Thursday, March 29, 2007

Elsewhere in the tall-buildings-averse

I redesigned the blog a few months ago, partly to give it a london skyline theme, and partly to make it wide enough for standard size 500px Flickr photos (it does annoy me that you can't select a different default size to suit your blog, or wherever else you post them). I may have to widen the content area again though, and ignore the plight of people using small screens, as below is a video which comes in at a whopping 700px wide!

It's the latest Channel 4 ident, featuring an adulterated view of the rapidly growing Dubai skyline. If you're into idents then, idents being your thing, you would probably like to visit the blog/podcast I got it from: Why you would be into idents, beyond just going "hmm - that's clever" when they come up on your TV screen, is a mystery to me, but the blog claims to have 218 subscribers so there's evidently quite a large niche.

Apart from more buildings than there actually are being made up in Dubai in order for a '4' to spontaneously form, other interesting bits and bobs in the skyscraper world are (just one bit and one bob as it turns out) the imminent construction of a 146m tall tower in Birmingham called the V Building (pictured) and a new tower planned in China.

Birmingham is much-maligned for its architecture, but... actually - I don't really have anything to say about the new tower, other than that it looks pretty good. And that the architect says:

'However, if The V Building was in Chicago or New York, it would be just another tower to be appreciated up close, crowded by the many other skyscrapers when viewed as part of the skyline.'
I bet he'd love it if his tower was going up in New York or Chicago instead.

The left over 'bob' is a tower I just recently read about on skyscrapernews being built in Tianjin in China, which is a pretty special design. Distinctive, futuristic and elegant. I'm not sure if it'd fit in on the london skyline - whilst very modern buildings among classic style ones can be very striking, not every modern building will look good in such a setting. But anyway, it looks like the Chinese might be coming on a bit since the folly of the Shanghai bubble-boy masts. Here's a picture (click for article).

And one final trivial thing is an online jigsaw of St Pauls, Tower 42 and Waterloo Bridge.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Rocked and rolled

I wrote a few days ago how the Lewis Media Centre at Millbank Tower were to play host to this year's battle of the bands. I included in the post this picture , ironically mocking the Centre's severely un-rocking image (unless you count a 3m tall portrait of Jeremy Paxman as rocking... which I suppose some people might. If I'm honest I'm one of those people. I call him Jeremy "The Axeman" Paxman. That's probably also what his wife calls him in bed, and I'm not sure I want to follow this train of thought any further... or do I?...)

Turns out I underestimated the event. Not only was godfather of filth Gareth Gates present, but he also made the aforementioned hand gesture.

"Some people [me?] doubted the event would succeed – from the complexities of the itinerary to ensuring all those rockers (and journalists) could be in one room at the same time without all hell breaking loose."
The battle was a journalists only contest, which brings to mind Father Ted's all priests look-alike competition (youtube video). If I was in a band of journalists we would be called 'on the record'. One of the entries went by the moniker 'the spin band', so I'm glad to see somebody followed the journalistic theme. They didn't win though. There was tough competition... from Soulscream, no less.

Foreigners and Fenchurch street

I walked part the way home along the South Bank this evening being that it was such a nice day out.

Came across one of those human statues who had put his normal clothes back on, but still had the tell-tale silver face.

He spoke French. This surprised me. I suppose, now I think about it, it's a natural job for somebody who's moved to this country and maybe doesn't have great English. Beats digging up potatoes in Norfolk I suppose.

Apart from the fact that these human statues also seem to be popping up all over London there's not much to link that with skyscrapers, so I'll just jump...

... like this, and pretend I've been talking about buildings all along.

So, as I was saying, here are the two most pertinent points from English Heritage's case in the Walkie Talkie inquiry.

"This would become London’s ugliest and most oppressive building. Londoners have not even been asked whether they want this building in their city. "

"...larger, more monolithic and more prominent than St Paul’s Cathedral"
Not much to say about them, other than that they're spot on. Forget the foolish diagrams and appeals to world heritage status - this is the real crux of the argument.

For comedy value, here's a few choice bloopers from English Heritage's arguments (distilled from skyscrapernews' very useful news page).

[On English Heritage's proposed planning restrictions diagram] Conveniently for English Heritage this takes 20 Fenchurch Street out if it were to be adopted by the planning authorities. ... won't just take in 20 Fenchurch Street but also tall buildings on the South Bank ... counting up the gross development value ... opposing over £5 billion pounds worth of new development in London and thousands of new and much needed homes.

