Saturday, December 30, 2006

Skyscraper forum

I'm back. Not much to report really. I've been in Wales. They don't believe in tall buildings there as they might obscure the views of the mountains and rugby posts. And they confuse the sheep (who tend to instantly form a cult on sight of a tall building - it's why you never get 3-storey tractors (although there may be other factors at play too))

I've just tried to join a London skyscraper forum. On the right of the blog is a link to "some guy named Darren"'s photos. I emailed him to say hello as, naively, I thought we were the only 2 people in London showing any interest in the mushrooming skyline. But no, there are at least 2 fora -the skyscrapernews one and one Darren has pointed me to - skyscrapercity. A swift judgement shows skyscraper city to be superior. Just as soon as I get my confirmation email I'll start contributing/plagiarising.

Here's a photo on the forum taken by Jef (with a J) showing where Broadgtae Tower fits in amongst te other London skyscrapers (as seen from Parliament Hill - the location of the official London view ombudsman's offices). Surprisingly Broadgate stands isolated, midway between the city and dicklands. The John Hancock Tower in Boston, (which, I believe i've mentioned also looks similar to Broadgate tower) is similarly isolated. Must run in the architectural genes.

Monday, December 18, 2006


This may be my last post before Christmas as I have 2 Christmas dos and a play to go to these next few days...

... but good to end on a high note: I'm on page 1 of Google!!!

Simply search for this:
allinurl:londonskyline -flickr -html -absurdity -image -photo -dreamstime -0lll

Brrr and Bright Lights

As you may or may not know, i have very little social life. I mean, Christ - I fill my weekends with cycling around peering up at unfinished monoliths. But anyway, even hermits like me struggle to find the time to be anoraks at Christmas. It doesn't help that it's my birthday too.

But my birthday does help in that... hmmm -I think I received for possibly the first time in my life something as a present that I was imminently going to buy for myself anyway, but that I didn't ask for (much obliged to Matt). It's London in a bag, made by Muji. Who are Muji and how and why have they put London in a bag??? I don't care, but I like it. Unfortunately the set doesn't come with a toy nun included (This photo is the second best use of a toy nun I have ever seen. Here's the first best.) the guy who took the photo also has photos of the Willis building at night on his flickr. I'm going to call that a floop - a loop of connections where Flickr plays an integral part. Floop was a downright gorgeous bad guy turned good character in spy kids too. I think I may have spoiled the plot there, so may as well give away the best punchline: "They're building an army!". Oh, how I laughed.

By the way, if you're aware of googlewhacks you may like to know that Rabbits Shagging is a flickr whack (i.e. only one photo on Flickr tagged with rabbits and shagging, and it's a good one too. i just double-checked that and there are now 3 photos, one of which doesn't have shagging, and the other addition having neither rabbits nor shagging. I will contact them asking them to reconsider their tags. Mind you, I suppose every flickr- or googlewhack has a limited lifespan. Eventually someone will write an article on acupuncturist weevils. I should learn to let go)

Yes, Brrr and Bright Lights.

I mentioned the other week that the constructors of broadgate tower have been enormously thoughtful and decorated the cranes atop their half-finished building with christmas lights. This, i imagine, was no mean feat. Maybe they got a monkey to do it. I went out tonight especially to capture them as, who knows, they might be taken down after christmas. It was a bit misty, so the lights were nowhere near as eyecatching as they have been, and one of cables must've broken as one crane is now in darkness (maybe builders working on 1/6th of the building will be electrocuted on arrival at work tomorrow). But I think the following shot is still lovely; just think of the romantic sentimentality which has somehow emerged from a cess-pit of arse cracks and investment. Aaaaaaah
Broadgate Tower at night

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

New Street Square

new street square - artists impressionI'm typing this on my brand new laptop without a cracked screen. Only downside so far is that the shift key on the right is alittle small, but other than that it makes a good blogging instrument.

But enough about me... what about the buildings???

At the weekend I went to visit New Street square, where the evocatively named Building A is to be 76m tall, and as very little else taller is being built at the moment I thought I ought to visit. As mentioned befor I also thought maybe I'd spotted it from a distance, but on visiting the site I think I'm probably wrong as the spread of cranes didn't look extensive enough, and it looked far more complete than the photo from the other week. So that mystery remains.

