I don’t remember cranes like that existing a generation ago, but maybe that’s merely because no towers that high were being built in London. Not that Antoine’s crane is in London. It is somewhere in America, but where, I do not know.
I just did a bit of googling for books about cranes, and if my googling is anything to go by, books about construction cranes and their history are a lot thinner on the ground than are construction cranes. When you consider how many tons of books have been written about the buildings that construction cranes construct, it is surprising that so little is written about the mighty machines without which such construction would be impossible.
It reminds me of the analogous profusion of books on the history of science, and the comparative neglect of the history of scientific instruments.
As I think I have written before, one major defect of my blog-posting software is that I do not get an accurate picture of how the final blog posting will look, and in this case, whether there is enough verbiage on the left hand side of this tall thin picture of a tall thin crane, to prevent the picture of the tall thin crane impinging upon the posting below. Hence this somewhat verbose and superfluous paragraph, which may not even have been necessary, but I can’t now tell.
There are four such bridges in the world.
And the pictures follow: Ponte Vecchio; Krämerbrücke, Erfurt; the Rialto in Venice; Pulteney Bridge in Bath. (The old London Bridge is, alas, no more.)
But then the bit about how there are four such bridges was crossed out, and this was added:
Update: Apparently, there are a few more. Pont des Marchands in Narbonne, France, is one example.
Narbonne? I was in Narbonne only days ago, hearing GodDaughter 2 and her pals sing the solo parts in the Mozart Requiem. Afterwards, we walked beside the river back to the car. Did I, I wonder, photo this Pont des Marchands? I do recall bridges, and I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t photoed them. Here are a couple of Narbonne bridges, that I photoed then:
So, did the Pont des Marchands figure in my bridge-snapping?
Image google image google.
The Pont des Marchands looks like this:
I had already copied those two bridge pictures above into my FranceMay2016/bridges subdirectory, but in that directory, there was no sign of anything with shops on top of it. However, another look through all the pictures I took in Narbonne that evening brought me to ... this:
The bridge in the front there is the one in the left of the two bridges above. Behind that little footbridge, could that be the Pont des Marchands, seen from the other side? Got to be. Those Ms certainly look encouraging. Short answer, after only a very little more image googling: yes.
There’s nothing quite like seeing something for yourself. And the next best thing is when you photo it without seeing it, and then see later that you did see it after all.
I had today, May 17th, as the day when I would finally have recovered from the strain and stress of taking a holiday in the south of France earlier this month.
So, what else is there to say about France. Well, a thing I love about France is … The Wires! Just like all those dezeen pictures of bland new Japanese dwellings, surrounded by The Wires!, France also seems to have no inhibitions about hanging The Wires! everywhere, and in particular above the roads.
Below are sixteen South of France clutter photos, chosen from a clutch of clutter photos several times larger than that. Included in these photos are views of The Wires!, and also of regular roof clutter consisting of kit for receiving entertainment. Sometimes both:
I am fascinated by all this clutter, because I am. But in addition to just liking it, I think that it illustrates an important point about the modern world, which is that if clutter is so visually appealing – as I believe it often is – then people should, on aesthetic grounds, be allowed to do erect whatever they like. Chances are, it will look amusing rather than ugly, in much the same way as a forest or a crystal cluster.
But, I have to admit that the general south of Franceness of it all also appeals. All those orange tiled rooves, and stucco, and all that amazing light. Almost anything looks good in light as nice as it often is down there, which it was for the first few days.
Most of the above photos were taken in the town of Thuir, where my hosts have a house.
Today I attended Deirdre McCloskey’s talk for the Adam Smith Institute. I know what you’re thinking. Okay, okay, photos, as per usual. But: What did she say? Fine. Go here, and you can find out. What I can find no link to is any information about the event – when, where, and so on. It’s all now gone. Maybe it was never there in the first place.
But the Man from the Adam Smith Institute told me to send in some of my snaps, and these are the ones I sent them:
McCloskey’s basic point was what is rapidly becoming the libertarian orthodoxy, to the effect that (a) the world started getting humungously rich in or around 1780 (Yaron Brook‘s preferred date for this is 1776 (to coincide with America starting and Smith’s Wealth of Nation’s getting published)), and (b) we did this. Our enemies tried to stop us and they failed. We know how to make poor people rich, and we’ve been doing it ever since. Our enemies only know how to make rich people less rich and poor people more poor. Bastards.
