That’s Photo thirty-five in the top fifty architectural photos that were competing for this prize. It’s Eltz Castle and it’s actually not a nineteenth century rehash, done by that bloke who paid Wagner’s bills, however much it may look like that. (Blog and learn.)
Whatever. We need more of the spirit of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. Why can’t there be more edifices of this sort built, now? Why can’t most of us get at least some of the architecture we like, now? What’s the big problem?
Maybe these guys could do it. They seem perfectly willing to do either Ancientism or Modernism, depending only on who the customer is. Now there’s an idea.
The winning photo out of those fifty was a photo of a bridge I have already written about here, making points not dissimilar to those I make in this posting.
Last Sunday, the gloriously sunny day when I photoed this reflection photo, I also photoed many other photos, as I walked to and around Parliament Square, and then along the River to Lambeth Bridge and across, and then to Vauxhall. My aim was to photo the statues in Parliament Square and the two pronged Vauxhall Bus Thing in friendlier light than I had so far managed.
But while engaged in this project, I couldn’t avoid noticing something else that was happening. See if you can spot what these twenty eight photos have in common:
Yes. Well spotted. Cyclists. Lots and lots of cyclists. Cyclists on their own. Cyclists in pairs. Families of cyclists. Great squadrons of cyclists. On otherwise almost entirely empty roads.
Quite what this “means”, I’m not entirely sure. But a major point of this blog is to feature things that seem interesting, without it being entirely clear to me why they are interesting. “Interesting” being the lowest form of interestingness that there is, because it’s the sort that you haven’t yet explained to yourself.
The only titbit of interpretation I can offer is that I caught a Daily Telegraph article about how the Lockdown was beginning to fray at the edges, and illustrated at the top with a photo like one of the ones above, featuring a great cluster of cyclists. I can’t now find this piece, but I swear I saw it. I didn’t read it, because the DT hides most of its stuff behind a paywall these days, and paying my way past paywalls is a habit I don’t want to start catching. But, I did see it. It was something along these lines, but with a cyclists photo at the top instead of a short video about people sunbathing en masses on the beach.
Also, there was me, creeping about photoing these cyclists. I too am fraying the Lockdown at its edges.
Because, another interesting thing about Lockdown London, at any rate the bit I live in, is that the Plod are almost nowhere to be seen. Parliament Square on Sunday contained many cyclists and creepers about like me, but no coppers whatsoever. You’d think Parliament Square would still be a worry to them, yet the only cops I saw that day were charging about in vans, attending to some other matter of far greater importance to them than me creeping about photoing, or than lots of cyclists. Who knows? Maybe they were actually having a go at some crimes.
Now, I know, had any policemen tried interrogating any of these cyclists, their answer would have been: “This is excercise, and exercise is allowed.” That would have been my answer also. But in practise, the rule that the police seem to have been applying during all this History has been more like: “You can go out, but you are not allowed to enjoy it.” It was the way these cyclists were so obviously having a good time taking their exercise that made it feel like defiance of the official line. And my worry was pleasure (because photoing) is what I would have been accused of also. So, I agree with the implication of that DT piece. It’s starting to crumble. If the government is wise, it will now relax things.
At the risk of boring you, another thought occurs to me about these cyclists, which is that slowly but surely the Lockdown is being politicised. Lefties don’t mind the economy tanking quite so much, because they have a government that they hate that they can then blame it all on. They have elections to win that they’ve lately been losing, rather badly. Righties, on the other hand, want the Lockdown to end, so that they can get back to being right about everything.
But cyclists of the sort I was photoing are a classic lefty demographic. If they are making a nonsense of the Lockdown, then the Lockdown is in trouble and needs to be wound down rather fast.
Also, the very fact that Lockdown is being politicised is further evidence that people are no longer taking it that seriously, the Righties in particular. When you start thinking how the crisis du jour will help or hinder your political tribe, then it’s no longer a proper crisis. It’s a mere circumstance.
Please don’t mistake the above for my considered opinions. This is me having made some observations, and then me thinking aloud about those observations.
Google sends me emails about “new london architecture”. As you can imagine, there’s not a lot of news of this sort just now. But today, I received a link to a report about this, or maybe that’s these:
I smelled a young designer trying to get noticed, and I was not wrong. The thing is, the email said something about “colourful city benches”, and that intrigued me in all sorts of ways. I like public sculpture, especially if you can sit on it. I am interested in how designers are doing a lot of colour these days. And before the link even materialised, I placed a mental bet along the lines described in the first sentence of this paragraph.
Sure enough, Irene Astrain is indeed young. Well, thirties, which is young by architect standards. She only got started with her own enterprise in 2016.
