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Category archive: Architecture

Thursday October 20 2016

I already showed here some pictures I took in August, in and from Epsom.

Here is another, which shows the whole of central London:


Click to get that original size, 4000 pixels across, but the sky, as above, removed.

Most of the well-known views of London are from the north looking south or from the south looking north.  This is from the south west looking north east.  Given that quite a lot of the river, the bit between Vauxhall Bridge and Waterloo Bridge, actually flows south-north rather than east-west, you get some rather unfamiliar ordering amongst the Big Things, with the Post Office Tower, for instance, being quite a way to the left of most other Big Things, on account of it being further “north”, but actually a bit away to the north east.  I knew you’d be excited.

Here is what the original shot looked like, with the sky kept in.  Not a cloud in the sky.  Ah, summer.  It’s amazing how abruptly the summer seems to have ended.  One moment it’s daylight until nine in the evening, now it’s dark at six, and the clocks haven’t even gone forward yet.

Tuesday October 18 2016

Yesterday I again went to the top of the tower of Westminster Cathedral, but the early onset of the dark surprised me, and the light (which I depend on rather a lot) was too dark and too horizontal and shady for very good results.  But I still like these two shots, of the new Wembley Arch, testing my zoom lens to its outer limits:

I like the serendipity of this.  The fact that if the big lump of a building on the right as we look had extended twenty more yards, there’d be no Wembley Arch to be seen at all.

I particularly like the version on the left, with that little bit of sun slashing through a gap in the clouds, off to the left as we look.  I include the one on the right because of the contrast.  In itself, it would not really have deserved a showing.  For once, a crane intrudes, in the left hand picture, and I am not happy.

It occurs to me that when people started taking photos like this, just as blurry but in black and white, maybe it got the painters thinking.  They could both imitate the blurriness, but also do it in colour, as the photographers for a long time couldn’t.  Et voilà.  Impressionism.

What the tower on the left is, I do not know.

Tuesday October 11 2016

A perhaps not very much known about vantage point from which to take photos out over London is from the top of John Lewis, in Oxford Street.  Although, it seems that, as of now, this Roof Garden is closed.  It will be opening again soon.

I went up there last summer, and looking at the photos I took then, I particularly like this one:


That’s the artistic version.

Here is the more informative version:


That makes it a bit clearer what the background is.  But I think that’s also rather artistic.

Big Things: tick.  Cranes: tick.  Roof clutter: tick tick tick.

Big Things plural, because in addition to The Wheel, we can also observe, hiding behind chimneys and crane on the right is the top of the Strata, the three holed tower at the Elephant and Castle.  You can see the Strata in the top picture also, bottom right.

I don’t know what that ecclesiastical looking spike is on the left, and nor do I know what the black jaggedy roof is.

But I like the pictures anyway, whatever the jaggedy roof is.  Maybe, any month now, I’ll go looking for it.  I find that Google Maps, the aerial (hah!) photo version, can be useful for things like this.  Maybe later, although I promise nothing.

I’m becoming rather fond of aerials.

Wednesday October 05 2016

I took this photo from the roof of my block of flats this morning, of a brick tower, out beyond Victoria, with a rather startled expression on its face:


What is that?

We now live in a time when questions like that have pretty much immediate answers, and I went looking.

And I was reminded that the internet can be wrong as well as right about things, even about things which ought not to be a matter of opinion.  Which I already knew, but it’s interesting to get caught up in the wrongness, from time to time.

Some have called this tower a shot tower:

A shot tower is a tower designed for the production of shot balls by freefall of molten lead, which is then caught in a water basin. The shot is used for projectiles in firearms.

But more confident and more numerous internet places persuade me that this is actually a pumping station tower.  Or rather, it was.

Apparently, over there in Chelsea, there used to be a canal, the Grosvenor Canal.  Bits of it are still there, but most bits, it would seem, not.

A remaining waterworks building, known as the Western Pumping Station still remains beside the site of the canal and its chimney is something of a landmark in the area. However, the chimney now acts as a ventilation shaft for sewers rather than its original purpose of being the chimney for boilers.

So, never a shot tower.  Once a pumping station tower.  Now a ventilation chimney.

