On how all new building on a large scale tends to start out looking meaningless

Here are some photos I took in and around City Island in 2017, while it was in the process of being constructed:

As you can see, there are maps and images as well as photos of the finished objects, to tell you what this place was going to be like. And cranes.

City Island is a particularly perfect illustration of what Modernist Architecture has now become, and as I have said here before, I quite like it. I especially like how City Island has what amounts to a moat around it, which gives it the appearance of a micro-Manhattan.

I entirely understand why Ancientists think that Ancientist architecture should also be allowed, and I’d also quite like to see more of that. But I suspect that if there were more of that, even the protagonists of such buildings would find themselves being somewhat disappointed, both in how others react and in how they find themselves feeling about what they were in theory so keen on seeing.

The basic aesthetic problem that new building of the sort we see on City Island is the sheer amount of it that is liable to be happening at any given moment. If lots of buildings are required, all for some similar purpose, then whatever gets built is liable to start out looking and feeling rather meaningless. And that emphatically will apply, I believe, if a mass of fake-Ancient buildings is what happens. That is awfully liable, at least to begin with, to look all fake and no Ancient. To look, in short, meaningless. So, why fight it? Why not build what makes economic sense, in a style that is rather bland, but efficient and reasonably smart looking, and be done with it?

What gives meaning to buildings is not just the way they look when they first appear; it is the life and the work that subsequently get lived and done in them. Because of those things, buildings acquire a particular character, and people start to have positive feelings about those buildings, provided of course the life and work they associate with the buildings is something they also have a positive feeling about.

If people hate what happens in new buildings, they’ll hate the buildings and yearn to see them destroyed, no matter what style they were built in.

A new Fulham stand (and a very good Spurs win)

Even as I write, they are showing a Premier League soccer game on the telly, and more to the point, at the BBC Website. Which means I can go back and watch goals without all the tedium in between, and also pause things, when instead of blokes just kicking a ball, they show something more interesting, like this:

Fulham are at home to Everton, and I can’t help suspecting that they are 1-3 down at half time because the people running the club have more pressing matters on their minds than how well their team is doing. They are building a big new stand. You can tell how seriously they are taking the job by the fact that they are prepared to have two platforms sticking out over the River, just to hold all the associated building stuff, presumably because there is nowhere else nearby to put it.

We are way out west, with Central London off to the left as we look.

With cricket and rugby, I find the routine stuff that happens during games interesting, probably because I actually spent longish periods of time when I was a kid trying to do these things myself and realising how hard they are to do right, especially passing in rugby, which the pros now expect to get right every time. But the regular moves of soccer, the kicking, the passing, the tackling, I find boring. I never bothered with this, because I was a goalie, so this never really came alive for me. The goals I like, or when the goalie stops a goal. And the more distant views as above I also like, for totally different reasons. So I really like being able to keep the visuals of a soccer game going in the background, and then when something of interest happens, to pick those moments out for myself, which you can do on the internet, but not when it’s on old school TV.

Yesterday, my team, Spurs had the sort of game they have in recent years tended to lose, or to draw disappointingly, namely a home game against a genuinely top club. For all their bizarre heroics in a recent European Cup (getting to the final), Spurs have never in recent years been any better than a best-of-the-rest team rather than a truly top team. But yesterday’s game, if they could only win it, would suggest true topness. So, yesterday, I had three very nice surprises. The first was when I learned that Spurs had gone one up, against Manchester City, no less. Second, even better, was when I later learned that they had gone two up. Then, best of all, they conceded no goals themselves towards the end when Man City were pressing to get back into it, and closed out the game. This is top team stuff. If Spurs can beat Chelsea at Chelsea next Sunday, then they really will start looking like a top team, and I might start paying them some serious attention.

Fulham 2 Everton 3, with a quarter of an hour to go. Go London Fulham, given that you are not playing against London Spurs.

I support all the London teams, unless they’re playing London Spurs. That’s right, I support Arsenal against all other comers. This enrages Real Football Fans, which is all part of why I do it. As does calling “Football” soccer, the sneer quotes because what of Rugby Football, American Football, table football, Australian Football, etc.? I’m a Londonist, see above, way before I’m a soccerist.

LATER: Here’s how they reckoned, in 2018, that this new stand would look:

From the report below that picture:

Fulham FC will redevelop its Riverside Stand to increase the capacity at its Craven Cottage stadium to 29,600. The work will also see the Thames Path opened for the first time, for pedestrians to walk from Hammersmith to Putney Bridge.

Memo to self: When they finish this, check it out.

At the Royal Victoria Docks in March 2012

The basic reason I do personal blogging has always been that I don’t want any constraints placed by some agenda, in my case a political one, on what I consider to be interesting, or beautiful, or amusing, or interesting, or just likeable in some indefinable way. The rule I try to stick to is: Never, if I actually do not, say what I think or feel that I am supposed to think or feel. If that results in “contradictions” between things I consider of interest, so be it.

