Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Brian Micklethwait on New York construction cranes in action
Andrew Duffin on New York construction cranes in action
Friday Night SMoke on English is weird
Scott Morter on 55 Broadway
Ben on Incoming imagery from Antoine
Brian Micklethwait on Face recognition – face disguise – the age of pseudo-omniscience
Brian Micklethwait on The new US Embassy – from my roof
Brian Micklethwait on New Thin Things in New York (but not in Lower Manhattan)
Michael Jennings on The new US Embassy – from my roof
Alastair on New Thin Things in New York (but not in Lower Manhattan)
Most recent entries
- Referendum day graphics
- Big Things and viewing galleries in the Square Mile
- Why I like Cricinfo
- English is weird
- The Union Jack’s near death experience(s?)
- New York construction cranes in action
- Some thoughts on the Izzard effect
- Lioness eats camera
- An MP murdered
- A great new bridge in Iran
- Lions - Bears - Blackhawks
- An electric car recharging itself in The Cut
- WWWhite Van
- A good morning
- A better little drone
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Category archive: Cranes
Here is a photo taken by a friend with her mobile, of a construction site in New York, complete with cranes:
I love it when friends send me snaps of things they know I will like.
I am particularly glad to see New York construction cranes in action. After doing that posting about how there has been no construction in the southern end of Manhattan, mentioning absence of cranes as evidence of no construction, I started to wonder if, in New York, they do things differently. I wondered if they built skyscrapers without using cranes, but just lifting all the stuff up the building, as they built it. Or something. But of course they use cranes in New York, same as everywhere else.
Just to be quite sure about that, I googled “construction cranes new york”. And I was greeted with scenes of crane carnage like you would not believe.
Apparently cranes in New York occasionally fall over, and this is the one time when the average person is interested in them. As a result, the average person has a totally distorted idea of the positive contribution made by construction cranes to modern society.
Indeed, with cranes and with intervening roof clutter in the foreground:
One of the oddities of the internet is that if you google new us embassy london, you get lots of Big Boxy Things, all looking different from each other. By which I mean, it’s the same box, but the architectural wrapping is different. Basically what you are looking at is all the different guesses or early suggestions about how it was going to look or how people thought it ought to look, which then just hang about for the next few years. Until such time as the Big Boxy Thing is finished, at which point huge numbers of new photos of it will drown out the guesses and the failed propaganda. This makes it hard to know, now, when the Big Boxy Thing is still being constructed, if what you are seeing is the Big Boxy Thing in question, or some other Big Boxy Thing.
But, in among all the imaginings, I found actual photos of the new Embassy as it actually is, in the process of being built, and the above photo is definitely of the actual US Embassy. No doubt about it. More views from the same spot, above my head as I write this, here.
What is happening is that Spook Alley, which starts near Waterloo Station, continues via all those James Bond enterprises in anonymous Big Boxy Things, and then takes in the new MI6 building, is now being added to with an American strip of boxes of comparable scale, further up the river on the south side. This is the Special Relationship in steel and concrete form, and the idea that this relationship is now cooling is visibly absurd. It has never been more solid. A whole new district of London is being created, basically for spying on terrorists, and on anyone else that the spooks take against.
As the rest of London expands down river, towards places like the new Container Port way off to the east, governmental London moves in the other direction, up river, west.
Here is a picture of the Lower Manhattan end of New York, the bit with the tallest skyscrapers, topped off in 2001 by the Twin Towers:
And here is another picture of the exact same scene, taken fifteen years later in 2016, this time topped off with the single replacement tower for the Twin Towers:
The guy who took these pictures was interested in which photograph is photographically superior. The first one was taken with old-school film and the second is digital.
To me the two pictures look nearly identical. Their technical identicality does not interest me. But their architectural identicality, aside from the Twin Towers alteration, is something that I find fascinating.
Skyscrapers have exploded all over the world in the last decade and a half. New York is one of the world’s great cities. And yet, here are two photos of New York taken at opposite ends of the last fifteen years, and aside from the rather dramatic change imposed upon the place by terrorism, nothing at all seems to have changed.
Things were not changing in 2001 and they aren’t changing now. Consider the cranes in these pictures. Basically, barring a few microsopically invisible ones, there are no cranes.
I don’t know why this is, but it strikes me as an extremely remarkable circumstance.
