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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

Friday October 19 2018

More and more of my photo-time is spent collating the photos I have already taken.  Last night, for instance, I went looking for (more) photos of London taxis with adverts on them.  There is something especially appealing, to me anyway, about a large number of objects all exactly the same shape, but each decorated differently.  (Some time, I must go searching for my photos of elephants.)

Equally appealing, to me, were those Gormley Men.  In that case, each Man was the same, and undecorated in the more usual and rather bland sculpture way.  But, each one was in a different place and a different sort of setting.  My Gormley Men photos did not need collating, because Gormley had already collated them, by putting all his Men in the same part of London at the same time.  Therefore my photos of the Gormley Men mostly collated themselves.

Not so the elephants, or taxis.  When looking for taxis, I am looking for taxis photoed in the course of all manner of different photo-expeditions each with their own directories.

But my point is that in the course of all this taxi-collating, I was clicking through literally thousands of non-taxi photos, and I kept coming across non-taxi photos that I particularly liked.  Like (kike as in “such as” – this is not a command) this one, for instance, taken last June:

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I like doing modified cliches in writing, and I also like them photographically.  A view, for instance, of some London Thing that has been photoed to death, but put beside or in front of or behind something that is not so usual.  Most photoers would regard the above scaffolding as a problem rather than any sort of solution, to the Eros-has been photoed-to-death problem.

The scaffolding’s wrapping has the effect of clearing away all the usual clutter from Piccadilly Circus and replacing it with something a lot like sky on a dull day.  It puts Eros in an empty field in the countryside, you might say.  And yes I know, I like clutter.  But not always.

Here is another modified cliché photo:

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The Wheel has been photoed to death, and that’s a view I regularly see – and regularly photo - of it, from the point where Strutton Ground meets Victoria Street, looking down Victoria Street towards Parliament Square and beyond.  But that sky behind The Wheel made The Wheel look amazing, on that particular day in January of this year.

Finally, one of many photos I took this year of Battersea Power Station:

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The Power Station and (if you are a craniac like me) its crane cluster are the clichés.  And if you want to take the sting out of a cliché, one way is to reflect it in something.  At that point its extreme recognisability becomes more a virtue and less of a bore.  Its very clichéness becomes helpful to the photo.

This photo was taken from the upstream side of the Power Station, where there is already a big chunk of new flats up and running, with accompanying tasteless sculpture, coffee serving places and the like.  All sparked, I believe, by the new USA Embassy.

This photo of mine turns Battersea Power Station upside down.  I’ve always thought that an upside down Battersea Power Station would make a rather good table.  But, until now I never thought to go looking for such a table on the www.  Here we go.  That took about three seconds, so I bet there are plenty more that are cheaper.  This guy had the same idea, but those too links were all I could quickly find concerning this notion.

Here is another modified cliché photo of Battersea Power Station, the modification this time being smoke.

Come to think of it, all those London taxi photos I’ve been digging up are also modified cliché photos, aren’t they?  London taxi = cliché, adverts = modification.

Over the summer, a friend of mine was performing in a show at Warwick Castle about the Wars of the Roses.  And early last August a gang of her friends and family went there to see this, me among them.  It was a great show, albeit wall-to-wall Tudor propaganda, and a great day out.

Warwick Castle is quite a place, being one of Britain’s busiest visitor attractions.  It’s No 9 on this list.

I of course took a ton of photos, and in particular I photoed the horses in this show, the crucial supporting actors, you might say.  The stage was out of doors, of course, and long and thin, the audience on each side being invited to support each side in the wars.  Long and thin meant that the horses had room to do lots of galloping.

None of the photos I took were ideal, but quite a few were okay, if okay means you get an idea of what this show was like:

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The basic problem, I now realise, is that the horse heads were at the same level as the audience on the opposite side to my side.  As Bruce the Real Photographer is fond of saying, when photoing people, you start by getting the background right.  And I guess he’d say the same of horses.  Well, this time, for these horses, I’m afraid I didn’t.

So it was a case of nice legs, shame about the faces.  (That link is to a pop song from my youth, the chorus of which glued itself to my brain for ever.  I particularly like the bit where they sing: “Shame about the boat race”.)

I recommend the show’s own Real Photographer, for better photos, potted biogs of the leading historic characters, and a little bit about the enterprise that did this show.

