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Category archive: Architecture

Tuesday July 28 2015

Certainly in London and I presume everywhere else in Britain, when you see lots of verbiage attached to the outside of a building site, it tends to be health and safety stuff, of the sort shown in this posting, which I did here in February 2011.  (That was the very first posting I did with the category “Signs and notices” attached to it.)

In the summer of that same year, I was in France, where I took the picture that follows.  But I never got around to displaying it here.  Here it is now:

image

This is a sign that I saw adorning the outside of a French building site.

To me, it resembles nothing so much as the credits at the end of a movie.  Every imaginable contributor to the building process is painstakingly listed.  Click if you want to be able to read everything more clearly.

Although I am sure I might be persuaded otherwise (for instance by people with knowledge of the relative merits of the actual work that tends to be done in each country), I think the contrast is rather in France’s favour.

In France, everything that has been done, and by whom, is listed.  Presumably it has been done in a manner to make the people who did it glad to have their names in, as it were, lights.  In Britain, every imaginable thing that might go wrong is listed, in the form of an imprecation that people not do this.  It’s the difference between being proud of what is being done, and being nothing but apologetic about it.

Right at the end, though, it does say: “chantier interdet au public, port du casque obligatoire”.  This means (unless the internet has gravely deceived me): “access forbidden to the public, helmet obligatory”.  So, a bit of health and safety nagging there.  But that’s all there is.

In Britain, you also sometimes get a rather shorter list of the grander and more professional of the enterprises people who are doing the job, but not nearly so much is made of this, compared to all the stuff about being ever so, ever so careful.

Sunday July 26 2015

I like Palestra House, outside Southwark Tube.  It’s a bit trashy and seventies looking, but I like it.  Especially in nice weather, as it was when I recently photoed it, on the right here:

imageimage

On the left is how Palestra House was looking on March 31st 2005.  There was a faked-up picture of what they thought it would look like on the outside of the site, but you never really know these days, by which I mean for the last three decades or so.  Although, there was an early clue, in the form of the beginnings of the glass cladding, as you can see.

One definition of Modern Movement modernism sixties vintage (as opposed to the later and more stylish versions), would be to say that when it was being built you did know only too well what it was going to look like.  It was going to look like … that.  And that … was not good.

I think that Palestra House, on the other hand, turned out quite good.

Friday July 24 2015

When G(od)D(aughter) 1 and I left the Park View Cafe, the weather was still grim, as you can see in this picture, which is of an amazing building which we encountered just a few yards down the road:

imageimage

I was amazed.  But so amazed enough that I forgot to take a closer photo of all that signage so I could look it up later.

What is it?  And more to the point, what was it?  Because nobody says “We need a place to do indoor pretend rock climbing” and builds themselves something like that.

Well, here is the website for what it is now.  And here you can read about what it was originally built to accommodate:

For a small district, Stoke Newington is endowed with a generous amount of open space. To its north, there is the extensive West Reservoir, now a non-working facility, but open for leisure and surrounded by greenspace, at the entrance to which is the architecturally bizarre Castle Climbing Centre, once the main Water Board pumping station. It was designed, by William Chadwell Mylne, to look like a towering Scottish castle.

There should be more fake castles of this sort.  Why don’t people build such things now?  You’d think with all the current fascination with fantasy movies, Harry Potter, and so forth, there’d be rock and roll royalty queueing up to erect more stuff like this.  Do they not even try?  Or, do they try, but are they then rebuffed by boring local planning committees, frightened that if they allowed such things, before you knew it, everyone would be building whatever they liked.

“Castle Climbing Centre” ought to mean a Centre where you learn to Climb Castles.  But, it doesn’t.

Wednesday July 22 2015

Indeed.

Busy day today, so another photo taken yesterday evening, at the southern end of Blackfriars Bridge:

image

Dragons like these are to be seen all around the City of London, guarding the City from the rest of London.  This is the kind of thing Wikipedia surely gets right, so here is that link.

You can find lots of pictures of these dragons, but not so many photos that look the way mine does, with a blurry Big Thing and a blurry crane in the background.

Tuesday July 21 2015

Today I went on one of my regular walkabouts.  But it was different from almost all other walkabouts I can remember, in that this time, this time, I returned home convinced that I had taken a lot of, by my reckoning, really very good photos.  I knew that this time, I would not have to go through the usual ordeal of looking at them, becoming depressed, only returning to my clutch of photos a few days later to rescue whatever photographic merit I might then find.  So it has already proved, only a couple of hours after me getting home.  I looked at the photos and an amazing number of them were … really very good.  I think.