(Starchitects often have to be seventy before they get to be starchitects. (Which was why Zaha Hadid’s recent death in her mere sixties was such a shock. (She should have had another thirty years of shape shifting ahead of her.)))
But back to these benches. What they say to me is that here’s a young architect, doing the old attract-maximum-attention-with-whatever-piddling-little-job-they’ll-let-me-do trick, and making two very strong statements. One: Modernism ain’t going anywhere. Two: but it is going to get much more colourful.
Time was when black and white, and what you get when you mix black and white (grey), were the most modern colours there were (I strongly recommend that link), and photography could also only do black-and-white. And for that mid-twentieth century generation of architects, colour was vulgar and trashy, even Victorian, the Victorian era having been, architecturally speaking, a very colourful and garish time. So, for the Modernists, coloured architecture was the superimposition of mere surface effect. Colour did not ooze out of the inner essence of whatever it was, the way Modernist shapes did, or were claimed to. So, black-and-white architecture was de rigueur and colour was an abomination.
(Interestingly, Le Corbusier deviated from this norm. More recently, Renzo Piano is now very old, but has still done some very colourful buildings, right here in London.)
And now, black-and-white-only is itself what a bygone era looked like. Colour is now done a lot better, in cities that are getting a lot less polluted than they used to be. Colour photography is something everyone can now do and now wants to do.
There’s more blog postings to be done about why Modernism ain’t going anywhere, and it damn well ain’t whatever you maybe might wish. But those will have to wait. Meanwhile, I promise nothing.
There are also lots of blog postings to be done, or discovered having been done by others, about how modernism is caused by, among other things, the fondness that adults have for the kind of things they played with when very young, and when very small compared to these things.
The Chinese government has been taking advantage lately of the fact that there is now only one media story, and is now crunching down on Hong Kong. Because now, this isn’t much of a story, compared to the big story.
As soon as the current round of dramas in Hong Kong began, I was pessimistic about the outcome in the short run, and I am even more pessimistic now. The only hope for the HongKongers, I think, is to get back at their tormentors by turning China itself, in the fullness of time, into something far different and far better, which won’t be so CCP friendly. And in the meantime torment their tormentors by making them scared, and angry that they are liable not to be written up very kindly by History. In short, the HongKongers must now settle down to try to win in the long run, along with everyone else in the world who would like China to be less horribly governed and generally a better place and less of a plague, so to speak, on the world.
But, to do my little bit for keeping Hong Kong as a story now, here are some photos I took of a pro Hong Kong demo in London on January 19th of this year, but never got around to showing anywhere, until now. These next few photos concentrate on the messages the demo-ers were proclaiming:
One weird thing though, the demo seemed to be outside this place:
What have the HongKongers got against the Royal Institute of British Architects?
This slice of google mappery explains:
The RIBA is across the road from the Chinese Embassy, and the demonstrators were shoved across the road. I have various guesses as to who made this happen and why, but I basically do not know.
Not the sort you do inside your brain; the sort you can see:
My photo walks tend to happen in the afternoon and early evening, after I have done morningy things at home. But today I took a quite long walk, quite early in the morning by my getting old standards, in order for the light to be coming from a different direction and thus to photo certain Things better. And of course everything looked a bit different, including the River, because light was bouncing into it and off of it in unfamiliar ways from Things that didn’t usually look like that. It helped that there was hardly a cloud to be seen anywhere in the sky.
When I first got a digital camera I couldn’t photo The Wheel enough. What a great Thing. But soon I realised that just photoing the Thing itself wasn’t good enough. You had to play photo-games with it in some way. Line it up with other Things, seen through it. Or reflect it, in a window for instance. Or water.
I like how the foreground foliage blots out any direct view of the Thing itself.
The above photo was just one of my favourites so far from today’s expedition. There were other nice photos also, but the above will suffice for now.
Anyone know what those two little golden crosses are, in the River? Image googling for “golden cross”, got me nowhere helpful.
Tsitsernakaberd Memorial Complex in Yerevan is dedicated to the memory of the 1.5 million Armenians who perished in the first genocide of the 20th century, at the hands of the Turkish government. Completed in 1967, the Genocide Monument has since become a pilgrimage site and an integral part of Yerevan’s architecture. Set high on a hill, dominating the landscape, it is in perfect harmony with its surroundings. The austere outlines convey the spirit of the nation that survived a ruthless campaign of extermination.
Very impressive. Never seen or heard about this before.
Also, at the end of the same piece of writing, this:
Since 1967, every year on April 24 thousands of people have visited Tsitsernakaberd Memorial Complex, with numbers increasing every year.
Hence Michael posting this yesterday. Blog and learn. And, as Michael says, remember.