Nine Elms update

Nine Elms update – photos

Nine Elms/Battersea is one of the largest redevelopments in the whole of London. It involves demolishing and rebuilding the famous four Battersea Power Station chimneys as well as major development of the Power Station itself, and a new extension of the Northern Line tube from Kennington to Battersea.

This is the second time it has been attempted – the last being when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. Because of the collapse of that venture, I have frequently been doubtful about the outcome this time around – but now that they are about to start the fourth and final Power Station chimney rebuild, the two tunnel boring machines for the tube extension are ready underground to start work later this month, and with the vast amount of other new construction going up, I do think this time it will all get finished.

The area is mostly north of the railway line going in to Waterloo, from nearly at Queens Road Battersea all the way to Vauxhall Station – but with also a very great deal of redevelopment on the south side of the rail line – especially at the Vauxhall Station end.

When you go past in the train you can see new towers going up like mushrooms in a field in a morning. Apart from the already occupied St George’s Wharf Tower, the three highest skyscrapers have yet to show above ground. There are two for the Chinese Wanda Corporation, next to the St George’s Wharf Tower and one south of the railway called the Versace Tower. The Chinese build ones are on their third construction contractor – now the giant Canadian Multiplex organisation. The developers could not seem to agree final contracts with the previous two builders and progress was very slow indeed. It does not bode well for Chinese involvement in a new nuclear power station at Dungeness, though progress does now seem to be speeding up somewhat – so maybe it is now all sorted out.

In addition to the Power Station, the other major iconic development is that of a new US Embassy (their place in Grosvenor Square will become an hotel) and the towers built around it are called Embassy Gardens – and their marketing boards talk about a “New diplomatic area” – but I only see the one embassy going up – namely that for the USA.

Taking photos around the area is hard work: the roads are murder for pedestrians and each construction site entrance represent a danger of being flattened under a truck. Obviously the construction sites will come to an end – but let us hope that the road system is made a bit more user and pedestrian friendly than it currently is, or the only way you will be able to get to your new swanky tower will be in a car or a cab.

My third photograph is of the 750 tonne crane that lifted the two tunnel boring machines down the shaft into the ground to start digging out the tube extension.

I quite like some of my snaps of the new Embassy – it is at least less monotonous than some of the towers.

I have now got my right eye all sorted for cataracts by the excellent nurses and quacks of the world famous Moorefields Eye Hospital. In another week the other one will get done.
At the moment with one done and one awaiting treatment, it’s a bit like walking around with one shoe off and one shoe on, so I’ll end with a nice silly rhyme:

Diddle Dumpling my son John,
Went to bed with his trousers on,
One shoe off and the other shoe on,
Diddle Diddle Dumpling my son John.

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City of London

City of London – Photos
There is a degree of artistic licence (ie not quite strictly true) when I say these photos are from the City of London – some of them are strictly speaking from outside The City – over in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. They are only beyond the City boundary by a short distance and in streets frequented by City workers every single day; in an area subject to rapid change including the onward march of the skyscrapers, which are voraciously welcomed by the Planning Departments of Boroughs such as Tower Hamlets and Hackney which abut onto the City, for the Council Tax income that they bring.
Anyway – they make for some interesting contrasts.

In general what I have shown of the City is some of the new skyscrapers – under construction – and some that are already is use – but also with one or two traditional City views. These are contrasted with the very different type of buildings just over in Spitalfields in Tower Hamlets, with the danger that the skyscrapers will take over the whole area.

I took this set on 2nd January – a day that was part of the extended Christmas/New Year holidays and thus the area was very quiet but for a few tourists, and I was often able to stand safely in the middle of the road to take a snap.

At the moment there are five skyscrapers under construction in the City: 22 Bishopsgate, 100 Bishopsgate, the Scalpel at 52 Lime Street, the Heron Plaza (next door to the Heron Tower – which nowadays is called the Salesforce Tower) and the Principal Tower – a residential tower adjacent to the Eastern end of Broadgate. There are more that have received Planning approval and are thus likely to be on their way. The ‘fun’ part of Spitalfields is likely to be under threat.

