Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Brian Micklethwait on Miguel aligns his message with his van
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Michael Jennings on Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Brian Micklethwait on Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Michael Jennings on Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Patrick Crozier on Cyclists
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rob on M20 bridge destroyed by passing digger
Most recent entries
- The Dome and Tower Bridge aligned
- I never thought that we could win
- Matt Ridley on how (fracking) technology lead science
- The wonderful things they’re doing with plastics nowadays
- The Big Parliament Tower and the Shard as seen from the Westminster Cathedral Tower
- 240 Blackfriars behind some reinforced concrete that is being demolished
- John Croft: Composition is not research
- The cuddly killer
- Strand Palace Hotel footbridge
- Harley Davidson - woman playing gramophone records
- Wooden Citroens and black baby dolls
- Brittany lighthouses
- Citroen correction
- When the people are the Art
- Ghost Bus
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Category archive: Architecture
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.
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.
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.
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.
I 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.
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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve visited the top of the Tate Modern Extension several times in recent weeks, so this story particularly entertained me:
Here’s the story:
Residents of the Rogers Stirk Harbour-designed Neo Bankside apartments have threatened legal action, after Tate Modern opened an observation deck that provides views into their private apartments.
The 360-degree rooftop viewing deck is one of the headline features of the Switch House – the 64.5-metre-high Tate Modern gallery extension by Herzog & de Meuron, which opened to the public in June.
But residents of the adjacent apartment complex have claimed that gallery visitors are using zoom-lens cameras and binoculars to peer inside their glass-walled homes and take photographs.
Having failed to reach a solution with Tate, the homeowners are now seeking legal action to regain their privacy.
I was particularly diverted by this bit:
So far the only change has been the addition of a sign asking Tate visitors to be more considerate.
Dezeen does not show any picture of this sign, but here, I can, because I photoed it several weeks ago:
I remember thinking at the time that this is almost contemptuously perfunctory. I’m not surprised that it failed to subdue the snoopers
I believe that, as London gets more and more interesting, and full of more and more intriguing Big Things, there will be more and more such viewing platforms like this one at Tate Modern. So, this problem of what you can see from such platforms that people don’t want you to see isn’t going to go away.
And the problem gets far worse when you consider that zoom lenses are only going to get ever more powerful. I often joke here that my camera has better eyesight than I do, and it’s true. But pretty soon, all cameras will have better eyesight than everyone.
It could be that about half of this particular viewing platform will be shut down, in which case, I need to make sure now that I have seen everything from that part of it that I can, before this happens.
I’d prefer the other idea, which is that these people living in glass houses should have one way mirrors installed, so they can see out but the rest of us can’t see in. But then, expect the internet to be awash with before/after photos.
Yesterday evening, London burned, and people lined the river to watch:
That being a horizontal slice of one of the pictures here. A big wooden sculpture based on the London that was destroyed first time around was put on a barge, floated into central London, and burned.
The work of Artichoke.
I journeyed out to Eltham, on that day that I did, to see Alastair and the Big Things of London from a distance. But there were also horses to be seen. Here are some of the better horse photos I took:
Photo 3.2 requires commentary. That thing that looks like a fur coat, on a lead, is, I’m pretty sure, actually a dog on a lead. I mean, what else could it be? And I do vaguely remember this dog.
Photo 3.1 does not require commentary, but I am going to supply some anyway. In that photo you see distant London Big Things. But not with zoom. Just really far away, to the point where I have to tell you for you to realise that they’re there. 2.3 and 3.3, which feature Big Things that are more visible, do involve quite a bit of zoom. If you have ever grumbled to yourself about the somewhat blurry nature of some of my Big Thing photos, well, I think this puts that in perspective, don’t you?
Yesterday - yesterday morning - I visited the top of the Tate Modern Extension again. I went in the morning because I needed the light coming from the direction it comes from in the morning, for reasons that I may (although I promise nothing) explain at some future date in some future posting. Also, the weather forecast forecast a lot of light yesterday. It was right about this, because it is right about everything.
I took about seven hundred photos, of which I suppose about two hundred or so were each good enough to display here. But which to show? And to illustrate what opinion? So many photos. So many opinions.
