Monday, April 30, 2007

Keyword of the week

Most unlikely search term used to find this blog last week:

pornographic pictures
I don't like to be crude...

Well, OK - yes I do like to be crude. The particular crudity I have in mind on this occassion is some lonely teenager having a wank over pictures of the Brioadgate Tower shooting up in the sky. Or using that most famous of phallic symbols, the Erotic Gherkin.

Will Willis be ready in time

By the looks of things, yes.

Willis Building all glazedExhibit A: As you can see, the facade is now fully glazed. Until recently there has been a single column of unglazed windows up which the tracks for the builders' lift ran. Willis Building rear craneThere is now only a need for one lift, which is attached discreetly at the rear. If your eyes are as keen as your following of this blog (or you've learned that clicking on a picture here almost always brings up a bigger version) you'll also see to the right that the glazing extends all the way to the top of the top tier.

Exhibit B: All the wires dangling at the bottom of the Tower are tidied away inside some fetching zebra striped encasement. The annoying thing is that I have taken photos of the pre-cladding clutter, but I think I've deleted them all, so you'll have to take my word for it that the transformation was both rapid and thorough.

Willis Building identification markExhibit C: Judging from this photo, the building is saying 'Hello world!' like a glazed Alan Whicker. On a less anthropomorphic bent, why someone has chosen to put a picture of the Willis Building in the Willis Building's window is a mystery to me. Maybe the actual aim is to create a Willis Building fractal. When I was at Uni I had to sit through a week long proof of a continuous function on the open interval (0,1) having dimension greater than 1 but less than 2. The annoying thing was that I understood it until right near the end. After the lecturer finished the demonstration, with sweat pouring from his brow and a nervous tick developing deep in his belly, he told us it wouldn't appear in the exam. Sod.

To finish, here's a series of photos, from October to the present.
Willis BuildingWillis Building 14/01/07Willis Building

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Wrexham police station

I am, at heart, a boring sod. I set up Google Analytics for the blog, and like nothing better than to see how people have got here. I intend to have a weekly 'keyword of the week' for my favourite combination of words which have inadvertently lead someone here (You may recall that 1800's Erotica has been a popular one).

Imagine my delight today when I see that someone has come to the blog by typing in 'Wrexham police station architect.'

Wrexham is my home town, and the police station is the only building taller than about 5 storeys in the whole place. It's the first tall building I ever came across (I used to walk past it every time I went swimming, at Wrexham swimming baths, which is also a very distinctive building - one of only 2 hyperbolic paraboloid roofs in Europe, so I'm told). It quite likely inspired my lifelong casual interest in skyscrapers and the like.

I don't think I've ever specifically mentioned the police station on the blog, so it's really quite serendipitous that somebody, looking for information I don't have, inadvertently prompted me to talk about the first 'skyscraper' of my life.

Turkey = Holiday Holiday Holiday

London Skyline is on holiday.
That's what I should've said last week before actually going on holiday. Because that's how you say it, isn't it, in website world. You don't refer to yourself in the first or third person, even if it's patently obvious that the website is the rambling product of one human being's keyboard. That's the rule. I think the way it happens in order for me to go on holiday is that first London Skyline has to go on holiday, and once that's happened I go on holiday from London Skyline. That's how it felt to me anyway. And, now I come to examine it, the blogger interface has acquired a suspicious tan. I think it lived it large in Benidorm.

But I didn't. I went to here
bay from castle
A little place called Olympos, 2 hours south of Antalya in Turkey. Probably most beautiful and sedate place I have ever been. Well done Laura for recommending it. Here's the view from the beach:
Mount Olympos, Turkey
One day I shall return to scale this peak.

