Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Hanging around at the demolition site

Leadenhall Building overhang'Y'see that there?'
'That there what?'
'That. There!'
'Oh - that.'
'Yes - that.'
'What about it?'
'Well - what is it?'
'Looks like a spot of clear sky to me.'
'But... but... but how did it get in there... below the building?'
'Well, if I didn't know any better I'd say what's happened there is that three floors have been demolished down to the podium level and the concrete and steel removed from the site. And - if I was to push the boat out a bit - I'd also guess that the external scaffold has also been progressively dismantled and has exposed to view the existing lift and stair core.'
'And do you know any better?'
'In that case, that would explain it.'
Leadenhall Building newsletter'Yes it would. But the trouble with the present state of affairs, of course, is that it leaves the transfer slab at the top of the building from which the remaining floors are hung. If you ask me, them folk who'll be demolishing the remainder of this building to make way for the Leadenhall Building, aka The Cheesegrater, will have to come up with a design for the temporary deck that will support and aid the demolition of the upper hanging floors post haste!'
'Ah, I see.'
'Oh, look - here's a newsletter. Let's see if it can either confirm or deny my theory, shall we?'
'Print's a bit small - can't really make it out.'
'Oh - how I wish it were an image in a blog following progress on the London skyline. Then we could probably just click on it to see a bigger version.'
'Oh - you and your zany schemes. You play too many video games.'

Property bulls and property bears

Building in ShoreditchMy local chippie has acquired a large teddy bear that sits upon Alex's moped. But that's not what I mean by a property bear.

Jenny and me at work once had a pub quiz fuelled discussion about how you can remember, in financial market lingo, which is the bull and which is the bear. In the end we didn't answer the question (it was the wipeout round!), but a bull is bullish - i.e. confident - and a bear is the other thing.

Armed with that knowledge I now feel ready to tackle a detailed analysis of the property market as it now stands in the City of London (with the aid of a couple of articles).

On 22nd May British Land took the actual decision to go ahead with building the Leadenhall Building, which is a bit of a surprise as I thought it had already been taken; the building it will be replacing is already pretty messed up! But the decision to build was not taken lightly, and the reason it's newsworthy is that - like the Broadgate Tower - it will be built before a tenant has been found, and this at a 'challenging time for the British commercial property market as price inflation tails off and landlords have to work on rental growth to achieve better overall returns.'

'The Leadenhall Building will not be ready until the first quarter of 2011, by which time many property agents fear that rents could start to fall because of oversupply, especially if the list of skyscrapers with planning permission progresses to construction.'

This is money (financial website of the year!) has a more gloomy take, opening with the headline The roof falls in on property. It talks a lot about bonds and equities (but god knows what fictional spies and neckwear for horses have to do with property?), which I shall ignore, highlighting instead their glorious use of a graph.

But on a more sensible note, their headline is prompted by Francis Salway, the chief executive of Land Securities, who want to build the Walkie Talkie: 'Mr Salway has said that he may not start construction without a prelet in place.'

So - are you listening English Heritage? - a surefire way to prevent construction of the Walkie Talkie is to support the construction of other, more elegant skyscrapers. In the increasingly competitive property market these will draw potential tenants away from Land Securities, the Walkie Talkie won't get its pre-let, and won't get built.

If you hate skyscrapers as much as English Heritage then this will be a difficult route to stomach, but needs must when Rafael Vinoly drives.

Sky high tower

Just a very quick - alas, imageless - post to announce that the pinacle of the 'third diamond' of Broadgate Tower has recently appeared. Which means that, aside from maybe a lift shaft head or something, the Tower is as tall as it's gonna get.

Waiting for Willis

10 Trinity SquareIf you have good eyesight you'll see that either side of the door is a plaque saying 'Willis'. The building which houses the door is none other than 10 Trinity Square, the former Port of London Authority building, and, for the time being it is home to Willis' UK and Ireland operation. Interestingly, on the Willis website (Willis are insurers, by the way) the address is spelt Ten Trinity Square, as opposed to using numerals. Does this mean the building at 10 Trinity Square has been named Ten Trinity Square. I suppose you could take any address and name the building at that address by its address. You could, in such a way, start an infinite regress in which the name of the building is the whole address which includes the name of the building which is the whole address ...

But I can't see why you'd want to do a silly thing like that.

willis building reflection 1As we all know by now, Willis won't be at Trinity Square (Ten, 10 or otherwise) for very much longer. The last photos I posted showed significant progress, and the facade was, as far as the eye can see, complete. Here's a photo to remind us of that.