Next month’s posting may be a little delayed because I have got some cataracts which are about to be removed – bit of a nuisance really for an amateur photographer – but you dear reader might then just possibly get shown some improved photos…

A Night on the Town

A Night on the Town – photos

Happy New Year.

This set is perhaps not the most “architectural” of photos. As can be seen from some of the snaps – it was very busy. They were taken during December.

I took some photos of the advertising displays at Piccadilly Circus but decided they were not good enough to show. Later this month they will be switched off and the displays dismantled as they are being replaced by one of the largest single LCD displays anywhere in the World which will wrap right round the building. It will be the autumn before the new lights are working. They have not been switched off for so long since World War II. Indeed, since the War they have been switched off on only two occasions: for Winston Churchill’s funeral and for Princess Diana’s funeral – though they do get switched off for an hour each year in support of the worldwide Earth Hour.

One of the abiding features of the West End – pretty much regardless of the time of day – and like much else of central London, is the volume of traffic. Whilst I accept that much of it is made up of buses, cabs and delivery vehicles, all too much is the number of private cars. The congestion charge worked a treat when it was first introduced, but it needs to be steeply increased to help in the fight against the jams and air pollution. Public transport in London is quite brilliant and we are going to have to accept that cities like London will only work well with traffic reduced to more manageable volumes.

Anyway, next month I shall get back to some photos of some architecture, but in the meantime once again Happy New Year

196

196 – Photos

196 is the number of snaps that I took on a walk from Waterloo via the Southbank and Millennium Bridge to just past Liverpool Street station – opposite Norton Folgate. I frequently take somewhere between 50 and 250 – so 196 is a normal number – but typically only 23 of them are good enough to show.

The photographs are of what took my fancy on the way of this short (two and a bit miles) walk.
There are cities where the number of old buildings would be much greater; there at cities where the number of new buildings would be much greater, but nowhere, other than London is there such juxtapositioning of old and new. And that is what I like most about the place.

As always in London (forget about Brexit) there are lots of new buildings going up.
Three of them are of new residential skyscrapers: One Blackfriars (architect Ian Simpson), the nearby Southbank Tower (more or less complete) and Principal Tower on Bishopsgate (architect Foster and Partners) – just past the Broadgate development. They will all be striking new architectural additions to the London scene but One Blackfriars is currently priced in the range £1.15M to £23M; Southbank Tower is “Price on Application” (a fancy way of saying expensive) and the Principal Tower starts at £794K (no doubt for a studio flat).
Many, if not most, of these will be bought by foreigners – who do not live in this country – and will be left empty to appreciate. Together they will comprise over 140 floors and make virtually no contribution to the real housing needs of London. Soon most of the central area of London – as is happening in Manhattan – will be out of bounds for ordinary people – by which (ridiculously) I mean couples earning up to £100K pa between them. This is not sensible Planning because if the people who teach, are policemen, drive the buses, tubes and trains, serve in all the restaurants and sandwich bars etc., have to travel such long distances to work they will be priced out of their jobs not just by housing but also by travel costs and the whole thing will just not work. We must be careful not to end up with just useless glitz.

In addition to photographs of these buildings, I have some of views of and from the Southbank and of some of the new (office) skyscrapers going up in the City. I also have some of St Nicholas Cole Abbey – a church that is a now a training centre for the Church and coffee bar for the public, and the church of St Mary Aldermary which was rebuilt after the Great Fire – being completed again in 1682.

There is one of Liverpool Street Station and one of the new HQ for Bloomberg News on Queen Victoria Street. This was the site of the former Bucklesbury House – a very ugly 1960s block that ruined the view from Waterloo Bridge. The new building has taken a very long time to emerge – but looks now to be close to being completed. The building is the site of the Temple of Mithras – an ancient Roman site – that will hopefully have a much better access for members of the public than hitherto.