I'm just writing this post to explain the absence of any new posts for the past week and a bit, but may as well throw in a couple of holiday anecdotes.
  1. Just before the plane took off a guy behind me pulled over an air steward and asked
    'Excuse me - is the co-pilot male?'
    'I'm sorry sir?'
    'It's just that... that woman doing the announcement just now; that was the pilot, right?'
    'I just need to be sure there's a man up there too... just in case.'
    It ended up being (and I'm not just saying this for effect) the smoothest landing I've ever had the pleasure of participating in. Egg on face for him.
  2. Turkish SusieOne day I was taking photos of the beach. As I was doing so a fat man was climbing out of the water. His wife was not very pleased with that and yelled what I can only assume to be the Turkish equivalent of 'What the Fuck, Larry?!', Susie from Curb Your Enthusiasm style.
Oh, and one final thing: I am the King of Backgammon!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A treat tonight - 2 posts for the price of 2.

I mentioned once before that I inspired ( I think) somebody to take photos of the Willis Building. on Saturday a similar thing happened at the Broadgate Tower.

I was stood on Bishopsgate taking photos and a mother/aunt with two youngish children walked by. As i lowered my camera I saw the boy's eyes look at me, the camera, and then where the camera had been pointing. When he saw the subject of the photo he just said 'Wow!' It's a bit worrying that he had just walked straight past the building without noticing a thing until he saw me. But then again, I am quite eye-catching, even to the untrained eye I suppose.

And well might he wow. It's an awe-inspiring sight, it is. Going back to talking about cranes for a second, there are still 3 working on the actual Tower, but it's now so tall that, up close, all but the one on your side of the building can be completely hidden from view.
broadgate tower and 201 bishopsgate, south side

Up, up and away

201 bishopsgate dismantled craneCranes: Where would tall buildings be without them?

Completed, that's where.

A sign that 201 Bishopsgate is progressing nicely is that one of the cranes has been dismantled, leaving but a stump behind.

Broadgate Tower crane stabiliserAnother feature of the cranes I noticed at the weekend (but which isn't new - I've checked the old photos) is that the tower cranes for the Broadgate Tower are anchored to the tower itself. Tower cranes always do seem flimsy things. On reflection, the ones at Broadgate do look a bit slimmer than your average stand-alone ones, and tying them to the building under construction does probably mean they can make economies when it comes to crane girth.

Today's song is brought to you by Squarepusher, and it's from the Lost in Translation Soundtrack. It's a good skyscraper song.

Xena platformsBack to the cranes. You might remember the yellow platforms on the Broadgate Tower, which I researched their purpose, and came up with the conclusion that they're for micro cranes to deposit their loads on. I've since changed my mind. I reckon they're just for the normal tower cranes to deposit their loads on as I can't see any sign of the mini cranes.

I really like the photo to the right. It's very cluttered, but really vibrant colours and striking shapes. One of the best ones I've taken of Broadgate in my opinion.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Broadgate Tower is glazing over

Broadgate Tower North side
The Broadgate Tower is glazing over. It wasn't so long ago that I measured the rate of completion of the Tower in Diamonds. Now I can do likewise for the vertical reach of the glass. Broadgate Tower close-upAs you can see from the photo, it's nearly 1 diamond high. As this photo from mid March shows, the extent of the glazing has grown by half a diamond in 1 month. Assuming a linear growth rate, this means the tower will be fully glazed in about another 4-5months. Scenes such as that to the right will soon be a thing of the past.

One thing that concerns me is that the outer casing overlayed onto the main supporting struts (eg the outline of the diamonds) are concave, and will surely just collect grime. They're also ideal nesting sites for pigeons. Now, i like pigeons, but I'm pretty sure the developers would rather keep the tower pigeon poo free.

It's difficult to tell from external appearance how close to completion a skyscraper is. I'll write tomorrow about the Willis Building, where I think it's most likely on the last lap (it's due for 'practical completion' (whatever that means) soon anyway). But, as I've just said, the Broadgate Tower, proceeding at the same rate as today, should be fully glazed by sometime in early Autumn... though it's not scheduled for completion until May 2008. Maybe progress gets significantly slower the higher up you go.