Willis building: Clean and dirty windowsThere will however be one hell of a cleaning job before the building is deemed presentable. The amount of dust that builds up is made perfectly clear by the clarity of the recently added windows (where the lift track used to be) as compared to the opacity of the more established glazing. I wonder if the builders will clean it, or if the first act of any property developer once a building is completed is to hire some window cleaners. Quite a specialised profession I imagine.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Keywords of the week

where in the south bank is the flat by the thames in woody allen´s match point
Dunno. Sorry.

There were also 14 references to egg shaped buildings, so there is clearly widespread dissatisfaction with the moniker Gherkin.

The others I think are best left as a surreal list which sums up why people like you come here.
  • post barnsley y picture a city alsop
  • gherkin is a dog
  • y fronts
  • mps against tall buildings in yorkshire
  • shard shouldn't
  • radio sketch re faulty rolls royce in australia
  • is a cuttysark a bike

Monday, May 28, 2007

Egos "a threat to skylines"

Using Google News I recently subscribed to be sent updates about articles containing Walkie Talkie London so that I might be the third to know the outcome of the planning inquiry for 20 Fenchurch Street. No news yet, but what is interesting is that 'Walkie Talkie' has become a byword for all argument about London architecture, in much the same way that Bin Laden is a byword for bearded terrorists, and Brian Blessed performs the same function for all other bearded people.

A particularly vituperative and entertaining read picked out of the inter-ether by its mentioning Walkie Talkie is this Guardian interview with new English Heritage Chief Simon Thurley, evocatively titled 'Egos "a threat to skylines"'. It's very short, so I recommend reading it in full, but here are a few choice nibbles.

'We have been treading a very difficult path over the past five years, trying to balance the absolute necessity to protect and preserve and conserve with...
... with the need to have a living city which provides employment for its citizens?
... with the absolute necessity to convince people that that activity is not holding the country back in some way,' he says.
Oh. So, you're more talking about the internal distribution of funds between activism and PR. What a broad perspective this new guy at English Heritage has.
'It is an expression of a small number of individuals' extraordinary ambition and desire to create a monument to themselves,' he argues,
I think not. The architects in question are generally chosen by the developers who commission the buildings as they are already world renowned, with plenty of other 'monuments to themselves' dotted around the globe. It's far more to do with London firms, and increasingly government, wanting the city to appear modern and world-class. A nebulous aim if ever there was one, but reducing it to individual egos is hardly the right outlook.
he does go on to admit that these forces were also at work when Salisbury Cathedral or St Pancras station went up. The situation in the 21st century is more hazardous though, he believes.
He is indeed a skilled rhetorician, using the immensely sophisticated 'but that was different' argument.
Do we want London to be defined by a massive residential tower belonging to a foreign national who has bought it as an investment? Is that how we want London to be defined? My answer to that is no.'
a) Lots of people live in London. Why shouldn't its most significant building be residential? Buckingham Palace is residential. Should we put a big police banner across it saying 'Move along. Nothing to see here'. OK, so Buckingham palace is inhabited by important people, but why limit grand residential buildings to just them?
b) Mmm. Foreign nationals are pretty bad aren't they, and should have no involvement in the construction of city landmarks. Take Monsieur Eiffel for instance - completely ruined the New York skyline with that big statue. And good architecture is often the result of cross-polination of differenrt architectural heritages. St Paul's - with it's strong Italian look -is a classic example.
c) Wake up Mr. Thurley, and stop being so naive. Most buildings are bought as investments, and this is no criteria for judging the worthiness of constructing them.
d) No single building - no matter how big - can define a city. As head of English Heritage he really should have more confidence in the iconic status of many of the capital's existing buildings.
Thurley hopes the work of English Heritage can 'finally slay the dragon of the so-called 'dead hand' of conservation. Conservation is not a dead hand. It is a living hand. It is not about the past, it is about the future,' he said.
And you, sir, are a buffoon!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Cutty Sark: After the film crews left

Cutty Sark RewardIt's fair to say that your average news story has a life cycle very much shorter than your average water vole. It may not be particularly illuminating, but it is certainly fair.

It was with this sad fact in mind that I went there today with Matt, Giles and Tessa (who learned to fly like Peter Pan) to survey the damage, take stock of the lasting repercussions, and meet some of the real people affected by this tragedy.

