Sampson House and Ludgate House

Before everything went arse over tits up in the air into the melting pot and threw a spanner out of the frying pan into the pigeons, they were talking about a new London Thing Cluster, to go here:

Here being between Tate Modern and all the South Bank Music Things.

Here is what was still being reported early in May:

One of South London’s biggest landmark brutalist buildings is to be replaced by blocks of flats which will tower above the South Bank and Tate Modern on the Thames.

IBM’s former offices at Sampson House, on Hopton Street, Southwark, is being demolished to make way for Bankside Yards, one of the capital’s largest regeneration projects – with 1.4 million sq ft of shops, hotels and flats.

Developers Native Land have today announced they have appointed four British architectural practices to develop designs for four buildings within Eastern Yards, part of the £1billion Bankside Yards.

That “landmark” brutalist building, Sampson House, was duly demolished soon after that was written. I know this, because it was one of the things I was looking for on a walkabout I did on May 30th. (Next on my list that day was some statues – later I chanced upon this.) By then, Sampson House was gone.

Also gone, quite a while before then, Ludgate House.

Sampson House is really rather splendid, if you like that sort of thing, which I do in moderation. It was built in the late seventies. I don’t recall any big public fight to preserve it, and if that’s right, I am rather surprised, what with the row that erupted not long ago in aid of another landmark brutalist building.

Ludgate House, on the other hand, is a somewhat more anonymous product of the late eighties. By then, concrete exteriors were out and the era of totally glass exteriors was upon us. I think it looks pretty good, but only in a way that lots of other similar buildings do. I’ll somewhat miss it.

I went looking for photos of these two ex-buildings in my photo-archives. After much searching, I finally came upon this, photoed in August 2016:

On the left, Sampson House, and on the right, Ludgate House. Top right, you can just see the spikey top of 240 Blackfriars.

But I don’t think that even that photo was me truly photoing Sampson House and Ludgate House. I was photoing Strata, the Thing with the holes in the top. At the time, Sampson House and Ludgate House merely happened to be making the gap through which Strata could be seen, in the distance.

Here is another photo I took of Sampson House and Ludgate House:

That shows where they both were very well. But again, what I was photoing there was a fake photo of One Blackfriars, on the edge of the site where they were going to build it. Sampson House and Ludgate House just happened to be present. But I didn’t care about them, which is why they are leaning over. One Blackfriars is vertical. That’s what I was photoing.

Here are some more Sampson House and Ludgate House photos I’ve photoed over the years, in each case showing me concentrating on something else:

Photo 1: a strange bus; 2: a sign about One Blackfriars; 3: 240 Blackfriars from the top of the Tate Modern Extension: 4: Random reflections in One Blackfriars; 5: 240 Blackfriars, as seen from the south end of Blackfriars railway station, the one on the bridge; 6: A very blurry view of, well, London, through a window at the top of the Walkie-Talkie; 7: One Blackfriars takes shape, viewed from the Tate Extension; 8: Tate Modern photoed with maximum zoom from the top of the Shard.

As you can tell from this list, I was obsessed with One Blackfriars and 240 Blackfriars as I was indifferent to Sampson House and Ludgate House.

But another thing that always distracted me, whenever I was in the vicinity of these two buidings, was this:

So much more intriguing to photo and ponder, especially when they were making themselves useful.

Finally, also photoed on the 30th of last month, a recent addition to the Thing Cluste, rising up near where Sampson House used to be, …:

… in between 240 Blackfriars and One Blackfriars.

Will this cluster ever get finished in the near future, what with all the anti-urban disruption unleashed by You Know What? A different question, for a different posting.

Reflections from One New Change

Rootling through the photo-archives, as I have been doing a lot lately, I came across a directory devoted to One New Change, and the views out over London you can photo from it.

Views like this:

Clear enough. Sky, very clear.

But then, I came upon this photo:

Weird. It’s some kind of reflection, obviously, but what it is reflected in? What was I doing to get that? I set the problem to one side and forgot about it.

But then, a few weeks later I think, I went back to the same directory, and came upon the answer. Because, here (below) was the same photo, with me merely holding the camera differently:

I photoed the photo where the reflected scene is horizontal from a similar spot, but with the camera turned round about two hundred and eighty degrees from how it looks in one immediately above.