My recent favourite example of enrichment is a very tiny one offered at today’s talk by McCloskey, which is that you can now use your smartphone as a mirror. Better yet, McCloskey said, before the talk she was giving, she spotted Steve Baker MP doing this exact thing with his smartphone, while perfecting his appearance prior to doing his MP socialising bit.
The reason I particularly like this is that I just recently learned about this trick myself, when I saw someone doing it, and took a photo of it:
If you photo someone looking in a mirror, they can see their face, but you can’t. (Unless it’s a crap movie, in which case the audience sees the face and the person with the face doesn’t. I know. Ridiculous. But this is truly what often happens.) But, if you photo someone using their smartphone as a mirror, both you and they can see their face.
McCloskey’s point was that enrichment doesn’t only come in the form of more money, but also in the form of the ever more amazing things that you can buy with your money. Like a phone that is also a NASA circa 1968 supercomputer. And a face mirror.
Finally, here are a couple more photography-related photos. On the left is the official photographer for the McCloskey talk:
And on the right there is a photo which I also took at the venue for the McCloskey talk, which I will not name, because then the people in charge of this place might then learn of this blog posting and see this picture and then who the hell knows what might happen? Are you wondering what I am talking about? Click on the picture and work it out. I only realised what I had photoed after I had got home.
Another sign of advancing years, to add to all the other signs discussed here, is that if you go on holiday somewhere for X days, X further days is how long it will take you to recover. The longer you are away, the longer the recovery period. I went to France on May 3rd, returned on May 10th, which means that by about May 17th I will be approximately myself again. But throughout the time between now and the 17th, France will still be on my mind, and I consider myself entitled to post pictures I took in that country relentlessly until the 17th, and perhaps even beyond that date.
Here is a picture of a house that looks like a face:
Well, the picture of the house looks like a face if you crop it the way I did. Click to get the original picture, and it becomes a little harder to spot.
I don’t think that houses that look like faces is an entirely frivolous subject. After all, one of the most common complaints you hear about modern architecture is that it is “faceless”. To a certain extent, all trad-looking houses look like they’ve got faces. This house just takes that tendency a little further than most.
The weather in Thuir and surrounding parts yesterday and today has been grim, in sharp contrast to the weather at the end of last week.
Here is that sharp (as in sharp and then not at all sharp) contrast:
On the left, the weather last week, as viewed from the top of the house I am staying in. On the right, the weather viewed from the same spot this afternoon. The weather on the left was the sort that decreased the apparent force of gravity. The weather now is the sort that you describe yourself as being under.
Note that it is not only the far away Pyrenees that have disappeared in the right hand picture. The further away bit of the much nearer, green bit of the landscape has also vanished under cloud.
These two pictures (click on either to get it bigger) both involved a lot of cropping, and fiddling about to get the cropping exactly (or approximately exactly) so. Without Photocat, I could never have done it.
I am looking forward to maybe (I promise nothing) doing similar before-and-after snaps involving recently constructed buildings in London.
Postcards like this one, which I photoed this morning, in ... well, you can see where:
Why not just take my own photos?
Well, I do take my own photos, a ton of them, and many of them look extremely like the ones in this photo of a clutch of photos. But what I learn from these picture postcard pictures is what in, in this case, the small historic town of Castelnou is considered by all the others who visit Castelnou to be most worthy of photographic attention. I may agree. I may disagree. Either way, I consider this to be interesting information.
I went Ryanair to Perpignan to get here. I made a point of booking a window seat, but tragically, the wing was centre stage, thus:
I choose that photo to show you what sort of window my window seat was next to. There are nice, clean, easy-to-see-through windows, and there are Ryanairplane windows. So, I didn’t attempt many photos on my journey.
But as we approached Perpignan airport, from the sea, which involved the Ryanairplane obligingly taking a sharp right turn and lowering its wing out of the way, with the snowcapped Pyrenees way out in the distance, I had to at least try:
That being what I finally saw, after I managed to persuade the Thuirian computer that I am now laboriously using, to show it.
A week ago and more, the story was that Spurs were hunting them down, waiting for them to falter. But it was Spurs who faltered, twice. They had leads against both the last two teams the have played, but all they could muster was just the two points. So Leicester, and most of the rest of the world that cares about such things, is now celebrating:
All season long, people have been saying that Leicester would falter. Now people are saying that this is a one-off, and that they’ve been lucky not to have more injuries and to have picked a moment when the hitherto best teams were all “rebuilding”. We’ll see. Leicester remind me a bit of Nottingham Forest of old, who were also said not to be front rankers, and had quite a few players rescued from the scrap heap. They did pretty well, for a while.
