Thursday, September 27, 2007

My beautiful galleria

P1020758Gorilla, galleria, lager, regal, logger...

Those are about the only words I can think of with those 3 consonant sounds and no others (garullous has an s, and grilled has a gr not a g and an r).

I doubt that was a criteria when the architects of the Broadgate Tower were thinking what to put between the tower and 201 Bishopsgate. A gorilla would've been nice, and exotic rather than continental. Lager would have been downright irresponsible in these days of bingeing, and probably structurally unsound (unlike the gorilla - no one could claim a gorilla is structurally unsound!).

It's very clever what they've done. The railway running underneath the site means no weight can go straight down through the middle, hence the steel girder buttresses propping up the tower from the side. But these girders by themselves do look rather stark and industrial, and it's quite obvious that what they're doing is holding up the tower.

But just look at the effect now. Looks like a prism, a short section of DNA, or a half completed spirograph drawing. The top level of beams aren't structural at all - they are in fact held up by steel cables - but it's important they're there in order to convince the walk through galleria goer that they're inside a great big sculpture. Maybe they'll wonder since when Antony Gormley or Thomas Heatherwick have built skyscrapers.

You can see the tiered rear of 201 Bishopsgate in the photo too. Or would it be better termed an overhang. Either way I like the way it looks in general, but I wonder, looking at this particular photo, whether it'll defeat the object of having a big airy covered space in the gap between the buildings by crowding the space a little.`

As a final aside, the other day I was riding the top deck of a bus home. Looking out of the window I saw an elderly asian shopkeeper and what looked like several generations of his family gathered outside the shop. There was a very cheerful atmosphere. The kids were doing that thing where they look slightly upwards and swing their heads from side to side, grinning, to check if the adults are enjoying themselves as much as they are.

The reason for all this glee?

They were putting up a sticky banner in the window which proudly proclaimed they were now an "Oyster ticket stop."

And if that doesn't deserve a photo of a patch of blue sky, I don't know what does.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Devil is in the details

A wise man (David Gest) once said 'When you come to know somebody as well as I know Michael, years can pass without seeing each other, and yet we still recognise each other like old pals when we meet again. It's like the time never passed!'

He was lying when he said that as both he and Mr. Jackson are plastic freaks who never look the same from one week to the next. For most people, however, it would be a true statement; the little changes brought on by the ravages of time don't wear away your familiarity with someone. That's exactly how I feel about the Broadgate Tower.

When I look at it I see some things that are familiar:
  • The things still don't extend to the ground for some reason. By 'things' I mean the grooved cladding put around the main supporting beams. On 201 bishopsgate the glazing is in place behind them, so I think when they finally extend to the gound they will be kept in the open air, as decorative modern pillars. Talking of pillars, I only realised recently that the reason the Greeks are so pissed off about the elgin marbles is that they were taken from the Acropolis. Bloody cheek we had! Give 'em back, I say.
  • P1020740For some reason the builders have still neglected to peel away the backing plastic from the lower reaches of the fire escape. They've also missed a bit higher up. It'll be a devil to reach that now. they'll have to hire a trapeze. Or Spiderman, but unless the Green Goblin's really getting on his tits he doesn't take kindly to being distracted by requests to do such menial work.

But also a lot that is new:

  • P1020764Bits of wood boarding up spaces where there should be panes of glass. Down the road from where I used to live they built this hideous 3-storey block of flats. On the ground floor the windows were floor to ceiling. Now - what Hackney teenager can resist hurling a brick through such an inviting target? Idiotic design decision.
    The 10th floor of a building you'd think woud be safe though wouldn't you, but even windows all the way up there get broken. Or maybe it's just not glazed for access reasons.

  • The galleria is taking shape at last... but that's for another time

Baptism or How to make up names and influence people

P1020767It's really quite amazing how short the tower looks from the street. It only just peeks out from behind 210 Bishopsgate, despite being more than twice the height. The word tower doesn't seem appropriate when seen from this angle. 'Slab' would be a better word.

But then again, the other night I was at the Light Bar with Paul and his friend Marie from New York, and from that angle it looked very thin; she said it herself: "What's that thin building?"

P1020766This whole fat/thin dichotomy makes me think the nickname "Razor" is appropriate. the shape is particularly emphasised in the promotional poster.

The question is, though, how do I propagate this nickname? I missed a trick by not spreading it to New York via Marie, but there you go. My ideas so far are to:

  • Phone Jonny Vaughan's breakfast show every day, using a number of aliasses (Chris the orthodontist from Harrow, Beverley the Chauffeur from Peckham Rye, Denis the Balloonist from Thamesmead), and wedging in a mention of the tower by its nickname.
    Jonny: So, Charlotte [the amateur cricketer from Enfield], what d'you think of Boris? Has he got what it takes to be mayor, or is he just a bit of a joke?
    Charlotte [aka me on helium]: Well, Jonny, I was walking past The Razor the other day, down by Liverpool Street station, and I have to say I think he's a bit of a joke.
  • Starting a hate campaign against all things with Broadgate in their name, therefore forcing a reappraisal of the tower's name by British Land.
  • Printing some posters and sticking them on the hoarding.
  • Recording a novelty rap/children's song, in the style of The Budgie Man ("I'm the Budgie Man, I'm the Budg-, Budg-, Budg-ie Man"), who can often be seen outside the Tate Modern.
  • Paying various minor clebrities, such as Prince, to use the name as part of their clothing range.

Please put any ideas you have in the comments. (Even though my ideas are silly, I am sort of being serious about getting the name to catch on).

