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Most recent entries
- It turns out that lightning speed is immensely useful
- Out and about in the sunshine
- Brutalism with shirts
- Happy Friday (eventually)
- On not letting either God or (the other) God do everything
- A tumult of cranes (and the Spraycan)
- Postrel goes for Gray
- Xxxx-ie outside Xxxx-ridges
- Bond car
- BrianMicklethwaitDotCom musical quote of the day
- Parisian roof clutter gets the Real Photographer treatment
- God was overheating and now needs radical transplant surgery (and Dawkins now has to do my email)
- A swimming pool in a skyscraper
- God is dead
- PID at the Times
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Category archive: Architecture
The weather in London today was particularly fine. The light was bright and washed clean by recent rain, and the atmosphere was neither too hot nor too humid. There was bright blue sky, but there were also plenty of clouds. I had a bank to visit and electrical items to obtain, all doable on Sunday if you are in Tottenham Court Road, and then I and my companion went south towards the river.
I photoed tourist stuff, hereinafter termed touristuff. I love to photo touristuff. It changes from year to year, and it is arranged in hightly photogenic clumps such as you could never enjoy if you merely bought a single touristuff item:
Those queens seem now to be very popular, but popes less so. But those decapitated lady bottle openers are a new siting, for me. It’s amazing what can look sexy, even after being guillotined.
I photoed books, under Waterloo Bridge. Books in large and sunlit clumps, and particular books, with particular titles:
It seems that the Conan The Barbarian books were written not by just the one writer, but by a team of writers. I did not know this. I wonder how that was organised.
I photoed Art. I photoed a lady all in white, photoing Art under the Queen Elizabeth Hall. That’s if you reckon middle of the range graffiti to be Art. Is this a possible future for brutalist architecture? Painting such concrete relics would surely make sense.
And I photoed people sitting on Art, in the form of giant green chairs, next to the Imax Cinema roundabout near Waterloo station
Apparently these big green chairs used to be down in that strange circle of pedestrian space that surrounds the bottom of the Imax Cinema, inside the roundabout.
If my walkabout this afternoon is anything to go by, Art is becoming less about Deep Significance (of the sort that has to be explained with Art Bollocks essays next to the Deeply Significant Art), and more about fun. Bring it on.
And bring on the day when they have exhibitions of Touristuff in Tate Modern. I hardly ever go inside Tate Modern, but I bet that would be more fun than what they put there now. And it might also be more Significant.
Photoed by me, from one of the landings of my communal staircase, yesterday morning I think.
What makes this photo is, I think, that you can see concrete, and dark openings, and shirts, and very little else
I see that have spelt “brutalism” as “burtalism” in the photofiles there. Apologies to all who, for whatever reason, regret this error.
The building is called “Hide Tower”.
Photoed this afternoon, on a dull day, through a train window:
The train in question was travelling back from Denmark Hill, past Brixton, and, after the above shot, on past Battersea Power Station and across the river into Victoria. There are excellent views views of central London from this line, for those with zoom eyesight or zoom lenses.
As to what this tumult of cranes is doing, I am almost certain it’s the new US Embassy in Battersea, although the buildings we can already see are, I believe, just apartments or offices or something. Usually I see all this from the other side, e.g. from Vauxhall Bridge.
One of David Thompson’s latest clutch of ephemera.
One of my favourite www destinations just now is the Evening Standard website. Presumably because there are other Evening Stardards in the world besides the Evening Standard, the Evening Standard of London, the website of the Evening Standard is called “London News” (even as its website is something different, involving the world “standard").
A lot of this is because, more and more, I love London, and the Evening Standard, not unnaturally, has lots of London stories.
A particularly fine one recently featured this delectable photo:
The young woman is an Evening Standard journalist, Miranda Bryant, and the swimming pool is on floor 52 of the Shard, being one of the amenities offered by the Shangri La hotel.
