Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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Most recent entries
- The view from outside Waterloo Station
- Goodbye KP?
- Strange London buses
- Seaside muralist
- How Centre Point is looking just now
- Another horizontal advert for an only slightly more expensive drone
- First test against NZ – first day
- Blue sky
- Adverts for small and cheap drones
- High hair
- Hungerford Footbridges photographers
- An alien robot playing the cymbals and paps
- A photographer and an advert
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
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Category archive: Signs and notices
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.
Spent day doing other things, so quota photo time, but from the archives:
Taken in June 2005. I don’t understand mobile phones, but presumably things have changed since the above arrangements were advertised.
But how about that war that either Britain, or Europe, had with France? I don’t remember that. Seriously, I wonder what on earth that was about.
Presumably “Paris” doesn’t include La Défense, which is out on the edge of Paris. Those Big Things are very big indeed. What they’re talking about here is building Big Things in the centre of Paris.
And the thing is, this Thing not very tall at all:
In London, this sort of thing would hardly be noticed.
But the fact that this new Thing is not that big is deliberate.
“This project is not a high-rise, but embodies a shift in attitude, and this gradual increase marks a willingness to reconsider the potential of height and will change the city landscape little by little,” said the architects.
They know that if they are to get any new truly Big Things anywhere near the centre of Paris, the first step is to make some things that are not Big, but just a tiny bit bigger. First you get the opposition to concede the principle, with something that doesn’t arouse huge opposition. Then you gradually increase the heights, until finally you get your Big Things, and the opposition unites too late. And by then it’s too small, because lots of people actually like the new Big Things. This is how politics is done. And this is politics.
The last, and so far only new and truly Big Thing anywhere near the middle of Paris (other than the Eiffel Tower) is the Montparnasse Tower, which was completed in 1973. Compared to almost everything else in central Paris, before or since, the Montparnasse Tower is very tall indeed. It aroused a lot of opposition by embodying such an abrupt, even contemptuous, change of Paris skyscraper policy, and judging by what happened for the next forty years, that opposition was very successful. This time around, those who want Big Parisian Things are going about it more carefully, as the above quote shows.
Speaking of politics, who is that geezer in the picture, in the picture? A politician, I’ll bet.
I am working on a quite big and unwieldy architecture posting just now, but this probably won’t be ready to go any time today, or even soon, so I’ll instead write a little essay on a related matter. Which is: Why I feel more comfortable writing about architecture, of the contemporary and hence controversial sort, than I do about contemporary interior design. The contrast between how fascinated I am by the architectural stuff (this is the posting that got me going with the architectural posting that I am now working on) at one of my favourite internet sites, Dezeen, and the indifference I feel concerning Dezeenery about interior matters, is becoming ever more extreme. I mean, designer X has designed a chair. And what does it look like? It looks like a chair. Hoo ray.
It’s not that I dislike or oppose interior design. It’s just that I feel that what I feel about it, or for that matter what anybody else feels about it, is of no public significance. We can all just pick whatever interior designs and objects appeal to us, and let others do the same. Interior design is not a political problem. There is therefore nothing vitally important to be said about it. Why argue, when there is no need to argue?
If you are one of those people who likes to tease out why you feel the way you do, about everything in general and interior design in particular, fine. Blog away about wallpaper, tea kettles, tables, chairs, standard lamps, stoves and suchlike, all you like. You’ll surely find plenty of readers, probably a great many more than I have. You certainly will if you specialise, as I do not. I write about such things myself, from time to time, when the mood takes me.
But on the whole, it tends not to. When the answer the question is: each to his own, and when that answer basically takes care of it, I generally don’t feel like adding very much.
You could say that this mood, of insignificant self-scrutiny, is upon me right now. After all, who cares what I put on my blog? If you don’t like it, don’t read it, problem solved. Choosing a blog to read is like choosing a chair. Nobody else need be consulted, or imposed upon.
But architecture is different. We can’t each step outside into a city like London and each have exactly the London that we want. If I am to have those new Big Things that I like so much, you also have to put up with them, even if you hate them. It therefore feels right to me to be explaining, to the entire world (even if most of the world pays no attention), just what it is about these Big Things that I like so much. It makes sense for me to say (even if I haven’t done much of this lately) why I came to hate most modernistical architecture when I was in my twenties, and why I think that modernistical architecture has improved so very, very much since that time, at any rate in the places I mostly walk about in and see in photos.
For the same reason, it also makes sense, to me, for me to be celebrating roof clutter, cranes, this or that piece of public or semi-public sculpture, these or those public signs. It is because these are public issues. Political issues, even. Definitely political, in the case of those signs I just linked to. Things like these have positive (mostly, in my case) or negative (perhaps in yours) externalities attached to them.
Actually, it is most unlikely that you hate all the publicly obtrusive things that I love, because you wouldn’t want to be reading such opinions, day after day. But, you get my point.
In the early, at first brightly sunlit evening I went walking by the river, over Vauxhall Bridge and then turning right on the other side, towards Battersea.
I noted progress on the new flats. The sky was a beautiful colour. The flats are not a beautiful colour:
The river was adorned by bright reflections off the buildings on the far side.
The evening sun also lit up the bright green wall that keeps the river in its correct place:
There is a new US Embassy taking shape, …:
… although it will not be a very interesting shape:
Battersea Power Station is missing one of its chimneys:
This is probably something to do with the fact that it is having dwellings built in it:
And, when I looked inland, towards the south, over the railway, I saw some world class roof clutter:
So I was in a good mood. Until, on my way back home, I saw this:
Yes, there is an election coming, and we will all vote in such a way as to try to deny office to the political party we most hate, which in my case is the Labour Party. Which means I will probably vote for the bastards advertising themselves with the signs above.
