Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Most recent entries
- More keeping up of appearances
- Cats and cricket – cats and drones
- Two strangers photoed by Mick Hartley and show there (and here) without their permission
- You can tell that drones have arrived because now they are being turned into a sport
- The Shard was looking very special today
- Windsor Castle from the top of the RAF Memorial
- Photoing old Dinky Toys in Englefield Green
- Cat picture on white van
- Smart face on smartphone
- Heaven aka the Barley Mow
- Old London by the Buck Brothers
- The selfie stick is a very useful piece of kit
- Ed Smith on sporting maturity – Burns and Henriques collide – Secretariat and his jockey
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Category archive: Architecture
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.
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:
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.
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.
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) 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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
Wikipedia, which I assume to be reliable on something so politically uncontroversial, has this to say about the Buck Brothers:
Samuel Buck (1696 – 17 August 1779) and his brother Nathaniel Buck (died 1759/1774) were English engravers and printmakers, best known for their Buck’s Antiquities, depictions of ancient castles and monasteries. Samuel produced much work on his own but when the brothers worked together, they were usually known as the Buck Brothers. More is known about Samuel than Nathaniel.
Samuel Buck was born in Yorkshire in 1696. After publishing some prints in that county he moved to London. With Nathaniel he embarked on making a number of series of prints of “antiquities”, which consisted of ancient castles and former religious buildings in England and Wales. Starting in 1724, they travelled around these countries, and completed sets of prints for the regions of England by 1738 and for Wales between 1739 and 1742. These are commonly known as Buck’s Antiquities. During this time they also worked on a series of townscapes in England and Wales entitled Cities, Sea-ports and Capital Towns.
I mention these guys because here are their engravings of the Thames in London, seen from the south. All are worth clicking on.
For the first time ever on the net, here are high quality images of Samuel & Nathaniel Buck’s complete sequence of five views of London as published in 1774.
That “first time ever” was in 2012, but news like this does not date.
Together the originals form a panorama of mid 18th Century London over 4 metres long. They show, in tremendous detail, the whole of the north bank of the Thames, between Westminster and the Tower.
Horizontality! Each is fairly horizontal to start with, but stitch them together ...
Just how accurate these engravings are of the former times that the Buck Brothers were purporting to recreate, I do not know. But I assume they give us a pretty good idea of how things were, until such time as aliens show up to reveal to us their tourist snaps from previous visits.
I especially like the last one:
I like this for a number of reasons.
First, it shows the spires of old London, and hence how very well the Shard fits into contemporary London. The Shard is of course the very embodiment of new London, but it also evokes old London, far more that most more recent London architecture.
Second, this shows old London Bridge, with all its buildings. What fun it would be for London to build itself another such bridge. One of the reasons I so welcome the new Blackfriars Station, on its bridge, is that it sets a precedent for just such a bridge with buildings some time in the future. This new Ponte Vecchio on Thames probably shouldn’t be in the middle of London, though, because that would spoil a lot of views. Why not a big bridge of this sort further downstream? Any decade now … If it were ever to happen, such a bridge would nicely complement the new Garden Bridge, full of plants, that Joanna Lumley wants to build. This is going ahead (… ”will” …), apparently.
And the third reason I like the above Buck Brothers panorama is that to the far right, it nicely shows what an imposing edifice the Tower of London used once to be. Here is the detail I mean:
Okay, that big building to the left means that the Tower is not as imposing there as all that. But it certainly gives you a clue concerning what an imposition it was when it was first imposed (scroll down to the quote there).
A while back I visited a friend in Epping, and during our ramblings in Epping Forest that day, it was mentioned that there was a spot in that general area where the Big Things of London could be seen. Seen from a great distance, but seen, in a gap between the trees.
Lured by the promise of this view, I returned, the Sunday before last, and was duly shown this view. You could see what appeared to be the BT Tower, and when I got home I confirmed that it was indeed the BT Tower. But, handsome though the BT Tower is, there is more to the towers of London than the BT tower. Never mind. I contented myself with photoing decaying farm machines.
But there are no decaying farm machine photos in this posting, and for that matter no photos of the BT Tower. Because. About an hour later, in weather that (as had been promised by the weather forecasters) was improving, we stumbled (if you can stumble in a car) on a vastly improved view of London. We only got to that because my friend was using a hoped-for short cut to show me an antique railway station or a church or some such thing. But suddenly I yelled that the view I had hoped to see an hour earlier was now viewable. Stop the car. Stop the car. Let me get out and photo … this:
There they all are: Strata (the one with three holes in the top) Shard, Walkie-Talkie, Gherkin, Cheesegrater, Heron Tower, Natwest Tower, Spraycan. They’re all there. Apart from the BT Tower which is away to the right and hidden behind a hill.
As so often at this blog, what you are looking at is a great photo, taken just about technically well enough for you to realise what an even greater photo in all respects this could have been, if taken by a Real Photographer at the top of his Real Photographer game.
The only reason it has taken so long for me to stick up this picture is that, as you can surely imagine, I took a great many shots like this one, but later could not decide which one was the least mediocre. All were very striking (because of what was in them), and rather blurry (because I’m a blurry kind of photographer when I take shots like these), and interrupted by wires in the foreground (because I did not see those until I got home).
I took that photo on the right, of our location displayed on its map by my smartphone, in the car, just before we continued to what had been intended as our next destination. As you can see from this, we were well beyond the M25. The small blue blob in the middle is the location. Subsequent google mappery confirmed that we were twenty miles and more from the centre of London.
Sadly, the small blue blob in the middle is pointing, very misleadingly, in a completely different direction to the direction in which I pointed my camera to photo London. London is located below and to the left, i.e. towards the south west, the M25 being the road around London and the M11 being the road from the territory to the north east of London (involving such places as Cambridge), to London.