PS - I know this completely ignores the results of the nickname competition I held a few months ago, but what can I say - I'm an arrogant ignoramus. (Maybe I should join the American presidential race).

Return of the prodigal son

Broadgate Tower, 23 September 2007Every time I've gone past the Broadgate Tower over the past few months I've felt very strong feelings. I went to see a therapist about it and she told me my feelings of guilt at having abandoned it at such a tender stage were eating away at me, and would probably eventually result in a horrendous crime on my part. Such as a string of unexplained shopliftings.

Horrified by the prospect of the good proprietors of East London being terrorised and out of pocket, I made it a priority to visit the tower just as soon as I got my arse into gear.

I have now fulfilled my pledge. I think I'll get a few posts out of the visit. First, a general overview.

As you can tell from the photo the tower is considerable more glazed than it used to be. Less obvious in a daytime photo (I'll have to take a night time one soon), is that once they glaze a floor they also put in lights and, maybe, partitions within the floors. The top two-or-so unglazed floors shine one very bright light out at night, but the lower floors twinkle with lots of smaller lights.

P1020732P1020733Speaking of the glazing, it really does emphasise the difference in the pattern of struts between the sides of 201 Bishopsgate and The Broadgate Tower. The Tower's Diamonds look a lot more balanced than the 2 vertical zigzags of 201 Bishopsgate. Why they chose to include them at all is a mystery as they don't make an apperance anywhere else on the building - clean vertical lines dominate elsewhere. Re-looking at the photo now, I think just verticals would look like a harsh 80's tower block - something to avoid - but the zigzags don't work either. Perhaps extending the tiered/faceted look of the rear around to the side would have worked better. But what's done is done.

On the back of the tower, however, the broken diamonds look works quite well. Quite cleverly done, really.


Back in the saddle

Well, today (Sunday) has seen my first skyscraper seeking jaunt for a while. As I don't have internet at home at present (I'll be uploading this to the blog at work on Monday) I can't double check when exactly the last one was, but I think it was roughly at the end of May.

Since then a lot has changed:

    Artist's impression of Willis Building concourse
  • The Willis Building has been finished, more or less. I took one last photo of the uncompleted spine of the building in May/June, and that's now been glazed over. But the hoarding is still up and the artist's impressions of people milling around the entrances in the sunlight look like being a distant dream. Also an improbable one; my photographing of the building has been an ongoing challenge as it's pretty much permanently in the shade.
  • There are several new buildings shooting up, or having builings knocked down to make way for them, including:
    • One behind the Broadgate centre
    • One by the old stock exchange (which itself is almost completely reclad in glass)
    • Demolition of the building where the Bishopsgate tower will go
    • Ditto for the Heron Tower
    • Reglazing and extending upwards of a building by St Botolph's without Bishopsgate Church. (Karen tells me that St. Botolph is patron saint of travellers, hence his presence near each of the old gates to the City)
  • There is now a tower crane where the Shard of Glass is to be built.
  • Monument and The Royal Exchange are both surrounded by scaffolding for cleaning.

Carrot cakesAnd finally, skyscraper chasing is a tiring old business, so I bought some cakes for sustenance. The cakes I opted for were Tesco's finest carrot cakes with a cream cheese icing (very nice indeed). It has become something of a cliche in this day and age to mock serving suggestion pictures on packaging for being obvious (eg. the words 'serving suggestion' emblazoned across a picture of jelly in a bowl on the packaging for some jelly), but the carrot cake packaging has truly excelled itself.

It gets the obviousness down to a tee - put the cakes on something - but then, looking at the picture more carefully, it appears to suggest that you take a bite out of the cake then spit it back out on the plate before offering the cakes up for serving.

I am of the fairly strong opinion that this is a crap serving suggestion.

PS - thanks for the welcome back messages.

Monday, September 17, 2007

My second youth

Ok - you win.

Complete strangers have used the words 'wicked' and 'mate' in the same sentence when commenting on the blog. I think it's about time I came out of retirement.

So much has happened since I last wrote. So much so that I can't even hope to write it all up, so, for the sake of brevity, I'll unfortunately have to leave out the bit about my amazing adventures in space. Here is a recap (in rough order of importance) of some of the other significant things I made a note to write about:

  1. I have a new bike which, thus far, has not been stolen.
  2. The Walkie Talkie has been given planning permission. The Times headline is "St Paul’s, meet Darth Vader cathedral", which I quite like. Ruth Kelly didn't actually get around to makinga deceision and it was left to her successor (Oh yeah - we have a new government since I last wrote!) Hazel Blears to give a couple of weeks' deliberation to the months of case files before giving the stamp of approval. Is there a stamp, I wonder? Or is it all digitised these days?
  3. (such and such a number) Bishopsgate street has been cloaked in scaffold and demolition rags. Don't think the actual; knocking down has begun yet, although it's possible they've started gutting the interior. That's always a possibility.
  4. I have moved house. Back to Bow, my original London haunt, but in a nicer bit next to the park and canal.
  5. Broadgate Tower is now nearly fully glazed, though I don't have a photo to prove it as yet (but cycle past there daily, so who knows what could happen!)
  6. I missed yet another chance to go inside the Gherkin.
That's all for now. My blogging stamina is waning.

Unlike my cycling stamina. I rode all the way to Enfield yesterday, where the canal smells of dog biscuits.

*edit* Blogger thinks I've turned German:
That's what happens; you go away for a while and it's like your friends don't even know who you are any more.

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