... the electricity requirement of keeping it cool which would be ... 57,534 [kWh] per day ... Whilst this might sound like a lot, it compares favourably to other commercial premises ... What makes the attack particularly unusual is that English Heritage have latched on to this figure, scarily huge but totally meaningless without a comparison presented.

.. attack by English Heritage lawyer ... on the lack of affordable housing within the scheme. Given it's an office building centred in the most singularly office district of London ... it's hardly surprising this aspect was neglected by the developer
Well, they made me laugh. Not out loud though.

The planned tower is in the unique position of being called in by the Secretary of State, Ruth Kelly, for a public inquiry despite no-one having referred it. Adding to this unusual situation, is the decision by Kelly herself to fast-track the inquiry, a move that some fear has been taken so she can decide the fate of the building herself before she loses her job in the expected cabinet reshuffle this coming July.

Kelly is no fan of tall buildings or joined up thinking having previously overridden the findings of a public inquiry on Brunswick Quay as well as having campaigned in her capacity as a local MP against policies she has introduced as a minister.
Which makes me more hopeful than I was that the tower wil be rejected.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Let's put the Broadgate Tower on the map

I'm going to try a bit of observational comedy now:

Have you ever noticed how, y'know, when they have those pictures - artist's impressions, y'know - of the difference between today's London skyline and tomorrow's, they always leave out the Boadgate Tower. (pauses for audience to chuckle in recognition). And Turkish delight - what's that all about??
Poor comedy aside (I say poor, but stuff of that caliber was good enough to get The Cowards their own Radio 4 show. I'm not going to link to a page about them as it will only increase their ill deserved fame.), it's true:

I know the Broadgate Tower is set back somewhat from the river, but you can already see it (I was only there outside the Tate last week) and it's only 2/3 its final height.

It's not as easy as fixing the New London Architecture Willis Building omission debacle as these images are generated willy-nilly by artists the length and breadth of England. But where there's a will there's a way (that's not to say I have a will).

Now, back to the comedy:
I saw this guy the other day... just walking!

If still in doubt, draw another diagram

Yesterday's foray into diagrams and their use in guiding London planning policy (Re Walkie Talkie in particular) has inspired some further research into the area.

If you've been following Adam Curtis' so-so new documentary series castigating the UK and American governments for turning everything into targets and management speak, you may not be surprised to hear that there are such entities as "Strategic Viewing Corridors" and the "London View Management Framework." With diagrams to accompany them.

London strategic lines of sightThese are the strategic viewing corridors. All roads lead to Rome, but all strategic viewing corridors lead to St Paul's cathedral (well, nearly all. A handful lead to westminster and Buckingham Palace). There are 26 in all listed in the framework document. I also found a consultation document. Interesting snippets in it include:

New views in river prospects and townscape views were welcomed by heritage bodies in particular. The creation of new views does however create extra work for some of the central London boroughs.
You'll be glad to know that the London Boroughs don't have to build the new views from scratch; they just have to regulate existing ones.
Geometric definition for some views was opposed by some developers who prefer a system of qualitative visual assessment.
I bet they do.

To give an example (detailed in full in this document, which is but one from a selection looking at all the viewing corridors in equal detail), the strategic viewing corridor from Alexandra palace impacts on planning in 4 London Boroughs - including 1 which lies on the other side of the river (As it forms the backdrop). The document contains this unlikely sentence:
The view of St Paul’s Cathedral from the car park will be managed through geometric definition.
Ally pally view of london

The picture above illustrates exactly what is to be preserved. If you ask me, they should have left out the real photo as it looks naff. Pink and yellow planes streaking out across London however - I'm convinced! They also have a table with lots of angles noted down in it - very proper.

Anyway, I plan to visit every single one of the viewpoints to compare the managed views and maybe pick a winner.

St Pauls line of sight protectionOn to the second map. In the blue area you're not allowed to build anything more than 57 metres tall as it will interfere with the view of St Paul's (a similar area is in place for the monument). You could get by these planning regulations by building a 57m tall wall in the middle of the Thames, but I doubt that will happen. Although, who knows - maybe I've just planted a seed in the mind of some Montgomery Burns tycoon developer. Hope not.

What started yesterday as a quick round up of the Walkie Talkie trial has become a farce. I now have 30 tabs open in firefox with no end in site.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

If in doubt, draw a diagram

Last post for the day now - I'm meeting Tom in a bit to watch the footie.