Here is a demonstration that 201 Bishopsgate is glazing over too. And that Bishopsgate is a far less busy street at the weekend.
pano201 Bishopsgate

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Broadgate Tower signage

drive carefully
Yesterday's surfeit of signs has spurred me on to add this photo. I think the 'DANGER pedestrians crossing' may be a little overkill on the building site safety front. I doubt traffic goes very fast on this particular thoroughfare, being as you have to go round a sharp bend and get some gates opened for you to get this far.

Broadgate Tower poster - imposingHere's another sign. The wording at the bottom says 'Two imposing new office buildings.' Given the level of dialogue surrounding all the other new skyscrapers - 'it's impact on the view will be minimal... it'll fit in just fine... damging to the skyline's character? Pshaw!' - it's quite refreshing to see that one of them is unabashedly proud to be a colossus.

On the other hand, maybe this is how it pans out after planning is granted. All meek proclamations (eg 'It may be 35 stories, but they are very small storeys... honest') when you need approval, but as soon as the licence is signed, out come the heavy metal music and the tattoos and dirty high-rise machismo. If the Walkie Talkie gets approved maybe the posters round the construction site will say somethingalong the lines of '20 Fenchurch Street - an eyesore, and proud of it.' The Leadenhall Building will have similar fare - 'The Leadenhall Building - I'm the daddy now.' Bishopsgate Tower - 'Mwahahahahaha'.

Broadgate Tower may be imposing, but it has had some difficulty attracting tennants (maybe it's the mixed messages of the imposing image combined with the namby pamby corporate responsibility of the billboards around it). In 2002 (from the Telegraph):

British Land is in discussions with Ashurst Morris Crisp, the firm of lawyers, over pre-letting around 400,000 square feet of its 700,000 sq ft ... BL has simply been waiting to pre-let part of it before starting. John Ritblat, the executive chairman of British Land, has been saying for some time that he would start the scheme speculatively if no occupier would take a pre-let. Several occupiers have looked at the scheme including Lehman Brothers, Accenture, Barclays Bank.

But that's all in the past now Law firm Reed Smith have agreed to let most of the tower. It's a good job there are billions of anonymous finance, law and consultancy companies out there that no-one's ever heard of. Ridiculous number of them. They all hang out in a city bar called 'The Underwriter.' Smoking cigars made out of gold bars. And eating truffles wrapped in rare manuscripts such as the dead sea scrolls. Philistines!

Build it up, tear it down

burnt out warehouse, westferry
Despite it being a glorious sunny day today, this post is going to be full of gloomy pictures like the one above (which is a burnt out warehouse/factory/Dixons I passed last week in Westferry, to the south of Docklands). What I suggest you do to counter this visual misery is to listen to another summery song (this time by Acid House Kings) as you read the rest.

leadenhall demolitionThe reason this post is so full of misery is because it's about 122 Leadenhall, which is being demolished to make way for the Leadenhall Building. It's wreathed in scaffold and sheeting (I know what you're thinking, but don't worry; it is licensed scaffolding) so from the square you can't see the extent of the demolition.

P1010715The latest newsletter states that during March the 'soft strip' has reached 75% completion, and a 'system for removing demolished material has been established'. During April, amongst other things, 'munchers and breakers' will get involved in the action. Judging by the photo to the right, the munching may already have begun. One consequence of this is that theses days it pays to look where you're going when using the city's handful of concrete walkways.
P1010717Having said that, this particular walkway does emanate from the rear of 22-24 Bishopsgate, which will be knocked down shortly to make way for the Bishopsgate Tower. in the photo you can just make out the pre/during demolition cladding on it in the bottom right.

P1010714The demolition site is surrounded by boarding, and on this boarding are no fewer than 14 different types of sign, variously informative, advisory and apologetic (photos of all of them on my flickr). Here's my two favourite. It warns you about a lot of things. So many things, in fact, that it's very difficult to remember the first few things you were warned about by the time you get to the end.

P1010710There was also a sign on a gate saying 'Gates constantly in use.' I waited for ages and they didn't get used once. Lying bastards.

