Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
6000 on Union Jack Minis
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Francis on A swimming pool in a skyscraper
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Brian Micklethwait on Sign with sarcastic sneer quotes
MARK TAHA on Sign with sarcastic sneer quotes
Sajidur Rahman on Out and about in the sunshine
Brandon Smith on Ballerina with cranes again - this time with added spy cameras
Michael Jennings on On meeting an American lady friend who likes to read my stuff about cricket
Michael Jennings on A birthday party with difficult lighting
Most recent entries
- Union Jack Minis
- Breaking my Samizdata silence
- On the problems of half-parking with a half-car
- Roof party
- Crane lamp
- Headlights with cleaning brush
- Sign with sarcastic sneer quotes
- Godo and flowers
- Tate cat
- On meeting an American lady friend who likes to read my stuff about cricket
- A birthday party with difficult lighting
- On the unappealingness of classical music on the internet
- Bright buildings in front of dark sky
- Waiting for …
- The ballerina and her support act
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
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Category archive: Architecture
While browsing the archives looking for a photo to have on the front of my computer, combining niceness with not making my stuff invisible, I came across a rather good photo.
The horizontalisation opportunity was too good to miss:
Click to get it all.
Not good for the front of my computer. Too much going on. No big clear slabs of nothing for computer ikons to be seen against. But I like it.
It was taken in 2012, from the top of a car park in Peckham.
More shots of and from the same spot, here.
My computer is in a sort of half-way state between being God and being Godot, and I feel that I am still awaiting the latter. All the innards have been changed, as was promised, but it turned out they didn’t fit very well into the old case. A new fan could only go in one place in the old case, and that place was awkward, involving stretching wires around things. The graphics board went in a non-ideal place in order not to stretch the wires too much. So, soon there will be another case, about an inch wider, which will enable the fan to be in a better place and that, I feel, will be Godot. What I have now is something in between God and Godot. Godo?
Anyway, I have spent my entire day catching up with myself, transferring stuff over from Dawkins to Godo, sending emails to myself (don’t ask), and sorting out all the pictures I’ve taken, which have remained on SD cards during the time of Dawkins, because Dawkins is not where I would even want them to be.
So, once again it is quota photo time. And this time it is not cranes or a bridge or roof clutter but … flowers, in Victoria Street, photoed by me at the beginning of this month:
So, nature then? Not really. Behind, we have offices. And the entire effect has been very carefully contrived by Westminster Council’s Nature Department. I have never seen flowers growing like that when not coaxed into that shape by nature-controllers. I think it looks a bit like a wasps’ nest.
I know, it’s over-lit. But I like that. It was a sunny day, and that’s how sunshine behaves when there are no Real Photographers about to take the strength out of it with their fancy filters and exactly calculated exposure times. Sometimes the way that light overwhelms an autofocus, snap-and-hope snapper like me tells the story just as well as it would be told by a Real Photographer, and perhaps even better.
Anyway, I like it, and I hope you do too.
This evening I attended a young friend’s fortieth birthday party. (You know you are old when people aged forty are young.) And I took lots of photos. Before doing this, I asked our young hostess (the one who is now aged forty) if she would like me to take photos, or would actually prefer me not to. She said please do take photos, so I did, in abundance. The best of them will be my birthday present to her.
As usual, my first look at them when I got home was a big disappointment. The lighting was difficult and the background was a lot easier to focus on than dimly lit faces tend to be, so I have huge numbers of snaps of perfectly detailed backgrounds with blurry faces in front of them. But the best of them will, I reckon, come out okay. Most are not suitable for blogging, because private, but here is a crowd scene showing what the place looked like:
As you can see, an ecclesiastical setting. The Cloister Cafe of St Bartholomew the Great, which is near the Barbican.
That photo is exactly as it came out of my camera. No beefing up of the dark bits, which means that you can see what a tricky place it was to photo in. I just took lots of pictures, in the hope that some would turn out okay, and I think that this is what happened. There were many failures, but a few successes. Once I get to work with my Photoshop clone, there may be more successes than it now appears.
Maybe I should have used flash, as my camera spent the entire evening urging me to to do. But, I hate hate hate flash. It is appallingly antisocial, and the results usually look terrible, as in: “Hey, that was taken with flash, wasn’t it?” and “Doesn’t your software have a tool to removing red-eye?” It probably does, but … uurrgghh!!
Yes, I love it when that happens:
Congratulations to Jackie D for capturing it.
Late this afternoon I had another go photoing the Ballerina, the idea being to do this photo again, but better.
But then I noticed what comely wenches the statues below her were, photoed them, and then picked one and photoed her with a crane behind her:
What I like about her is that she looks so relaxed and happy about what she is doing, and for that matter about what she is wearing. Pavlova, dancing up above them, looks otherworldly and untouchable. The statues look like girls next door, but really nice looking. To be more exact, they look like the kind of girls you wish had lived next door, instead of the ones who actually did.
When I click on either of the above photos, I get the big versions rotated ninety degrees. All I can say about that for now is: my apologies. It is far too late at night for me to be working out why this happens. Does it happen for you? Comments would help, as would explanations of what I am doing wrong or what is going wrong, or whatever.
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.