In mathematics it's generally considered to be useful practice to draw a diagram to guide you towards a formal proof (Matt is doing some research on whether this is all the diagram can be based on this book - quite interesting, or so I'm told).

I don't know if English Heritage is dominated by frustrated mathematicians, but they have also come up with an instructive diagrammatical representation of the London Skyline, which they hope will lend weight to their argument that building the Walkie Talkie tower at 20 Fenchurch Street just isn't on.

Look at these two photos:

View from Waterloo Bridge

View From Waterloo Bridge With Consented buildings and 20 Fenchurch St
First picture good, second picture bad. Convinced?

Not likely.

But now look at this:

English heritage believes that structures between the cluster of tall buildings proposed for the Aldgate area and the furthest visible point of the river should remain below a visual arc drawn between the two.

A masterstroke! See how the waterflow in the river interacts with the treeline and the top of the river wall to create harmony. It's enough to make you think about actually drawing in the arrows permanently on the river, and tying a cable from the top of Bishopsgate tower to the river, which would also, through incorporation of a deathslide, make leaving work quicker and easier for those working near the top of the tower.

But, much as I like diagrams as a way of cutting out the clutter and lending some precision to the argument... the Walkie Talkie actually fits in well in this shot. It only looks out of place when you see a natural colours photo. It's not ugly because it fails to fit a geometrical form that aesthetically pleasing cityscapes must satisfy (consider Toronto's jerky profile). The Walkie Talkie is just plain ugly and ill-fitting for a whole host of reasons.

And also, isn't jsut wonderful how, coincidentally, the Bishopsgate Tower lies exactly on the ark which sorts the good towers from the bad. Surely English Heritage can see that, with such an arbitrary starting point, it's possible to make the reverses argument starting with the Walkie Talkie being in the arc, and therefore giving free reign to build really tall buildings where the Bishopsgate Tower is. Was that well explained?

And, in case you're wondering - 3-0 to England's my prediction.

Architects know best

I was going to start this post with a jokey 'photo of the Elephant and CAstle shoping centre accompanied by a "See!"', but this is far funnier:

'It's always been a fun item, and references to the area name (taken from an olde pub) just adds to its cuteness. It even spent some years painted in a sickly pink, a huge homage to the in-joke.'

I think Charles is serious, judging by the rest of his website. Will have to return and read more some day as it looks to be thoroughly well put together. It has a piece on how Euston used to look before it looked, well, hideous.

Anyway, back to the theme - architects know best. I'm just going to compile a selection of opinions voiced by architects and architectural bodies regarding the Walkie Talkie. Then we can have some sort of head count by way of a face-off.
  • The property giant won support to go ahead with plans for the 39-storey tower from a range of modernist architects, reported to include Lord Norman Foster & Lord Richard Rogers.
  • Frank Gehry [responsible for the amazing looking building to the right] added his endorsement, telling the inquiry in a written letter that the building would represent a “great addition to the London skyline,” The Financial Times reported.
  • Former Riba president George Ferguson has criticised Rafael Vinoly’s designs for the ‘Walkie Talkie’ tower at 20 Fenchurch Street. Ferguson said “You can justify these buildings in London if they are exceptionally good, but this is a child’s concept,”
  • CABE, the government’s design watchdog, which said the tower could offer an “extraordinary public space” and “unrivalled views.”
So that's about 5-1 to the pro Walkie Talkie people... but I think man of the match must go to George Ferguson - scathing!

I do agree with him though. When I was little, me and my brother used to draw futuristic moon space stations which, come to think of it, looked just like today's Shanghai skyline. The Walkie Talkie would have fitted in perfectly, and that is not a good thing: We also drew huge man-eating monsters. Build the walkie talkie and we are but a childish step away from Godzilla style mayhem.

I've just remembered a dream I had last night. I was looking at a fort which I was sure was the Kremlin. In the middle of the fort was a big Germanic looking house stood atop a slender tower. It looked pretty cool, unlike some other top heavy buildings.

UNESCO don't like the Walkie Talkie Tower

They have intervened by proxy - the International Council on Monuments and Sites - and in their own right into the 20 Fenchurch Street inquiry. They are also deciding 'whether to put Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London and Liverpool’s docklands onto its World Heritage Danger List this summer.'

There are only 31 sites in the entire world on this list, only one of which is an architectural site in the western world. If we could get 4 then this would be quite a coup. I for one am willing to permanently ruin the view around the Tower of London in order to get one over on the Germans in the 'number of areas which are too precious (to the world) to ruin' stakes.