Tuesday October 16 2018

I’ve asked it before and I’ll ask it again.  Why do I regard most of Modern Art as silly, yet relish real world objects which resemble Modern Art?  Objects like this:

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The above photo was taken on The last really fine day of 2018, just minutes after I had taken the one in that earlier posting.

You don’t need to go to an exhibition of sloppily painted abstract art, when the regular world contains wondrous looking objects like that.  And what is more, they are wondrous looking objects which have worthwhile purposes.  This wondrous object is for supporting and protecting workers as they work on a building.

Here is how that same scaffolding looked, unwrapped, about a month earlier:

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I particular enjoy how the sky changes colour, in my camera, when a big white Thing is inserted into the picture.  (This afternoon, I encountered this, by Real Photographer Charlie Waite.  Same effect.)

Thank you to the (to me) invaluable PhotoCat, for enabling me to crop both of the above photos in a way that makes them more alike in their scope and which thereby points up the differences.  I’m talking about the invaluable Crop But Keep Proportions function that PhotoCat has, but which PhotoStudio (my regular Photoshop(clone)) 5.5 seems not to offer.  (I would love to be contradicted on that subject.)

Despite all my grumblings about how silly most Modern Art is, I do nevertheless greatly like the way that this Big Thing (the Reichstag) looks in the pride-of-place photo featured in this BBC report, an effect which presumably makes use of the same sort of technology as we see in my photo, but on a vastly grander scale:

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I have to admit that this is several orders of magnitude more impressive than my scaffolding.  (Maybe that was the last really fine day of 1994.) My scaffolding looks lots better than some badly painted little abstract rectangle in an Art gallery, but it’s not nearly as effective as the Reichstag, as wrapped by Christo and Partner.

Because this Big Wrapped Thing was so very big, and because it is such a very interesting shape, it really does look like it added greatly to Berlin, in that summer of 1994.  I entirely understand why all those people assembled to gaze at it.  Had I been anywhere in the vicinity, I would have too.  And had there been digital cameras then, I would have taken numerous photos, as would thousands of others.  Thus giving permanence to this vast piece of temporariness.

Because, what I also like about this Reichstag wrapping is that, just like my scaffolding, and just like all the other wrapping done by Wrapper Christo and his Lady Sidekick, it is temporary.  That BBC report calls it Pop-Up Art, and it is of the essence of its non-annoyingness that any particular piece of Pop-Up Art by Christo will soon be popping down again.

This Reichstag wrapping happened in 1994, but is now long gone.  Did you disapprove of what Christo and his lady did to the Reichstag?  You just had to wait it out.  Soon, it would be be gone.

Do you think scaffolding, especially when wrapped, is ugly?  Ditto.

Saturday October 13 2018

Three photos I took this afternoon, in quick succession, from a moving train:

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Such photos seldom come out very well, what with all the movement and the reflections in the window.  But these did, I think.

I remember thinking, when it became clear what these two Big Things were going to look like, that although each looked okay separately, that they would make a rather discordant pair.  But as with almost all such Big London architectural eccentricities, I soon got used to this contrast, and now like it a lot.

Friday October 12 2018

That’s the plan anyway.  Read about it in a Dezeen posting entitled Urban Nouveau wants to save Stockholm’s Gamla Lidingöbron bridge by building homes in it:

Urban Nouveau has designed the scheme in response to Lidingö Municipality’s plans to tear down the Gamla Lidingöbron bridge, which links the Swedish capital to the island of Lidingö, and replace it with a modern structure.

I like the sound of this, and the look of it:

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Oh, sorry, no, that’s the old version of London Bridge.  (I recommend having a browse of that full-size. (it’s 6144 x 1024.))

The thing is, a bridge, for all the grand vistas you can often see from it, can be a rather forbidding and even boring thing to walk across.  It’s like walking along a huge boulevard.  Sounds good, but too little changes as you progress.  To make bridges pleasurable to walk across, you need stuff on them.

Which is why I am prejudiced in favour of this Stockhom scheme, even though what I know about it is only what I have skim-read about it in this one Dezeen posting.

There’s a Petition.

Somewhat over a year ago I wrote about When what I think it is determines how ugly or beautiful I feel it to be, in connection with this building:

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This is described, at any rate by its owners and its various occupants, as The Peak.

