Keeping up appearances (however odd they were) just off Sloane Square

Here are a couple of photos I photoed earlier in the month, of a rather handsome building just off Sloane Square, just past the tube station as you leave, in the direction of Pimlico, Victoria and such places:

A moment later, I tried photoing a detail at the top of the building, of where the top of the tower seems to collide with the big rectangular chimney under a row of chimney pots. Seems being the word, because you cannot tell from my photo, any more than you can from looking at the photos above.

But my closer-ups didn’t solve the problem. They merely magnified it. Memo to self, blah blah. Go back and check it out.

Well, today I did just that. I was in a bus and in no mood to get off it. I wanted to be home. But luckily for me, the state of the traffic stopped the bus and I was able to photo the exact detail that I earlier didn’t photo properly. It helped that this time around, the light was in the right place:

There was photoshop-cloning in both of the above, but we’re not talking my prowess as a photoer, we’re talking architectural detail, and my photoshop-cloning made things clearer.

I don’t know quite what to make of this. Best guess, the chimney basically has the right of way, because without it the machine-for-living-in that this building is doesn’t work so well. But, that little top-of-the-tower thing has nowhere else to go except to bury itself in the chimney, while actually, in reality being brushed aside by it. Whatever exactly we are looking at, it’s decidedly odd.

It is also unclear whether this is an old building or a fake old building, or maybe a hybrid in the form of a painstakingly restored-exactly-as-was old building.

I say this because a year or two ago, this is how it was looking. This being posting with photos that show a lot of activity going on in what became the inside of this new building. I’m guessing, although it’s only a guess, that they only got planning permission if they left the previous exterior untouched. But this was very hard to contrive, give what they wanted to do behind that exterior. In short, a lot. So they said, can we smash it all down and then build a new building with an exterior that looks exactly like the old one? And that was okay, provided it was exactly like that. So that’s what they did, right up to and including the way this chimney collides with this roof top thingy.

It’s a bit unfair to call this “roof clutter” (as I do in the category list below), but what else can I call it? Maybe a new category is due called Rooves? Or is it Roofs?

On further reflection, I think that what this strange little circumstance shows is that chimney pots have swung wildly back and forth from being just severely practical, towards being highly ornamental (as well as practical) and then back again. Which means that umpiring between a plainly decorative tower top and a chimney gets very … odd.

Or something. Not sure. Just amused.

When the view out my kitchen window was interesting

Being so restricted in my movements just now has got me pondering the view from my kitchen window. It doesn’t change from day to day, or now, from year to year. But, oh, there was a time, a time when it would change from hour to hour:

Those were photoed between October 2015 and February 2016. I show some because they show what was going on. and others for artistic effect. You decide which is which. What they were doing was converting the building opposite it something different and taller, in which more living and working could happen than before.

The one that got me interested in these photos was the silhouette of the guy with the machine. But now, the ones I like best feature the reinforced concrete being destroyed. I love that effect.

The netting that you see in some of these photos is to stop pigeons crapping in the courtyard. It didn’t help with the focussing, but it does create an effect.

Memo to self: Dig up the old posting where a crane unfolded itself in this very spot.

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.

If 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.

How the old version of New Scotland Yard used to look before they knocked it down

In that posting I did yesterday, it would have made sense to have included also a photo of how the old New Scotland Yard building used to look, given that I showed photos of how the place where it stood looked after it had been demolished and what is now there instead.

So, here is that old New Scotland Yard building, viewed from the roof of my block of flats, in 2016:

Not an especially distinguished building. Just a Brand-X Modernist box. I was fond of it because of its gloriously exuberant roof clutter, in such delightful contrast to its austere and repetitious facades. (The red spike in the foreground is the red spike on the top of the Headquarters of Channel 4 Television.)

Here is an earlier photo I photoed back in 2010 of this same building, from, of all out-of-the-way spots, the platform of South Bermondsey Railway Station, which is a substantial train ride away from my home off to the far side of London:

Yes, there it is, between the “other” Parliament Tower, the one with four spikes rather than just the one (plus a clock), and the Big Thing at the Elephant and Castle with the three holes in the top (seen sideways on).

