Monday, 28 October 2013

After the storm

A fallen tree blocking the towpath of the Lea Navigation canal in east London. One of many trees blown over by high winds on the night 27/28 October, euphemistically tagged Stormageddon on Twitter. The British Waterways man had come with a small crane but it was obviously hopelessly undersized for the job.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Street photography

Sometimes it all comes together. The guy on his bike, not just any old bike but quite a nice singlespeed with leather saddle and matching leather handlebar tape. Plus a fashionable canvas bag with leather trimmings. But also in the background, that character outside the Japanese Canteen perfectly silhouetted against the rectangle of white, dressed with un-missable bravado and swigging from a can of Coke. You can't plan a shot like this, it's just there and either you get it or you don't. It could have been better focused but at least you can see what's going on. Usually it's gone before you can even think about pointing a camera. Having a camera in your hand helps but the odds are, if you're trying to take photos you walk for an hour and see nothing really worth photographing, take a few shots and delete them later. Other times you just have the camera in case, not really planning to take photos but just out of habit, and something makes you switch it on and point just at the right moment. You could drive yourself crazy always being on the lookout for an interesting shot, better just to carry a camera and see what turns up without looking for it.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Housing boom

After a bit of a hiccup, otherwise known as the recent recession, the frenzy of housebuilding seems to be back in a big way. Along the Lea Valley in east London, the old factories are disappearing one by one, most of them simply bulldozed to clear the site for this kind of architecture-by-numbers apartment blocks. These are fairly typical, built on an industrial area in Walthamstow. There is the usual depressing split between the market apartments, which are quite nicely laid out, and the so-called affordable part which looks a bit like an open prison. Integrating the two is a common aspiration and if I've understood correctly the same developer has done that successfully elsewhere - but that doesn't necessarily happen. It's very much easier to resolve the differences by splitting the site.

In the foreground, another factory bites the dust. There are two problems with all this - firstly, one of those old terraced houses that surround this site are almost certainly what people really want but are now becoming unaffordable, and secondly, those old factories provide affordable business premises which are not getting replaced. Things do have to change, but you can't help wondering how it will work out in the long term.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Win an iPad?

"By 'eck our Vera..."
It could be a caption competition. Think up a catchy caption and the best submission wins an iPad. All entries must be in by 25 October. Answers on a postcard, a real postcard with a stamp on it, not a virtual one. However I'm not really offering a prize, just thought I would post this photo of a rather charming pair of visitors to London, trying to get across six lanes of traffic on the Euston Road.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Watch the birdie

Regent's Place is an island of high-rise development on the edge of Camden, now pushing its boundaries to squeeze in as many square metres as possible. The result is an uncomfortable jumble of very large buildings, all different and competing with each other for attention as well as plot space. Although there are four elements in the last part to be completed, they were designed by two architects, one doing the offices and the other the residential parts. The offices are glossy glass structures which might not be too bad if they had a bit of space around them.

The residential tower, though, is quite possibly the ugliest tower in London, a grim grey structure that looks puny situated as it is alongside the no-frills bulk of Euston Tower (once the home of Capital Radio). A relatively low-rise block of flats along Hampstead Road was designed by the same architect. Come rain or shine, that overall matt grey finish and the complicated balconies do nothing to make the building seem friendly. The final touch, perhaps, is this surprising but not entirely welcome image of a bird fixed high up on the facade. Maybe there will be more of the same, but for now there is just the one. The artwork is by Gary Hume, the YBA who does extremely simple paintings using domestic gloss paint, so simple there is little to appreciate except I suppose a certain degree of abstraction. Here we get a biggish bird, some leaves and a stick, or at least it looks like a stick, although one's first thought is that it's badly drawn leg. Perhaps there are art world characters who think this is an achievement, but it seems perfectly valid to call it an unfortunate bad decision. If not something ruder.

There used to be a giant mural by Michael Craig-Martin on the site, not in the same place but nearby - a pop-art image of an electric fan, several storeys high and lit up at night. It didn't appear to have any particular relevance but it was quite nice as a landmark. The bird doesn't come close to replacing it.