Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Brian Micklethwait on Strand Palace Hotel footbridge
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Category archive: Bridges
The first of my two trips earlier this week to Tottenham was on Monday, and, as soon as I stepped beyond the front door that I share with my neighbours, the weather put me in very a good mood. It was exactly as had been prophesied, namely: perfect. Sky, fifty shades of blue, depending on what else you put next to it, thus:
All of these photos involve scaffolding, which is a thing I love, along with cranes. (Also bridges.) Scaffolding says that Men Are Working, building a better future for us all. Scaffolding says that Men With Money think that here, there is more money to be made, selling or renting new or newly refurbished places. Cranes say the same. (Bridges say: here are two places worth connecting.)
On a day such as Monday was, scaffolding can look especially fine, because Monday was the kind of day when just about anything was looking fine.
1.1 is of some home improvement going on as seen from just outside my front door. 1.2 and 2.1 are both of the building going on across my courtyard, where they are turning a posh office into posh flats. And 2.2 is of some scaffolding to be seen in Vauxhall Bridge Road. (Although there seems to be disagreement between the sign in my photo and the only relevant website I could find, concerning what number to ring to get Superior Access Scaffolding.)
And all of this before I had even arrived at Pimlico Tube. It was an auspicious start. The rest of the day did not disappoint.
A few days back, I did a posting about a plan to illuminate London’s bridges. What, I think, will make this new plan different and striking is that all the bridges will be lit up, all at once. So, for instance, it will be possible to see them all lit up from above, from places like the Shard, and like the top of the Hotel ME.
Because, as some have told me recently, it is not as if London’s bridges, one at a time, have never been lit up before.
Proof of which observation comes in the form of another photo I took in 2006 (while seeking mobile phones being used as cameras), of London Bridge, looking upstream from Tower Bridge. And London Bridge is all lit up:
Okay, it’s only in one colour, but it’s still lit up.
Once again, I start a posting. It gets too elaborate. I can’t finish it in time to post today. I instead dig out a quota photo:
Taken in the summer of 2010, although the date doesn’t matter. Tower Bridge isn’t going anywhere.
I like the colour contrast, between the cream of the underside of the bridge and the blue not only of the rest of the bridge but also of the background, which was really grey, but this is a photo.
What we see there is early evening sunlight bouncing off the river and up at the underside of the bridge, which is an effect I have learned to look out for whenever I see a bridge over water, when there is also sunshine. In the early evening.
Incoming from 6k telling me about a scheme to light up London’s bridges. (I often hear about London things from him.) This Guardian piece doesn’t, or not so I noticed, say explicitly whether this is intended to be a permanent arrangement or temporary, but it seems like it will be permanent.
Plans to light up London’s bridges in what would be one of the biggest public art projects the UK has ever seen have taken a step forward with six schemes shortlisted.
I agree with the Guardian that this picture, which is of this entry, is very enticing:
There’s a ton of verbiage attached to each of the six entries, but artistic verbiage is one of the things in the world that I respect the least, right down there with a few other things that I don’t respect at all. Which doesn’t mean that the winning scheme will be bad. It could be terrific.
The proof of the pudding will be when we all start photoing it.
No public money involved at all. So they say.
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.
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.
And in other bridge news …
I earlier linked to a Dezeen report which reported:
But now comes this:
The more appealing the bridge, the more of a muddle its opening is liable to be, so this is not a particularly terrible thing. This bridge, for instance, has opening problems because many more people than they expected want to walk upon it:
Thousands flocked to the attraction when it opened on 20 August 2016, but less than two weeks later its popularity has led to its closure.
The bridge is designed to hold up to 800 people and receive up to 8,000 visitors in a day, however demand has far outstripped capacity.
“We’re overwhelmed by the volume of visitors,” a spokesperson from the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon’s marketing department told CNN.
The spokesperson said that 80,000 visitors had attempted to visit the bridge each day, leading to its closure for improvement works on 2 September 2016.
There are no reports of when the attraction will reopen.
Whenever. There’s nothing as cheap as a hit. Especially if your target demographic is: China. And then, when the word gets around, which the above story will hugely help it to: The World.
Nowadays, footbridges tend only to spring to life and to try to be entertaining to walk across, rather than just functional, when water is involved. But as the world’s economy slows and big new bridge projects become scarcer, I believe we can expect many more smaller and hitherto more mundane bridges to be similarly “designed” rather than just built. Like this one in Beersheba, which is over some railway tracks.
I’m actually rather surprised that this kind of thing doesn’t happen more often:
The story is that a lorry with a digger on the back of it drove under a bridge, but the digger hit the bridge and broke half of the bridge off so that it fell on the road below, or to be more exact, onto another lorry, also going under it at the time. A motorcyclist was nearly killed, but wasn’t.