But not bastards, in fact. As I was taking photos of the signs a car pulled up alongside me, and the driver asked me why I was taking photos, which instantly made me wary of my getting embroiled in another MI6 incident. But then I noticed he had 'Sitting on the dock of the bay' on the car stereo all along, and felt quite silly, and how can anyone who listens to Otis Redding possibly be a machine of the police state?

Anyway, it turns out his name's Lee, and he's the construction manager, working for Bovis, the contractors for British Land, the developers. I explained that I put the photos etc. online, and he was very familiar with the practice. He and the rest of the Bovis lot regularly read (with enjoyment) what the skyscrapercity community posts about the tower. I said I'd mention him in a post. Wish I'd been a bit more like Paxman though, and asked him some awkward questions. 'Can you guarantee the tower will be constructed on schedule? ... What if there's an international glass shortage? ... Is there any truth in the rumour that large sections of the building will be made out of cheese?' ... and so on. Or I could have written down his numberplate. Or done somethinga bit more investigative. A golden opportunity wasted.

Not too miserable a post after all as it turns out. Hope you enjoyed the song though.

Sitting and watching and thinking

close up of Gherkin and churchAs so many people the length and breadth of the country will no doubt be doing due to the clement weather, I have turned my energies away from doing things to observing things. Here are today's observations so far.

  1. Tony Robinson is filling the post-John Peel advert voice-over gap
  2. It's quite possible that terrapins charge themselves with solar power once a year. I say this because I saw 3 of them sunning themselves by the canal at the same time last year.. and I've just seen them again, holding their heads up on outstretched necks like haughty camels.
  3. Pigeons get confused when you follow them on a bike. If the pigeon is on the ground initially it will take off and, thinking you're a normal on-foot speed human, try and land a few flaps of the wing ahead. About to land, it will realise the human has surprisingly caught it up again, and will give a few more flaps to get ahead again. It will do this repeatedly. The overall effect is that it looks like a kite being jerked on a string (no pigeons were harmed during the description of this experiment).
  4. A lot of women joggers jog in a freaky way. They flick their lower legs out sideways like Charleston dancers during each step. I saw one jogger do this, and wondered if it was a disability of some sort, but it turns out at least 66 percent (of a sample of 3) do the same.
  5. Finding your keys after searching for hours for them the previous night is a great start to a day.
  6. Now it's sunny, it's all about the reggae. Such as this summery song by Zap Pow.
Now I'm off to see my friends Broadgate Tower and Willis Building to see how they're getting on.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Capital FM, the Killers, Y-fronts and enlarged shops

There is a blog I subscribe to called Unphotographable. It's a professional photographers blog of 'Occasions when I wished I'd taken the picture, or not forgotten the camera, or had been brave enough to click the shutter.' I like it a lot. A particularly good entry lies here.

The reason I mention it is because I am now going to do a miniature Unphotographable post:

This is the picture I cannot post because both Capital FM and The Killers haven't thought to put a copy of the billboards advertising that The Killers are this month's artist of the month anywhere on the web. You will therefore have to take my word for it that it is an altered view of the London skyline - replete with Gherkin - in which the buildings conspire to spell out 'Killers'.
(*edit* - Dave Gorman, no less, has obliged in putting a photo up on Flickr.)

I'll do another, more artistically valid one:
This is the photo I did not take on a hot May afternoon last year in Green Park. One of the war memorials there features a sheet of water trickling slowly down a slightly inclined plane. A number of tourist parents allowed their small children to splash and frolic in the water, disregarding a sign that clearly said that doing so was prohibited. A child dressed in nothing but sodden Y-fronts stood atop the metre-or-so-tall monument, a few inches above said sign. I didn't capture the very funny scene as I didn't fancy being chased through the streets being called a paedophile in a number of European languages.
A bit of local news to finish: It's not just the city that's being redeveloped. No fewer than 3 of my local grocers have had a refit in the past two weeks. The general approach is to knock through the back wall, enlarge the wine section, and give toilet rolls a shelf for themselves rather than stacking them on top of other goods. Tonight I was so confused I ended up buying jaffa cakes when I only went in for tomato sauce!

