Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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Most recent entries
- 3D printed baby in the womb
- A new Morrisons is opening in Strutton Ground next Monday
- Ashes Lag recovery continues
- A Bitcoin vending machine and a Lego photographer (and a Lego Hawking)
- “In order to comply with Google’s regulations …”
- Blue wind
- Don’t judge a new technology by its first stumbling steps
- Me trying to tell Norman Foster and Richard Rogers apart
- I think I may at last have found myself a sofa
- The Met swoops on the Adams Family
- South Bank Architects?
- Colour photography
- Games lovely games
- A quota post (with a quota link to a post about a post about a quota photo) and another quota photo
- Omaha dead
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Category archive: Architecture
A while back I did a posting about an acquaintance of mine, called Victor. He had been attending my Last Friday meetings, but I was forgetting that his name is Victor. So, I did a posting, with a picture of him next to a picture of a Handley Page Victor airplane, to make me remember that his name is Victor. It worked.
So now, I am doing another posting to solve another name problem I have long had, which is knowing the difference between trendy Brit Architect Norman Foster and trendy Brit Architect Richard Rogers.
So here they are. Norman Foster on the left, …:
I am well aware that these two men look quite different. But when looking at one, in a photo or on the telly, I am unable to imagine the other, or know which is the one I am looking at, Richard Rogers or Norman Foster.
Foster first. Ffffffff. Rogers on the right. Rrrrrrrr. And I’ve given this posting a title which will enable me to get back to it easily, if ever there is more confusion in the future.
If this doesn’t work, sterner measures may be needed, but I’ll leave it at that for now.
Seconds after I’d finished photoing that camel, I took this photo:
But whereas I was quickly able to find out about the camel, and about how there’s a pub called that (partly), and so on, I was unable to find out anything about “SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS” other than a phone number, which I dare not ring because I don’t really have a proper question to ask them other than: do you exist? There is no website. The www knows of no buildings that have been designed by SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS.
So, if you work for SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS or if you know anyone who works for SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS, please add a comment.
My theory is SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS used to exist, which is when they put up that big sign. But, before the www came into existence, they went out of existence. And now, nobody can be bothered to take the sign down.
There are some spectacular pictures now up at English Russia, taken from the air over the Russian Far East, i.e. Vladivostock and surrounding parts.
Here is a good one (scroll down at page 3 of the posting):
What’s good about that is that it shows how roads stop fires. On the right, fire! On the left, the other side of the road, no fire.
Other pictures in the set include several of two rather spectacular bridges in Vladivostock, of which this snap is my favourite (scroll down at page 2):
That is the bridge over the Golden Horn Bay. The other and bigger Vladivostock bridge joins Vladivoskock to Russkiy Island. See this Guardian report. This map, if you reduce its size and go north a bit, shows where both the bridges are.
Tonight on BBC4 they just showed a programme about Carl Faberge, blingster to the Czars.
I learned a lot. Next up, a show done by Jonathan Meades, about Brutalist architecture. He’s for it.
This seems an appropriate juxtaposition, and I am recording both. The insanely ornate and extravagant trinkets unleashed by Faberge, and all the other riche and nouveau riche junk that flooded into the world in and around 1900, had a direct cause-and-effect relationship with the anti-ornamental puritanism of architectural brutalism. Many, including me, some of the time, react to Faberge eggs not just with indifference but with aggressive hatred.
I also beheld Brutalist architecture for most of the last half century with even greater loathing. This loathing is only now abating, as the buildings themselves start to diminish in number.
That building used to adorn the roundabout on the other side of the river from Parliament. It is now no more. I photographed it. Then, I photographed its demolition. I did not mourn its passing.
Meades is now, as promised, rhapsodising about Brutalism. Why, he asks, does architecture have to be nice? He is likening it to Victorian architectural oddities of earlier times.
What he misses, or is missing so far, is that Brutalism’s aesthetic aggression went hand in hand with huge collectivist power grabs. Brutalism was the architectural face of state centralism. For me, Meades makes a big distinction between “Brutalism” and regular modern. I don’t really see this. Both went hand in hand, I’d say.