As you can see from the photo to the left, the boat - or what remains of it - is on sale for the measly sum of £2; a fraction of its previous value. I tried to find out if this price included the hoarding or not, but no members of the restoration committee were available for comment. Cutty Sark signI understand they are in discussion with the ship restorers' union - SHIPSHAPE - after the industry objected to the rather blunt manner in which rope-coilers, plank categorisers, and gimlet polishers were informed of their redundancy. Particularly stinging was the restoration committee's reneging on its promise to pay employees their bonuses in hard hats and safety boots. SHIPSHAPE spokesmen claim their employers have squandered much of their pay-packets on specially commissioned abstract art, an example of which can be seen below.
Cutty Sark Map

Rhysickle, reporting from a community torn apart by self-doubt... and fire.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Port of London Authority

Port of London authority buildingGrand ol' building in't it.

It's the old Port of London Authority Building, a reminder of the days when the Port of London was the source of much of the city's wealth, and the regulator merited a building of such pomp.

The building was only built in 1915 though, when the Port was only 50 years from its decline (apparently 1967 was the year when supply of dock space started to outstrip demand). Technically, the Port of London includes the whole of the River thames, and there are ports along the river closer to the sea, which means that officially the Port of London is one of the 3 busiest in the country. But you can no longer walk across the Thames, hopping from deck to deck, in the Pool of London.

The Authority is now housed in a waterfront building in Gravesend. When the authority was established in 1909 it was 'obliged to provide quays, wharfs and warehouses.' Now its duties are 'ensuring navigational safety along the Tidal Thames, promoting use of the River and safeguarding the environment.'

Quite a rousing tale!

Or not, as is more the case. But an impressive building all the same. The interior's not too bad either. And before the post war reconstruction if the City, the PLA building must have been one of the tallest buildings around, as you can sort of work out from this photo (PLA building is just visible on the right).

Man alive - what an utterly dull post this has been!
London skyline from by Mayor's office

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Extra strut/craneAt first glance it looks like the architects underestimated the weight of the Broadgate Tower and have had to enlist the help of a JLG ULTRA BOOM to take the strain. But that's not what it's really there for.

'JLG Industries, Inc. is the world's leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of access equipment', and the ULTRA BOOM is merely a telescopic boom lift, which I think is business speak for cherry picker (I didn't know what a cherry-picker was (unless you count Jordan) until watching that Simpsons episode). I thin kJLG give the best description of what the boom is for though:

When you're reaching for the sky, reach for JLG's Ultra Series Telescopic Boom Lifts, and the powerful performance geared towards operator convenience.
The main reason I'm bothering to write a bout the ULTRA BOOM is the name, which has whispers of Cillit BANG! about it. 'Fed up of being stuck on the ground floor when all the action is up on the 10th? BOOM! and you're there.'

S'pose you could use it hold up a skyscraper though. If you were desperate,

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Run, run, run to the Centre Broadgate

British land go upmarketBritish Land - the developers of The Broadgate Tower - have suddenly gone upmarket, replacing the dingy little British Land signs with larger, glossier signs more befitting the venue.

They've also opened a marketing suite. This strikes me as a tad late as the Tower is now almost (if not completely) fully pre-leased. I suppose there may still be a lot of space to let in 201 Bishopsgate.

Broadgate Tower marketing suiteWhat do they do in the marketing suite? Do they have an endless stream of top city executives popping by to chew the letting cud; unlikely I think. I may pop round during the week sometime. Finish work a bit early, slip my trusty suit on, and start talking in figures. I wonder if you can go on a site tour yet? Not sure how much use it would be to a potential tenant as it's probably still quite messy and dusty, but I'd damn well like to see inside the place!

This would probably be a good place to demonstrate how far away 201 Bishopsgate is from having photos of it included in a glossy brochure. Work on the facade has actually slowed, with only half a floor glazed in the last month (although large swathes round the back of the building are looking a lot more shipshape these days).

201 Bishopsgate201 Bishopsgate

A scaffold is for life, not just for construction

texturamaI was scathing in my views the other day of the eventual surface the Broadgate Tower is to have; all silky smooth transparent pale glass. I think it would look much nicer were it to be surrounded by something a bit like the cluttered cross-strutting of the cranes and lift tracks.

Bear with me.