All of which is a preamble to saying that I hope I never stop doing postings like this one, with photos like this:

All of the above photos were photoed in March of 2012, on the way to (photo 1), on the way from (photo 28), or at or from (photos 2-27) the Royal Victoria Docks, which are out beyond Docklands. This evening, I came across a little directory, where I’d put them all, with something like this in mind. All the work of selecting had been done. So here they all are. And yes, you are right, I do have very conventional tastes in sunsets, with interesting things in the foreground. But if you ever decide to dislike something you like, because other people also like it, more fool you.

I love how shoving up great clutches of photos like this is so much easier than it was at the old blog, and that it is easy for you to click through them, if you want to, just as slowly or as quickly as you like, without a lot of backwards-and-forwards-ing. I don’t think that’ll ever get old.

Two Big Things were, at that particular moment, under construction. They were finishing up with The Shard, and they were building that weird cable car thing across the River, having, in March 2012, got as far as building the towers but being yet to attach the cables or cable cars.

One of my favourite Things at these docks is the new footbridge they built across it. It’s great to look at, and it’s great to look from.

I really hope that by the time half decent weather returns, some time around March 2021, I’ll be in a fit state to take advantage of it, and do more of this kind of photo-perambulating.

Big Things across the River

There were statues to be seen nearby, but there were bigger things, Big Things, further away, on the other side of the River:

Photo 1 uses the clutter associated with getting on and off of a boat to frame the Wheel. All the rest are entirely of more distant stuff.

I like the colours, warm cream when the sun hits stone or concrete, dark glass, the perfect blue of the sky. My camera makes the dark glass, of such buildings as One Blackfriars (aka the Boomerang), all the darker by not wanting bright sunlight directly reflected to look too bright.

And once again with the shadow of the Wheel (for once London “Eye” works very nicely) on the Shell Building, but this time with the shadow seeming to be the wrong way round, as seen most clearly in photo 6 and also in photo 7. It is of course the shadow of the opposite side of the Wheel.

And in the further distance, in gaps, the Shard (photo 9), and a rather handsome view of 22 Bishopsgate (photo 5) looking like a more coherent shape than I am used to seeing, a bit like a ship, front on. Move along a bit, and we then see the Cheesegrater as well (photo 8).

These strange alignments all take a bit of getting used to when you first see them. This is because, like so many rivers in the middle of great cities, this river twists and turns, that being a big reason why the city got built here in the first place. By twiddling this way and that, the river brings valuable riverside spots closer to each other, and stirs up a lot more commerce than a straight river would. (See also: Paris.) But these kinks play hell with your sense of direction, or with mine anyway. I was on the north bank of the river, but, although I was looking straight across the river, I was nevertheless looking due east, rather than south. And back across another kink in the river again when seeing 22 Bishopsgate and the Cheesegrater, which are both part of the City Big Thing Cluster, which is on the north side of the river.

It is all part of London’s charm, and the charm of its Big Things. When out-and-abouting in London you can never be quite sure which Big Thing you’ll see next, through some gap in the foreground, or from what direction you’ll see it.

There are cranes to be seen, but very few.

Looking towards Vauxhall

I really like this photo, with its excellent detail in unpromising light, with its only occasional bits of colour and its big grunge boat in the foreground, by which I mean forewater:

St Thomas’s Hospital on the left. Westminster Bridge. Parliament on the right, with half of the still heavily scaffolded Big Ben on the right. And in the distance, the towers of Vauxhall, but with Millbank Tower at the right hand end of the distant towers, that being on the north bank. I know all those well.

It’s the latest photo posted to Facebook by Michael Jennings. Michael often says of his photos of London that all they are is photos of London: Michael Jennings – in London, United Kingdom. But sometimes, as with this photo, he has a little more to say:

The cluster of buildings that is growing between Vauxhall and Battersea Park on the south of the Thames really is quite something.

This cluster being quite near to where I live, I can confirm that Michael is not wrong about the scale of what is going on over there.

I can’t tell from the info I looked at what camera Michael used for the above photo. Another case (see also: this) of an iPhone?

How The Broadway is looking in the sunshine

A while back, I showed photos of The Broadway being built, which, because of the weather, looked like black-and-white photos. Here is that same Broadway last Wednesday, nearer to being completed, in sunshine, and therefore in colour:

Photo 1 is the first view of these new towers that I get when I walk along Regency Street and look towards Victoria Street. In that photo, and in photo 4, we clearly see those coffins, which I first mentioned here way back in July, near the bottom of one of these towers. Now, there are also coffins at the top of that same tower. Odd choice.

Photo 5 shows the games that light plays with the big sign facing Victoria Street. “A dynamic new residential quarter redefining …” what? I probably have other photos in my archive telling me what, but frankly, I don’t care and would be amazed if any of you did either. In photo 5, which is a detail of the same scene, you can see through this sign that 55 Broadway will, in you stand in the right spots in Victoria Street, be visible from there. Good. That’s now what happened when New Scotland Yard was in this same spot. The fake photo here shows this gap in The Broadway very clearly.