I've just realised - I have completely lost the ability to use semicolons appropriately. I used to have the knack. Damn!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Battersea power stationary

Battersea chimneysHow current do blogs have to be?

It depends what they're about I suppose.

In a world as slow moving as that of the London Skyline (barring the Broadgate Tower, which is glazing over at a rate of knotts) I could be forgiven for not following things up immediately. Today's post will be about possibly the slowest advancing development saga in London. If you recognise the Towers to the left, you'll know I mean Battersea Power Station.

The photo to the left dates from sometime in the autumn. I visited the power station with Tom and Karen as they had an exhibition of Chinese art there (including piles of rotting apples, a video of thousands of laughing chinese men, and a pormographic slideshow which an upper middle class family let their 5-ish year old child watch).

Battersea Power Station PlansPart of the exhibition was a model of the planned Battersea developments. Karen Tom and myself all agree that they looked hideous. There's a real conflict around the power station and it's surroundings' redevelopment. No one wants to surround it with forgettable apartment blocks, as this is hardly befitting an iconic building. And yet, surrounding it with eyecatching developments is just garish. Like putting Bono in the same room as Fred Dibnah (You can buy a DVD of Fred's funeral here. You can't buy a DVD of Bono's though. He's not dead yet. But members of U2 are dying every day - please give kindly).

The Power station is a rare example of an old building on a monumental scale. I am generally in favour of putting big modern buildings around smaller old ones; they don't clash as they're not competing on the same level. A small building doesn't demand that you look at it awestruck, and a skyscraper doesn't demand that you look at the intricate stonework. At Battersea it's difficult to get the balance right. The power station is awe-inspiring, but also has the quaint atmosphere of older buildings - what do you put next to that.

I have an idea - how about a skyscraper?

I've been thinking about it, the length of this post, and the more I consider it the more it seems like a good idea. Smallish modern buildings will just look silly next to it. Something like the Shard of Glass wouldn't though. Putting a huge modern edifice there will perhaps concentrate visitors' eyes on the ancientness of the power station. And after all, the power station was once a n icon of modernity. Putting something similarly striking there would be wholly in keeping with the heritage of the site. Or maybe something a bit like the new Tate Modern extension. God knows what you'd put in it though. Some sort of people I suppose. Maybe freemasons.

Possibly not argued very convincingly, but picture the scene and I think you'll agree it's a good one. There will be puppies lolloping. Puppies!

Anyway, the reason for raking all this up now is that the This is Hertfordshire website of all places announced that Rafael Vinoly, of Walkie Talkie fame, will from now on be in charge of the redevelopment as the old plans have fallen through.

'His brief will include designing a completely new master plan for the site, effectively taking development there back to square one. The previous master plan took three years to create and was followed by a decade of inaction.'
So perhaps a huge modern tower isn't out of the question. Although, it has to be said, even here the Walkie Talkie would look like an over-sized shopping trolley wrapped in cling film.

The official website says 'This site is currently under construction', which is more than can be said for the real world site. Fingers crosse dsomething will happen soon though, or the power station itself may fall into such a bad state that it will be demolished entirely.
battersea warning sign

Monday, April 09, 2007

Low flying planes

Would you believe that the Civil Aviation Authority has a policy on tall buildings. On the surface of it, it seems sensible. Planes fly in the sky... tall buildings reach up into the sky... MY GOD!!! WE MUST HAVE A POLICY ON THIS. The national height limit is 242m, but a special one for the City is 1,000ft (those crazy CAA people just won't standardise their measurements!). 'Any proposal approved for buildings above that height will be refered to the Secretary of State at the DETR as dangerous.'