Since Richard Rogers built the Centre Pompidou and the Lloyds Building it is no longer shameful to unabashedly include the utilitarian parts of a building as an integral part of its aesthetic design. It's not too big a flight of fancy to suppose that leaving bits of structure resembling cranes etc. when the building is complete could have similar aesthetic appeal.

Well, I think the mixture of clutter and regularity is pleasing to the eye anyway. Almost like a Jackson Pollock.

1 Plantation placeThere is a recent precedent to a London City Building having a wireframe type structure around its exterior, namely 1Plantation Place (pictured. The building to the right is the "will they/won't they replace it with an oversized communication device 20 Fenchurch Street). The outer layer of glass - set a good metre or 2 out of reach of the inner one - is designed to stop rain getting in through the inner windows, which open to allow air to circulate. The end result is something that looks a bit like pinhead from hellraiser... but I like it. There's a recent upstart to the mechano/lego throne called k'nex, and it looks almost as if it's built out of the stuff, which is a good thing.

As demonstrated in this photo (click for much bigger) 1 Plantation place does tower above most of its riverside neighbours. It also only finished construction in 2004, but went unnoticed by me, even though in 2004 I did walk regularly home from work along the More London side of the river.

The point being, I should be a bit more liberal about my 100m minimum for buildings covered in this blog. I see plenty of cranes around and I really should show a lot more verve in investigating them.

I don't see enough dead people

Merchant navy memorial flagI mentioned before that I ended up at the Tower of London on Sunday. To get there from the City you pretty much have to go via Tower Hill, where I popped into Trinity gardens, where there are 2 memorials.

The first is for sailors in the merchant navy killed in the second world war. This is because Trinity gardens are overlooked by the Port of London Authority building (which I will write about some other time as it's an impressive edifice). This memorial is fairly big, and purports to list the names of every seaman lost in the Battle of the Atlantic.

The second memorial (pictured below) is a more subdued affair. A small square of Land holds about 6 plaques with the names of a few of the people who were beheaded or hanged at Tower Hill. As the plaque says, many of the 125 executed died a martyr's death, but curiously it only names some of the people.

Now, given that thousands of dead sailors are listed nearby, would it have killed the authorities to give a comprehensive list of the 125 martyrs of Tower Hill? Would it? I don't begrudge the merchant navy their full inventory (my godfather was in the merchant navy during he war, and he died*.), but I think we should end the iniquity here!

Decapitated martyrs
*long after retiring admittedly, but I'm sure he'd still back me 100%. He was a very down to earth man, with no airs and graces. The sort of person who never threw a piece of wood away.


Combisafe - who provide safety netting for Broadgate Tower - are proud to announce that they have just exhibited at 'The most successful Bauma of all time.'

Good for them.

It is a silly name for a construction industry event - sounding more like an innuit coming of age ceremony, or the name of a crime-fighter in a hurry - , but as you can see from the photo the event is full of big machines, and is basically a schoolboy's dream. So I shan't mock something which I damn well wish I could go to.

CombisafeCombisafe have the following to say about their range of netting and fences:

Our edge protection systems don't comply with safety standards.
They set them.
Aaaah. Clever.

And reassuring too.

Their site safety solutions include some that are 'based around a square concept', and others which incorporate 'a "zero" factor fall arrest system.' Perplexing though these product descriptions are, the most bizarre thing about the company is why they call themselves Combisafe? It's surely a bit self-aggrandizing to suppose that using two different kinds of thing - namely nets and fences - is justification enough to use the prefix 'combi'. A greengrocer - with his myriad varieties of fruit and veg - could perhaps justify calling his stall 'Combiveg', but I think if you only peddle 2 kinds of wares you're over-egging the point a bit. Here's what the world would be like if the practice was widespread:
  • Bikes would be known as combiwheels. (Bike thieves would still however be known as 'bike-thieving bastards' as the alliteration really helps exorcise those bilious feelings).
  • Trousers would be known as combitubes
  • Twins would be called combipeople
  • Newton's third law would be renamed 'Newton's law of combi-ness'
I'm sure you get the idea by now?

