London's Vignettes

I don't tumbl properly

One of my favourite things about London is the architectural variation you get. There’s a lot of cool buildings to see - especially if you look up! Buildings that are just shops at eye level are suddenly revealed to have exquisite little carved faces under their first floor windows - something you associate more with Paris - or have cosy Victorian façades of warm brick, or streamlined 30s terraces… any number of things. The only big exception to that is The City. The financial district has a lot of new skyscrapers being built that look really really cool in the skyline, like The Gherkin or The Shard, but when you get up close it’s pretty soulless. I mean, they tried to make The Gherkin seem cool at street level, but those giant glass buildings just don’t really look as nice up close. Also the huge numbers of skyscrapers block out the sun, so while you get cool reflections from windows, it’s rare to get actual sunshine reaching you.

Anyway. The first photo is a random thing I stumbled across. I’ve probably drunkenly staggered past it at some point (it’s not exactly tucked away) but never really looked at it. It’s a big column with some non-functional drinking fountains. The Victorians loved building water fountains - you see a lot of them about. None of them work, though; probably disconnected due to health and safety.

The next two pictures are of the Barbican Estate. Given my little rant about The City, you might be surprised to hear that I actually have a soft spot for Brutalism. I mean, those towers are pretty cool to look at in a sort of Blade Runner cyberpunk kinda way… but if you read up on Brutalism, it’s like a window into post war optimism. They had all these bright ideas about “streets in the sky” and little communities but it just didn’t work out… like having large exposed park like areas between towers didn’t prove to be a nice place for the community to organise picnics, they just made people feel unsafe at night. Also a lot of the people who pioneered Brutalism had designed it with sunnier climates in mind, so it didn’t really age that well in drizzly Blighty.

Tucked within the confines of The Barbican Estate is Ironmonger’s Hall - it’s not as old as it looks, being built in the 20s, but is one of the few buildings in the area to have survived the war. It’s mildly interesting to read about here: 


 The whole area was pretty much levelled by bombing, but in true British fashion buildings were rebuilt to the EXACT SAME ROAD PLAN. As a result it’s still quite twisty turny and there’s a road that basically follows the old Roman city wall. You can see bits of the wall sticking out here and there (often with ruins of Victorian warehouses built into the wall) but you can see some proper excavations of old London in The Museum Of London. That last shot is of a sunken garden that the public aren’t allowed access to. I wish I’d written down the inscription on the slab thing; it was really bizarre but you can’t make it out in that picture.

2 years ago