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I've discovered a fresh bit of amazing London architecture: the Royal College of Physicians building next to Regent's Park.


I was there Friday afternoon and Saturday morning for a legal event (Chancery Bar Association winter conference) and was immediately impressed by the building. Its style seemed familiar and I wasn't at all surprised to find that it was by Denys Lasdun, architect of the Royal National Theatre and Keeling House (the latter being familiar to me via [ profile] purplecthulhu).

Even more interestingly the RCP was about to open its exhibition on John Dee, so I was able to get a sneak peek.


I'll definitely be going back soon, both to see the full Dee exhibition and to further admire Lasdun's architecture.
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About eighteen months ago [ profile] tamaranth and I went for a walk around Greenwich that, at her suggestion, included the riverside path up to the dome. We both got some striking photos, and I was very taken with the decaying industrial landscape - so much so that a few months later I went back with my decent camera and took a load more pictures.

That was December 2009. Today [ profile] darth_hamster and I took advantage of the nice weather to do the same walk, but although the view across towards Canary Wharf is still amazing the riverside path itself is a lot duller. 2010 saw wholesale demolition of the old factories and wharves, and in particular the Tunnel Refineries complex has disappeared for good. No more looming silos to walk between; no more pier-end cranes to admire.

Greenwich_Sunset_31 Greenwich_Sunset_34

All gone now, leaving just another section of path lined with hoardings to hide the rubble behind. I find myself quite sad about this, as I love old industrial sites, and it's a pity to see them disappear as part of the slow advance of riverside apartments up towards the Dome.
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A wonderful blog post by Robert Roger Ebert looking back on his times liviing on Jermyn Street (also proof that you can have a sensible and intelligent set of blog comments, even in this day and age.) Prompted by news of the closure of 22 Jermyn Street, the eccentric hotel he regularly stayed in, now being demolished for yet another 2012 regeneration project.

Jermyn St is in the heart of one of those parts of London I am very fond of. St James, and its surrounds, is a little microcosm of how I used to imagine London was when I was small, all ornate little specialist shops. It's a shame to hear of more redevelopment; I suspect the external shells will remain, but it's not just outward appearances that make a locale.
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Late last September I went for a wander round Greenwich with [ profile] tamaranth that, at her suggestion, finished off with a walk up the Thames path to the Dome. I got this memorable picture with my iPhone and T got some very striking ones too - the light was incredible. I resolved to come back with my main camera, and the weekend before Christmas (and the last sunset before the Winter Solstice) I retraced our steps.

Cut for lots of photos )

More photographs from this set here.
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It was a nice crisp morning as I took the DLR in today, so rather than endure the central line crush I decided to walk to Holborn from Bank. On the way I passed a rather striking building site at Cheapside... pictures inside )

Pictures taken with my iPhone, uploaded to Dropbox, and then edited online via Picnik before posting to LiveJournal. Cloud computing for the win!
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I finally got around to taking 25 years' worth of the Journal of the British Astronomical Association to the BAA's office at Burlington House off Piccadilly. All I can say in terms of getting them there is thank goodness for solidly-constructed roller suitcases! It was also a good thing that the Royal Astronomical Society's offices, which the BAA works out of, have a lift.

And it's a very cool lift, too. When I got in I thought "Ooh, that's nice, there's a big picture of the Earth from space on the lift wall." Then the lift started and the Earth disappeared downwards to be replaced by a nebula... the lift has glass walls and there are space pictures stuck up the length of the liftshaft!

Burlington House is of course also home to the Royal Academy and is currently hosting an exhibition of Anish Kapoor's works. The courtyard is accordingly occupied by Kapoor's Tall tree and the eye, which is perhaps what you get when you generalise the concept of the Christmas tree bauble to encompass the actual tree itself.

Kapoor TT&E 1 Kapoor TT&E 2 Kapoor TT&E 3

I love the way you get endless reflections of the spheres in each other, tailing off to infinity - it's like a sort of 3D chrome Mandelbrot set. I'll have to go back, both for the exhibition as a whole and to take my main camera and get some more pictures.

Car Clubs

Sep. 16th, 2009 09:50 am
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Does anyone have any experience of or even reliable anecdotes about car clubs?
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Playing the Building 1

Last week [ profile] tamaranth and I went to the Roundhouse to see David Byrne's 'Playing the Building' installation. An old organ was connected to a variety of servos placed so as to variously hit, vibrate or blow air whistles attached to bits of the Roundhouse - so, when you pressed a key on the organ, you were quite literally 'playing the building'. Although, as we were to find out, it wasn't quite as simple as that.