It’s not that you aren’t allowed to build towers in New York any longer, unless you are replacing something like the Twin Towers. In the part of New York a bit further to the north, just to the south of Central Park, there is an explosion of skyscrapers under way. Skyscrapers that are very tall, but very thin.
Here is a picture of how these new New York Thin Things look like they will look:
People have long feared that skyscrapers would make all big cities the world over look alike. But the shape of individual skyscrapers varies from city to city, and does the shape of skyscraper clusters as a whole, and as does the variations in the heights of buildings. A city where the newest and tallest towers are a lot taller than the older buildings is one sort of city. A city where new towers are only slightly taller than old ones looks very different.
New York’s newest towers are, as I say, these tall Thin Things, a lot taller than their surroundings. In London, the typical new tower is a much fatter looking Thing, the extreme recent case being the Walkie Talkie which is big on the ground compared to its height, and which then bulges outwards as it goes upwards.
Interestingly, the Walkie Talkie is the work of Rafael Vinoly, as is this new Thin Thing in New York. (You can just see the top of this new Thin Thing in the second of the two Lower Manhattan photos above, bottom left, in the foreground. That’s the one big change in these photos aside from the Twin Towers having been replaced.) It’s like Vinoly wants to do his bit to make great cities look distinct and recognisable, rather than them all looking the same. Good for him.
Another French picture, but this time taken in Paris, by my friend Antoine Clarke (to whom thanks):
That would be La Defense, unless I am much mistaken, that being Paris’s new Big Thing district.
I cropped that photo slightly, to moderate that leaning-inwards effect you get when you point a camera upwards at tall buildings.
The email that brought the above snap to my desk, earlier this month, was entitled “warmer than when you were here last”. When I last visited Paris, it was indeed very, very cold, so cold that water features became ice features (see the first picture there).
Today, Antoine sent me another photo, also suffering somewhat from leaning-inwards syndrome, and also cropped by me, more than somewhat. See right.
Mostly what I think about Antoine’s most recent picture is: What an amazing crane! So very tall, and so very thin. It’s amazing it even stays up, let alone manages to accomplish anything. I don’t remember cranes like that existing a generation ago, but maybe that’s merely because no towers that high were being built in London. Not that Antoine’s crane is in London. It is somewhere in America, but where, I do not know.
I just did a bit of googling for books about cranes, and if my googling is anything to go by, books about construction cranes and their history are a lot thinner on the ground than are construction cranes. When you consider how many tons of books have been written about the buildings that construction cranes construct, it is surprising that so little is written about the mighty machines without which such construction would be impossible.
It reminds me of the analogous profusion of books on the history of science, and the comparative neglect of the history of scientific instruments.
As I think I have written before, one major defect of my blog-posting software is that I do not get an accurate picture of how the final blog posting will look, and in this case, whether there is enough verbiage on the left hand side of this tall thin picture of a tall thin crane, to prevent the picture of the tall thin crane impinging upon the posting below. Hence this somewhat verbose and superfluous paragraph, which may not even have been necessary, but I can’t now tell.
I am in the town of Thuir, near Perpignan, for a few days. Last night, in fading but still fabulous light, looking more amusing sights. I was not disappointed.
I’m guessing that the thinking here is that nicking a crane, or even getting inside a crane, is quite an operation, what with cranes being rigged so they’re unenterable if you are not the designated owner. But, nicking a cement mixer is just a matter of lifting it onto your vehicle. So, here is how you protect your cement mixer when you go home at night:
Cranes. Is there anything they can’t do?
Typing text is a struggle in Thuir, because in Thuir, they have slightly different keyboards to what I am used to. But photos, which in Thuir need different software to work, are also a struggle. So, blogging here for the next few days will probably (I promise nothing), as always here, be light and perfunctory, the difference being that here I have an excuse.
And I was deliberately retracing steps I used to do make a lot of around eight or ten years ago, to see what had changed and what had not. A lot had changed, in the form of a few big new buildings. The rest had not changed.
Did I say that that sunset I recently posted photos of was last Saturday? Yes. Actually it was the Friday. Get ill and you lose track of time. That evening I also took a lot of other photos, on and from the south bank of the river, between Blackfriars road bridge and Tower Bridge, and here are some of the ones I particularly liked:
That array of small photos (click on any you like to the look of to get it a decent size) really should not now be misbehaving, on any platform. If it is, please get in touch, by comment or by email.