Ok, one more then. But only because I'm quite enjoying this.
  • Fences would be known as combisides

Monday, May 21, 2007

Keywords of the week

Nicely lit GherkinI have a few favourites this week. I also took the afternoon off work due to a banging headache and am now so bored that I will write about anything.

funny looking cone shaped glass building in london
Damn! I thought I covered all the angles. If this was you, you're probably looking for information about The Gherkin.
gareth gates spotted in london pub
Someone wanted to find information about this. Fair enough, ogle the photos if you come across them in the Sun/Heat... but can there be any justification at all for searching the web for more??? Is that you, Jordan?
rubik's tower
It begins!
wrexham in the 1800's
A sad one to finish. Wrexham was quite a dashing town back in the day, and as recently as 2002 it was highly commended in a best high street in Britain contest, partly due to the well-preserved period architecture (it matters not that the street called High Street no longer really functions as the high street since the town centre has moved West towards Hope Street).

It's sad because although there are lots of books full of period photos, my coming near the top in a google search would indicate that very little of this archive material is online.

If only they'd had blogs back then!

Cutty Sark/bike parallels

When I was travelling in Australia I bought a battered country and western guitar in Tamworth, home of Australian C&W music. That guitar travelled with me everywhere I went after that, all through the outback and down the East Coast, and it was covered with stickers to reflect that. It was also my only company when I injured my leg in Melbourne and was housebound for a month. I loved that guitar, and called it Fred.

British Airways, the clumsy bastards (bring on the litigation), broke it on my journey back. When I opened the box at the airport to find the neck snapped my mum - bless - tried to empathise by saying she knew how I felt because there was a cardigan she bought from a mail order company a week or so earlier and she'd just snagged it.

It is with similar flawless logic that I say 'Greenwich - I know what you're going through with that whole Cutty Sark burning down thing as I've just had my bike nicked.' I also have no qualms about claiming that the fact that the fire was suspicious points to involvement by the little tykes that stole my bike. The tyres were, in fact, probably used as an accelerant in their destructive bike/boat arson spree.

My attitude to the bike reminds me of a Stephen Fry sketch.

Stephen, a politician (fittingly, he recently sat down for a chat with Mr. Blair), is stood behind a podium:

It is with a heavy heart that I stand here today to announce that someone has stolen my car. As a result I and my government have decided to tighten the law to prevent people from stealing my car. It is hoped that with the new measures we are bringing in I will no longer have a problem with people stealing my car.

I must, however, stress that this policy has a sound moral basis, which is stopping people from stealing my car. Some people would argue that people stealing their cars is also wrong and should be taken into account, but I feel that that detracts from the main moral concern, which is to stop people STEALING MY CAR...
And it goes on, rising to a crescendo. Haha.

By all this I really mean to say that it's sad the Cutty Sark has gone, but when the story is covered by the BBC I don't think there's really much I can add.

PS - Fred is now fixed. Apparently a large proportion of the Cutty Sark's timbers were off site for restoration, so there's hope for the boat too.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The white tower

UpstairsAs you can probably already tell from your aching cheeks and sides, and from having co-workers give you uncomfortable stares which can only mean 'Why are you laughing?', I have turned my hand to what is popularly known as comic photography, but for which I have coined the term wittography (derived from the roots 'wit' and 'graph' in the original English and Greek, which literally mean 'funny picture').

The Broadgate Tower, as I have pointed out before, dwarfs all the buildings around it. In fact, you could say it's upstairs of everything.

But as I also pointed out the gradual increase in height is only half the story. The glaziers started work months ago, and are still going strong. Since mid April they have covered over another half-diamond with glass (the half-diamond being the standard unit of measurement for the Broadgate Tower).
From the North
I'm afraid I'm going to have to be critical of the glazing though. Not just the glazing, but the cladding on the structural elements. As the glass is just clear glass, and the cladding on the beams is virtually white the end result is going to be a very pale tower (unless they fill it with very dark things - millions of undertakers' offices - in which case the effect will be like a negative of a tudor building). Pale glazed tall buildings are relatively rare; the only one I can think of is HSBC Tower in Docklands, but that is in very glitzy metallic surroundings. I'm not sure how well a squeaky clean Broadgate Tower will harmonize with grimy Shoreditch. Even if, as London Lite claims, Shoreditch is virtually the West End now, the area will continue to look grubby unless the buildings are knocked down. Or sand-blasted, like St. Paul's. And that ain't gonna happen. Unless I launch a campaign. I'll make spurious claims that unsandblasted buildings are carcinogenic. People will believe me. I'm well-trusted about town.

What is with the plastic coveringAlso, the fire escape is being put together at an impressive rate. But for some reason the sticky back plastic at the bottom is yet to be removed. A minor criticism, but my Mum always told me to clear up one mess before starting to make another, and ignoring that advice has left me in the many messes (mostly bedroom floor based) I find myself in today.