Here’s another version of the above that makes everything clearer, by supplying some context:

That photo also shows how the top of One New Change itself looks.

You know me. I don’t just like to show you my favourite photos. My favourite photos are often puzzles, photos that make you, and for that matter me, ask: What’s that? And I want to find out, by looking at other photos taken at the same time, and then I want to explain them all to you, with all those other photos included in the posting.

Also, modern architecture is shiny.

Blotting out the face with reflections at the top of the Tate Modern Extension

Here are some photoer photos I photoed almost three years ago now, at the top of the Tate Modern Extension. They are all of the same person, taken one after another:

I think that what she’s doing here is a selfie with the Big Things of the City of London behind her. It’s because it’s a selfie rather than a straight photo of the view that she is facing us.

When photoer photoing, I am always on the lookout for ways for faces to be blocked out. The camera itself, smartphone (as above) or just a regular camera, often does this by getting in the way. Bags and coats often oblige. Lately, of course, there have been masks. Simplest of all is just photoing from behind the photoer. But simple can be ever so slightly dull, and that particular dullness was avoided this time.

What blots out this lady’s face is that she is behind a window, and the reflections in the glass of what is behind me do the job. Well, mostly. If you knew her already you might recognise her from the last one. But I doubt a face recognition computer could make much sense of it.

This Tate Modern Extension summit is a fabulous place for photoing, for me. Other photoers, great views out over the middle of London, often combinable in the same photo. Terrific. And with windows on three sides of the room at the top, and the viewing platform all around the outside, the reflections and combinations and complications are often mind-boggling. Just explaining what’s going on in the above photos would take another screen’s worth of prattle, and you’d probably be none the wiser.

And don’t get me started on those big spots on the windows. They add a whole extra dimension to everything.

The only way to explain all these complications and ramifications is to have a mass gallery, with lots of photos of photoers and of the place itself, to the point where you can all see for yourselves what’s going on, and why everything looks the way it does. But not today.

No shininess at Eltz

Nudged, I’m guessing, by this posting of mine, Michael Jennings earlier this month Facebooked this closer-up photo he had photoed of Eltz Castle:

A classic of ancient adhocistical anarchy, I think you’ll agree. The very definition of picturesque.

But I also show this photo of Michael’s because I think it illustrates the opinion I expressed in this earlier shininess or architectural modernity posting. There is no shininess in the above photo, not even in the windows on show. (The things I like best are always the things that tell me how right I was, I find.)

An obvious reason for that is that the windows seem all to be recessed from the surfaces of buildings. But there seems to be another reason. Take a look at this Eltz Castle photo, this time an interior shot (one of those here):

Very lavish, but that’s not my point. Which is: Look again at those windows, the ones with all the circles. They look like Ancientist fakes to me, but Ancientist or genuinely ancient, what those windows illustrate is that glass existed for a long time before they worked out how to make its surface smooth and flat. Above all, they took a long time to work out how to make big sheets of glass, such as we moderns now take for granted. And it’s that total absence of large and smooth and shiny surfaces that does so much to explain the different atmosphere radiated by ancient architecture.

At Eltz, you might get occasional flashes of light, little splinters. And you can see great stuff in old windows, from the inside, as the above photo also illustrates lavishly. But you’re never going to see anything reflected in glass like that, outside. Not any Thing, that you can recognise.

Martin Cook photographs creatures

I follow Martin Cook on Twitter. His day job is medical, which must be interesting just now. But he’s also a Real Photographer. Here we see him lining up a swan with Salisbury Cathedral:

Also, that tree on the left looks like it’s had a big old dose of pollarding done to it, a process that has long intrigued me.

See also: a deer; a rabbit; another deer; a monochrome deer; the same deer (?) in colour; a bee; … You get the pictures.

The shininess of architectural modernity

One of the biggest architectural trends of the last half century has been the relentless replacement of rough and unreflective surfaces with smooth and shiny surfaces, concrete by glass, old school stones and bricks by glass or shiny bricks held up by regular bricks. Glass is now omnipresent, even as much of it is deliberately arranged not to be seen through. Glass has got a lot smarter, meaning better at making light do exactly what it wants light to do, and a lot stronger and less accident-prone.

As a result, reflections now abound in cities, including reflections in see-through glass, because you actually don’t want see-through glass being perfectly see-through, because then people would keep walking into it and breaking their noses or skulls. So, the surface of see-through glass has mostly been kept deliberately shiny.