Seriously though, Westminster Abbey is hardly a cathedral of global note. Westminster Palace, though striking, is only a pastiche of gothic architecture. The Tower of London is far from being a unique architectural piece (plenty of other well preserved castles around) and it's heritage is surely mainly of value to Britain, not the world. Liverpool docks on the other hand are a place of great significance for global history, but the buildings and the docks are not the important thing - it's tracing the fates of all those people who left there for America and other places that matters.

Why are these places even being considered for the list? The criteria for putting a site on the danger list talk about there needing to be a risk of destruction, but the only thing in danger of destruction in London is the view, something which is not considered in the criteria for putting something on the world heritage list (or at least, not those criteria which the London buildings were put on the list for). And, lest we all forget, St Paul's - the building always at the centre of the hoo-ha - isn't even a world heritage site. There really isn't much coherence to the heritage argument against constructing tall buildings.

The trouble is that UNESCO has this worthy aim of preserving heritage, but in truth, in this age of tourism and photography, most of the rest of us only really care about the view. Some of the UNESCO's criteria for world heritage relate to outstanding architecture and 'superlative natural phenomena', but such is the clamour for protecting nice (though not globally significant) sights that they, I suppose, feel compelled to make the case for preserving the view for all heritage sites which people like looking at, even if it's not in their remit for a particular case.

To sum up - the view is worth preserving, but it's not UNESCO's place to say so.

What the hell is world heritage anyway? I do find the concept a strange one. UNESCO's criteria I imagine identify some pretty worthy things to protect (North Wales' castles, for instance), but are the North Wales castles of world heritage importance? Would world history be impoverished if they were gone? Would it be impoverished if any of the things on the list were gone? If all of them were gone? It's difficult to know what we can expect the world population to make of any of these sites other than their being beautiful and fascinating. I doubt those words are what the people at UNESCO would like heritage to be reduced to, but it's good enough for me.

Walkie Talkie inquiry round-up

First of all, below are included a lot of links as I doubt I'll get around to referencing them all. If you're interested in the progress of 20 Fenchurch Street then they're all worth a look. Over the course of a few posts I'll write about a few of the points brought up in the articles ( I have actually already written about 2, but now realise they're getting a bit long.)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Betrayal... by tortoises

Tortoises worshipping the GherkinDisturbing news today.

I had the day off work, but left the house not too much later than on a normal work day to go and buy a screwdriver and hammer to put up shelves (it's not the first screwdriver I've ever owned, but it is the first hammer).

I got back to find the scene in the picture: The brightly coloured tortoises with bobbing heads I bought at the peace festival in Leamington all those years ago have started worshipping the gherkin from my London in a Bag in some sort of phallic god cultish ritual.

How long this has been going on for I don't know. I was lucky to catch them out this time; they probably thought I'd gone for the day. All I can say for sure is that I feel cheap, dirty and betrayed.

In other disturbing news, the bus stop on Bishopsgate outside Liverpool Street station has disappeared.

Rock and Roll

Rock and RollIt's that time of year again - the annual battle of the bands shebang. And where are the biggest, baddest meanest sons of bitches with geetars made out of the bones of small children gathering this year to shake their devilish - yet tuneful - fists at the good book?

In the Lewis Media Centre, that's where.

It's at the base of Millbank Tower, and is where we have our quarterly (nee monthly) staff meetings (I do hope they'll have gor rid of the stench of sweat and cider vomit by the time we have our next one). It's an unlikely venue, what with the walls being festooned with large black and white posterised prints of Robin Day, Jeremy Paxman, Andrew Marr and other such BBC political journalistic illuminaries. But they've decked it out with a red carpet and - this is the best bit - .. those two lights either side of the doors are actually flaming torches.

Rock on!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Rendering the artist's impression obsolete

I came across this just now, in a BBC article dating from when the Gherkin was given planning permission. It looks a bit odd doesn't it - the black bits look like they've been coloured in hurriedly with permanent marker. It's the courtroom artist sketch of the skyscraper depictions world (I briefly thought then that there was a word for 'courtroom artist', but no - that's stenographer, the courtroom secretary.)