Transport problems

Well, what a great day! I woke up fairly early and, on looking out of the window to see the bright blue sky, decided to pack a large bottle of water and a salami salad sandwich, and then head off on the bike; first to the City, then to Docklands, then maybe back along the south side of the Thames.
Burnt out busExcept that's not what really happened because last night some little fucker nicked my bike. Which means I have to take public transport for a while. The omen's are good though; I've just seen a bus on fire, and earlier in the day I passed two friendly bus drivers arguing about whose fault it was they nearly crashed. Bendy busesOn the bright side Ken Livingstone has -finally - got around to passing legislation which exempts bendy buses from the standard 'no-bending' traffic bylaws in the capital, so bus journeys should be quicker now.

Without the bike I feel Lost Indian tourist.
I just feel like I suddenly have a huge burden to bear Indians pushing a large ball.
It's just a shame the world's such a P1020156 .

But as my mate Rimmsy would say: "Hey ho." And how about listening to this cheery summer song by Karl Blau.

As you can tell from the photos I did get out and about despite the de-wheeling. Quite an epic journey, all the way to the river. Your reward for reading through my sob story is to play a great new game I invented at the Tower of London called 'Achilles Heel'. The way it works is: I show you a picture of a building (most likely a castle or a disused fort), and you have to work out where the achilles heel of the fortifications is. (I am preoccupied with chinks in armour at the moment given that my bike lock was evidently not as impervious as advertised.)

A tricky one to start:
Tower of london chink
Can you tell what it is yet?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Keyword of the week - london sky line egg

Couldn't find sensible results for london sky line egg? You might be looking for information on The Gherkin (official name of 30 St Mary Axe), which is a slightly egg-shaped building in London. As its name suggests, though, it's actually shaped a lot more like a pickled cucumber (although a pine cone is probably the best approximation mother nature has to offer).

Or you might mean City Hall, aka The Mayor's office.

I feel sorry for whoever typed london sky line egg into Google.

Other people have done it before, with variations such as 'Liverpool Street Egg'. It seems they're looking for information about that egg shaped building on the London skyline.

I've never seen an egg shaped building on the London skyline, so I presume they mean The Gherkin, aka 30 St Mary Axe. So I've performed the public service above of linking to some comprehensive information about it. Here also are my posts tagged with Gherkin.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The miracle of the Olympics

Despite its being the biggest regeneration project/white elephant since the Millenium Dome, I have steered clear from commenting on the Olympics construction site. This is partly because it won't impact on the London Skyline, so is technically beyond the remit of this blog, but it's also partly due to the fact I very rarely head over Stratford way. I probably should make the effort every few months though.

But I'm breaking my silence now, in advance of any site visit, as I have received a communique from the Olympic Delivery Authority regarding changes to the planning application originally approved. All very, very dull. But there are a couple of illuminating maps. I've chosen to focus on just one detail.

You'll all have heard the spiel about the Olympics generating long-term employment and development in one of the UK's most deprived areas (I typoed 'moist deprived areas' then. Which is pretty funny, but not as funny as 'moist depraved areas'. But I didn't type that). But there are doubters who deny the Olympics will have the impact claimed on inner-city poverty. They argue that there's no real sustainability to be found in the jobs the Olympics will create, and that everything is founded on a set of vague hopes. But these maps prove them wrong once and for all

Olympics site, during Olympics

Olympics site, post Olympics

28 synergies later

Diamond Geezer is/writes a blog about London and other things, and according to his site he lives right near where I did 2 year sago. He has also recently been thinking about bicycle bells on canals, as have I, and has watched new zombie film 28 Weeks Later at West India Quay in Docklands, which is basically right in the middle of where it was filmed. And guess where I've just returned from.

Coincidentally (almost), it's been 29 weeks since I started the blog, but as far as I'm aware I didn't start the blog because I contracted a rage-inculcating virus (although I was a bit annoyed at how difficult it was to find info about skyscrapers under construction).

Back to the film.

It's a great showcase for the London skyline (albeit jumbled up in the editing room - cross Tower Bridge south to get to the Gherkin, anyone? I don't care; I'm all for artistic licence. But it does provoke an involuntary grimace unfortunately. i wonder if Woody Allen played similar tricks with New York's geography, and do New Yorkers flinch when they watch his films?). And the whole of docklands gets over-run by zombies (I don't think I'm giving away any surprises there), before being set ablaze.