Don’t believe me? Zoom zoom, crop crop:

That’s definitely it, I think you’ll agree. I didn’t realise I even had this photo until quite recently. I love these accidents of visibility, involving London’s Big or in this case not so big Things. It is a constant delight to me when out and about just what you can see, from just where.

Presumably you can now see the new Towers that they have built there instead, from that same South Bermondsey platform. Memo to self: Go back there and check that out.

East India DLR station

Yes, it’s 2017 again, April, and I’m on my way home after a hard afternoon’s photoing out east. I get to that moment when suddenly, snap, my energy is all gone, and I just want home. So I drag myself to the nearest rail station. And this time, that rail station was East India:

Something to do with the East India docks, I presume.

Why show photos of that? Well, London can’t be all spectacular Big Things and lavish world renowned river views. Much of the secret of great cities is the amount of humdrum and utterly replaceable stuff they contain, and replaceability equals growability. A city can’t be great if it’s not growing, and it can’t grow if everywhere in it is finished.

As for the architecture, if that’s the word, of places like this DLR station, that’s now reached that awkward spot of being too new to be old and picturesque, but not new enough actually to be new any more, like pop music that your elder brother likes.

Which means it’s architecture that nobody (apart from me) thinks worth photoing. People just use it constantly, and forget about it. But there it is. One day some of it will be old and picturesque, and there will be complaints about it being torn down to be replaced by further humdrummery, or perhaps by resplendent and finished Big Things.

Meanwhile, I find that such railway stations are not only deserving of themselves being noticed, but are often, because of being elevated (to enable their tracks to go over existing roads) very good spots for noticing other things. Like the Shard (8), or that building rather cheerfully tricked out in yellow, green and blue (7). The building in (4) was trying hard to look good also, even if I reckon it failed. Or how about that strange bus stop road colouring that looks like a carpet has been unrolled (6)?

I’ve never understood those strange rolls of wire that you see beside railways (11). Is that for if they find they need more wire, which they can then pull towards them through tubes? That would make sense.

I do understand selfies, and the hair pats that so often go with them (12). I reckon they were lining themselves up with the Shard.

Perhaps most diverting of all, to me anyway, is the contrast between the extreme fussiness and complexity of the main body of this thing (1) (2) (3), with all its “expressed” structure (think of the just-that-bit-earlier-than-this Lloyds building in the City), with the relative banality of what the fuss is all in aid of (5). The architects of these places had their heads full of bigger, more award-winning Things than they were allowed actually to build, as architect heads so often are.

Good vapour trail – evil vapour trail – hybrid vapour trail

This posting began several evenings ago as a quota photo post, with this pretty little scene being the beginning and the end of it:

But then I again got thinking about how significant it is that, typically, vapour trails look at they do above, but do not look like this, below:

That evil vapour trail (there’s another dimmer one further away) is made dark and evil by a line of cloud in the distance, in the evening, allowing the sun to continue lighting up the sky, but throwing a huge shadow over the vapour trail itself. This combination of circumstances, with everything all lined up just so, is rather rare.

Finally, here’s a fun photo, where the shadow from the evening cloud doesn’t engulf all of the vapour trail, merely some of it:

I know I keep banging on about how air travel wouldn’t be so popular if vapour trails typically didn’t look so pretty, but I really think this is true.

Equally significant is that the nastiest internal combustion engine pollution is now invisible. Just about all the actual smoke, certainly in London (where all of the above photos were photoed), has been done away with. If you do see smoke in London, chances are something’s on fire, in an undeliberate way.

Urban picturesque with Shard

Same formula as the previous post. Ooh that’s nice:

But puzzle. What is it? We see the Shard there, but where are we? What direction are we looking at the Shard from?

Context:

We are at the Dome end of the Dangleway, looking across the Greenwich Peninsular towards the towers of Docklands, with central London beyond. The City cluster is not visible, but the Shard is.

I still don’t know what that blob in the middle of the sky is. Mercifully, it isn’t to be seen on any of the other photos I photoed at this time.