And that photo of mine above, taken from the top of the Westminster Cathedral Tower, is my Peak photo which best illustrates the oddly deceptive appearance of this decidedly odd-looking building.  It looks like a 60s rectangular lump, to which 90s or 00s curvatures, on the right as we look, and on the top, have been added.  But, as I discovered when concocting that previous posting, the whole thing was built all at once.  It looks like a two-off building rather than a one-off building, but looks deceive, or deceived me, for a while.  Two-off good, one-off bad, was how I had been thinking.  It was two-off, so (aesthetically) good.  Organic, additive, blah blah.  But, what was I supposed to think, on discovering that it was really an inorganic and un-additive one-off?

Now, buried in my photo-archives, I find this photo, taken on October 28th 2008, which confirms that The Peak is indeed a one-off, because here it is (here it was), all being built in one go.  There really is no doubt about it:

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When I took this photo, I was a lot more interested in the anti-pigeon spikes on top of those street lamps, and on top of the railway sign, than I was in the building work in the background.

How I now feel about The Peak, aesthetically, is that I still rather like it, if only because I have paid so much attention to it over the years, and feel sort of proprietorial towards it, as you would towards a somewhat clumsy child that you have adopted.  (That feeling applies, for me, to a great many London buildings.)

Also, whatever else you think of it, when you see it, you at once know where you are.  It is very recognisable, recognisability being a quality in buildings which I appreciate more and more.  “Iconic” is the rather silly word that estate agents and suchlike use to allude to this quality.  But they have a point, even if they use a silly word to point to their point.  That “you could be anywhere” feeling is not a good one, in a city or anywhere else.

“Other creatures” (see below) because of the pigeon scaring.

Wednesday October 10 2018

There is building activity going on at the top end of Horseferry Road, which is near where I live.  And this afternoon, when I sallied forth to enjoy the last really fine day of 2018 and to photo London, this bit of London activity was one of the very first things I photoed.  I really like how it now looks:

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The walk lasted a long time, and that knackered me.  But what really knackered me was the shopping I needed to do at the end of the walk.  The final bit of that being lugging two bags of supermarket purchases up the stairs to my home.  This is not my idea of fun, even if it didn’t kill me and even if it did make me stronger.

So now all I am fit for is a little TV followed by bed.  I photoed many more pleasurable things today besides the above, which is why this posting is called “The last really fine day of 2018 (1)” rather than just “The last really fine day of 2018”.  But all of that will have to wait.  I promise at least one more posting concerning today’s photos, to make retrospective sense of that (1), but no more than that.  Good night.

Monday October 08 2018

Nine years, to the day, actually.  I was trying for ten years to the day, but after concocting what follows, I realised that these actually date from October 8th 2009:

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The first one shows a rather strange footbridge that used to go over the site, taking pedestrians from London Bridge Station to Guy’s Hospital, and places beyond.  Most of the other photos were taken from on that bridge.

What surprises me now is how chaotic it all looks, especially when I zoomed in on a particular bit of chaos.

What that lumpy cylinder that they are manhanding is, I do not know.

The website to be seen in the final photo seems to be long gone.

Sunday October 07 2018

If I had a pound for every time someone’s told me that they like to photo The Wheel from Tottenham Court Road, I wouldn’t have any more pounds than I already have, because it’s just me that likes to do this.  But, I really like it.

I’m talking about photos like this one:

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Great light there, don’t you think?  It could be an oil painting.  Exactly as it came out of the camera, no Photoshop(clone)ing.  That dates from April of 2015.  As you can see, that weird entrance to Tottenham Court Road Tube station was still under construction.

Here’s a couple more, taken in 2016 …:

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... and in 2017:

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That crane there should have told me that something ominous was in the works, but actually I was taken by surprise.

Take a look at what the same scene looked like today:

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That’s right.  The Wheel is about to blotted out of this particular picture.

I moved nearer, which moved the top of the Wheel down to the bottom gap in the structure:

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I took a final close up:

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And that may well be the last time that I ever photo The Wheel from Tottenham Court Road.

Saturday October 06 2018

On Thursday September 27th, I photoed a leaning crane, from the top of the John Lewis Roof Garden.  But that wasn’t all I photoed.  Of course not.  I wouldn’t go to a spot like that and take just the one photo.

A few more views:

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My usual preoccupations.  Big Things.  Cranes (including window cleaning cranes).  Roof clutter.  Scaffolding.

Can you spot Big Ben?  Clue: scaffolding.