City of London Airport is a safeguarded airport, which means that:

'it must be consulted on proposals that may lead to an increased chance of aircraft flying into a flock of birds (bird hazard) or involve tall structures that could affect aircraft movements.'
The CAA have been consulted on the construction of a few London buildings (can't remember which - Bishopsgate Tower I think is the one I read about, but I think we can assume they've been consulted on others of a similar height too). Now, I'm no expert on the height aircraft fly at as they approach an airport (and Google and Yahoo haven't helped either, although Wikipedia does have an entire article on landing, which touches on aircraft and swans), but I've seen airplanes fly over the city, and they fly significantly higher than the existing buildings. As I see it nothing but a complete catastrophe i.e. plane plummeting unexpectedly to earth would cause it to crash into one of the towers, even if they were a fair bit taller. I really don't know how buildings in the City could 'affect aircraft movements' without being at least double or treble their current height.

I'm trying to think of things which could cause an 'increased chance of aircraft flying into a flock of birds.'
  • Building an airport in Trafalgar Square
  • Hanging bird feeders from the wings
  • Building a skyscraper in the shape of a huge bird feeder, and giving all employees an unlimited supply of peanut snacks
  • Carrying the subject of the Carpenters' 'Close to you' on board

A closer look at Docklands

Maritime Grenwich vs DocklandsI cooked using red wine tonight. It didn't need too much red wine, so there was rather a lot left to consume, so I apologise for any bad typing.

The photo to the right has very little to do with this post. I meant to put it in last time but couldn't remember why. I do remember now: it was to point out that people on the lower floors of some of the Canary Wharf skyscrapers will have their views of Greenwich blocked by the Pan Peninsula Tower. To rectify this they could either:

  1. establish the view as a strategic viewing corridor post-haste
  2. buy a flat in the tower
  3. build wings out of all the money they make and fly, fly, fly...
canary wharf towerThe connection with this post is the zooming in of the camera. To the left you will see the blindingly shiny Canary Wharf Tower, which I imagine could blind a pilot, so maybe the CAA have a point. The entire tower is covered in sheet metal, which accounts for the glare. ot only that, but also, as illustrated here, even the blinds have a metallic finish. If - God forbid - every blind were to be pulled at the same time I think we could have an aviation disaster on our hands.

Scaffolding on top of towerA curiosity atop one of the towers is this scaffolding. The scaffolding looks temporary, but the things they're supporting - glass honeycomb structures - don't look at all like a transient part of constructing something else. My best guess is that they're building a penthouse greenhouse. I shall take another look in a few weeks to see if there's any change.

close up of docklands mid-riseNow here's a peculiar feature. These striking formations, reminiscent of the posters of penrose triangles that every secondary school maths class is legally compelled to have on their walls, are right at the top of an otherwise bland building. Why put them all the way up there, where nobody can appreciate them? May as well not have them at all.

Last close-up now. Docklands is reviled as a cluster of 80's grandiose glass block buildings with no imagination. I think this photo demonstrates that, although the style of the time was perhaps to build rather conservatively shaped structures, this doesn't mean that the architects didn't put at least some thought into providing variety; the differences in texture between the buildings certainly add interest.
close up of docklands skyscrapers

Strategic view #5 - Greenwich Park London Panorama

view from Greenwich observatory
I said a few weeks a go that I would systematically visit the 'viewing place' for each of London's strategic viewing corridors to give a 'qualitative visual assessment' of the view towards the 'strategically important landmark.' The landmark in Greenwich's case is St Paul's Cathedral. It is also worth noting that the view is also 'the only designated London Panorama that is part
of a formal, axial arrangement.' For this gumph and more I recommend reading chaper six of this.

One slightly less gumphy bit is this:

The background of the view is currently unimpeded, offering a clear silhouette of St Paul’s Cathedral with Tower Bridge in its immediate foreground. The ability to see light between the upper parts of the various elements makes it easy to recognise and appreciate the landmarks within the context of the City.
It's very true. A lot of the other protected views are, I think, slightly silly as they protect the view of St Paul's specifically, even though you can hardly make it out (going by the photos in the official papers). Anyway, below is the proof that you can indeed see the outline f St Paul's:
view from Geenwich observatory of City
Shame about the tower in the foreground though - how did that get past the planners? I smell the stench of corruption.