I can't say I've seen anything of quality as poor as this in relation to the new batch of skyscrapers. They possibly exist somewhere, just not in the public domain. It's all about 'renders' these days, such as that to the right, which also dates from the same time. Back in those pioneering days they were known more descriptively as 'virtual' images (the BBC's ' ', not mine). Lots of clouds in the image - you won't get that these days. I'm pretty confident of that statement and will now pick a random 5 current renders to see if my point is borne out.

See - completely random, and not a cloud in site.

Shard of GlassTurns out I was wrong, although Leadenhall Tower has chosen to have blue skies in all their renders, which I think is indicative (I love the rhythm of that word... particularly if you put on a South African accent) of a lack of confidence in the quality of the architecture. On the other hand, Peano (who I believe is responsible for the Shard of Glass) is so confident of his building's ability to carry itself that in the promotional picture it's shrouded in smog.

Back to the Gherkin for a moment, English Heritage were, as I mentioned earlier, opposed to its construction, somewhat undermining their moral authority when it comes to being the nation's guardian against eyesores. Turns out I was wrong about that too.

English Heritage's recommended that: "the old Baltic Exchange could not be properly preserved and that it could, in the unique circumstances of this case, be replaced by a new high quality building".
But there was a lot of controversy then too, as many thought that the historic Baltic Exchange Building, badly damaged by the 1992 IRA bomb, could be reconstructed fully, and shouldn't be flattened to make was for the Swiss Re Tower. (Talking of flattening, they've made Flatland: the Movie with Martin Sheen voicing Square (on the official website the menu items issue a satisfying ping as you hover over them)).

From wikipedia

English Heritage ... insisted that any redevelopment must restore the building's old facade onto St Mary Axe ... later discovered that the damage was far more severe than they had previously thought, so they stopped insisting on a full restoration — over the objections of the architectural conservationists who favoured reconstruction.

Anyway, here's this:
When it forced a public inquiry into the Heron Tower at Bishopsgate in 2002, its objections were effectively dismissed by the planning inspector who pointed out that, given its support for the Gherkin, opposition to Heron was "inconsistent". It then lost the inquiry over the "Shard of Glass" at London Bridge in late 2003, when the inspector cited the quality of the Renzo Piano design as the overriding consideration. As EH had used this very argument in support of its shameful decision to allowing the loss of the Baltic Exchange in favour of the Gherkin, it could not win.
... which is written by an Evening Standard journalist, so has no authority, but is a pretty good point.

I really hope people have bothered to read this far down as what follows is far and away the best twist in the tale.
The Baltic Exchange now sits in pieces in a great many wooden crates in a barn near Canterbury ... Perfect for phenomenally wealthy jigsaw enthusiasts

To arrange a viewing of the bits [Hahaha] please contact

Pavilions of Splendour
22 Mount View Road Winchester Hampshire
N4 4HX
020 8348 1234

A very boring blog

I'm at work so will have to be brief.

A little while ago I referred to a boring blog I found once. Anyway, I've just rediscovered it.

Early this morning I went down to Dawlish Warren for a look & saw the following birds in a sea watch , numerous KITTIWAKE & about 100+ GANNET feeding offshore with around 40+ SHAG .
Also seen were 30+ MANX SHEARWATER , 8 SANDWICH TERN , a single LITTLE TERN & a dark phase ARCTIC SKUA .
On the walk back to the car I also saw 5 BLACKCAP , 4 WHITETHROAT & a GARDEN WARBLER .
Later in the afternoon news broke of a GULL BILLED TERN up in North Devon at the Braunton Burrows & I got a lift up with fellow birder Mark Bailey & we got superb views of the bird on the ground & in flight to finish off a good days birding .
Now, as a childhood birdwatcher the subject matter does have intrinsic value for me - I don't call it boring as it's about birds.

But Jeeaisus Christ! - will he not add some zest in his delivery of the facts???

As if to confirm that he wants it to be a boring blog it's owner has called it "Dave's Diary". The diary of a Dave. Priceless.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Broadgate tower nickname competition results

We have a winner to the Broadgate Tower nickname competition. By de fault (the two finest words...).

It will from now on be known as the Rubik's magic:

I've tried very hard to find a vertical picture of the magic, but no luck. I have actually just searched Google and Google images for about 5 minutes, but in this day and age, with information on more than a twinkle of an eye away I think that counts as very hard.

Many thanks to Kate, my sister, for the initial observation, and to Walter for clarifying the name of the particular Rubik thing it looked like. Unfortunately there wasn't much, or indeed any, heated debate about the relative merits of various names. In hindsight I should have drawn up a shortlist. One candidate I've thought of since is "the razor", but it's too late for that now.