I've concluded that the architects, construction firm, or whoever, are well-meaning, but feckless. Evidence for this includes:

Across the road from New Street Square is the Rolls building.

Phew - it has all just become clear to me. I spent a while on Sunday photographing a decrepit building and the zealous signs surrounding it, wondering at the mismatch, and thinking "you can make that sign as big as you like, but still no one will rent the place." Turns out it's going to be extensively redeveloped. Should have worked it out really. Although I can't believe construction will proceed exactly as depicted in this video - surely walls come before a roof?ropes/gloves

On the edge of the roof a couple of ropes are coiled around a railing, looking somewhat like oversized gloves. I imagined the building being consigned to ruin as a deathtrap after a worker fell to his death from the over-sized gloves.

It's been a long blog, so just 2 things to finish. First, I pased a cool looking pub called the seven stars, which I'll try to visit again someday. Secondly, a photo to finish; I think it looks like a lava flow.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Best photos of willis building from flickr

Originally uploaded by Barbara Rich.
Before I start posting links here I'm going to own up to being a bit of a berk. The reason I got the impression nobody was documenting the changes to London's skyline was because, in my ignorant folly, I searched for bishopsgate tower and shard of glass, thinking they'd already commenced building them. I'd never even heard of broadgate or willis, so I didn't realise that there were literally hundreds (309 for Willis Building) of photos out there already.

Still... it gives me something to do at the weekend. And I've also found out there's a Willis Building in Ipswich.

Good photos

Interesting views

The machine killed fascists

Damn - slip of the tongue again. My bike did in fact take me on a ride along the canals of Hackney and Tower Hamlets to a) refresh my weary head; and b) take a photo of Broadgate Tower from a spot I came across while getting my hair cut the other weekend.

There was a bit of a sketch for a while. One of the bridges on the towpath is blocked off for repairs or painting, so I had to get lost. Found my way again though.

disintegrating buildingsOnce back on track I took this photo. It's not part of the area being redeveloped for the olympics, although it is probably within eye-shot. I expect they'll put up a big embankment to block the view of decrepitude.

Under the flyoverA bit further on was a tunnel under the blackwall tunnel approach road. Beautifully lit. There's a few interestingly lit underpasses near waterloo.

While looking for those photos I came across a stunning nightime london photo.

Broadgate tower cranes from canal Now, finally, I come to the reason I went on this cycle ride... or, at least, why I went the direction I did: It's the photo on the right. Bit underwhelming it has to be said. I like tall photos with lots of sky, but on this occasion the colours weren't particularly resplendent. I like that you can see the construction site and - one would hope and expect! - the tower from places I pass by regularly. Where I used live in Bow there was a peculiar effect in that if you were on one side of the road you could see Tower 42 but not the Gherkin, but if you crossed the road it was the other way around.

A map I've started to make

It will eventually be a veritable cornucopia of tall building shooting up all over London.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Broadgate Tower, early December

broadgate towerbroadgate tower Dec 2006

Another before/after to remark upon. The most striking thing is how much 201 Bishopsgate - the building in the foreground - has grown in the past month or so. It's about 4 floors, and nearer to finishing 2 unfinished floors than the 3 unfinished floors were last time. Does that make sense?

But the difference to the Broadgate tower is far less striking. Recall that last time it was 15 storeys high. Now it is 18-19 floors, but from Bishopsgate Street it's 201 Bishopsgate that dominates at present. It has a nice organic curve to it, like the Bullring. It's incredible how unnoticable the tower is given that it's about twice as tall!

I wish I'd made more of an effort to choose easily identifiable places to stand to take my "progress" photos. Look at these:
broadgate towerBroadgate Tower

They're just not good enough. The slight difference in position distorts. The second one looks far more complete, but it's mostly due to the camera angle. It does look a lot neater though. Unlike the belly of the beast. Having siad that, they are starting to do some old fashioned brick and mortar building work at the Bishopsgate street end, so there is at least some effort to keep the whole thing shipshape. It may be a losing attle though, as the people up at the top use this chute to displace their mess onto muggins below. No sign of how the metal tubes are being used though.