Spurs? Well, they have a new stadium coming soon, so there’s a decent chance this is Spurs on the up too. On the other hand, there’s nothing like new architecture to take people’s eyes off the ball. Again, we shall see.
I spent a lot of my blogging time today writing about a talk I attended last night, given by Tim Evans. I did not finish what I wanted to say, but the attempt left me little time to do anything here. So, a photo, taken by me on the way to Tim’s talk, as I emerged from Euston Station:
That’s part of the roof of St Pancras Station. I like how my snap makes you see this building, if not with fresh eyes, then at least from a rather fresh angle, instead of the usual one you get, from in front.
St Pancras Station was first opened in 1868, and the contrast between how they did the tops of big buildings in those times and how the tops of similar sized buildings are done nowadays could not be more extreme. Now, buildings of that size tend to have flat tops, and to be covered with telecommunications equipment.
This being New Scotland Yard. And a statue of a man scratching his back outside Westminster Abbey. Well, no, but that’s what it always looks like to me. The column of that statue can also be seen in yesterday’s numerical traffic lights snap.
London’s famed Metropolitan Police are moving out of New Scotland Yard, back to old Scotland Yard. It will be interesting to see what happens to all that roof clutter. Maybe nothing.
I took this picture in lots of different versions. Same picture. Lots of different numbers. So which number to choose, to show here? I chose 5, because behind where it says “05”, Big Ben reveals the time to have been 5 past 5:
So that’s 5 ticked. 2 is already done. 8 more to go. Or maybe 7. Because, I rather think that these devices never get to say “01”
A new crossrail station is being completed, and Centre Point is being given a makeover. I doubt it will look any different, but you never know.
Any decade now, Centre Point’s exterior will burst into colour. But Centre Point right now, temporarily wrapped in this and that, is as colourful as it is likely to be for a decade or two yet. A generation of monochromist modernist architects still has to die, before colour can really start happening in London. At present (see the previous photo) Renzo Piano is the only fashionable architect being colourful.
While I’m showing you pictures of that rather angly station entrance, here is another, taken moments before the one above:
Lots of signage of various kinds there.
For another view, looking down Tottenham Court Road, of this strange station entrance, see photo 3.2 of these.
Indeed. Photoed by me next to Centre Point, this afternoon:
Another London facade which is nice but not totally wondrous is being carefully preserved, so that modernity can in due course be erected behind it. This time I photoed it from behind.
I have been assuming that this is a purely aesthetic thing. Done like this to get planning permission. But someone (I do not recall who) recently told me that if you preserve a facade you don’t have to get planning permission for whatever you put behind it. But, if you allow the facade to disappear, then you do have to get planning permission, even if what you subsequently do is re-erect the original facade.
Can anyone confirm or deny this?
Note that dash of Renzo Pianistic colour there.
The Londonist is telling me that I should Visit This Incredible Model Of Central London, Newly Open:
For many years, a wonderful secret has resided in a basement beneath the Guildhall. This highly detailed 3D model of London, used by planners, developers and architects, has been off-limits to the public, except for rare open days. From 23 April it will be freely open every week for anyone who cares to take a look.
And you should take a look - it’s fascinating on many levels. Stretching from Holborn to Wapping, the scale model gives a superb overview of the different styles of architecture that make up central London. It also looks ahead, including any building that has received planning permission. Many towers under construction are here shown complete. Below we snapped the ‘Can of Ham’, soon to rise next to fellow picnic-able skyscraper, the Gherkin.
My first reaction, to the photos - not to the model itself (which I have yet to see) - is how very unrealistic it looks, despite (I’m sure) everything being the exact right size and shape. I’m not complaining, just saying. Models are often like that.
Not that I need convincing to visit this thing. Fridays and Saturdays, apparently. I’ve got various things coming up, so it may be a while before I get do this, but do it I definitely will. And when I do, expect more photos.
That the model includes everything that has received planning permission will sometimes mean temporarily including Things that are never actually built, merely permitted but then abandoned. Like the Helter Skelter, for instance. Which presumably had a starring role in this model, for a while.