GherkinTrouble is though that the "Magic" Tower is one of the less magical of the new designs. If the name does catch on visitors to the city, unfamiliar with the historical origins of the name, will undoubtedly make erroneous use of it, like Fergie does with London Bridge in her video. It'll probably end up migrating over to be being a supplementary nickname for the Gherkin or Bishopsgate Tower, given that they look rather more magical. Ah well.

In the same post on Londonist that linked to the competition there was a link to a blog by someone who goes by the name of Diamond Geezer. He took the number 42 bus from opposite the tower to see if it could give him the answers to life, the universe and all that. He begins:

This lowly sideroad marks the precise boundary between the wealthy City of London and the rather needier borough of Hackney. On the rich side is one of London's biggest building sites, upon which the 35 storey Broadgate Tower is being constructed.

City Limit sign goneI think I pointed out once before that the city limits sign just to the North of the tower was damaged in the wind a while back. Well, now it's completely gone! I know it doesn't mean anything, other than perhaps the throwaway culture has spread to markers of permanent boundaries, but it does now mean that Broadgate Tower is effectively a signpost - the only signpost - to let people know they've reached the city. Perhaps best illustrated by the photo below. The landscape toddles along at a stately pace, and then, all of a sudden, there's a great big monolith in front of you.

Having said that the city limit sign being removed doesn't mean anything, the Light Bar - where I haven't been for ages come to think of it - on the right of the photo, is apparently under constant threat of being knocked down to make way for offices. It's a refurbished mini power station, and they still have lots of the industrial fittings hanging from the roof. In 2000 a plan to "raft it over", whatever that means, was blocked. On the front page of their website they have a permanent petition email form for clientelle to register their support.

I do often wonder at what rate the economy is expected to grow in order to fill up allo this office space. And will we in the near future be living in a world where the location of the office becomes less important due to t'internet, travel restrictions and all that. It'd be great if some of these towers struggled to get filled and were converted into flats.
Broadgate tower and light bar

1800's erotica photos... just one of the many search terms which have led people here. Hahaha.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Reflections on reflections

Star of St David reflected of the GherkinI don't know what I'm going to write tonight. I have a shed load of photos but no theme. I think maybe... yes. Yes! - reflections, that's what it shall revolve around. Or reflect upon.

See there on the right.............

Sunlight reflecting off the Gherkin forms little stars of David on the side of an adjacent building. There are also shapes that look a bit like grails and like fish (well, diamond shaped anyway), so I think we can surmise that 30 St Mary's Axe reflects light is a judeo-christian orthodox way. And, to be honest, I'd expect nothing less from Norman Foster. I did rty and find some crescents so that we might have complete inter-religious harmony, but Norman obviously didn't care to factor that into the design, for reasons best known to himself... the feckin' bigot!
Broadgate Tower other side
Broadgate Tower 17/2/2007Here's one of my panoramic shots, finally capturing what this ( --> ) could not, but with more distortion than I'd like... but I don't know what can be done about that. Although, as evidenced below, the whole tower does get reflected in the Exchange Square building. If it wasn't for the railway running underneath it might be less obscured. But without the railway coming in to London there'd be no real need for the big office blocks. It's a highly skewed catch-22.
Broadgate Tower reflected in Exchange square
Broadgate Tower from Spital squareThe last remaining reflection to be discussed is that in Spital Square. Spital square is the North side of Brushfield Street, which leads to Spitalfields Market. The view of Broadgate Tower from there is pretty impressive From this angle, when it's finished it'll look like a massive glass wellington boot, looking at it from just below the toe.

And it is reflected in the new-ish buildings opposite, as shown below.

Sorry about today's uninspiring post. Ended up being heavilly dependent on photos after all. As a treat, I suggest you all follow this link instead of wasting any more reading this post... which is a pretty empty thing to say given you've already reached the end.
Reflection of Broadgate Tower (spital square)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A not very public inquiry

"The Walkie Talkie Tower at 20 Fenchurch Street has been given planning permission."

Boo. Hiss.

"But there is going to be a public inquiry..."


"...which has already started."


Yes, really. It started last Tuesday, which was news to me. This is humbling, not to mention embarrassing... but also worrying.

'Leading architects have sided with the government’s architecture watchdog in green-lighting proposals to build a 160-metre high skyscraper on the edge of the City of London.