One of the edges of this swimming pool is right next to the glass wall of the Shard, and I can’t help thinking how great it would be if the glass wall of the Shard were to double up, at this point, as the wall of the swimming pool. Think of the photographs this would provoke. This is why God invented x50 zoom lenses.
An ultrazoom photo I have long wanted to take of the Shard would feature a gorgeous young woman in silhouette, at the top, where the light goes right through the building. But such a woman swimming might be even better, especially if the light could go right through that also.
One of the reasons why architecture is such an influential profession these days (if you are one of the top dogs of the profession – one of the “starchitects") is that the kind of down-the-pecking-order architects and engineers whose job is to contrive things wanted by their bosses or clients, and make these things work properly, can now, it would appear, make absolutely anything work properly. Therefore, the starchitects, the ones who decide how things are going to be and to look, can now make them be and look any way that their starchitectural whims determine. (See, e.g.: Zaha Hadid.) Not so long ago, a swimming pool high up in a skyscraper would be a disaster waiting to happen to everyone foolish enough to situate themselves anywhere below it, and in particular a disaster for any idiot architect silly enough to ordain such a thing. Now, it is just a matter of some starchitect saying “do it”, and it is done.
Blogging here will temporarily cease after this posting, and will resume at or about the middle of next week. I will be back. Have a good week.
Meanwhile, as a visual au revoir, here is another of the many photos I took last night, from that tiny little artificial urban mountain that is Stave Hill:
Through the gasometer in the foreground, we see the Dome of St Paul’s (attended by many cranes), the BT Tower, and on the left, with the spikey bobble on its top, the top of the Monument.
I tried to time my arrival at Stave Hill with the arrival of sunset, but got there far, far too early. So, I waited, and read a book. I hope you agree with me that it was worth the wait.
I’ll let this guy explain it:
The areas around Rotherhithe and Surrey Quays was once a series of docks that were slowly filled in and lost in the 1970s and early 1980s.
As befits an area that was originally a marsh, and then an industrial hub, it was entirely flat, so it may surprise people to learn that there is a decent sized hill lurking right in the middle of these former docks.
Stave Hill is however a very modern edifice, being made up largely from rubble left over from the clearance of the docks and then shaped into a sharply defined flat-topped cone. It is also only just about as high as most of the houses that surround it, so while you get a view from the top that is almost entirely free of blockages, the hill itself is hidden from people looking the other way.
The reason I’ve no time to describe it is I’ve just got back from taking photos from the top of it myself. I took a million zoom shots of individual Big Things, on their own and in clumps, but here is a panoramic shot that gives you a sense of what the place is like:
I forced myself to pick just the one shot from the twenty seven million I took. Well, 463 to be more exact. Often, after one of these photo-expeditions, I pick out about twenty of the best shots, and and then never get around to showing them here at all, because it becomes too complicated, and there is too much to be said about them all. This time I’ve kept it simple, and stolen stuff from elsewhere, and that way, I got it done.
I will say this, though. The sheer number of Big Things you can see from this spot is truly amazing. Some of my favourites are Big Things that you can just see the very top of, like Big Ben and the tower of Westminster Cathedral. And I think I also spotted the tops of two of the chimneys of Battersea Power Station, but that needs to be checked. Definites include; the Gherkin, the Shard, the Cheesegrater, the Walkie Talkie, the Strata, the Spraycan, the Wheel, Tower Bridge, the Dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, the Monument, and, away on the other side, the Docklands Towers. The tricky bit is getting as many Big Things as possible into the one shot, which is quite hard. For instance, you can’t see the Gherkin in the picture above. Those trees do not help. For this reason, it might be fun to go back in the winter, when the damn leaves have gone away.
I get google emails whenever “3D printing” is mentioned at all prominently on the www, and the latest one definitely got my attention. It linked to a story about a guy who has been 3D printing in his garden.
A building contractor living in Minnesota has developed his own 3D printer which can print concrete directly from CAD design software, and he has used it to 3D-print a castle in his back garden.