Meades’ injunction that people should not hate Brutalism is rather like expecting conquered Europeans not to be such philistines about the obviously beautiful design of Junkers 87s or Tiger Tanks. Ah, correction. Now he is acknowledging quite explicitly the roots of Brutalism in second world war concrete bunkers, most notably those constructed by the Nazis. “Forget” that the Nazis built these things, says Meades. But I suspect that the Brutalists actually liked the very quality that made the Nazis do this kind of thing. Nazis conquered twee old Europe. Brutalism assaulted the twee architecture of post-war Europe, the Europe that is still awash with Fabergerie. There is a deep affinity here.
The show is still going as I post this, and is in any case only part one of two. This was live blogging.
Tomorrow evening the 2014 BAFTA Awards shindig will be happening, at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. Roger Hewland, proprietor of Gramex (Records and CDs), Lower Marsh, told me this afternoon that BAFTA is paying the ROH three quarters of a million quid for this privilege. Where RH picked this titbit up, I do not know, but it sounds a lot, doesn’t it?
Below is a picture that I recently took myself of the ROH. If you google for pictures of the ROH, you mostly get either interiors, or else the big Parthenon-like front entrance. But when I was at that Rooftop Bar I recently visited, I took this snap of the ROH:
What strikes me is how modern it looks. It’s just a big box. The decoration is no more than a gesture. I know, I know, that’s because nobody can see this bit, this being before the age of buildings taller than this, from which people can look down. But even so, you can see architectural modernism all present and correct, just waiting to emerge.
On the right is a fake-up of a new building, for another of those Mega Mega Companies that you have never heard of, until they suddenly construct themselves a new Big Thing in the middle of London. Construction is expected to start next year. As you can see, it will be part of what is now the Gherkin/Cheesegrater cluster.
Also a potential part of that cluster, and potentially the biggest Big Thing in it, the Helter Skelter (aka “The Pinnacle"), now looks like it will soon resume being built as well, as already noted here.
Of the Helter Skelter’s rise from the dead, Londonist says:
The optimism is driven by an improving economy and (believe it or not) a growing shortage of suitable office space in the financial centre.
It’s like 2008 never happened.
I returned to the Radio Bar at the top of the Hotel ME on Saturday 7th of this month, when the weather was brighter and breezier. I was in a hurry to be back for an appointment at home, and did not have time to really look at what I was photographing, and anyway, my eyesight is poor and I can’t see a lot of it if I want to.
So, for instance, when I took this picture, …:
… I thought I was photographing just the one big, obvious bridge, the one with the towers. But it turned out that I was photographing seven bridges. Newcastle eat your heart out. Sorry about that big white circumcised cock in the foreground, getting in the way. It looks like it’s doing radar, but I doubt that.
Moving on quickly from that, let me itemise the bridges, from nearest to furthest away.
Here is a google map which shows how this picture was possible. Where it says ”ME” (photo manipulation is not my strong suit but I did manage to add that), at the far left, is where I was standing, so ME means both me and the hotel of that name. Click on this map to get it bigger:
So, first, nearest to me, on the right of the big white cock, we can see pedestrians crossing the river on Blackfriars Bridge, the road version.
We cannot then see the isolated, do-nothing columns of the Blackfriars Railway Bridge that isn’t, so that doesn’t count. But just beyond those columns, we do clearly see, second, the Blackfriars Railway Station Bridge that is, with its long line of slanting roofs.
Third, we can see the upper parts of the Millenium Bridge (featured in the bottom three pictures here, where there is also another snap of those weird Blackfriars columns), the footbridge that famously wobbled when first opened, which does about half the job of taking pedestrians between Tate Modern to St Paul’s Cathedral.
Fourth, slightly green despite being in the shade, is Southwark Bridge.
Fifth, there is the severely functional railway bridge that takes the trains from the south east over the river to Cannon Street Station. You can just make out a clutch of signals at its left hand end as we look at it.
Sixth, we have “London Bridge”, and I can help adding sneer quotes. What a come-down that bridge is from how London Bridge used to be. No wonder so many people think that Tower Bridge is London Bridge. The actual London Bridge is so boring.