The united parties squared off on Tuesday against English Heritage, for the start of a public inquiry into the ‘Walkie Talkie’, which Land Securities wants to build at 20 Fenchurch St.'
(Freelance UK website)
So it's English Heritage vs the rest. Which means it's as good as reapproved.

English Heritage have a history of opposing the construction of just about any tall building - recently demanding that they be given a veto on anything built between Waterloo Bridge and Canary Wharf (or something along those lines). Like a dedicated, come-all-ills pacifist's views on the rightness or wrongness of a particular war, their views can hardly be taken seriously - zealotry never should. So the only voice saying 'no' to its construction should, and probably will, be dismissed as unreasonable and regressive. They objected to the Gherkin, fer krissakes - one of London's best loved buildings from any era.

Which is frustrating, as they are far from the only group who are against its construction. Judging from online chatter the walkie talkie unites a lot of people in the worry that it will be a permanent blot on London's beautiful skyline. But there appears to be no route to voicing this view.

I searched many a time over the past few weeks on the London and Local Government websites for details of how to register opposition. I even checked English Heritage, and even they have no way of allowing members of the public to back them up.

Now, I know "public inquiry" doesn't mean "open to all comers to say their piece," but the only issue here is the conflict between the need for more office space and London residents' wish to have a nice view. I'm not going to launch into a Daily Mail-esque tirade demanding that disgruntled from Hackney be listened to, or even that there should have been wider consultation, as there doesn't exist (to the best of my knowledge) a body which represents Londoners' view on their own skyline (should the inquiry have conducted an on the street poll?)... but I just think it's a shame.

Only tonight I was sat in a pub on the South Bank with Karen, marvelling at the beautiful view. Adding a souped-up brick to it will be a malignant addition. The pub had a print of the view on its menus, which interestingly included a number of proposed projects. The Walkie Talkie was left off, and so it should be from the real thing.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Broadgate Tower nickname competition

It's only fair it should have one. Even the London Stock Exchange is jocularly referred to as 'The Coffin' by those in the know.

My suggestion for Broadgate is:

The 'one of those things you got in the eighties, y'know, that you could bend diagonally a lot. I think you had to order them from a Frosties packet.'

Even though the above, for the first half alone, is quite obviously worthy of some sort of PR catchiness award, in the interests of fair play I should invite contributions from the audience before unleashing it on the unsuspecting London press.

See the results

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

New buildings blending in

Try not to look at the stop-motion picture too long, as it will make your head hurt. I misjudged how many steps to take between taking photos (I opted for 12) and the result is therefore a rather jerky progression. But hopefully it demonstrates that Broadgate Tower will be a striking landmark from all along Columbia Road where, up till now, the proximity of the City hasn't been obvious.

Columbia Road has a flower market every Sunday, and is one part of the East End which wasn't razed to the ground and rebuilt in concrete from the 40's onwards (save for one tower block which, as tower blocks go, isn't too bad.) I don't think seeing the Tower will affect the street's successful illusion of being away from the London hubbub. There's a primary school on the street - I wonder if they've been keeping some kind of Broadgate Tower diary. It's never too early to learn about the construction industry. Look at Isambard Kingdom Brunell - built his first bridge at the age of 7 (or am I confusing him with Mozart?)

Spitalfields single buildingMoving on now, here is my favourite building in the city. It's not too striking, but I call it my favourite building as I think it's an outstanding example of how modern architecture should be.

Taken by itself, it has an interesting angular shape, and the slats on its upper half give it an interesting texture. I've nevber actually been inside, but I imagine the big windows behind the slats let in a lot of light - not ideal for storing the Mona Lisa long term, but perfect for sitting and eating (I think it's a cafe)

The main reason, though, that I liek the building so much is that it's a perfect example of how to be in keeping with surrounding older buildings, but still being modern:

To the left is some investment firm's offices, and way down on the right is spitalfields market, a pretty old building. Without the slatted building the transition could conceivably be ugly, but with it there's a link between the modern glass and angles of the office blocks, and the brick and shopfronts of the market.

I do however worry about the square between the Willis Building and the Gherkin:
Willis Building plaza
The building with the scaffold is going to make way for the Leadenhall Building, which will be about twice as tall as the Willis Building, with the vertical side to the right of the building to be demolished, and the sloping side to the left (photo). Looking at the photo, there will be tress growing in a huge atrium at the base of the tower, but I can't help thinking that it's just too big to go in what is a fairly open space surrounded by relatively small buildings in a number of interesting styles; from the church to the Lloyds Building. If the plan was to surround the whole square with buildings of that size then that would be fine, but the whole thing will look lop-sided.