There is apparently little evidence to support that there were huge ramps leading up to the Pyramids of Giza, up which slaves/craftsmen would putatively pull the stones from which to build the pyramid (incidentally, did you hear about the Bosnian pyramids?). These days, however, much time and effort, it seems, is devoted to putting in place the temporary paraphernalia of construction. The construction company's temporary offices are a five storey building, which would dwarf most buildings where I come from. Another feature is the cladding in evidence here:
Broadgate cladding
To digress ever so slightly, it always amazes me how rusty the girders are allowed to get. I have a feeling the rust colour may be fire-proof paint (think I remember seeing something similar in a 9/11 documentary), but in this photo they have begun to clad it in a whitish steely material. There's a gang plank too, just in case of a building mutiny.

No - the thing I was looking at was the white cladding to the right. A close up shows it has lots of tiny arrows printed on it. All those nice looking arrows printed, and it's only a temporary fixture. Would plain white not have done the job just as well? If it's an incidence of branding, they could've chosen a less generic symbol.

You can see Broadgate Tower from down the road from me, y'know

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Cranes: Frigging everywhere!!!

Crane panaroma
You can't see them very clearly on the photo, but from London Bridge I counted 25. There are, I can assure you, many many more that aren't observable from the bridge. When I first started working in Millbank Tower I surveyed London from one of the meeting rooms and stood there trying to count the cranes with Dianne. I'm sure we got to 40 before giving up, and the number must be greater now.

Cranes are the smoke to the tall building construction site's fire. Above the right-most pier of Blackfriars Brisge, to the right of the Saint Basil's-ish looking minarets, is a fuzzy patch on the skyline. It's actually a bunch of cranes, and I had no idea why they were there. I've so far concluded it's probably New Street Square. I had heard of the project, but as the tallest of the buildings is less than 100m I decided to ignore it. However, I may have to reconsider. This is partly motivated by my never being entirely happy with the arbitrary nature of the 100m cut off, but also because there are only 2 100m+ buildings under construction in the City of London; New Street Square is the third tallest, and so has intrinsic interest, at least until my time gets drawn by the commencement of e.g. the shard of glass.

But these cranes pop up in the most surprising of places.

Cheapside is full of buildings. You could replace a section of the Great Wall of China with Cheapside and it would be no less impenetrable. But even here they are building things... at least, they are if my crane/smoke analogy holds true. Possibly what they're doing is putting buildings on top of each other. It's not as silly as it sounds. Look at this:

At Fourteen Cornhill it seems to be exactly what they're doing. The architects who stuck to low rise buildings back in the bad old days of architecture conservatism clearly had a plan B for skyline domination up their sleeves.

So, we've had cranes on a fully occupied street... on top of a building. Where else might they be skulking? How about inside a building?

Ok - so it is cheating a bit as the building (201 Bishopsgate) isn't anywhere near finished, but I still think it demonstrates a respectable amount of ingenuity. The building site is pretty small, and the surrounding roads busy, so going for the traditional method of planting cranes around the edge of the site wasn't practical. So the system they've adopted is to build the structure around at least one of the cranes, and dismantle it later. Maybe it's fairly widespread practice (come to think of it, they must have done the same for the Willis Building), but I'm glad I've noticed it.

As is my want, here is a photo which rises momentarily above the drudgery of architectural survey to finish the post.

I must adjust the width of these posts. In time for the photo of Christmas cranes to follow in a few days.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Latest Willis Building news, from me and a competitor

Willis building
Originally uploaded by Rhysickle.

Willis Building
Originally uploaded by Rhysickle.

How different they look!

It has to be said that the major factor is the more recent one on the right is a correctly exposed photo. But you'll also notice that the street facing facade of the lowest step (or segment of prawn - extraordinary inspiration!) of the building is virtually complete, save for a thin vertical sliver which, judging by the ladder running parallel to it, must be some sort of emergency escape. Or maybe an incidence of sloppy work by the glaziers. There's no longer a crane mounted atop this lowest level, as there was in late October.

