Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Thursday January 16 2014

And now here are some photos done in much better light.  Even dusk, outdoors, is massively better lit than mere electricity.  They were taken last Saturday, when I journeyed to Docklands, to see if I could take photos of ice sculpture, and of people taking photos of ice sculpture.

Alas, I was not the only person with this idea.  I have the strong suspicion that the size of the crowd dwarfed the event (perhaps because of write-ups beforehand like this), but have no idea, really, what was happening out there.  All I got to photo at all interestingly was the gigantic queue to see the ice sculptures:

image image

On the right, my camera, at maximum zoom, does its best to photo a sculpture, and a sculptor.  I figured: I’ll look at it when I get home.

I headed off in the opposite direction, back across the Docklands peninsula towards the centre of London, and instead took photos like this:

image imageimage image

The top of the Cheesegrater, top left, was taken from outside Tower Hill Tube Station.  All the others from Docklands.

I am warming to the Cheesegrater, which is often the way with me and a new Big Thing.  At first, I disliked it, because it spoiled the view from my part of London of the Gherkin, which I consider to be a modern classic.  But now I am getting to like the Cheesegrater, along with all the other new Big Things, as yet another wonderfully chaotic and uncoordinated contribution to London’s ever more chaotic cityscape.

Says Rowan Moore in the Observer, disapprovingly:

Two of the more celebrated such objects, the Walkie-Talkie and the Cheesegrater, have now tumbled on to the skyline of the City of London, their exteriors nearly finished, with completion dates for both in the first half of next year. They combine high degrees of professionalism in their execution, with multiple consultants working hard at everything from sustainability to cycle storage to lift speeds to lighting, with an impression of randomness. They are better in many ways than the same kind of buildings would be in most parts of the world, and achieve, for example, impressive ratings for environmental performance, yet they attract these unfortunate nicknames.

I love these nicknames, which I believe are affectionate rather than angry.  I love their good-natured mockery.  More and more, I love the anarchic individualism of these Big Things, for exactly the reason that this guy disapproves.

Could it be better? Would it be possible to have variety and architectural invention, and the craftsmanship that the Leadenhall unquestionably has, as well as accessible sky gardens and hypostyles, and yet have a whole that is more than the sum of its parts? Could the expertise and sophistication of all the consultants who contribute to these towers be matched by the City’s planners?

Well, yes, it surely could.  But in practice the choice was probably between the aesthetic chaos we have, and imposed aesthetic tedium.  And I know which I prefer, if only because the aesthetic chaos we have gets up all the right noses, e.g. the nose of this guy moaning in the Observer.  Had those City Planners had enough clout to make everything “more than the sum of its parts”, they would probably have had enough clout to prevent each part, each Big Thing, being nearly as interesting, and they would have.  We can never know for sure about such things, but I reckon the results would have been far less , far less fun.  Far less London.

As it is, people like me love to photo these “celebrated objects” with their “unfortunate nicknames”, and I like to photo such people photoing.

Here are two further Big Thing snaps I took that day, of the Walkie-Talkie and of the Three Eyed Razor, or whatever excellent nickname the “Strata” ends up having bestowed upon it:

image image

And here, finally, are a couple more Big Things With Sunset snaps, this time with leafless vegetation (a constant source of photo-delight) in the foreground:

image image

All in all, an excellent little expedition.  And a good example of how my Official Destination (this time it was those ice sculptures) is really just an excuse to get me out and about.

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