Cranes helped to clean up the mess:
One of the scarier things about all this, if I understand what has happened correctly, is that half the bridge is still sticking out over the motorway, and traffic is even now passing underneath it:
Is that right? And if that is right, is that .. you know … right?
So far as I can tell, though, this is not a glass bridge, more a metal bridge with lots of windows in its floor, which I don’t think is the same thing. But, it’s still a step in the right direction, towards the day when they build a bridge entirely out of glass.
So I did something I haven’t done recently. I went to BLDGBLOG, and right at the bottom of this posting, which consists of a collection of weird photos that aren’t quite photos but are something else somewhat similar, I found this classic bridge:
But that isn’t the picture at BLDGBLOG. I went looking for another, and found it here.
I like bridges, and I especially like bridges with buildings on them, buildings which don’t match, like the bridge is just a street rather than a single unified structure all designed and built at one time.
I also very much like the look of the picture at the top of this posting. which, for reasons I do not understand, is entitled “Critical Engineering Summer Intensives”, but which ought to be entitled “When Roof Clutter Catches Fire”.
Recently a friend told me that you can see the Big Things of London from the grounds outside the Horniman Museum. The place is a walk away from Forest Hill station, so today, I checked this out. You can. I did. Picture:
Somewhere on the www there must be a complete list of all such places. But every list of these places that I have ever seen excludes at least one Big Thing watching place that I personally know of.
I could go on, but the last few postings here have been rather complicated, so I am keeping this one simple.
The category list includes “Bridges” because away to the right, you can see the tops of Tower Bridge.
Yesterday here featured a photo (of a photographer photoing a new marriage) which all happened on the Millennium Bridge. Today’s photo is of the Millennium Bridge, with three boats all within a few yards of it, as seen from the viewing gallery at the top of the new Tate Modern Extension:
Although I promise nothing, I hope to show more snaps snapped from this most excellent vantage point here, in the nearish future.
One day, I will collect together all the photos I have from over the years, of … this kind of thing:
I love it when Asians get married and have a photoshoot to celebrate, in London. Quite when and where they get married, I don’t know, but this is definitely a Thing that they love to do. I took the above photo this afternoon. On a bridge. With a Big albeit Ancient Thing in the background. Weird reflections.
And because they are making such a spectacle of themselves, and doing it so very delightfully, I feel it’s okay to put my photo of one of these photoshoots here.
I love before and after pictures. Here is another, showing how the world looked before Blackfriars Bridge Railway Station was built (photo taken in 2004), and after it was built (photo taken a few weeks ago).
What the two pictures have in common in those ghostly red columns, left over from an earlier Blackfriars railway bridge.
I seem to recall once upon a time speculating that the ugly lump next to the Shard made the Shard possible.Yes:
The Ugly Lump with the gasometer in front of it, on the right, is Guy’s Hospital. The other day I heard myself surmising that maybe if Guy’s Hospital had never been built, the Shard might not have been built either. As it was, there was no nearby neighbourhood or particular bit of the London skyline to ruin, aesthetically speaking, because that job had already been done by Guy’s. As it was, any aesthetical objection to the Shard was, as far as the immediate locals were concerned, a non-starter.
I still think that’s right. And what I now wonder is: did something similar happen with the new Blackfriars Station, the one on the bridge, that you can see in the right hand picture above, but not in the left had one? What I’m thinking is that the view that you see on the left, looking over Blackfriars railway bridge to the towers of the City is perhaps not a view that London’s rulers were especially proud of, what with those columns. Personally, I love the columns. For me, they are classic London at its weirdest and most eccentric. But you can imagine Powerful People being a bit uneasy about this oddity, and about the fact that Something Should Have Been Done About Them, by, you know, them. So, a railways station which spoilt this view, while not doing too much violence to views across the top of the bridge from further away, might not have been unwelcome. Without the columns, however, there was a view that they might not have been so ready to see interrupted.
This is just a speculation, just a thought, just a suggestion. I’m sure lots of other thinking besides that sort of thinking went into the building of this weird and eccentric railway station. (I added the word “more” to my title after first posting this.) But, I think there might be something to this.
Perhaps those Powerful People also hoped that something new and more constructive might be done with the columns, what with the new railway station being built. Maybe such a use was even promised, but later abandoned, for some reasons or other.
LATER: Actually, what I am now realising is that there used to be three disembodied rows of red columns, but that the right hand row as we look got swallowed up in a widened version of the original bridge. My pictures show this rather well, which is why I finally noticed.