What it was like to 'play', with pictures )
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I can't remember exactly how long it is that I've been going to the Great British Beer Festival; I think [ profile] vicarage dragged me along some time in the mid-90s at which point I promptly joined CAMRA and have been going fairly regularly ever since. The key lesson I soon learned is to go during the afternoon rather than the evening, unless queues ten-deep at the beer stands are your thing. So yesterday I pitched up at about half-one, obtained a glass and a programme (450 beers!) and started sampling. Pretty soon I ran into [ profile] ms_cataclysm's R, together with mutual friend R from pub quizzing; the afternoon also featured the newly-arrived-in-London [ profile] cairmen and B, plus [ profile] pogodragon and [ profile] barking_watcher who we ran into a little later. Oh, and Paul T was stewarding.

I ended up trying some seven different beers (my tasting notes got a bit fragmentary towards the end). I didn't set out to drink mainly porters and stouts, but I do like dark beer and there were so many on offer it was hard to avoid trying them. I'd have to pick the ever-reliable Spectrum Brewery's Black Buffle as the pick of the bunch, but special mentions should go to Highland's Dark Munro and, from the US stand, Martha's Exchange Smoked Porter. As a porter it was relatively light-coloured (dark ruby more than deep brown) but the taste was superb.

Scariest sight of the afternoon: the EU Pork Scratchings Mountain:

There was some discussion as to whether Real Ale and Pork Scratchings constitute a balanced diet, or if they just counteract each other's effects. Further research is indicated.
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Anyone else thinking of going to tomorrow evenings 'Science Museum Lates'? It's got a space theme this month, and features a talk by Sy Liebergot, flight controller during Apollo 13.
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Is anyone interested in this 2-hour walking tour of the Liveries and Guilds of London, 11-1 on Sunday 28th June?

"The City Livery Companies date back to before the Norman Conquest and are still a vital part of the City of London today. Discover the history of the liveries which once regulated the trade, set the wages and standards as well as weights and measures, in the area we know as the Square Mile"

Cost is £8 and you need to book in advance on 020 7001 9844. (Yes, it looks like the website says 'Saturday 28th', I would book by the morning of Saturday 27th to be on the safe side.
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Via a Metafilter link I was having a play last night with this page, which uses the AIS ship tracking system to show a zoomable plot of shipping for various regions of the world. The UK plot showed a fair few vessels on the Thames, and zooming in I found that sure enough it was tracking the ferries and tourist boats, all of which are evidently AIS-equipped. However, it was also showing a large passenger vessel moored in the middle of Docklands, which I was a little more sceptical about.

This morning, and I am walking with [ profile] cairmen (who is staying over for the weekend) through Canary Wharf. As we cross the South Dock footbridge, I look over the dock, and sure enough AIS was right!

Logos Hope & Sydney

Docklands with Actual Ships (and iPhone camera comments) )
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Yes, just look at this map:


Heaven help me should I, say, want to get over to South Kensington for Picocon...
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Some of my pictures from the trip [ profile] bugshaw organised to last weekend's open day at Battersea Power Station.

Battersea PS 2 Battersea PS 6

Full set here.

Do click through to look at the large versions - the scale of the subject almost demands it. I'll post a separate bunch later of some cranes on site that would have been worth the trip to photograph on their own.
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When I was very young my parents took me to the rotating restaurant on top of what was then called the Post Office Tower (now sadly closed to the public, although I've been back for a BT corporate event). Today, thanks to [ profile] alexmc's kind invitation, I was able once again to have lunch 550 feet above the London streets, this time at the pinnacle of 30 St Mary Axe, alias the Gherkin.

I've long admired the Gherkin from the outside, and it was nice to finally get to see it from within. The top floor bar is actually a domed bubble, accessed by staircase from a foyer below. There's a small disabled lift, although I suspect it's really a Supervillain HQ Escape Pod in disguise. This layout means that there's no space for lift machinery at the top, so you change lifts at floor 34 to one that pushes you up from below. Once in the roof space the view is simply incredible, even on a gloomy and dull day like today.