Thursday October 04 2018

Yesterday I attended a Master Class at the Royal College of Music, in which five singing students, GodDaughter 2 among them, were publicly instructed by distinguished tenor and vocal teacher Dennis O’Neil.  It was fascinating.  He spent most of the time focussing on the art that conceals art, which meant that I couldn’t really understand what he was saying.  The minutiae of sounds and syllables, and of where the sound comes from, in the head or in the body.  All like a foreign language to me, but it was fascinating to expand the range of my ignorance, so to speak.  I am now ignorant about a whole lot more than I was.

This all happened way down at the bottom of the RCM, in the Britten Theatre (which you go down to get into but the theatre itself stretches up to the top again), On the way back up the numerous stairs to the street level entrance, I saw, through a very grubby window, and photoed, this:

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Okay the window is indeed very grubby, but, you know, how about that?  All that roof clutter, buried in the middle of the College.  Although, I think that this particular clutter is part of Imperial College, which is next door.

Backstage architecture, you might say.

The Royal College of Music is as amazing an accumulation of architectural chaos as I have ever experienced.  It must take about half of your first year to learn where everything is, and years later you are probably still getting surprises.  I never knew this was here!  Etc.

That corridor made of windows, bottom left, with the light in it, is something I have several times walked along, to a canteen or a bar or some such thing, I think.  By which I mean that I think I have walked along it, but that this could be quite wrong.  Like I say: architectural chaos.  I took a look at the place in Google Maps 3D, but I still have only the dimmest Idea of where I was on the map.

The night before, I was at the Barbican Centre, also for some music, and that’s almost as architecturally chaotic as the inside of the RCM.  But there, they don’t have the excuse that the architectural chaos accumulated over about a century of continuous improvisation.  At the Barbican, the chaos was all designed and built in one go.

Friday September 28 2018

TIL that TIL stands for “Today I learned”.

First word in this, which is about piles.  IL more about piles here and here.

Monday September 24 2018

Maybe “art” is putting it a bit strongly, but nevertheless, I do really like this photo ...:

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… which I took in the summer of 2015, somewhere in the City of London.  The directory I found this in is called “Looking4BroadgateTower”, so that tells you roughly where I was.

BMdotcom-wise, this photo has so many boxes ticked.

- First things first: cranes.  In this case, crane towers.  BMmmmmm.

- Reinforcing rods, sticking out the top of the lump like vegetation.  Reinforcement: insufficiently sung heroism of modernity.

- A crane tower shadow, on …

- … that material they shove over …

- … scaffolding.

- That monochrome thing that happens during sunsets.  And – who can say? - maybe even during sunrises.

- The way that sunlight hits crane towers and just lights them up, which I so often try to get and so seldom manage to get.

- Lots of horizontals and verticals, made possible not by Photoshop(clone)ing but by the excellent zoom lens on my nearly-but-actually-not-SLR camera, with its one brilliant super-zoomy lens.

So, lots to like there.  But what and where was this?  This is the kind of thing I like to know.

Luckily, I took informational photos, as well as arty photos like that above.  Always, when out taking photos like the above, take lots of photos which are not for art, but for information about that art.  I need to keep telling myself, because often I fail to do this.

I fail, that is to say, to take photos like this ...:

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… which scores about zero for artistic impression, but which tells me what all that art in the first photo above actually was.

In the above (information) photo we see the same crane towers and the same lump, but viewed side on.  It’s definitely the same stuff.

There’s even a name and a website to be seen, if you crop it, and then expand it to be 500 pixels across, like this:

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So, there we have it.  It’s the earlier stages of this.  Once you have the words to describe what you want to learn about, the internet suddenly starts to work.

This being this:

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My best guess is that the lump of art in the first photo in this posting is somewhere in the middle of the more complicated computerised Thing on the right.

Friday September 21 2018

The high point, literally, of the expedition that GodDaughter2 and I made to Kew Gardens back in August was our exploration of the Great Pagoda. 

From the top of the Great Pagoda, you can see the Big Things of Central London.  But what the Great Pagoda itself looks like is also worth examining.

Here is an early view we had of it:

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And here is how it looked when we got closer:

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The Daily Mail describes the Great Pagoda as Britain’s First Skyscraper.

Now look how it looked when we got closer still:

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So, what are those sticky-outy things on the corners of each sticky-outy roof?

That’s right, dragons.  And we’re not talking merely inflated dragons.  These are solid looking and scary.  You couldn’t kill these dragons with a mere pin prick, and you wouldn’t dare to try.