I was a tad disappointed it wasn't dark when we exited the cinema. Due to planned engineering works (wich the Transport for London website said nothing about!) I had to walk down some fairly dimly lit alleys to get to All Saints to catch my bus and was perversely looking forward to a doubtless unnerving walk through darkened streets which - moments before - had been heaving with the living dead.

The reason for starting this post with a mention of Diamond Geezer is that he's kindly put me as the official blog of the City of London on his 'London by blog' map, which is nice. I pipped Pepys to the podium, which is better than nice.

It's very nice.

I must remember to visit Samuel's grave to check whether it's rotated at all recently.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Church theft

One area I've been meaning to investigate is whether the London Skyline of yore... the Wren skyline... the one that everybody seeks to preserve, received much opposition when it was constructed.

Slightly different kettle of fish given that the whole city had just been incinerated, and the idea that there were many people concerned about preserving the view when there were fish and spices to sell is a bit of a whimsy to be honest. But I do know there was opposition to St Paul's Cathedral as it was considered to be too catholic looking. I wonder if his other churches were similarly opposed by traditionalists?

In doing some preliminary googling I have the following to report:

Church theft

The Church of St Mary, Aldermanbury now resides in Fulton, Missouri (satellite picture). It was bombed during the blitz and rather than rebuild it all themselves the canny Cockneys thought they'd ship it off to America where 'visitors from around the world may enter Wren's beautiful, light-filled sanctuary.' But why Fulton?
'The structure would be rebuilt on the campus of Westminster College as a permanent reminder of Churchill's visit to the college and his prophetic speech.'
The speech was in fact the one where he became the first Western leader to openly accuse the Soviet Union of being... well... sorta evil, and coined the term 'Iron Curtain'. Bit of an odd way to permanently remind yourselves of Churchill; import (at huge cost) a church which he had nothing to do with. I dunno - Americans.

Another stolen church feature I came across in Perth, Australia a few years ago. The original bells from St Martin-in-the-Fields are there in a striking bell tower (satellite image) which looks a bit like the maelstrom boat from the forgettable 'Pirates of dark water' cartoon from the early nineties. It is appartently one of the largest musical instruments in the world (if you can call that racket music. Honestly - it's just noise! Give me some punk over bell-ringing any day). I've seen (but not heard) the largest musical instrument in the world. It's some disused grain silos in Montreal which I believe work a bit like mammoth organ pipes. They call it the silophone. Maybe they should aim for a similar thing for Battersea power station. I could then nip down there in my lunch hour to tinkle the old turbine halls.

Hawksmoor's seven

Found this fact about Hawksmoor's contribution to church-building in London:
All seven were constructed under the Act of 1711 which proposed to build '50 new churches of stone and other [1]proper materials with towers or steeples'. This scheme was put forward by the Tories, [2]partly to celebrate the [3]fall of the Whigs after 22 years but also because [4] law and order in the suburbs was thought to be suffering for want of churches.
What an excellent act of parliament! It's got the lot: [1] vague, almost mystical terminology, [2] the bizarre practice of splashing out by indulging in a bout of piety, [3] inter-party pettiness, and [4] the almost childlike naivety we know, love and expect in politicians.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Keyword of the week

Shark at Exchange Square

london skyline explained
Quite innocuous, this week's. But I just like the idea that somebody thinks it needs explaining. I have this image of Hugh Laurie doing his best upper middle class twit gesticulation and saying 'Well, this won't do. I demand an explanation!'

Tell you one thing that does need an explanation though. The strange protrusion in the photo. Aside from looking a bit like a shark, and maybe having some use as a deterrent to passing tuna, I can't think what its purpose is.

Any ideas?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Who will buy my sweet docklands building

Guardian London skyscrapers pageThe Guardian today has a two page spread on the price of London's skyscrapers. Click on the title of this post to read it in full, but if you just want a summary...

The HSBC Tower in docklands (surprisingly only finished in 2002, only a year or so before the Gherkin - it's easy to forget just how recent the docklands developments are) has jsut been sold for £1.1bn, making it officially the most expensive building in the UK.