I will do something about it. I need to double check, but I'm pretty sure that once planning permission has been granted and demolition has begun, then that is the best time to formally lodge objections.

Something about this makes me laugh

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Stern Stern is offline

Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: B-lo; soon to be UES.
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Something about the design irks me.

He is, of course, talking about the Bishopsgate Tower on this forum, where New Yorkers belittle London's attempts at building skyscrapers. There's a furious spat raging:

'Your absurd arguments about London's "skyscrapers" are as entertaining as your delusion that London is as historic (if not more so) than Rome. I can't wait for the next absurd dream that you try to propagate. Is the argument that the earth really is flat next on your agenda?'
That statement prompted a multi-page response, opening with the following words:
I am not here as you assume because I envy New York, but because you can't understand other cities unless you get to know their 'communities'. I am - as you were probably unaware - actually signed up to a few other city-forums that aren't connected to London or New York. Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. ;-)'
Or, just to be safe, keep them both on the internet.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The yellow planks explained

The mystery of the yellow 'planks' is solved. The mysterious yellow shelves which stick out like this have been identified by googling the contents of this photo.

The basic concept of the Xena Cantilever Crane is a simple crane that feeds DL Access platforms and relives [sic] tower cranes.
That's the first time I've usd [sic].
small cranes, made especially for high rise buildings. These cranes props in between floors, and have got telescoping boom and hoisting facilities only. The crane is controlled from a single joystick, located on the crane.
So it would seem that the main tower cranes are used for hoisting materials to the top of the tower - they can do that as they extend beyond its apex. But the Alexa cranes are used for hoisting materials to already completed floors. Not particularly exiting, but not what I expected to be the answer either.

It's not the only new way of getting materials in. At the rear is a loading bay, at the front is a new vehicle entrance, there are new steps (closely guarded by security guards I think, judging by the hut), and even a cherry-picker style machine in case all other cranes fail. It's a hive of activity!!!

I am of course yet to see anybody doing anything though as I visit at the weekend. I do, however, have some holiday to take before April so that may change.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

A very very odd site about Norman Foster

Aside from his name the first items on the page are "white water rafting" (complete with the photo. She'll catch a chill dressed like that) and "Also interesting: Black-necked Grebe". Which makes me think that somebody is confusing the words Norman and Norway.

Last week I confused Norwich with Norway, so I suppose it's an easy enough mistake to make, although prolonging the misconception long enough to build a website is an outstanding feat of stupidity and endurance.

Why you shouldn't buy an Apple Mac

Bit of an obtuse title that, given the content-to-be of this post, but all will become clear towards the end.

First, here's a nice photo of the Lloyds Building from the other week:
The tree is blue too!

The Lloyds Building is a deliberate sprawl set in the midst of densely packed office blocks, and therefore impossible to photograph in its entirety. Except from above. I also have this problem with the emerging skyscrapers; as they grow bigger it becomes increasingly difficult to fit them in the frame.

Enter autostitch.

First it was developed by Matt Brown who, among other things:

  • deems it necessary to include Vitamin I in his medical kit for mountaineering expeditions. I wanted to know what Vitamin I does, and just told me it's athletics slang for ibuprofen. It can also refer to vitamin B-7. Vitamin i is also "currently Ithaca's only club team". Google doesn't know enough about vitamin i yet.
  • in his spare time can be found on his bike, in the mountains, or playing jazz.
  • applies user specified trimaps to Llamas.
Most significantly for me though is the autostitch thingummy. Ina nutshell, you put this in:
Broadgate rear 2Broadgate rear 1Broadgate rear 3
and get this out:
Broadgate rear all
And all you have to do is tell it which folder the photos are in. It's one of the most amazing pieces of software I've ever seen. Just think what it has to do: It has to work out which images overlap which others. The images could overlap to any degree, at any degree of rotation, so it then has to find where one photo's edge lies and at what angle in the photo it overlaps. It then has to warp the pictures to exactly the right degree to match up all the other photos it overlaps. And then it adjusts the colours so that the edges look OK. Good work Dr. Brown of the University of British Columbia, formerly of Cambridge!

But the demo is only available for Windows. And that is why you shouldn't buy an Apple Mac.

*edit* - It can even do this!!! The most amazing example of which is this.

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