But what's my opinion of this protected view? Well, I think it'll take some beating. As the panoramic photo at the top shows, I'm not alone in thinking it's worth sitting and enjoying. I myself cycled 25 odd miles (in a round trip, which I grossly underestimated) to get there. It's 4 views in 1:
  1. City of London
  2. Docklands
  3. Parkland and Maritime Greenwich
  4. Millenium dome
I don't think the Millenium Dome's anything to write homw about; in fact, I think it looks like an ugly industrial facility - it's far too flat and undecorated to look like anything elses - but I imagine some people like to see it.

Question: will views of the Gherkin ever be protected? I noticed in one of the Waterloo panorama shots that English Heritage have been parading about that the Gherkin will be virtually obscured from the West by the Leadenhall building. With all the furore about St Paul's and the Tower of London I think people seeking to protect the London skyline's integrity forget that they are not the only buildings worth looking at.

Oh - and to whoever commented, you'll be glad to know that from Tuesday, cycling to work will take me through Southwark, so taking a look at some of the buildings you suggested is a definite possibility. Vive la diversification.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Through accident more than by design I found myself taking lots of photos of accomodation over the weekend. I've already voiced my doubts about Pan's Labyrinth Peninsula being able to attract adequate punters due to the dire nature of the surrounding hubbub. Leaving the nightlife etc. aside, the design is also not hugely distinctive. They're tall buildings, and a bit bit glittery, so don't get me wrong - I give a lot of points out for tallness and glitteriness. But they're hardly going to win international awards.

So what of the other residential buildings I've looked at?

tall housesWorst of the bunch are these, to the south of the main docklands complex. The houses around where I used to go to school were yellow brick, probably built in the 60's, and about as entertaining to look at as a turd (apart from that one day when we watched through the chemistry lab windows a dare-devil ladder acrobat with a HUGE drill install cavity wall insulation in one of them). These blocks of flats seem to be aiming for the same look, but figured 15 storeys is better than 2. How ridiculous do those roofs look??

broadgate tower from the distanceSecond from bottom is this riverside warehouse conversion. I took the photo to show Broadgate Tower looking not unlike the radiator of a Rolls Royce (not so long ago I saw a latest model Rolls outside the Tate Britain - an uglier concoction of car and... car I have never seen.) Took ages to find that link to the Rolls photo - why is it that bluechip companies known for excellence in design insist on having such bloated flash websites?

But the warehouse conversion... the top floors really are extremely ugly. There are some great warehouse conversions out there - Butlers Wharf, Catherine Docks, the ones across the canal from me - but the ones in this photo are certainly not among them.

Won't bother posting a photo but these are also pretty naff. An original and geometrically interesting design in search of function, balance, character and memorability. Slightly better is this block, but only by virtue of the circular balconies. Not sure of the utilility of these - you can't have a conversation with the corner of the building in the way - but they look nice from below. What might have been better would be to alternate, floor by floor, butting the balcomies at the corners and in the middle of the walls. Did I mention I wanted to be an architect when I was bout 12?

OK - enough filler. Now we move on to the stars of the city living show.

Surprisingly for a skyscraper themed blog, they are all low-rise.
Docklands dock with flats
The triangular buildings in the bottom left are great! in the shadow of all these monoliths (and one building that looks like a giant microchip) are some chalet style buildings. Anachronistic given the setting, but this just adds to their charm. The photo doesn't do it justice, but they're brightly coloured too.

habitat style flatsIn third place are these flats, again down by the river. I'm no architectural expert, but it's quite obvious they're inspired by the Habitat '67 building in Montreal - the hive of flats that was meant to revolutionise the built environment... but didn't. With this being one exception. I would guess it's in wapping, and I'll add it to my 'to visit' list. It doesn't stand out, but it's probably one of London's more adventurous buildings.

Now on to the joint winners.