This spot is not all that far from Epping tube station. On a better day, I will return.
This view combines great distance with definite visibility to a degree that I have not experience and photographed from any other place. Does anybody know of any place that scores higher by this combined measure?
I include cranes in the category list below. There are, as always with big pictures of London, cranes.
Most churches in London are, if not dwarfed by modernity, then at least jammed up against something else big right next to them. But earlier this evening I visited a London church that is not like that at all:
This is All Saints Blackheath. I was there to hear Goddaughter 2 and two of her RCM fellow students sing some songs. Very good.
Here is another and better picture of the same church, in winter.
Today, two snaps taken in April 2012 from the top of the tower of Westminster Cathedral, this being the Roman Catholic cathedral in the middle of Victoria Street, not the regular CofE Abbey, at the Parliament end of Victoria Street:
On the left, the Gherkin, the Parliament tower that is Big Ben, and the above-mentioned Abbey. And, in between the twin towers of the Abbey, we can also clearly see the tower of Tate Modern, and also the
Stock Exchange Lloyds building. On the right, the Shard (not yet finished) with its smaller elder brother Guy’s Hospital, and the Parliament tower that isn’t Big Ben.
It is possible that I have featured one or both of these views here before, but not lately, and anyway, my gaff my rules.
Lots of cranes. Always, there are lots of cranes.
Indeed. Photoed by me in September 2005, i.e. just under a decade ago:
Had I known how interested I would later become in white vans, I would have done a proper picture of the white van there. At the time all I cared about was the new Wembley Stadium, in the background there. But it says something that I considered this particular white van to be a worthy foreground to all that Big Arch activity. It also shows how white van graphics have progressed since then, the ones there being very straight and rectangular, like they’re done with Letraset, as maybe they were.
On the day I took that shot, I also took other shots like this one ...:
... and this one, which I recall especially liking at the time:
Blue sky. That never fails. Not then, not now.
Indeed. On the same day, March 10th of this year, that I took this, I also took these:
That concrete building already looks very different, and the numerous photo opportunities supplied by trees in March are all ruined by leaves. I hate leaves. All over London there are great views, totally ruined by leaves.
You can tell that the bridge is Blackfriars Bridge because it has that written on it.
And then, moments later, I photoed someone else with the same combination of ideas:
Both photoed at that magic hour in the evening when everything is lit like it’s in a movie and when pictures on other people’s cameras show up in my pictures . Movie people call this magic hour “Magic Hour”, or so said a book I read a while back called Magic Hour.
Take a train from … anywhere, into Waterloo. Exit your train, and go through the barriers. Turn right in the big concourse and carry on walking until you have gone as far as you can go, and you get to an exit. Step outside. You are in “Station Approach”:
I’ve messed with the visuals there, to make “Station Approach” readable.
You are wisely prevented by some railings from stepping out into Station Approach itself and being run down by a taxi. But turn right out of the exit, and make your way a few dozen yards along the narrow pavement, to the point in Station Approach where you can cross the road, to some steps that lead down into “Spur Road”. (The steps are right next to the S of Spur Road, in the image above.) But, don’t go down these steps. Stay at the top of the steps and enjoy the view.
To the far left, you can see the Walkie Talkie. To the far right, the Spray Can. Between them is the sprawl of south-of-the-river London.
It’s one of my favourite London panoramas, if only because everyone else who ever sets foot in this place is either in a hurry to get somewhere else, or in a hurry to catch a train. Nobody talks about this view, the way they do of the view from such places as Parliament Hill or the top of some of London’s big or even not so big buildings
What stops this view being talked up as a “view” is the prominence of all the foreground clutter. In the background, there are Big Things to be observed, but they do not tower over the foreground. If anything, the foreground clutter dominates them. Even the Shard is an almost diffident, even sometimes (depending on the light) spectral presence rather than a “tower”. Recently there was a TV documentary about the Tower of London, and the impact of it and the Shard, each in and on their time, was compared. The message was that the Tower then was like the Shard now. But these two buildings could hardly be more different. The Tower then was telling London then that the Tower was the boss. The Shard now politely concedes to London now that London is the boss.
And of course I love this view, because I love London’s clutter, especially roof clutter, and I love it when Big Things can be seen between and beyond the clutter, without necessarily dominating:
Those shots were all taken within moments of one another, just over a week ago, on a sunny afternoon, the same sunny afternoon I took this.
Stations are great linear photo-opportunities. This is because railway tracks have to be pretty much dead level. If the lie of the land is high, the tracks have to be lower, and if the lie of the land is low, the tracks have to be higher, which is also convenient because it enables the railway to jump over the roads on bridges and viaducts rather than compete with them at such things as level crossings. This causes the platforms of many a station to be at roof level rather than at ground level.
Level crossings will get road traffic across a mere double track out in the country, but are hopeless for getting past the tracks out of Waterloo, one of the world’s busiest railway stations. The traffic would wait for ever. So, bridges and viaducts it is, and that means that Waterloo Station itself is dragged up to regular London roof level. So even if you can’t see anything from Waterloo Station itself, you can from just outside it. You can from Station Approach. Well, I can, because I want to.
No not taken by me. I wish. The original and several others of the same guy that are equally fun, here.
I chose that one because, in addition to showing the artist and his murals, it also shows what a fight reinforced concrete puts up, when someone tries to destroy it. (A point also made, with an illustration (yes taken by me) in this earlier posting.)
Until very recently, Centre Point, the Big Thing at the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street, used to look like this, and quite soon, it will presumably look very much like that again. Just rather cleaner.
But, for the time being, Centre Point is looking like this:
The crane is there because at the bottom of Centre Point there is a frenzy of Cross Rail and London Underground station building activity.