Gherkin Bar 1

More pictures )

High-altitude dining done, I headed off to do some shopping, during which I was called by [ profile] ms_cataclysm and summoned to a meeting at Fortnum and Masons, where some extremely nice ice-cream was tackled with much enthusiasm. Finally, it was down to St Paul's and over the Millennium Bridge to the Tate Modern to catch the end of the 'Street and Studio' photography exhibition. Some amazingly good photos including this wonderful Cartier-Bresson shot, which is compositionally wonderful in half a dozen different ways whilst still being a spur-of-the-moment snapshot. Also, some very thought-provoking pictures in terms of the ethics of candid photography; I'll have to see if I can blog more on this later.
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Saturday was quite a productive day for photography - as well as the flypast and the Docklands motor show, I got a few nice pictures walking through the City. We discussed architectural photography on our photographic course last week, so I thought I'd try some.

Rogers v Foster )
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Walking through Canary Wharf yesterday I came across a mini Motor Show going on - yes, complete with Minis.

Canada Square Mini

Well, I suppose if you're going to try to sell Hummer H3s (Fifteen MPG! That's about 40p per mile in petrol alone - and you can easily double that with maintenance and depreciation) then the middle of the Fortress of Capitalism is the place to do it. Having said that, there were some very nice cars on display - I'll post pictures of the Morgans later. As I walked round admiring all the shiny chrome and polished paintwork though, I was reminded of some pictures taken by a friend of mine on my photography course this week - we'd been asked to photography buildings, and she'd done one reflected in a car window. Inspired, I looked around for interesting reflections...

And found some! )

More pictures later.
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Today was Art Appreciation, as [ profile] bugshaw and I headed off to the Hayward Gallery to catch the end of the Antony Gormley exhibition. And yes, art definitely was appreciated - we both thoroughly enjoyed it.

Blind Light, the title piece, is just as amazing as everyone says. A glass box, about ten metres square, filled with very, very dense fog. Inside, you are in a little white-out world of your own, until people loom out of the haze in front of you, or a barely-perceptible darkening heralds your arrival at one of the walls. There was quite a queue to get in, as entry was limited to 25 at a time. This sounds like a lot, but in hindsight it contributed to the disorientation as you couldn't move more than a metre or two without having to avoid another visitor fumbling slowly around. I found that I rapidly lost any sense of scale of the installation: one minute I could be in a very small space, as the random walk of avoiding people kept on bringing me back into walls; a few moments later I could be in a vast, unknowable void. After perhaps five minutes - I also lost all track of time - I felt my way along the wall to the exit and emerged (somewhat moist with condensation) to the clear air outside.

Space Station was also very impressive, but in a very different way. Photos don't to justice to the sheer size and scale of the thing; according to the notes, it weighs 27 tonnes and it jolly well looks like it. Close up, it does indeed give you the feel of flying around some vast science-fictional structure; only from the upper gallery does the overall shape, that of a fetally-curled body, become apparent. I am overcome with the urge to make a 1/10 scale Lego version.

What really tickled my fancy though was a gallery of various of Gormley's space-filling human forms. Varied in their execution, they mostly feature a human form at their heart, some more easily distinguishable than others. After a little while I could discern a vague taxonomy of technique, and I began to suspect that Gormley was applying some form of algorithm to produce at least the initial idea of each sculpture.

Freefall, for instance, seems to follow the plan of taking a 3D mesh model of a body, and then projecting a fixed-length rod normal to each node of the mesh, then forming a new mesh with the outer ends. The effect is to have a body embedded in a sort of 'personal space' delineated volume, with a pleasing radial effect. Static I is a sparser implementation of the same idea.

Drift II and Ferment, by contrast, are much more like assemblages of bubbles, with the process used to derive them from the human form less obvious. Indeed, close up there is no embedded body to see, with torso, head and limbs only becoming apparent from further away. And the Quantum Cloud sculptures seemed oddly familiar, until I remembered work I'd seen on radio antennas designed via genetic algorithms (this page, near bottom).

Outside, the Hayward Gallery's roof spaces allowed us to spot the rooftop statues of Event Horizon. Apparently there are 31 of them; I'm not sure if we saw them all. Or maybe we saw 30, but someone blinked...

EDIT Thinking back, something many of the exhibits did for me was to distort my sense of scale, either making me feel very large or very small. I've experienced the latter before, notably in the spectacular The Weather Project at the Tate Modern a few years ago. But feeling big was odd.


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Simon Bradshaw

September 2017



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