The corrugated glass on the side of the building is also very much in evidence. It was there to a lesser degree last time, but now looks quite striking; vertical dunes. The floors/ceilings (is there a term for a floor/ceiling?) lying in wait for the glass look somewhat like the wheels of a world war II Lorenz enciphering machine. Click the picture for a close up: Obviously, it's just standard practice to build walls in the shape of the windows to go on them, but for some reason I can't help feeling that the builders of the Willis Building have demonstrated admirable foresight. Well done! These corrugations are also, in my humble self-agrandizing opinion, the first significant thing I've documented. In a few months they will be hidden from view forever, and here is possibly the only photo and description of this interesting feature that will ever be published.

And they couldn't have come along at a more opportune moment. I mentioned earlier in the blog
that, good website thought it is, skyscraper news doesn't seek to follow the day-to-day construction of London's new architectural projects.

Turns out I was wrong.

Look at this. Is that shady guy I saw hanging around Broadgate tower in October taking photos my nemesis, James Newham? One things for sure, the early photos of the willis building (which show that it was constructed from the core outwards:
) are a valuable addition to the tracking of its construction. Damn them. Damn them to hell!

Still, I do have one recourse. The site's mission statement of sorts reads:
The basic aim of skyscrapernews is to inform and educate people about British architecture at both a serious and slightly more irreverent level.
I think they're failing on the "more irreverent level" side of the bargain. What they gain in access to the construction industry and resources I make up for in pluck, creativity and wit... of sorts. I mean, where are their videos of reflections in the Willis building complete with photos of the source object? Hmmm?!!

But it's not a competition.

I'm sure we can all be friends.

They have a forum for skyscraper enthusiasts. I'll look into it some more.

One last thing: When taking the photo below two guys walked past. One exclaimed "Ooh - look at that," got out his phone and took a photo too. That's the only reason I do this; for the children.

Monday, December 04, 2006

London skyscraper team

Hello skyscraper club members,

I say club members as there is now a vague coalition of people gathering to assist with this quest to end ignorance about skyscrapers in the city. I mean vague in the vague sense of the word.

I saw Tom and Kate on Saturday. Amongst other things they had been to the Tate to play on the slides, and before coming to Soho for a drink with me and beard had been to a pub by the Tate where the menus have panoramic drawings of the present London skyline (with future additions in faded outline only) on them. Tom and Kate had - rather selfishly I thought - used their menu to test, first of all, Kate's knowledge of American states and Tom's knowledge of English counties; both were fairly complete, but Tom wanted to keep the menu as testament to this, so wouldn't let me have it. However this tip off does mean I know where to go to get a pretty good illustration.

Tom also told me about the Guildhall architectural archive... or something. Today (day off work) I've found out that in order to gain access to it I must first join the Hackney library, then the Barbican Library, and then and only then can enter the guildhall's vaults. According to Tom it has information dating back to the year dot on what has been - and will be - built in the City.

Yesterday I met Karen for the first time in ages to go to the pub. Conversation wondered onto what we've been spending our free time doing, and the subject of this blog came up. As a birthday present, and an investment in this culturally significant archive of London's development, Karen is taking me for a drink in bar vertigo at the top of Tower 42. So thanks to that girl.

We also agreed to meet and go to the For Peel exhibition at No More Grey gallery today, which we did. I went on Saturday as I hadn't seen Emily for a while, and her friend and all round (round headed) nice guy Harry Pye is curating it; it's an exhibition of paintings dedicated to John Peel and the bands he loved, and is worth seeing. Nice to see and exhibition which is varied and so celebratory. Arrived a bit late tonight though, so it was closed. This did however mean we discovered a nice coffee bar on Brick Lane, and saw the cranes working on Broadgate Tower draped in Christmas lights. How thoughtful... and reckless!!!

After reading the above you probably think I wear a tailored jacket over a t-shirt, but I can assure you I don't.

Those are my co-hunters so far. I was distressed today to find that the niche my blog is supposed to be filling may not actually exist. But more on that tomorrow.

In London cranes outnumber people 3:1

It's true!

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