One of the reasons I especially like the new Blackfriars Railway Station Bridge is that it sets a precedent for putting buildings on a London bridge, and makes it more likely that London Bridge itself might one day be rebuilt in something like its former glory. Maybe not quite as tall as it once was, but with buildings on it, like Ponte Vecchio. What would be particularly cool is if, just as in former times, a new London Bridge could be built, strong enough to be a platform for buildings, but if it was then left to individual plot owners to decide exactly what to put on each plot.
And finally, seventh, there is Tower Bridge, at the far right hand end of the map.
London. It just keeps on getting better.
Taken by me today, from outside Waterloo Station, as afternoon was turning to evening. Strata is suffering from red eye.
I love this time of year.
There’s the Six Nations. The England France game was a cracker. Oddly it did not distress me that England lost, narrowly, because they played some really good stuff and might have won. The England Scotland game, on the other hand, did distress me, because both Scotland and the pitch were utter crap. And although England were okay, on a proper pitch they could have really played well and scored a decent number of tries, instead of just one in each half. As it was England played only adequately. Very dispiriting. But, it’s still the Six Nations. Maybe week three will be as good as week one was.
And, I love it that the days are now lengthening. My photography depends heavily on daylight. Even the difference between dusk and dark is very important to me, as the above photo illustrates.
Yes, it’s another posting about photographing London’s Big Things from a high up place.
On July 27th of last year, I found myself at the top of Kings College, London, and a week later I posted a few of the photos I managed to take from that vantage point.
Many of the photos I took looked like this:
In other words, general, semi-panoramic views, just hoovering up whatever was there to be seen, to be looked at in more detail later.
But after taking that photo, I realised that this view included what looked like another very promising vantage point:
When I got home, I did some googling, and found out that this place must be the Radio Bar at the top of the ME Hotel. The ME Hotel is at the westerly spike of the Aldwych semi-circle, so to speak.
Here is another good picture of this place, and of the kind of views that may be had from it.
So, I had a go at visiting this soon after finding this out, in August, but there was a queue, and I am not good with queues. Queues mean waiting in the queue, and also mean that when you finally get there, there will be lots of people in the way of my photographing, and worse, that they may be in a hurry to get rid of you (especially if you are a photographers), rather than glad to see you. So, I decided to try it again when the weather was nice, but colder.
And recently, on January 25th, I did this. Me being me, I took lots of views, and lots of views with fellow digital photographers taking shots of the views:
I also cranked up the zoom, and took lots of views like this:
This Radio Bar is one of the very best places I know of to look out over London.
With views that touch the clouds and include Tower Bridge, the Shard, London Bridge, Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Tate Modern, Somerset House, Southbank, London Eye, Houses of Parliament, and the theatre district of Covent Garden, the rooftop bar at the ME London raises the bar on the enjoyment of social life whilst having a drink in the lounge.
Boastful but fair, although I think I marginally prefer, for the way it is laid out, One New Change. But the views from this new place are an order of magnitude better.
On January 25th, I purchased not just the one over-priced (actually a blazing bargain, given what I was really buying) drink, but, after I had finished taking snaps, another.
I returned to the ME Radio Bar just over a week ago, but … later.
Mick Hartley provides a horizontality opportunity:
That’s the view he saw, yesterday (unless I am much mistaken), from Alexandra Palace, one of the quite numerous sweet spots for photoing the Big Things of London.
That sky that I just sliced out was rather special yesterday. The air was clear. The sunshine, of which there was plenty, was bright. So, there were lots of those brightly lit things against a dark cloud background. And lots of contrasts between this photo and that photo of the same things. Lovely.
This was one of many pictures I took this afternoon, following a most agreeable and tasty lunch at the Windmill, courtesy of Michael Jennings:
A classic church dwarfed by modernity. And off the top of the picture there is more modernity that I did not include, a lot of it being what used to be called the NatWest Tower, or Tower Something Numerical, as it’s now called. It took me a while to hunt down this particular church, but I finally found it.
In the foreground, Blackfriars Station, the one on the bridge.
The other day, I stuck up a couple of pictures I took in Paris, in February 2012. Here are three more Paris pictures, taken a few days later, from one of the upper floors of the mighty Montparnasse Tower, which is just about the only very tall, modern tower block anywhere very near to the centre of Paris. My host for the week, Antoine Clarke, had a mate who worked in this building.