If you think about it, the difference between rural picturesque and urban is the difference between rough and smooth, between not-shiny and shiny. Shininess in hitherto impeccably rural settings can be particularly grating. It’s the shape of architectural modernity that causes the most offence, in architecturally ancient or Ancientist settings. It is its typical surface. Its shiny surface.

And it’s not just glass. Even the most mundane of building materials have tended to get shinier. The latest stronger-than-before materials tend to have smoother and shinier surfaces. Modern materials just seem to turn out like that. But also, smooth and shiny surfaces are so much easier to clean. Dirty stones or bricks have to be cleaned with industrial scale toothbrushes and savagely powerful hoses, which tend to rip off the old surfaces of the stones or bricks and make them even rougher and more likely to get even dirtier, later, again. Rinse and repeat until there is either a cripplingly expensive restoration job to be done, or else hardly anything left. A shinily modern surface can just be hosed down more gently, from a distance, with no lasting damage being done to them.

So, lots of reflections. Lots of images bouncing around off urban surfaces, and mingling with the images already on or made by those surfaces. If you are a Real Photographer, being paid to photo some very particular Thing, with no distractions please, this must often be maddening, the ultimate humiliation being when you yourself and your camera end up in the damn photo. But for the likes of me, urban shininess arrived just in time for us to be able to run about photoing it, with joy.

This aesthetic sermon began life as the mere intro to a clutch of shiny photos, but the rule with blogging, often broken here I’m afraid but at least sometimes not, is: keep it simple and keep it brief. Let one link suffice (note in particular the second photo in the Maier set there), by way of (prophetic) illustration. Here endeth the lesson.

Five years ago today on the South Bank

Yes, another retro-photo-meander, on May 11th 2015

Photo 1: This doesn’t exactly nail down the date, does it? This could be a headline from any day during the last two decades. False, every time. The only time we got tough on the EU was when the mere voters voted to leave.

But Photo 2 is suitably fixed in time, the time when they were just finishing those rather lavish looking student apartments, on the far side of Westminster Bridge. In my day, we lived in digs. These were holes in the road. Just kidding.

Photo 3: Just as photos of people wearing face masks take on a new meaning now, so now do crowd scenes. Who are those people wearing blue caps? No idea. Memo to self: gather up more crowd scenes. I haven’t done many of these. In future, I’m guessing now I’ll do more.

Photo 4: The Big Purple Cow is – was? – a comedy venue.

Photos 5 to 9 explain themselves. Above the streaks on concrete is a sign saying where we are.

Photo 10: On the right, that’s the ME Hotel Radio Rooftop Bar.

I can never remember what the roof clutter i Photo 12 is on the roof of, but I always like to photo it.

The vapour trail in Photo 15 was also this vapour trail. If vapour trails always looked this black and horrible, there would now be no planes flying.

Out east – one year ago today

I looked at what I was doing a year ago today, and came across these photos, of a great little expedition I had out east:

My wanderings began at West Silvertown DLR, from which there is a great view of the Tate & Lyle factory or refinery or whatever it is, the one with the giant can of Golden Syrup attached to it. Other local landmarks included: that cruise ship next to the footbridge, which is actually a hotel; a superb crane cluster off to the north; the Dome; that skilift Thing that goes across the River; and the Optic Cloak. (Where the Eastern God (Buddha?) was, I don’t recall, but I like him a lot.)

This is the area I was exploring:

It’s a place that is palpably in transition. Go back today, and it’ll be different. A year from now, it’ll be different again. In ten years, unrecognisably different. The landmarks in the distance will still be there, but the foreground will be transformed.

The weather that day (unlike the weather today) was a bit grim and grey, but I remember really enjoying this expedition.

I also, that day, photoed nesting birds, cranes, and a book of the week. That last posting having been done as soon as I got home.

By the way, behind the cruise ship is the ExCel Centre, now in the news because it was turned into a hospital. A hospital which had remained mostly empty, and now seems like it will soon shut. Which is good.

Low tide

April 26th was too sunny to be photoing statues (see below) but it was great for being down by the River, and midday was a time when you could get further down by the River (see above) than usual:

Maybe you see the River looking like this all the time, but I don’t recall seeing it like this before. I probably have though. I just didn’t notice.