Monday October 03 2016

This scaffolding is recent.  I photoed it today:


That’s Waterloo, the new bit, the bit where the Eurostar trains used to arrive and depart, into that big New Thing that looks like a big, elongated greenhouse.  And what I think we observe here is the start of getting those Eurostar platforms-that-were back into business.  Not before time.

Here is an Evening Standard piece from March, when this refurbishment was announced.  From that, a visual of what the new concourse area will look like:


Memo to self.  I’ll take a look inside Waterloo, Real Soon Now, to see how this is looking from there.  Although I doubt there will be much to see.  But, maybe that raised-up shopping mall will make it easier to see what’s happening.

More about the revamp in a later ES piece, from July, here.

Sunday October 02 2016

Is there another such in London?:


Well, probably yes, quite a few such.  But, there is definitely that one.  It’s the top of the restored guess version of the Globe Theatre.

As seen, of course, from the top of the Tate Modern Extension.  It’s right next to Tate Modern (the thing on the left of the picture), and you need to get right to the back of the viewing gallery, or you don’t see it.

I reckon it’s already starting to look a bit threadbare.

Friday September 30 2016

All regulars here (such people do exist) know that I love an alignment, of two London Big Things.

So.  Tower Bridge.  You see that in plenty of photos.  The Dome.  Ditto.  But how often do you see them in the same photo, right next to one another?  I just tried googling “Tower Bridge The Dome”.  Nothing.  All I got was pictures of each, separately, (mostly Tower Bridge), and lots of instructions about how to get from one to the other on foot, on the tube, etc.

So, take a look at this:


Just to be sure we know what we are talking about, here is a square of detail, from another closer-up shot of the same alignment:


In the middle there we see the top of the northern tower of Tower Bridge.  And just to its left, as we look, through a gap in the big Docklands towers, we see a clutch of cranes, yellow, red and grey.  Except, the yellow cranes are not cranes.  They are the spikes of the Dome, and the Dome is the white expanse below the cranes and the spikes.

It took me quite a few visits to the top of the Tate Modern Extension, from where these shots were taken, and quite a few looks at the photos that I had taken, to work out that this particular photo was there to be photoed.  I don’t claim that my photos are photo-perfection.  They merely prove that all you Real Photographers out there, who might want to improve on the bridge camera quality of my efforts, can now get up there and do just that.

Monday September 26 2016

Photoed in January of this year. from the top of the tower of Westminster Cathedral:


The Parliament website says that the tower above, the big one with lots of pointy bits, is called the Victoria Tower, but I’ve never heard it called that.  For me, it’s the Big Parliament Tower.

Anyway, whatever you call it, there it is, with the Shard beside and behind.  Very sweet alignment, I hope you will agree.

While categorising this posting, I had to check the picture to see if there are any cranes.  Of course there are cranes.  In shots like this, there are always cranes.

There are also two major London hospitals in the shot.  On the left St Thomas’s Hospital (the building on which it says “St Thomas’s Hospital"), on the far side of the river.  On the right, further away, bigger, next to the Shard, Guy’s.

Sunday September 25 2016

I love the various visual effects you sometimes get when a piece of reinforced concrete is being destroyed and when it puts up a fight.  I can’t say that it always does this, because you wouldn’t see anything when it is routed into oblivion in the space of a few hours, would you?  But when it does fight for its life, it can be quite a sight.  These effects are particularly worthy of being photographically immortalised because however long the fight lasts, it will still end, and pretty soon.

And, I find that the more I see of 240 Blackfriars, from near and from far, the more I like it.

So, here is today’s photo, taken today:


I took this while on my way from Waterloo to Tate Modern and its Extension viewing gallery, which I am visiting a lot these days, before the Let Them Get Net Curtains row causes the place to be closed or at least severely curtailed.

240 Blackfriars is the work, I have just learned, of Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, whom I have now started to learn more about.  I never heard of them until now.

Preliminary findings: I think that 240 Blackfriars will probably turn out to be my favourite of their buildings so far.  And: they make a lot of use of colour, which I favour, but which can often look very tacky and Seventies-ish if you don’t do it right.

Friday September 23 2016

I collect footbridges.  (Well, photos of.) Footbridges famous.  Footbridges not so famous.  Footbridges not even built.

Recently I came upon another for the collection:


This is a footbridge at the back of the Strand Palace Hotel.  I could find nothing about this footbridge on the www, but luckily I had already taken the precaution of asking someone local, just after I had taken my photos.  This local was entering an office in the same street with the air of doing this regularly, and who therefore seemed like someone who might know.  And he did.  What about that bridge? - I asked him.

