What and where do you reckon this is?:
So there I was in the City of London, during the early evening of November 23rd 2012, photoing all that there ever was of The Helter Skelter that never was, and in among all that I also photoed the Heron Tower. The one that used to be called the Heron Tower, which they tried to call the Salesforce Tower, but which remains the Heron Tower:
That being a photo that wouldn’t be worth showing here, except that the reason I photoed it was that it explained and supplied context for this next photo, which I had photoed a few moments earlier:
Let’s take a look at what we see there in more closer-upper detail:
I like how we have that bloke bottom right, telling us the size of everything. It’s bigger than I’d have guessed without him there.
It’s not often you get to see inside the tops of towers like that. It helped that it was early evening, because that’s the time when artificial light starts to assert itself, but there is still enough natural light outside for the outside of the building to be clearly visible also.
I went a-googling, to try to find out what was and maybe still is going on in there.
I found my way to this photo:
Curved red staircase, clearly at the top of a tower. That had to be it. And when I googled “red staircase heron tower” and that same photo came up, that settled it.
Two names kept coming up: Sushi Samba; and: Duck and Waffle. Had Sushi Samba perhaps closed, some time around 2017, and been replaced by Duck and Waffle. Sushi Samba sounds like the sort of one-off foodery that opens, and then closes; while Duck and Waffle sounds more like a tried-and-tested formula, of the sort that replaces one-off fooderies that are closing. Was that what had happened?
This floating “culinary village” is set in a three-story crystalline volume at the top of Heron Tower, the tallest building in the City of London. The space is home to both SUSHISAMBA London, the renowned Brazilian/Peruvian/Japanese restaurant, and Duck & Waffle, a unique 24/7 restaurant that is inspired by British artistic and culinary traditions. A sweeping sculptural orange glass and metal staircase connects all three levels, decorated by a wall of street art.
So, both tried-and-tested business recipes and both happening there from the get-go, which presumably happened when the Heron Tower really was “the tallest building in the City of London”.
Another enterprise I learned about was the guys who actually built these staircases. And oh look, they also do roof clutter. Memo to self: get back to that site and have a deeper rootle around. For instance: they built/worked on that bizarre bit of roof clutter on top of the Guy’s Hospital Tower.
But the most enticing thing I found while scrabbling about trying to work out the SushiSamba/Duck+Waffle story was this very enticing photo:
That photo being one of these.
According to GodDaughter2’s sister, you can just go up there, with no airport checking-in crap, like it’s a regular place on the ground. I guess the Heron Tower isn’t reckoned to be “iconic” enough to merit counter-terrorism theatre.
Another memo to self: go up there.
And the shape is the big green thing that someone has stuck in the middle of this photo …:
On the right, King’s Cross railway station. On the left, St Pancras railway station, which is where the Eurostar trains go to and come from. It’s a pretty well connected sort of place. And proof that physical connection remains important, in the world of virtual connection that Google does so much to route us all about in.
A while back I was in and around all this with a friend, and just before I photoed these photos, I photoed these photos:
There’s something very appealing to me about the big concrete towers that signal a big new project like this one, towers ministered to by cranes, cranes which on sunny days often leave shadows on the towers. In a few months, all will be completely different. No sooner are these towers built than they are smothered in something else, after which some degree of permanence will return.
And whereas those earlier towers and cranes I linked to were for Brand X unaffordable apartments, the above towers are being built for one of the great economic and political facts of our time.
As regulars here know, I am very fond of Richard Seifert‘s One Kemble Street (that link will now get you to this posting again but keep scrolling down). I am fond of One Kemble Street because of its repetitively yet I think elegantly sculpted outside walls but chaotic roof clutter topping. One of Seifert’s best. (His worst was concrete monstrosity at its most monstrous.)
Here’s another good photo of One Kemble Street that I found in the archives, photoed in September of 2016, from the top of the ME Hotel.
Three distinct bits of roof clutter there, on top of One Kemble Street, at a lower level between One Kemble Street and the ME Hotel, and in the foreground on top of the ME Hotel itself.
As you can also see from this photo of One Kemble Street and the ME Hotel taken from the upstairs balcony of the Royal Festival Hall, there’s a very good view of One Kemble Street from the ME Hotel, round the back.