The tall pole with sticking out bits in the original photos is for hanging banners, saying things like: “London Olympics 2012”, 2012 being when all these photos were photoed. Now, there are Machines-For-Living-In Things in the foreground, next to and just south of the Dome, and a great many more bigger Things in the Docklands Tower Cluster.

The photo on the right, featuriing the Dome, was photoed as I began a Dangleway journey across the River to Victoria Dock.

I love that part of London. An essential part of that being because it keeps on changing.

The Tower Hotel could benefit from Magic Paint

One of London’s more impressive architectural survivals from the Brutalist era is this building:

That’s the Tower Hotel, with Tower Bridge in the foreground. I am fond of this edifice, not only because of its Brutalism, but also because of its impressively cluttered upper reaches, which look like this:

Both of the above photos were photoed by me in 2016. (What is that VW sign doing there? Never noticed that before.)

I love the combination of orthodox Brutalism in the main body of the building and anarchy on the top of it. (See also this splendid edifice of the same architectural vintage.)

I also recall that this hotel played a prominent support role in the final scene of a long ago movie called Sweeney!, which was a movie spin-off from the TV show of that name. A sinister villain played by Barry Foster is being put on a boat by British spooks, after he’d stayed the night at the Tower Hotel, which then looked quite new and “modern”, not dated at all. But Regan (John Thaw) showed up and arrested the Barry Foster character for making money off of immoral earnings, and the Barry Foster character was immediately shot dead, by two other villains in a taxi, to stop him spilling any beans about even more sinister villains. (Regan was angry with the Barry Foster character because he had had a prostitute (Diane Keen) killed, and Regan wanted revenge.) All of which took place on the river bank between the Tower Hotel and the River. For some reason, this scene had a big effect on me, and a lot of the reason for that was the Tower Hotel.

The reason I mention this building is that it is a fine example of the sort of building that might go up in public estimation if it were decorated with the Magic Paint that I mentioned-stroke-invented in this earlier posting about Colourful architecture in the past and in the future. This was about how various ancient buildings, now as dreary in colour as the Tower Hotel has always been, used to be a lot more colourful, and about how similar effects might yet be contrived again, with … Magic Paint. (Magic Paint is paint that can take on any painted pattern at the flick of an electronic switch. Inventors: get busy!)

And the reason I mention this earlier posting about Magic Paint, colourful gothic cathedrals, and the like, is that someone on Facebook with quite a following has recently linked to this old posting, causing a rather gratifying spike in traffic here during the last few days. But, all I can learn from my traffic analysing page is that the link comes from somewhere on Facebook. It could well be someone I know, or know of, and therefore someone that some of my readers might know, or know of. Anyone? Maybe you, sir or madam, have just come from that very Facebook location of which I write, and can tell me who it was. That’s if you feel inclined.

More urban picturesque

To add to the collection. Although the second one here is maybe more urban gothic, because in it, a piece of innocent roof clutter looks more like some kind of science fiction monster:

Those were taken at the top of my block of flats, way back in 2006, just as I was starting to get the hang of this photography thing, both in the sense of what was worth photoing, and what would photo well.

I often read about how photos “communicated the excitement felt by” the photoer, and am typically skeptical. If the photoer was excited, it was because he was excited by the photos he’d taken. They made him excited rather than vice versa. Nevertheless I do recall being very excited by my first visit with a camera to that roof, which for a long time I was not able to get to, because the vital door was locked. And the above photos were taken on one of the earliest visits to this spot.

On the whole, the close-up roof clutter proved more diverting than the rather distant views of the tops of Big Things, with dreary vernacular boxes getting in the way in the foreground. The fun I get from photoing Things Big or Small is when they are combined and seen in new ways. But every time I go up to that roof now, everything looks pretty much as it always did. On account of everything being pretty much as it always was.

A sunset fifteen years ago

Fifteen years ago today, I did a posting at my old blog, which later got transferred to this blog, which featured the sunset, as seen and photoed by me in Hampstead.

Here is one of those photos, which I chose for the roof clutter:

Very urban picturesque.

I seldom do sunsets, if only because others do do them so much. What can I add? But sometimes the sky is just so dramatic that I can’t ignore it, and so contrasty that even I can’t go far wrong with my photos. These photos are worth another look, if you like that sort of thing.