Yes, he said.  That used to be the bridge that conveyed the servants from the Strand Palace Hotel, on the left in the above photo, to the servants quarters, which is what the dwellings on the right in my photo, behind the scaffolding, used to be.  These servants quarters had, quite a while back, been turned into mere quarters, for regular people to live in.  So, the bridge then got blocked off at the right hand end as we here look at it.  But, the bridge continued to be used by the Strand Palace Hotel as an elongated cupboard.  These old servants quarters are now being turned into luxury flats, which is why the scaffolding.  But the bridge stays.

That the original purpose of the bridge was to convey servants, as opposed to people, is presumably why the bridge has no windows.  Wouldn’t want to see servants going to and fro, would we.  Fair dos, actually.  A hotel of this sort – this one being just across the Strand from the Savoy - is a lot like a theatre, and the point of a theatre is not to see all the backstage staff wandering hither and thither.  So, I do get it.  And I doubt the servants minded that there were no windows.  I bet they minded lots of other things, but not that.

imageI will now expand on the matter of the exact location of this obscure footbridge.  As you can see from the square to the right, it is in Exeter Street, London WC2.  I took other photos of this Exeter Street street sign, because I have a rule about photoing information about interesting things that I photo, as well as photoing the interesting thing itself, which is that I do.  Sometimes, as on the day I took this photo, I even follow this rule.  But I thought I’d try extricating a detail from the above photo, and see how I did.  I blew the original up to maximum size, and sliced out a rectangle, tall and thin, with the street name in it.  I then expanded (see the first sentence of this paragraph) what I had, sideways, lightened it, contrasted it, sharpened it, blah blah blah, and I think you will agree that the result is unambiguous.  My point here is (a): Exeter Street, WC2, and (b): that such photomanipulation is not merely now possible.  My point (b) is that it is now very easy.  Even I can do all of this photomanipulation, really quickly and confidently.

I can remember when the only people who could work this sort of magic were spooks in movies, and then a bit later, detectives on the television.

Talking of spookiness, I included the surveillance camera in that little detail.  In London, these things are now everywhere.  Because of my sideways expanding of the photo, this camera looks like it sticks out more than it really does.

Tuesday September 20 2016

In September 2006, in other words exactly ten years ago, I was in Quimper, which is in Brittany.  And today, looking for a quota photo, I looked through the photos I took on that expedition.  As it happens, I was blogging only very lightly at the time, and I didn’t get around to posting many of the shots I took on that trip.  Here is one.  There’s another in this.  And that was about it.

So here, now, is another of the photos I did on that trip:


I chose that one because a blogger with whom I have a mutual enjoyment club, this guy, likes lighthousesQuote:

… I’m a sucker for a photograph which includes a lighthouse, ...

If he clicks on the above shot, he’ll get to just the lighthouses in that shop window picture, a lot bigger.  Sadly, the picture, even in its original and unshrunk size, is a bit blurry and hard to decypher, although I could when I really tried.

So, here is another lighthouse, the smaller of two lighthouses in the seaside town of Bénodet, which is near to Quimper, a shot I took during that same stay:


Neither of the two Bénodet lighthouses - not this one, which is called “Le Coq”, nor the other bigger one - is in that group portrait of lighthouses at the top of this.  Even the big one is not big enough, I guess.

LATER: 6k responds, with some dramatic detail about the second lighthouse from the left in the poster.  He also explains what the circles mean, which had me puzzled.

Sunday September 18 2016

Here are some pictures I took in the main part of Tate Modern, while on my way to and from the New Extension.

Once again, what I saw in this grand building, now even grander, is this amazing paucity of Art.  I presume there is plenty of Art in this place, if you go looking for it.  But I have never before visited any Art gallery where you have to go looking, half as determinedly as you have to in this one:


Art being somewhat lacking, the people came into their own.  I photoed people.  And I photoed people photoing people.

The lady with the blue hair and the blue fingers is herself a work of Art.

Thursday September 15 2016

Mick Hartley celebrates the addition, now complete and in business, of a slide to the Big Olympic Thing, with some pictures of it that he has taken.