Had Seifert designed the British Library, it would have looked very different.
Recently a friend fixed for us to visit the British Library. Inside the British Library there is a big architectural model, of the British Library. Which looks like this:
I have never really given much attention to this building, which I now regret. Because, what a very interesting building it is.
In contrast to most of the modern architecture being done in London at the time when the British Library was built (it was opened in 1973), the British Library looks more like an assemblage of buildings than a building built all at once. Most of London’s big new architect-designed buildings from that time look geometrically pulled together, so to speak. It’s as if the architect was looking for the one big simple shape that would accommodate all the bits of the building, like someone designing the packaging for a complicated bit of equipment that consists of a number of different bits.
But with the British Library, the only unifying principle at work is that all the buildings are made with the same red bricks. That’s how you know it’s all the same building. Otherwise, the way it looks is that way because that was the way the particular bit of the building in that part of the building needed to look. It’s not so much a design as an agglomeration. A brand new exercise in the picturesque. Lots of buildings, all different from each other, all jumbled together, and all built in a similar style.
Was stuck for a posting. Even, for about an hour, was stuck for a quota posting.
In the end, just looked in the I Just Like It directory, and picked that one.
I live the contrast between the highly visible normality in the foreground, and the indistinct uniqueness of the Big Things of Central London.
Date: July 1st, 2012. The Big Things have been added to, since then.
On August 24th 2018, exactly one year ago, GodDaughter2 and I visited Kew Gardens I of course photoed photos, of central London from the top of the Great Pagoda, of some inflated plastic dragons, and of the Great Pagoda and the dragons on the Great Pagoda.
Here are some more photos I photoed that day, of something called the Temperate House, so called because it contains plants from temperate climates:
But my favourite photo that I photoed that day of the Temperate House was this one that I photoed from the top of the Great Pagoda:
At the back there are some dreary concrete towers, which architects make a great fuss of, and of the sort that the rest of us mostly shrug our shoulders about and just put up with.
This was the photo that caught my attention when I looked again at my KewGardens Aug24-2018 directory today, and which got me doing this posting.
I don’t often often get close up with the Big Things of the City of London. Mostly I just admire the changing scene they have made for London over the last two decades, but from a distance.
But in November of 2012, I did get close to these Things, and in particular to the new Big Thing then under construction, known by its makers as “The Pinnacle”, and to the rest of us as the “Helter Skelter”.
Here is a smallish gallery from that expedition:
A sneaky selfie in the last one there.
The Helter Skelter turned into something else just as tall, but bulkier and duller, as recounted in this angry piece. Which means that my expedition captured a fascinating passing moment in London’s architectural history. The stump that was all it was then remained a stump, and then turned into the Biggest Thing in the top photo here.
I have mixed feelings about this story. On the one hand, the Helter Skelter would have been more elegant and recognisable. And it would also have been a great place to shoot a remake of King Kong, with KK sliding down it, carrying an English actress with him on his lap. On the other hand, the current architectural hulk that is catchily known as “22 Bishopsgate”, now nearing completion, being so very bulky and inelegant, will positively demand a much bigger Big Thing next to it, in the fullness of time. Rather in the way that Guy’s Hospital was, for its time, so big and ugly that it made the Shard happen.
Late this afternoon, I went out walking, within walking distance of where I live. I had four tasks and I accomplished all of them, and then some. I have reached the age where getting four out of four in this sort of way is reason to self-congratulate. The and then some being that I took lots of photos that I hadn’t planned on photoing.
The first task was to stock up on some canned drinks that I can only buy at one shop. The second was to stop by a cash machine. The third was to photo a building, a detail of which I needed to know about for a blog posting. And the fourth was to photo this:
This being the entrance to the Queen’s Gallery. (Interesting that the Queen’s Gallery has no website.) I have arranged to meet someone there next week, to see the Leonardo da Vinci show they are showing. And I needed to check that saying “entrance” as the place where we’ll meet is clear and unambiguous. Better yet, I needed a photo of the entrance, so I can say: there.
Don’t you just love it when a piece of personal admin can double up as a blog posting? Well, no, you probably never do that, or feel that way about it. But I do and I do.