Here is how that looks:
Calling that a “castle”, as this story does, is a bit of a stretch. At the moment, if this is anything to go by, open-air and architectural 3D printing seems to have all the deft elegance and aesthetic flexibility of a dot matrix printer. But the equivalents of laser printers, and then (what we have now) cheap laser printers, and cheap colour printers, will surely soon be with us. And in due course the building trade will become something completely different, and hence buildings will too.
Yet another reason why I would love to remain alive for another century, just to see how this kind of stuff develops.
In England, this guy would either have failed to get planning permission for this erection, or else he would now be being told to take it down, for having failed to get planning permission.
Yes, that about says it:
Taken by me, yesterday afternoon.
Here is a picture, taken from Lambeth Bridge in March of this year:
This is basically one of those “I just like it” pictures, that I came upon last night when trawling through the archives, although I liked it a lot more after a touch of rotation had been applied. I particularly like the contribution of those leafless trees.
The red brick tower that dominates this scene is something to do with St Thomas’ Hospital, but further googling made me none the wiser about its exact purpose or provenance. It was, it seems built in 1865. Other than that, I could learn little.
But googling did cause me to learn about this other tower, which used to be a hospital water tower and has now been converted into a home.
This sort of modernistic box-mongering can be very dull, when that’s all there is. But put it next to some more ornate Victoriana, and both styles often look the better for it.
That is also part of the pleasure I get from the above photo. Even if ancient and modern buildings are not next to each other for real, they can put them next to each other, with a camera.
I still have more pictures to show you that I took on that Adam Smith Institute Boat Trip.
But this was London, from a boat, on the river. Had there been no people on the boat besides me, I would still have been in Digital Photographer heaven.
In particular, there were also bridges, typically from angles that I had never seen them from before. And what with it being such a very sunny evening, there was that bridge over bright water effect that I do so like, where the light bounces back off the water and illuminates the undersides of bridges:
Those bridges are: Blackfriars Station Bridge, Blackfriars Station Bridge again, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, London Bride again (on the way back), and the Millennium Bridge (the one that wobbled).
What’s that you say? One of these is a shot of an individual, and not a bridge shot at all? Look again.
Inevitably, the categories here (individuals, groups, crowds, photographers, bridges) overlap, if only because, when I do photoing, I like to combine as many as possible of the things I like to photo in one photo. In particular, four of the above six shots are crowd shots as well as bridge shots, and the other two are indeed individual shots as well as bridge shots.
There have also been Big Things to be seen in all these photos, and if you don’t know how much I love to photo those, you are very new here.
Every now and again I do a posting here, to fix some fact in my memory that I am having trouble fixing in my memory. Like: the name of someone I really don’t want to insult any more by not remembering his name; and like: the difference between Norman Foster and Richard Rogers.
Well, this is another such posting, and this time it’s a building:
There are two of my favourite photos of it, and when I chanced upon them in my photo-archives, I realised, again, that I can never remember the name of the thing, or rather Thing, for it is indeed a Thing, albeit not a very big Thing.
It is called the Palestra. I sort of knew this already (scroll down to the picture of stupid propellers on a roof), in the sense that when I googled for “that big new building outside southwark tube” and found my way to it, I realised that although I had forgotten this name, I did once know it.
Though buildings like the Tate Modern and the reconstructed Globe Theater have done an admirable job of breathing new life and interest into Bankside, venturing south quickly brings the observer into gritty residential and industrial neighborhoods with little to recommend them to the passer-by. The borough’s latest architectural projects aim to extend the revitalization south from Bankside: among these are the planned extension of the Tate Modern, the construction of Southwark tube station, and distinctive building projects by the brightest stars of modern architecture. SMC Alsop’s Palestra, an office building completed in 2006, is one of these projects. Located on Blackfriars Road just across from the Southwark station, its dramatic glazing and cantilevered structure draw the eye and stand out starkly against its dreary surroundings.