He of course shows the whole thing.  Me, I am more and more coming to see that the quality I most value in these Big Things is their instant recognisability.  Hey, look at that.  That can only be … That!

So here is another photo of the Big Olympic Thing from my archives, showing hardly any of it, but still (for me anyway) instantly recognisable:


Click to get the bigger original.  Rather artistic, I think.

Taken the same day, and from the same place, that I took this photo of the Shard and the Gherkin directly in line.

Wednesday September 14 2016

This I knew:

Seven Dials is a small road junction in Covent Garden in the West End of London where seven streets converge.

But this, I did not know:

At the centre of the roughly circular space is a column bearing six sundials, a result of the column being commissioned before a late stage alteration of the plans from an original six roads to seven.

I used to work in Covent Garden and Seven Dials was a favourite spot then.  There was a hardware shop in one of the Seven Dials spokes, so to speak, and I used to go there a lot.

Here is a picture I took of this column and of some of its surroundings, this (very sunny) afternoon:


But, here is a picture I took of the inscription at the bottom of the column, which I never noticed before:


So, was a replacement column put up, around that time?

Yes.  The original column went to Weybridge, via Addlestone, which reminds me of trains from Egham when I was kid.  “Virginia Water, Chertsey, AddleSTONE and Weybridge”, an old man used to yell, just before the train for these locations departed.  I used to love that.  But I digress.  Here’s what happened to the original Seven Dials column:

The original sundial column was removed in 1773. It was long believed that it had been pulled down by an angry mob, but recent research suggests it was deliberately removed by the Paving Commissioners in an attempt to rid the area of “undesirables”. The remains were acquired by architect James Paine, who kept them at his house in Addlestone, Surrey, from where they were bought in 1820 by public subscription and re-erected in nearby Weybridge as a memorial to Princess Frederica Charlotte of Prussia, Duchess of York and Albany.

The replacement sundial column was installed in 1988–89 to the original design. It was unveiled by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on a visit to commemorate the tercentenary of the reign of William and Mary, during which the area was developed.

Original design presumably means that, just like the original, the new column only has six dials at the top.

Saturday September 10 2016

If I take a photo like this …:


… then I am liable to feel quite a lot of affection for the spot from which I took it.  Big Things. Cranes.  Roof clutter.  A lit-up sign with news about a cricket game.  Advertising, including even an advert for the excellent City A.M. (bottom right).  True, it’s a bit gloomy.  But that only makes the cricket score shine all the brighter.

Here, below, is a photo of the spot that I took the above photo from:


Yes it’s the Oval Pavilion.  There is now sunshine, going sideways because by now it is the evening. Surrey have narrowly defeated Notts and all is well with the world, unless you were supporting Notts.

Here is another photo which I took a year later, from almost the same spot.  Just sitting a bit further back:


Judging by the next photo I took, I must have surveyed the scene. 240 Blackfriars.  St Paul’s.  Yellow cranes.  Yes, let’s take a closer look at those yellow cranes:


However, since taking all of the above (and a great many more (to say nothing of vans outside)) I have taken also to visiting another excellent Big Thing viewing platform, namely the one at the top of the Tate Modern Extension.

And when I looked more closely at the above photo of the yellow cranes, I observed this:


Still the yellow cranes, but this time we can also see the Tate Modern Tower much more clearly.  And the Tate Modern Extension is right behind a new block of flats, one of the ones already referred to in this earlier posting, about how you can see right into these new flats from the Tate Modern Extension viewing platform.

So, if I could see parts of the Tate Modern Extension viewing platform from the top of the Oval Pavilion, it ought also to be possible to see the top of the Oval Pavilion from parts of the Tate Modern Extension viewing platform.

And so it proved.  On my first expedition to the Tate Modern Extension viewing platform, I had given no thought to the Oval Pavilion.  But on my second visit, having scrutinised my Oval photos in the manner described above, I tried to photo the Oval Pavilion.  A lot, because I couldn’t myself see it properly.



On the right, in green, the famous Oval Gasometer.

Here, in case you are in any way unsure, is the Oval Pavilion:


For the last few days, I have been asking myself why I so much relish little visual duets of this sort.  Liking A, liking B, seeing A from B, seeing B from A.  Why am I so diverted by this?  Rather than answer this question, I will just leave it, for now, at putting the question.  I have the beginnings of some answers meandering about in my head, but they can wait.