As to the pictures themselves:
1.1 A Deliberately Bald Bloke standing at the bottom of 240 Blackfriars. (You can see the top of 240 Blackfriars in 3.1 here.) That Deliberately Bald look is, I think, fair game photo-blogging-wise. The guy is choosing to look this way. It’s a fashion statement, not an affliction. Blog-mocking the involuntarily bald is not right, but blog-celebrating those who embrace their baldness is fine. Especially if the guy obligingly turns his face away.
1.2 is one of my favourite weird London sites, namely the topless columns of the Blackfriars Bridge that isn’t, in between the two Blackfriars Bridges that are, the one on the right now sporting a new station on it. The twist is that this was high tide, and waves were rhythmically breaking against a corner in the river wall and filling the air between my camera and the bridges with bits of water.
1.3 is a building on the other side of the river. Just beyond the Blackfriars Station bridge. I do love what light and scaffolding and scaffolding covers sometimes do.
1.4 and 2.1 illustrate the universal photography rule to the effect that if you want to photo something very familiar, like St Paul’s Cathedral, you’d better include something else not so familiar, such as some propaganda for a current Tate Modern show that I will perhaps investigate soon, or maybe four big circles that you can see at the Tate Modern end of the Millennium Bridge.
2.2 is an ancient and modern snap, both elements of which I keep meaning to investigate. Those two buildings, the office block and the church, are like two people I frequently meet, but don’t know the names of. Luckily, with buildings, it’s not embarrassing to ask, far too late.
I know what that Big Thing behind the Millennium Bridge in 2.3 is, under wraps, being reconditioned, improved, made worse, whatever, we’ll have to see. That’s Centre Point. It even says most of that on it. I have always been fond of Centre Point, one of London’s early Big New Things.
2.4 features something I have tried and failed to photo several times previously, a Deliveroo Man. Deliveroo Men are usually in a great hurry and are gone before I can catch them, but this one was taking a breather. Deliveroo Men carry their plasticated corrugated boxes on their backs like rucksacks, which I presume saves valuable seconds.
3.1: Another ancient/modern snap. The very recognisable top of the Shard, and another piece of ancientness that I am familiar with but have yet to get around to identifying, see above. I reallyl should have photoed a sign about it. I bet there is one.
3.2: The golden top of the Monument, now dwarfed by the Gherkin and by the Walkie Talkie.
3.3: A golden hinde, which is to be found at the front of the Golden Hinde. I’ve seen that beast before, but never really noticed it.
3.4: Another ancient/modern snap, this time with Southwark Cathedral dominating the foreground. The combined effect yet again vindicates Renzo Piano’s belief that the Shard would blend into London rather than just crow all over it. Those broken fragments at the top echo the four spikes on the nearby Cathedral. It looks that way to me, anyway.
4.1: Another delivery snap, this time of the old school sort. A White Van. But with lots of propaganda all over it, notably the back door, in the new school style.
4.2: Yet another ancient modern contrast, this time the Monument, again, with a machine for window cleaning. Note that small tripoddy object on the top of the Monument. I suspect that this is to give advance warning if the Monument starts to wobble.
4.3: Two exercises in power projection, now both lapsed into tourist traps. Behind, the Tower of London. In front, HMS Belfast.
4.4: Finally! Modern/modern! The Walkie Talkie and the Cheesegrater, and probably my favourite snap of all these. Not a view you often see in other photos, but there it was. Should the bottom be cropped away, to simplify it even more. I prefer to leave photos as taken.
5.1 shows that thing when reflected light is the exact same colour when reflected as originally. Photography is light, so photography sees this. But eyes always try to create a 3D model of what is going on, rather than just a 2D picture. Eyes deliberately don’t see this.
5.2 and 5.4 take me back to my beautiful-women-taking-photos phase, which was big last decade. These two were too good to ignore. They were just so happy! But, mobile phones, which is very this decade. Just like my cameras, the cameras in these just get better and better.
5.3 is another view of that amazing cluster of footbridges.
Being sick as in feeling sick, and occasionally being sick as in being sick. As in expelling stuff I had previous eaten from my mouth.