I love the photo at the other end of that link, a classic in the Lined Up Big Things genre, the Big Things in this case being the Montparnasse and Eiffel Towers, and behind them, we see, once again the distant Big Things of La Defense.
On the left, I’me looking in the same direction, but instead of photoing the Montparnasse Tower, I am photoing from the Montparnasse Tower, thereby lining up the two things that were in the two separate pictures in the earlier posting, namely the Eiffel Tower and La Défense:
In the middle of the middle picture is the Big Thing from which my earlier two photos were taken, the Pompidou Centre. This is not a view I have seen very much. Usually the Pompidou seems to be photoed from below. Very impressive roof clutter, even if a bit arty and self-conscious.
On the right, we see the Sacré Coeur in the far distance, and in between, how Paris looks, on a very cold but sunny day. Paris, untouched during WW2, looks a lot different to London, doesn’t it?
The sky is so dark because actually, the city itself was so bright.
Much humour is to be had by modifying a cliché, and something similar applies to photography. The Eiffel Tower features in many photos. The chimney pots of Paris, not quite so much.
That was taken on February 2nd 2012, from the Pompidou Centre.
I an still stunned by how brilliant my new, cheap computer screen is. Pictures like this one become hugely better than I remember them first time around, and wandering around in my photo-archives is more enjoyable than ever before.
Here is another picture taken at the same time from the same place. Also lots of chimneys, though you have to look a bit more closely this time. But in the background there, La Défense, Paris’s Big New Thing district.
What that big dome is in the foreground, I don’t know. I was staying with Antoine Clarke when I took these snaps, and in fact he was up there with me when I took these. Maybe he can tell us what that big curvey thing is. When you take pictures of some big thing, there is a presumption that you do care what it is, but personally, in this case, I don’t really care. There are more than enough mysterious buildings like this in London to keep me wondering, without me fretting about mystery buildings in Paris. But maybe you would like to know.
And yes, I am almost certain that is a crane.
One other thing. This new screen has me thinking that maybe the size of pictures I am putting up here may be a bit wrong. When you click on the above two, you’ll get them at 1200x900, which is bigger than I usually do, because now my own screen is bigger. Is this either too big, or too small? I’d welcome anyone’s opinion on that.
In New York, when 432 Park Avenue has been built, the views from it, from 1271 feet up, will look like this.
The City of London is also known as the Square Mile, so I have cropped out the City with the automatic square tool in my photoshop clone.
The people who concocted this rather commonplace piece of visual extrapolation have assumed that there will be no outbursts of history to complicate the picture. This may be wrong, but it makes a nice change from a few years back, when people were faking up pictures of London under thirty feet of sea water. That kind of thing is not just not believed any more. It is not even being thought about any more. It never occurred to any of the people now spreading this story around, about London building lots of new towers, to mention Rising Sea Levels, Climate Chaos, etc. etc., blah blah blah.
This is often how big arguments are won and lost. In silence. The people talking tripe stop talking it. And the people who have been explaining why the tripe is the tripe that it is, and have been in the habit of denouncing it in loud voices, no longer have any tripe to denounce. So they also go quiet.
That talk I gave at Christian Michel’s was really just a ragbag of different thoughts I have had over the last few years about digital photography and its effects and uses. One of the effects I speculated about - having already done so beforehand, here was that digital photography has encouraged temporary art, such as graffiti, ice sculpture, and the like, by rewarding it with a permanence and swankableness that would, pre digital photography, have been hard to contrive.
Yesterday, following one of David Thompson’s Friday Ephemera links to some bizarre hyper-realistic painted wood sculptures, I came across yet another variant on the theme of artistic temporariness, in the form of some particularly fine sandcastles, done by someone called Calvin Seibert:
I chose a sandcastle picture that included the sea in it, to emphasise the fact that this wonderful creation will very soon be swallowed up and turned back into beach. In King Canute’s time, that would have been that, but we now live in the post-Canute age. Waves can be stilled, and sandcastles can stand on beaches for ever.