A viewing platform that now isn’t

Speaking as I was of tall columns with viewing platforms at the top of them (shame about the Tulip by the way (but I live in hope that this will be uncancelled (or that something similar will arise in that spot))), what about that big column just to the north of St James’s Park with the Duke of York on the top of it?

I recall greatly enjoying a photo-session I did in 2016 with this erection, lining it up with the BT Tower, through some splendidly leafless January trees:

All these photos were photoed from Horse Guards Road, which is at the eastern end of St James’s Park.

To get to the top of the BT Tower these days, you have to win a lottery. But what about getting close-up to the Duke of York? There seems to be a viewing gallery up there, so presumably there must be some way to reach it. Yet, I pass this Big Thing often, when walking through St James’s Park to the West End, and I never see a queue outside it. What’s the story?

This:

Inside the hollow column a spiral staircase of 168 steps, lit by narrow apertures in the wall, leads to the viewing platform around the base of the statue. Given the small, fragile platform and previous high demand for climbing, this staircase has been closed to the public for many decades.

Is there any way this platform could strengthened without it becoming a disruptively different shape? The problem is that, unlike with the Monument, the column above this viewing platform is the same width as below it, probably because it supports a big old Duke of York rather than just the little bobble that the Monument has at its summit. Almost any structural engineering can be done these days, but if the viewing platform remains as small as it is now, it presumably wouldn’t be worth doing.

I hope that Tulip makes a come-back.

The Duke of York is one of my favourite British military personalities, if only because most others only know him, if they know him, as an object of derision. The Grand Old Duke of York … etc. But the point is, after his failed career as a military commander, he had a much more impressive career as an military organiser back in London, improving the supply of, well, supplies, and also of officers who were better trained than hitherto. In other words, he arrived at his level of incompetence, and then demoted himself down to a position where he good really do some good, as the Duke of Wellington always acknowledged. Impressive, I think. Being the King’s brother, he could do this. But how many King’s brothers actually would do such a thing?

I know, I’m a libertarian and war is the health of the state, etc. But, the history of war is what it is, and this Duke deserves his monument. As is well explained in the very good chapter about him in this book.

When you don’t know it’s temporary

It’s all very well to say, as I often do, that it makes more sense to photo temporary stuff than stuff that will be around for ever. Sometimes, you do know that something will be temporary, like scaffolding. But often, you don’t know that something will disappear until suddenly, poof, it disappears.

Take those yellow river buses, named after various Shakespearian ladies, that once upon a time used to go up and down the River, for instance. Here is one I found in my photo-archives, photoed on a dim and dreary afternoon in February 2003, arriving at its one-and-only London landing spot, just next to the MI6 Building:

Who knew beforehand that this would stop happening, on account of London’s new super-sewer demanding this landing spot for its own purposes?

Says a rather plaintive London Duck Tours:

Please note that we are no longer able to operate our usual range of tours due to Thames Water’s compulsory purchase of our slipway to build the next phase of the Thames Tunnel super sewer.

For the present time, we will offer a selection of entertaining and informative LAND-based (road-only) tours. Please note that these tours do not have a river splashdown and we do not offer individual tickets.

Happily, long before this particular Duck Tours disaster struck, I photoed the above photos, simply because I enjoyed what I was seeing. Fond thanks to my old Canon A70, despite it having had only x3 zoom.

Are these yellow Duck Tours river buses still operating? I don’t recall seeing any of them even on dry land recently. But, what I don’t recall is a very large category nowadays.

Is this taxi advertising anything or is this just decoration?

I’m talking about this taxi:

Which I photoed in the City of London this afternoon.

In my photoing experience, if a taxi is elaborately decorated, it’s usually an advert of some sort. But on this taxi, I would see no reference to any product or service. So is this Art?

I tried some image googling, but found nothing like this taxi to click on.

Vapour trails

I photoed this vapour trail in December 2005. I’m pretty sure I have others, but this was the first vapour trail I found in the archives:

And I think that it is indeed a vapour trail. But now take a look at this next vapour trail.

That’s not a vapour trail.

This is a vapour trail:

As Michael Jennings, this blog’s technical curator (to whom continuing thanks), would say, this was in Straya.

Aerodynamic contrails occur when a plane lowers the air pressure as it flies, in turn lowering the air temperature and causing condensation to form on the wings. This condensation then trails behind as the plane continues forward.

In certain humid conditions, the drop in temperature and pressure is such that the droplets of condensation will freeze at varying sizes.

When the sunlight shines through these different sized droplets, it will refract at different wavelengths, hence the variety of colours that can be seen.

Blog and learn.

Red staircases at the top of the Heron Tower

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?

These people, who did the interior design for this place, explain:

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.

Balls

Indeed:

I have had a busy day and have a busy evening ahead of me. So, for here, I needed just one photo to stick up. And preferably one that speaks for itself, so I wouldn’t have to add lots of complicated explanation.

So, there’s a photo, which I photoed in Regent Street, back in July, on the same day I photoed these photos and these photos.

The above photo does the opposite of speak for itself. It positively demands some sort of attached explanation. But, I have no idea what that explanation might be, so have nothing to add. Which means that it actually serves my purpose very well.

Have a nice evening.

The new Google building in King’s Cross is taking shape

And the shape is the big green thing that someone has stuck in the middle of this photo …:

… which I found here. More about this building-to-be here.

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.

Three terrible photos of something interesting

Which is better? Three great photos of something rather boring? Or three terrible photos of something rather not boring? There are arguments for both, but here are three photos that fall firmly into the latter category. Well, they do if you agree with me that what is shown in them is interesting:

I photoed the above three photos while on a recent expedition to my local laundrette. I was in a hurry to get my camera operating, having been concentrating on my laundretting and surprised by what I saw through the front window of the laundrette, hence the terribleness of the photos:

It’s a lady, rollerblading along the road. And in the first photo I photoed of her, I didn’t even manage to include her rollerblades. But, in its inept way, that photo makes the point. If you only knew of this lady that she looked and dressed like that, would you expect her to be rollerblading? I guess the headphones are a clue. But otherwise? I wouldn’t.

In the first photo, as I say, no rollerblades to be seen. And in the second and third photos, she’s way off to the right of the picture. In the third, she’s even behind a street pole., which is, I think, some sort of sign. But, the point is made. A lady who looks like that is … rollerblading. And I can further report that she was doing it with practised assurance. For her, this is a routine. It’s how she gets around. To and from work, would be my guess.

There’s a lot of media frenzy about robot cars. Meanwhile, quietly, with no fuss, and with none of the eye-watering investment by big businesses betting their futures on their particular robot car, people are quietly attaching wheels to themselves, thereby making use of all that space in cities that is being cleared for bikers to bike around in cities, and in general to assume the rights and privileges of bikers, on regular roads, like this rollerblading lady. And it makes sense. Why buy a huge metal box with wheels on it, if you can have the wheels on your feet, in the form of a little skateboard with wheels, or a skateboard with wheels and a sticking up steering system, or just wheels, like this lady? What started as a childhood sport is mutating into a regular means of transport.

Well, I think this is really interesting. The only reason I don’t have many more photos here of people doing this kind of thing is that most of what I photo is stationary, or at the worst very slow moving and quite easy to see coming, so not a surprise. These mobile pedestrians are often gone before I see them, not least because I seldom hear them coming.

LATER: Sometimes I see the rollerblader coming and the photo comes out rather well.

One Kemble Street from the ME Hotel

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.

Thoughts on the British Library

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.