Quota photo time:
There is so much light crashing across London from west to east that evening the eastern clouds were lit up pink, like they were a sunset or something. So I know what you are thinking. It must have been one hell of a sunset to do that. And you are not wrong:
If I wasn’t sick I probably wouldn’t indulge in such a lurid sunset, which I photoed last Saturday evening on Tower Bridge. But I am sick. I can do what I like.
Actually, it’s already getting better. But wish me well anyway.
There is, as I write, deep joy, a crane in operation, right outside my kitchen window. I can see it now, lifting steel girders onto the roof of a building that is being revamped, from an office into flats, across the yard from me.
Yesterday, I did something I haven’t done for a while, which is I attempted to get onto the roof of my block of flats. I succeeded. More deep joy. The door was unlocked.
Here is a picture I took of the crane, yesterday afternoon, just as it was folding itself up after its day’s work. The men in yellow had finished their work also, and the crane was about to descend back into the street whence it came:
I have not seen this process before, which is so central to how these things operate. It is not enough that they must be able to do their job, of lifting up things like girders and depositing them accurately into the midst of a building. At least some of them have to be able to hoist themselves up, and unhoist themselves down again afterwards. I mean, if you could only ever erect a crane with the help of another crane, where would it end?
A crane like the one in the last of these pictures that I showed here last Sunday, is another crane of the sort that can raise itself up off a lorry and immediately start work, and it is pretty clear just from looking at it approximately how it does this, even if its internal workings are slightly mysterious. But the manner in which the above crane operates isn’t quite so obvious. You need to see it to really appreciate it. And now I have.
I’m not exactly sure which it was of the cranes here that I saw in action, but that is definitely the website of the crane hire enterprise concerned.
Checked out: The Big Olympic Thing
How cranes might not keep falling
White vans in Kentish Town
148 to Burgess Park
Orange coloured London
Matt Ridley on Epicurus and Lucretius
Less heat and more light
Remembering the summer sun
Very local fog in London
Man on horseback – and cranes
BT Tower with cranes
Crane on fire
A day in BMdotcom heaven (4): A tale of two penultimate overs
Some quota reflected cranes and a quota white van
Rainbow over Millbank
Photoing down by the river
Cranes and a bridge (but not in a good way)
The light outside the Proud Archivist on the evening of July 22nd
Golden Cheesegrater with cranes
With GD2 in Richmond Park (1): Views of London
Photographers by the river
Smoke over west London
A very distant and yet very good view of the Big Things of London
Big Thing alignments from the top of Westminster Cathedral
The new Wembley Stadium under construction plus a white van
Ballerina and crane
The view from outside Waterloo Station
How Centre Point is looking just now
Viewing the clutter at Centre Point
A weird view of the Wheel - and cats in Tiger
The wrong kind of cranes
Christmas Day photos
In the City with Gus
I just like it
Sunshine - construction work - artificial rain
The ballerina and her support act
Ballerina with cranes again - this time with added spy cameras
Quota ballerina with cranes photo
A tumult of cranes (and the Spraycan)
My week in Brittany 2: A crane holding a bridge at Canning Town!
Big Things through a gasometer
Smaller Old Thing in front of Big New Things
A Sunday ramble
Big Things in the sunset
What to call the sneerquote Salesforce /sneerquote tower? (plus a quite profound tangent)
Compact Cats buried under London’s poshest homes
Pavlova with cranes
I see cats
Me and the first cranes at London Gateway last September
Other things last Wednesday
South Bank Architects?
The ROH from the ME Rooftop Bar
Eiffel Tower with chimney pots – La Défense ditto
The text of my talk for Christian Michel last night on the impact of digital photography
Digital photography as telepathy
Ice sculptures in Docklands – Big Things from Docklands
Battersea crane cluster
Quota crane and quota plane
Ballerina with crane
More photos of things past
The Kelpies of Falkirk
I need to photo this again
Sunrise from my roof
My own personal Big Thing viewing platform with close-up Roof Clutter
Cranes seen through Cardinal Place
Another picture from yesterday
Birds on a crane
Two favourite photos from September 5th
Baltimore: cranes - a bridge - scaffolding
London Gateway from above
Shard with roof clutter and a crane
There are cranes and there are cranes
Wandering about afterwards
Art without Artists
Giant cranes made in China for new London super-port in Thurrock
Four crane photos
Progress with the Vauxhall crane
New crane up
A new crane has already arrived
Close-up of the ruined Vauxhall crane
In Borough High Street
Cranes over Vincent Square (again)