Photo 7 shows that the other two towers on either side of the coffin tower will sport a slightly different, although closely related, decorative plumage. Too thin to be coffins.

Photo 9: cranes. And in photo 9, I am looking back up Victoria Street from the other side of Parliament Square, at the same cranes, which look pleasingly tumultuous, I think. I really hope that the era of such tumultuous crane clusters is not about to end. Or, to put it another way: I wonder if these apartments will sell at anything resembling a profit?

A lion with a strange shaped face

Here are a couple of photos of one of my favourite local London Things. It’s the Crimea and Indian Mutiny memorial, outside Westminster Abbey:

On the left, I lined it up with the twin towers of the Abbey. And on the right we are looking back up Victoria Street. On the right, the cranes that are finishing the building of The Broadway.

Around the base of this memorial are four lions, which all look like this:

At least, I presume they are lions. I am no sort of expert on how lions look. But I know that there are other lion statues in London, such as the ones in Trafalgar Square, and such as the one at the south end of Westminster Bridge, which have faces on them that look quite different from the above lion. They have heads that are a completely different shape to this Crimea lion, which to my never-seen-a-real-lion-in-my-life-or-not-that-I-recall eye, look more like some brand of monkey, or even like a dog.

I photoed these photos last Wednesday, and I have yet to recover from that expedition, having been suffering lately from aches and pains which this walk was supposed to help but didn’t. Now that Lockdown has locked down again, I’ll probably be showing photos from that day here for about the next month, on and off. There have already been this and these. So expect more, but not today.

Shard rising

Allow me once again to flee the horrors of the casedemic that is now laying waste to my country, despite my earlier optimism about how sanity might prevail around now. Allow me instead to celebrate the construction of the Shard, which was in the process of happening exactly a decade ago:

The photo on the left there was photoed on October 13th 2010, and the one on the right exactly a decade ago on November 1st 2010. The location of the left hand photo explains itself. The one on the right was photoed in Hyde Park. This is not a place I often visit, but on that day I was with a visiting American lady who needed welcoming to London. The photo, as a photo, is nothing special. But better a bad photo of something interesting than a good photo of something boring.

Earlier that year, in August, I got luckier with the weather, and these two Shard-under-construction photos were photoed then:

The Shard was and is only starchitecture, but I like it.

A gallery of mostly mundane things – unmundanely lit

As I spend less time accummulating photos and more time contemplating the ones I have, I more and more see that. for me, light is everything. Photography is, I find myself telling myself more and more often, light. For me, bad light equals bad photography, the sort of photography that involves lots of pressing of things like the “sharpen” button in my not-Photoshop programme. Good light presses that button for me.

October 21st 2018 was a good light day. In the days after it I did several postings based on photos I photoed that day. I did my favourite ever photo of Centre Point that day. I photoed how very blue the blue sky was that day. I photoed Bartok. I photoed Chinese lanterns. I photoed Compton.

I spent some of October 21st 2018 in the area around and to the north of Centre Point:

One of those photos, number 22 (of 25), requires a bit of an explanation. I like to photo the BT Tower. And I like to photo the reflection of the BT Tower in the big building at the top end of Tottenham Court Road. That photo is one of the few times I managed to photo both these things at the same time.

I think my favourite of the above photos may be number 2. Scaffolding, lit in a way that makes it, I think, downright magical. I also particularly like number 3, where you see both a reflection and a shadow, of the same pointy building.

f your are inclined towards enjoying such things, then enjoy. Click click click. It needn’t take you long.

Is “unmundanely” a word? It is now.

E.O. Hoppé – fame – oblivion – fame again

I couldn’t make these two selfies by noted Real Photographer of Yesteryear, Emil Otto Hoppé, any bigger in this posting while keeping them lined up. (Long shot: WordPress “Gallery” experts please comment with instructions.) But anyway, here they are to be clicked on, if you fancy it:

I found these photos here. On the left, 1919. Right, 1936.

The German Hoppé settled in England in 1900. He seems to have been an example of that very common historical phenomenon, a huge celeb to his contemporaries, but now a largely forgotten figure. In his day, Hoppé was on a celebrity par with the many celebs he photoed, but he is now only remembered by hobbyists of photo-history. And he nearly got blotted out of history even for us hobbyists. It was only because some Americans extracted a lot of his work from a much larger generalised collection which they had acquired, of photos done by lots of different photoers, that Hoppé was dragged out of total oblivion. Such is fame.

Learn more about Hoppé by seeing what Mick Hartley recently said and quoted from Wikipedia about him, that being how I learned about this man. Here is the last of many Hoppé photos that Hartley shows us:

Mmmmmm, cranes. But that kind of urban picturesquery was only a part of the Hoppé story. To get a really good sense of Hoppé’s place in the world and what he made of it, I recommend simply image googling him. From that, you’ll get (to) the picture(s) very well.

There was a National Portrait Gallery Hoppé exhibition in 2011. Maybe soon the increasingly visual Internet will make E.O. Hoppé a household name, again.