Most of the Great Pagoda dragons look like this:

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We discovered when we got there that the recent restoration of this Great Pagoda had, only a few weeks before our visit, been completed.  We got very lucky with that.

Read more about these dragons, and about the Pagoda that they now guard, in this Guardian report.

This Great Pagoda, London’s very first Big Thing, was built by Sir Wiiliam Chambers in 1762.  The dragons were a feature of the original Pagoda, but in 1784 they were removed.  Being made of wood, and following a burst of wet weather, they had started to rot.

Wikipedia says that Kew Gardens was adopted as a national botanical garden in 1840.  Would that be when the Pagoda was opened to the general public?  Whenever exactly that was, Kew Gardens and the Great Pagoda have been what we now call visitor attractions for quite a while now.

During World War 2, the Great Pagoda was used to test bombs.  You can still see one of the holes they made in all the floors, to allow the bombs to fall.  Keeping that for everyone to see now is a nice touch, I think.

Kew Gardens contains lots of greenery, and green stuff on sticks.  What do they call those things?  Trees.  Kew Gardens has lots and lots of trees, of many different brands.

So, on the left here, the hole in the floor.  On the right there, the seat made from many trees:

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And in the middle, the seat, seen through the hole.

But back to those dragons.  The old rotting dragons have now been almost entirely replaced by 3D printed dragons, which look solid but which are actually far lighter than the old-time originals.

On the lowest roof, right near the ground, there was a different sort of dragon, which looked like this:

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I wonder what the story was of that one, for there did indeed seem to be only one such blue dragon.  Had the original plan been to make all the dragons like that one?  But did its structural weakness cause them to abandon that plan, and go with the other darker green dragon with its scary red tongue, and with its rather more solid wings?  Don’t know, but whatever the story is, the winning dragon design is pretty good also.

Everything about how the Great Pagoda looks, inside as well as its exterior, says: class.  This is a visitor attraction that I warmly recommend.  There is no lift, not originally of course, and not now, but the steps, although quite numerous, are at a comfortably mild angle - rather than, say, like the ones in the Monument.  Even better, each flight of steps you go up causes you to reach another actual floor, of the sort you can stand on, with windows looking outwards.  So, oldies like me can go up two floors, say, and then have a comfortable breather, without blocking anyone else on the stairs.  If we are on the right floor, we can even use that multi-treed seat (see above).

The weather on the day that GD2 and I visited Kew Gardens was not perfect.  The dragons look rather dark and menacing in my photos.  But that look works, I think.  And as days out go, this day out was pretty much perfect.

Wednesday September 19 2018

Yesterday I was in Victoria Station, and as I emerged from it into … that mess of activity outside the front entrance, I noticed that the light seemed particularly appealing.  At first what got my attention was the combined effect of the mess in the foreground, in the dark, and the assorted Medium Sized Things in the background, totally missmatched and just jambed down together in the London style, all illuminated.  (See photos 1.1 and 1.2 below.)

But then, I found myself zeroing in, yet again, on Pavlova.  What got me noticing her was that, finally, I seemed to have found the right moment to photo her with that big concrete lump that calls itself “Portland House” behind her.  I have done this a lot, but it has never worked until now.  This time, there was a shadow behind Pavlova, while Pavlova herself, and the dwarfed-by-modernity theatre on the top of which Pavlova dances, were both picked out by the light, a combination of circumstances I have never before encountered, or if I did I didn’t notice.

I took many photos of this effect.  Partly because I can’t decide which one I like best, and partly because I think these photos look good when small, here are 3x3=9 of them:

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Maybe the Wikipedia entry for Portland House does say who originally designed this unlovely edifice, but if it does, I couldn’t find that.  Wikipedia does note, however, that Portland House is a miniature rip-off of the Pan Am Building in New York, now called something else.

Further googling got me to a piece by Mike Higginbottom entitled Pan-Am’s London sibling.  He rather likes it.  Plus, he name checks the now pretty much forgotten architect of said sibling: Howard Fairbairn & Partners.  Modern Movement hulks by big name modernists sometimes have a certain in-your-face impact and memorability about them.  But this hulk has always seemed to me to epitomise Modern Movementism at its dreariest.  It’s not even “brutal”, just big, bland and boring.  I greatly prefer Nova, the red diagonalised Medium Sized Thing nearby, which is also to be seen in photos 1.1 and 1.2 above.