Here is just one, for now, one among many that I already know that I like:

image

Big Thing, tick.  Roof clutter, tick.  But what I really like is how some of the roof clutter is dark, while some of it is sunlit, and the sunlit stuff has an obligingly dark Big Thing behind it, to set it off.

I didn’t meander about making this happen.  It just happened.  (Although, I did have to do a little bit of rotating.  Sorry about that.  I can only assure you that this will almost certainly happen again because the combination of me and my camera (with its twiddly screen) seems to make me rotate pictures when I take them, a lot.)

Thursday July 16 2015

Indeed

On September 19th 2004, Goddaughter 1 and I visited the inside of the top of the Gherkin, on that year’s London Architecture Open Day, or whatever they call it.

But my camera (a Canon A70) was not very good at doing views, and the best pictures I took were of, guess what, other photographers.  And the most interesting other photographer was, I think, this one:

image

Proof (a) that selfies were being taken before the word itself had caught on, and proof (b) that I had already noticed.

I also like that the camera there looks seriously clunky and out of date.  That’s because it was then seriously clunky and is now seriously out of date.

Wednesday July 15 2015

New dwellings and shops behind the facade of an old brewery, and a new power plant on top of it:

image

Here.

Monday July 13 2015

imageMore Dezeen catching up.  And this time the news is that Paris is about to get its first truly Grand Chose since the Montparnasse Tower.

Paris is, in certain Parisian minds anyway, suffering from London Big Thing Envy, and they want to change the place.

“The change in regulations is a historic moment,” the architects told Dezeen. “Paris is cautiously allowing tall buildings back into the city.”

Like Ken Livingstone, who did so much to make London’s recent Big Things happen, some of the Parisians angling most powerfully for Grand Choses are socialists.

But Big Things fit right in in London.  In London the antiquarian tendency is weak when confronted by the We Want More Office Space tendency.  But in Paris, it is the other way around.  Paris already has a look that lots of people like, and scattering Grand Choses all over it will radically change that look.  London has always grown in big ugly bursts of money-making, which everyone then gets used to and decides they like, so Big Things are just the latest version of a regular London process.  Paris was kind of perfect in the late nineteenth century, and since then it has been half city, half museum.  It was then neither bombed nor redeveloped by socialist maniacs, as London was.  It will be interesting to see if this transformation of Paris can be made to stick or whether it will be stopped in its tracks once again.

The opposition is gathering.  This particular Grand Chose has already been dubbed a poor man’s Shard, and in truth it really does look like a cross between the Shard and this infamous North Korean structure.

See also this earlier posting about Paris here, here

Sunday July 12 2015

One of the great pleasures of having Godot back in business is that I can catch up on what’s been on Dezeen.  And on July 1st, Dezeen had news of the next London Big Thing.

The Helter Skelter began to rise up a couple of years or so back, but then it stopped.  Now, the Helter Skelter has been reborn, as the tallest Big Thing in this faked-up picture, in the middle:

image

The really good news:

At the top, London’s highest bar and restaurant will sit alongside a free public viewing gallery offering vistas over the smaller neighbouring towers, including Richard Rodger’s Cheesegrater, Rafael Viñoly’s Walkie Talkie and Foster + Partners’ Gherkin.

Eat your heart out Shard.  Free public viewing platform. You’ll probably have to check in on a website the night before.  But even so, good.

I promise nothing, but … expect pictures here of the Cheesegrater, the Walkie Talkie and the Gherkin, from above.

Sunday July 05 2015

It may not be as dramatic a photo as this one of it, but I do like this:

image

There was a time when Modernism was supposed to destroy Ancientism.  Now, the two sit happily next to one another, and quite right too.  This aesthetic cohabitation began as a grudging political necessity.  Ancientism wasn’t going to roll over and die, it turned out.  Now, people have come to like the contrast.  And when I say “people”, I mean “I”.