As you can see, by then it had become rather gloomy. As had I.
Yesterday, while walking along the sharp right kink at the top end of Horseferry Road, which I do a lot, I looked up into the bright blue sky and beheld things of colourful beauty. What do you suppose it is?:
Does this make it any clearer?:
Clear for those to whom it is now clear, but still not very clear for most, is my guess.
Yes, it’s a Big 4. And if you still don’t know what it is, apart from it being a Big 4, it is the Big 4 outside the fantastically over-the-top front door of Channel 4 TV HQ.
This Big 4 has changed a lot over the years. (You can see a few of those changes in among all this google-search-imagery.) Different artists and designers have taken it in turns to adorn its metal skeleton in a succession of different colours and costumes. The above is merely the latest iteration of this process. And definitely one of the better ones, I think.
I like how the colours all vanish once you get straight in front of the 4, and all you get is a relatively bland white 4. The effect is calculated to resemble the fleeting glimpse of the 4 that you get in the various intros you see just before Channel 4 shows on the telly. Note also how the sun at that particular later afternoon time of day picked out the white bits of the Big 4, while leaving the stuff behind it in relative darkness. I still don’t really understand how this happened, but I definitely like it.
The bad news, however, is that to get that particular Big 4 picture from the exact right place, you need to be standing in the middle of the road that turns south off Horseferry Road, past the left hand side of C4HQ, as we look at it, and at exactly the spot where the pavement would have been, right next to Horseferry Road itself.
So, finally, what we now see is the exact moment when a car came up right behind me and honked loudly, anxious to get past me and out of Horseferry Road instead of being stuck right in it, and honked at in its turn by angry cars behind it.
I immediately jumped out of the car’s way, and it politely waved thankyou as soon as it had made its slightly relieved way past me.
A lot of cars deliver and collect a lot of people to and from that exact spot, and they must get this a lot.
It is more important to me that I get to bed at a sensible hour than it is that I do some sensible blogging before getting to bed. So, another sign:
But this time, instead of them doing something a bit strange, it’s me doing something very silly.
Photographed by me in Walthamstow, yesterday.
Good night, and I’ll try to do better tomorrow.
I took this snap of a sign, in Chinatown (London manifestation of), just off Charing Cross Road:
What I like about it is how they had to add the English language explanation of what hair “magic” actually involves. Presumably the oriental characters make it clear to orientals what’s on sale here. But at first, the English weren’t buying. I mean, “magic”? Could be anything or nothing. Hypnosis? Pills? Herbalism? Magic mud of some sort? Clearly the English needed further elaboration, however much it spoiled the original splendour of the original sign.
But alas, the nature of the service on offer, once explained, descended in one word from the transcendental to the commonplace.
Made-up London detectives in real London places
A weird view of the Wheel - and cats in Tiger
White Vin Van
Move over CND
Photographers - photographers with hats (one of the hats being rather scary)
“Real Democracy Now” in Parliament Square this afternoon
Sixty Charlie Hebdo demo signs that say something other than “Je Suis Charlie”
Charlie Hebdo demo in Trafalgar Square
Cats in Quimper shops
French roof clutter
Sign blocked by surveillance camera
Photographed flatness that doesn’t look flat
Fuck the duck until exploded
Another facade being carefully preserved
Sign with sarcastic sneer quotes
A Sunday ramble
TfL electronic signs (etc.)
What is this Thing?
GARBAGE SHED AND JUMP INTO THE SEA IS PROHIBITED
Strata with greenery and a scaffolding sign
A Real Photographer does a shadow selfie
A old bus doing regular bus stuff
National Theatre Boo
A slightly foreign part of London
Happiness is a wallet that I didn’t lose after all
South Bank signs
Green screen blue screen
A selfie taken in 1955 - another taken in 2014 - another being taken in 2014
A new Morrisons is opening in Strutton Ground next Monday
The Met swoops on the Adams Family
South Bank Architects?
The text of my talk for Christian Michel last night
Hampers can be annoying
Otherwise blogging (and a Burgess Park butterfly)
Smaller is more legible – big is more fun
Corrie Chipps pictures the Zimbabwe inflation
Views from the Hackney Wick station footbridge
Pictures from Georgia and Warsaw
Reflections on a strange coincidence involving an Android app and a malfunctioning bus stop sign
Google Nexus 4 photos
Wedding photography (2): Signs
Remembering a warmer day
Lunch at Gessler at Daquise
Six Nations joy
Reflections on and in Westminster Tube Station
Big London Things with clutter in the foreground
Multilingual botanical gardens in Cyprus
Malta Day procession
A memorable scoreboard surrounded by empty seats
Occupy St Paul’s pictures
Another reason to like Colorado
Choosing a Clean Food Outlet in Lawas is as easy as ABC
Health and safety on a mountain in Borneo
Five pictures of me
Misspelt (correction: Italian) signs of the times
The graffiti says he won’t get his keys back
Rally Against Debt signs
Nil scrap value
Do not climb on the Thing!
The wedding lingers on
The Armstrong Gun
Signs from the Frenchosphere
And there was you thinking you were immortal
More signs of the times
Blue Men on a boring building in Borough High Street
Signs - all in my bit of one railway carriage
That’s what I call a Health and Safety Notice
If you can’t beat them hire them
Another sign of the times
The bike behind the theatre
Soviet health and safety posters
Noticing signs of the times