Mile end student accomodation close upMile end student accomodationAbout 3 years ago, a few months after moving to Bow, I too a walk along the canal to meet Karen and Muzo in Victoria Park. Whilst walking along I was slightly perplexed by the buildings across the canal, which seemed to be packed with hundreds of nubile young women (not that I'm complaining). Since then I've discovered that these are the accommodation village for Queen Mary University.

Mile end student accomodation close upI went to Uni in Warwick, where most of the accommodation lives and breathes sensible in bucketloads. Queen Mary's halls are refreshingly original, bright and welcoming and, I would guess, manage to avoid the Peckham trap: creating a futuristic architectural utopia at the expense of incubating crime and ill-feeling.

Mile end student accomodationI can't be complementary enough about the buildings - interesting self-consistent, harmonious materials, colours and shapes. Little quirky features (such as the bar joining both halves of the turquoize one) which seem to serve no practical purpose, but add interest all the same.

They're wonderful. I'll try and find out who the architect is. On the off chance that someone would want to visit them, they are here.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Pan's people*

*May in fact be a 'tower', not a 'people'

As I was saying, I now have a bike-lock, so leaving the bike unattended holds no fear for me! (well, a lot less than before. I thought I'd got a good bike-lock; a Factor 8 no less. But I've since discovered the factors go up to 15. Slightly more comforting is that I am a medium when it comes to bike helmet sizes. I think head size is one area in life where being average is distinctly better than being at the big or the small end.)

Previous to today my entrance to Canary Wharf has either been via the DLR station or the cavernous tube station. Some of these occasions have been fairly recently (I sometimes meet Keith to go to the cinema at East India Quay as it's roughly halfway between us. Exactlty halfway would probably be Poplar, which it's probably best to avoid, what with being pushed in front of trains). But not once during these visits have I seen the messiness that lies just behind the wall of tall buildings.

Pan peninsular towers posterOne of the main culprits as far as unitidiness goes is the new Pan Peninsula Tower, high-rise luxury living with - the placards drum this into you - it's own cinema, holistic health spa, cocktail lounge and signature restaurant (Could that be a world first - I've heard of a signature tune, and even a signature dish, but not a signature restaurant. does this mean they will also have many other restaurants which will be forced to be mediocre and forgettable in order to guarantee the signature status of the waterside restaurant?).

pan peninsular towersIt's actually a pair of towers (as evidenced by the following photo), so god knows why they call it a Tower. Interestingly, there was some work going on at the weekend, unlike the new city-scrapers. I took a short video of the lift going up and down to prove it, but can't be bothered uploading it... but you'll believe me, won't you.

I'm not sure how much living is done in docklands. I've known one or two people who've lived there or there abouts over the past few years, and the complaint is always the same - that there's never anything to do, particularly at the weekend. The way I see it, it doesn't matter how luxurious the flat is if getting there after a night out means a long taxi ride. Maybe there will start to be a culture change in the area, with it becoming a rich man's playground, rather than just a rich man's office. The closest to a club they have in docklands at present is a hotel 'club and restaurant,' and I can't help thinking the area will need to become a lot more vibrant before it can attract clientele who could probably easily afford a comparable flat closer to the west end.

See what I did there - undermined years of market research.

P10105502 signs to finish off. The first is a spelling mistake (see if you can spot it) which is funny simply because of the general rule: the bigger the font a spelling mistake is printed in, the funnier it is. That's the rule!!

(At work today a job description and advert for a new job was sent round all the staff and contained more hilarity than its font-size alone merited:

Duties will include liaising with internal staff, dairy management and producing error free documentation.
Talk about falling on your own sword.)

The second sign is below, from a different building project, but worthy of mention. It makes me think of the swimming pool docu-soap in The Day Today, with Stephen Coogan saying "In 1976 no-one died, ...". Can't help wondering what the last reportable accident was. Decapitated scaffolder?

Also , I notice they stopped counting last August. This could mean one of 2 things:
  1. Construction workers have been dying every month since then, and they don't want to blight their record by taking them into account.
  2. Nobody's done any work since August.
My money's on 2.
Safe work at docklands

Related Articles by Labels

Widget by Hoctro