Apologies for the American spelling there, which I am glad to see my word processor underlines with red squiggly lines.
And apologies to Southwark for that stuff about those “dreary” surroundings. This is typical architect talk based on the idea that the only important thing about buildings is how they look in photos taken on Sunday, early in the morning, with no people outside them having a good time.
The photo of Palestra on the left, above, was taken from the platform of Waterloo East railway station, and those peculiar bobbles you can see reflected at the bottom there are the pods of The Wheel. I really like how that looks.
So, Palestra. This posting is entitled “Palestra”. Palestra, Palestra, Palestra.
Here is a London picture, with the River Thames turned into a floor, very badly carpeted with very bad carpet tiles:
It’s Google Maps’s 3D-isation of London.
Despite the bad river carpeting, I would like to explore this Virtual London. But none of the reports I read of this exciting new virtuality tell me how can do this. Can I? And if I can, will I have to pay?
The are two photos which I took last Monday. The one with the bright blue sky, me looking up, was taken in Wigmore Street. The one looking down, was taken from the ME Hotel Radio Rooftop Bar.
They are photos not so much of roof clutter, as of roofs, roof in all their elaborately designed glory. But, you can spot the late twentieth century incursions:
The aesthetic impact of radio and television aerials does not seem to be much discussed in the architectural world. It could be that it has, and I merely haven’t noticed, but I don’t think that’s it.
Here is what I think is going on inside the heads of architectural aestheticians, on this subject. The deal we will make with you mindless philistines is: you can have your damn aerials, because we know that if you are not allowed, by us, to have your damn aerials, you will hut us down and burn us at the stake. But, we refuse to talk about them. We will not incorporate them into our aesthetic theories of how things look, and should look. We will not see them.
Which is how we got from the above scenario, where everything on the roof is elaborately designed, but the first few aerials have crept into the pictures, but have not been seen by the architects and their aesethetic guides, to this:
Yet still, they don’t see it and they don’t talk about.
Really, really weird.
I’ve been pondering roof clutter for a while now, but the more I ponder it, the more weird the phenomenon is.
What this reminds me of is a distinction that my sociology teachers at Essex University all those years ago made much of, that between the sacred and the profane. The sacred stuff here is the regular “architecture”, the walls, the windows, the roofs, the interiors, and so on. All of that is sacred, and is accordingly obsessed over, every tiny square inch of it, every subtle colour change, just as priests obsess about every word in a prayer.
But those aerials are profane. They don’t register. They aren’t architecture, any more than a tracksuit worn by a impoverished member of the congregation in a church is a sacred vestment, the details of which must be argued about by bishops and theologians, or the sales pitch being done over the phone on Monday morning (by someone who had been devoutly praying on Sunday) is itself a prayer. That sales pitch is profane. Forget about it. Don’t even think about it.
Those aerials, in among the sacredness of all those designed chimneys and roofs and little towers, are profane. And hence invisible. Aerials are designed, by aerial designers, to make sense of radio waves. But they are not designed to be looked at. They are a pure case of form following function. Architects ought to love them, if they believed their prayers. But they don’t because what is there for architects to add? Nothing. The job has all been done, by profane aerial designers.
Well, I don’t know. I’m thinking as I go along here, but writing it anyway. Which is all part of why I have this blog. At this blog, I am allowed to be wrong. This is a thinking allowed zone, you might say, a place where the thinking does not have to be done before the blogging begins. This is, you might say, a profane blog.
The reason to do crowd scenes is to show what a big crowd it was. Yes, it matters who was individually present. But the sheer number of individuals present also counts, a lot. It counts that they are too numerous to count conveniently. Think what some of them might accomplish, in the years to come. The law of averages says it’s bound to add up to something.
Crowd scenes also show the venue, which, if impressive, ought to register in the photos taken. And could there be a more impressive venue than London on a fine evening, from the river? Earth has not anything to show more fair.
What’s that you say? One of these pictures is just a head shot? Not a crowd scene, you say? Look again.