HSBC are still staying there though - renting from the new owners - but the windfall profit of £500m they get from the sale (it only cost £580m to build and furbish) was tempting enough to take.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Dribble to the sea

I reckon about 3% of blogs (possibly more; there may have been a recent explosion) are concerned with people reviewing the books they've read. Today it's (sort of) time for me to enter the fray. But first some preamble:

Dribble to the seaI love to see footballs floating down the Thames. Clearly, some little kid upstream would have been at least a little upset at losing it (unless they were Rod Stewart's son or something, which would be pretty cool as he would probably fill the entire estate with footballs just in case you kicked one in the river. That's the kind of thoughtful thing Rod does.) but if these children, distraught though they must be, were to consider for one second that their ball is on its way to the sea (!) it might inspire a sense of wonderment, and repress those football related suicidal urges.

Was that overly damatic? No? Thought not.

Also, they should know that every time somebody notices the ball floating by they think of the child that lost it. Myself, I like to cackle evilly at thir misfortune, but I know for a fact that others emit a simple 'Ohhhh' of empathy.

Through that lost football you are touching the souls of thousands.

Which brings me on to the book, called Paddle-to-the-Sea. My Auntie Eirlys (who called herself Jane as no one English could pronounce her name (which means snowdrop), and who emigrated to Canada in the early 70's) bought it as a present for my brother one Christmas. I was eternally jealous as I loved the book, and I think always will have fond memories of it.

The book starts in the thawing snow of Nippon country in the wilds of Canada, where an Indian boy has carved a little wooden canoe with a little wooden man sitting in it. On the bottom (of the boat, not the man) is carved the statement (or something like it):

'I am Paddle-to-the-Sea. Please help me on my way.'
The jist of the story is that the boat gets swept away with the thawing snow, and gradually journeys through the Great Lakes, and then along the St. Lawrence River and out to sea. On its journey various people find it and repair it, and lots of animals snuffle at it.

It's a great children's story, full of evocative illustrations. Perhaps I should write a British, football related version. With the ball getting hassled by water voles and having cans of Tennents chucked at it by tramps. And then passing through the grandeur of London. Yes Yes Yes! It'll be a children's classic. There'll be a film adaptation; Kevin Spacey will star as the ball. Audrey Tatou will make a cameo appearance as a French human statue who is longingly reminded of her past love with Zinedine Zidane as the ball bobbles past.

It won't have Rod Stewart in it though. Football hoarding bastard.

How wide is a piece of River Thames...

Thames view, 27 April 2007
Above is the view I had whilst waiting for Mark to arrive when we all went for a few drinks on the South Bank on Friday night (on Sunday I found lots of photos I took of us in front of St Paul's of which I have no recollection). Care to hazard a guess as to how wide the Thames is here? Here are our predictions:

  • Keith - 400 yards
  • Mark - 250 yards 'tops'
  • Me - 200 yards
  • Katy - 300 yards
  • Lisa - 250 yards
Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844 tells us that
Waterloo Bridge. - To the spirited exertions and unceasing perseverance of the late Mr. George Dodd, an active, enterprising, and skilful engineer, the public are indebted for the erection of this distinguished ornament of the metropolis which was commenced by him, but completed by Mr. Rennie.
Get to the point!
Its length, within the abutments, is 1240 feet, and its width, within the balustrades, is 42 feet, seven of which, on each side, are appropriated to foot passengers. ... The views from this edifice are extensive and beautiful, and are much enlivened by the perpetual passage of steam boats and other vessels, that, in the summer season, considerably heighten the panoramic beauties of this delightful promenade.
I wonder if English Heritage campaigned to save the 'perpetual passage of steam boats' in order to preserve the view?

That length turns out to be an overestimate. Another Bridges over the Thames website confirms that the Millenium Bridge is only 330m long. Subtract a fair bit for the overlap with the banks and the river is probably about 280m long. Which makes Lisa and Katy the winners. So much for the male genetic predisposition for spatial awareness.

The same website has this astounding fact.
Hungerford Bridges

In 1840 Brunel built a suspension bridge across the River at this point but it was replaced by the current bridge in 1864. The chains from the first bridge were however, used in Brunel's Clifton Suspension Bridge across the River Avon in Bristol.
2 things here:
  1. The Clifton suspension bridge is really famous, rated as being a paradigmatic example of how to 'do' a suspension bridge. But it turns out it's jsut recycled junk (shhh - don't tell the Bristolians)
  2. Apparently we lead very wasteful lives nowadays. But at least we don't go around building entirely new bridges every 24 years!
Apparently the River Thames lifeboat is the busiest in the country. I can well believe it - every time I go to the Youngers Arms on the Thames I see it speeding past.

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