Sunday June 28 2015

I’m now knackered.  For reasons too complicated for me to explain in my present knackered state, I didn’t get as much sleep last night as I would have liked.  And then today I went on a photo-trek with Goddaughter 1.  This was great, and I am entirely glad that I did this, but about two thirds of the way through these photo-treks I typically arrive at a state of knackeredness, and so it was today.  Mostly it’s the feet.  They ache.  But, sitting down and resting only makes it worse when I try to resume.

We both took lots of photos, many of the best ones that I took being after I had become knackered, as also tends to be the rule with these photo-treks, hence my determination, every time, to keep trekking after becoming knackered.  This is often because at the end of the trek there is a destination which keeps us going, and which is really good.  This time, that destination, it gradually became clear, was Alexandra Palace.  And Alexandra Palace is a great place from which to photo London and its Big Things, especially if the light is as good as it was today.  The light at the end of the day is often the best, which is another reason to keep going, even if you become knackered before the day ends.  So I kept going, and so, a great day.

But a knackering day, and I am now off to bed.  I can, or so I hope, write when knackered.  But working with my primitive little laptop, I now find it impossible to contrive any links or post any photos, So no links.  No photos.

No photos also because, although it was a great day, I don’t know if I took any great (by my undemanding standards) photos.  I have looked at them, once, but am now too caught up in what I was trying to photo and am not yet able to be objective about what I did photo and to pick out any truly good ones.

Good night..

Saturday June 27 2015

Photoed by me today at the top end of Victoria Street, aka Victoria, where there is a hurricane of new building going on, a horizontal slice of an old building:

image

If you click on that, you will be able to see, from the daylight in the windows and from the big horizontal chunks of metal between the windows, that this is another of those facades from olden days that’s being held up and behind which indoor modernity will be put.

Tuesday June 23 2015

This afternoon I went walkabout, with quite another object in mind than the Shard.  But, the Shard was looking peculiarly beautiful this evening, at any rate from where I was standing, on the Millennium Bridge.

image

At present I am not seeing this picture nearly as clearly as you probably are, because my proper computer (Godot) is ill and my laptop (Dawkins Judas) only has a very small and inadequate screen.

What I hope you are seeing is the sky looking very earthly, but the Shard looking almost heavenly.  The sky looks rough and the Shard looks smooth.  The sky looks matt and the Shard looks gloss.  Sky behind the Shard is dark, the Sky reflected off the Shard is light.  London is dim, but the Shard is bright.

Renzo Piano, who designed this wondrous Thing, saw all this coming.  He knew that the Shard would reflect in a quite different way to a merely vertical Thing, and today this effect was to be seen at its very best.  I can only hope that my photo gives at least a clue of what was going on.

Monday June 22 2015

Indeed.  After meeting the extended family and photoing those Dinky Toys, I made my way back to Egham Station via the RAF Memorial at the top of the hill that overlooks Runnymede.  Runnymede and a lot else.

In the foreground, the River Thames.  To the right, in the far distance, London and its towers, just visible, if you are lucky with the weather.  Next to London and a bit nearer, Heathrow Airport, with the Wembley Arch clearly to be seen behind it.  Straight ahead, big reservoirs.

And to the left, Windsor Castle:

image

Click on that little picture to get the bigger picture.

I am having a recurrence of those computer problems I described in this earlier posting, but have discovered that my picture processing programme does function after all, after a fashion.  But very badly, and I am posting this picture of Windsor Castle because I remember that picture to be good, rather than because I know it to be.

The pictures I took from the top of the RAF Memorial yesterday seemed to me better than ones I had taken before from this spot, and I suspect that this is because yesterday was the first time I had used my latest camera at this vantage point.  But my computer problems struck again before I could check this feeling against actual facts.

So meanwhile, enjoy Windsor Castle, assuming that the picture is as enjoyable as I remember it seeming to be when I looked at it last night.

Saturday June 20 2015

But, there is light.  And there is light.

Here is some light, earlier this evening, bouncing off the Millbank Tower with its superb roof clutter, next to a crane, and arriving upon the little square of electro-magic inside my camera:

image

Yes, that is excellent roof clutter.  Yes, that is a crane.  But … it’s not a very remarkable scene.

But here is some light, earlier in the week, bouncing off the same Millbank Tower with its same excellent roof clutter, next to the same crane, and arriving upon the same little square of electro-magic inside my camera:

image

Put it this way.  Had I not taken that shot earlier in the week, I’d not be showing you the one I took this evening.  Which I only took at all to illuminate that earlier one.