After many minutes of failed deciding, I eventually decided on one almost at random. This:
At the centre point of this photo is Centre Point, now kitted out in its revamp costume. It doesn’t look like that normally, and soon it will (I presume) be back to looking as it always did.
Once again, we observe the Wembley Arch, this time supplying the backup visuals for a crane.
I linked from the latter posting to this Evening Standard piece about this building, which includes this:
The material of the coloured walls is glazed ceramic, assembled out of thousands of individual pieces. This material will barely fade and is self-cleaning in the rain, so will look much the same as it does now for decades
Good to know. This is the kind of thing that Renzo Piano tends to get right.
I also like the little orange box, presumably for getting revamping materials to all the parts of Centre Point that need it.
How soon before Centre Point itself bursts into colour?
Once again we have here a posting concerning two Big Things, aligned, in this case the relatively new Strata, the one with the three eyes at the top, and way off behind it to the north, the original Big New Thing, the GPO Tower as it originally was, now the BT Tower. The shot was taken on the same day and from the same spot (the top of a multi-story car park in Peckham) as were these photos, which I posted on Samizdata in August 2012.
Why do I like Big Thing alignments? Partly, I just think that they make great images of the new London, the one that has sprung up in my own lifetime. Pictures of just the one Big Thing, or of the City Big Thing Cluster, are common. Less common are shots of just two of these Big Things, next to each other or with one behind the other, taken from a rather out-of-the-way angle and a rather out-of-the-way place.
There is also the fact that, in London, you can so very frequently see these strange alignments, so very clearly. This is because London’s Big Things are typically not all gathered together in a cluster, under the influence only of economic forces. No, they tend to reflect politics. Each Big Thing, you might say, is built by the winner of a very local political battle. The City Cluster is an exception to this tendency, as is the Docklands Tower Cluster. Docklands was always a cluster. In the City, all the Big Things are now joining up into one Huge City Thing. Which is fine. I have no problem with that. But what I’m saying is that, for London as a whole, this is typically not how it works. The more usual arrangement is for Big Things to be surrounded by huge gobs of empty air. And what that means is that people like me can take pictures of Big Things like the one in this posting.
Click on the picture on the right and you will get the bigger original, which also features The Wheel. Which is another of those local political Big Thing winners.
By the way, this was not some photographic accident. You can tell from all the photos that preceded this one that this alignment was aligned deliberately.
The time is not far away when I will almost cease from adding to my photo-archives, and will spend most of my photo-time trawling through the archives that I already having.
And coming upon photos like this:
That’s a Big Thing alignment that you don’t see very often. It is, of course, the Wembley Arch and The Wheel. I took this shot in Eltham, quite near (I think) to Eltham Palace, on (definitely) December 23rd 2015. The posting at the end of that last link mentions this expedition, to meet up with my good friend Alastair, but the only picture it shows is a picture that Alastair himself took some weeks earlier, of the Walkie Talkie, and I never subsequently showed here any of the pictures that I took that day. The above is one of them.
However, it is typical of many of the photos I take in including things, in this case a Big Thing, that I was unaware of photoing at the time. I think I realised that I was photoing The Wheel, when I took the above photo. But I do not believe I realised at the time that I had also photoed the Wembley Arch. For this reason, the picture above zeroes in on this alignment. But if you click on it, you get the original photo that I took, where the above alignment is only one of many potentially interesting things.
The Wembley Arch often surprises me like this. It’s like one of those idiots who deliberately pops up behind TV sports reporters, except not idiotic or deliberate. It is very big. And it is quite a way away from the centre of London, in a rather confusing direction. So it has a habit of suddenly looming up in the background of the photos I take, even though, not knowing exactly where it is, I am seldom trying to photo it. Unless of course I actually see it, which I typically don’t. Until I look at my photos. (E.g. the final photo in this posting earlier this week, about what I saw from Epsom. From Epsom, the Wembley Arch is way off to the left of London Big Things.)
Earlier today, underneath the Wembley Arch, the Rugby League Grand Challenge Cup Final took place. Hull FC came from behind to defeat Warrington.