This is published on the First Day of Advent, so for those of my readers who celebrate Christmas – have a Happy Christmas.
The next edition will be published on the day of Eight Maids A-milking…

Greenwich: Old and New

Greenwich: Old and New – photos

This was quite a difficult assignment: the older (World Heritage) parts of Greenwich are so stunning it is difficult to choose which to select, and the newer (Greenwich Peninsular) developments are so large scale and so much underway that it is difficult to get to many of them to take a photo.
My first photograph is of King William Street just by the rebuilt Cutty Sark. Whilst being in the “heart” of the World heritage sites, there are many mixed views about it. There were two disastrous fires during the re-construction of the Cutty Sark – one in 2007 and again in 2014, resulting in much loss of the structure. The holding surround (designed by Grimshaws) – which houses a visitor museum – won the Building Design “Carbuncle Cup” in 2012.

There then follows a series of alternating photos of the new Greenwich Peninsular developments and those of Maritime Greenwich.
It is confusing as to which particular building belongs to the Maritime Museum, which to the Old Naval College and which to the University and to Greenwich Palace, and I have named them all as “Maritime Museum” which is not accurate at all.
There are two of the Chapel – but not one of the Painted Hall. I have some photos of the Painted Hall from some few years ago. It is currently being re-furbished and I decided against the older photos.
There is one photograph of the Observatory – taken in 2011 – but I don’t think this has changed much!
Similarly there is one of the old hospital down by the river – again from 2011.
There are one or two of St Alphege Church – which was the first full church designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor built during 1712 – 1718. Hawksmoor was originally the Clerk of Works at the Greenwich Hospital before becoming Sir Christopher Wren’s most famous pupil.
The church of St Alphege is a very old church and was the place where Henry VIII was baptised (1499, I think – well that’s when he was born – in Greenwich).

The Greenwich Peninsular development is large scale and will take possibly 20 years to complete. When I went photographing it a while back, I got chatting to one of the site project managers. He was, I think, in his late forties (maybe early fifties) and he said that the development would “see him out”. It is not too long a walk (less than a couple of miles) along the river from the O2 to the town centre of Greenwich – but at the moment it is impossible to see your way down onto the river path because of all the construction work. You can get a rough idea of the scale of the Greenwich Peninsular development on the
Greenwich Peninsular website.

A short hike round Hoxton

A short hike round Hoxton – Photos

Hoxton was for many years an area that I probably would not have wanted to visit – well not unaccompanied at least. Now, however it is becoming increasingly fashionable and pleasant and gentrified, though there are still one or two estates that are a bit better not visited after dark…

My first photo is strictly speaking in Shoreditch (both Shoreditch and Hoxton are part of London Borough of Hackney) and one or two of the others are Shoreditch also.

There are a number of photos of the interior of St Monica’s RC Church in Hoxton Square which I have photographed before – a little over three years ago. I was surprised to discover that the chancel part of the church (the narrower part of the aisle surrounding the altar) was beautifully decorated – what I took to be new decorations. However, I learnt that the decorations were discovered when the Church underwent a major restoration programme earlier this year. They are by E W Pugin, the son of Augustus Welby Pugin – one of Victorian England’s most eminent church architects.
The parish priest at St Monica’s was at one time a Father Kelly (d. 1914) who established the nearby St Monica’s School and did much for the local poor. He became known as the Saint of the Slums and his obituary appeared in the New York Times and occupied a full page in the Daily Sketch.
For this I am indebted to the Westminster RC Diocese Newsletter.

Many of the photos are of Hoxton Street – where there is a market – but not on the day I was there. In the middle of the street is a quite amazing lovely community garden – which is really quite a haven away from the street itself.

As can be seen from the very trendy shoe shop that I have snapped in Hoxton Square, Hoxton is no longer much part of the slums…However, as with so many such areas if all the new housing is affordable only to the very well-off, we will end up removing all the working population of London and this will be a disaster. Only this week, I have been reading of two new swanky towers about to be built on the Colville Estate – just to the north and east of Hoxton Street.

Whetstone to Kings Cross

Whetstone to Kings Cross – photos

Well – they are both on the Northern Line!

Whetstone at Totteridge and Whetstone tube station is the penultimate stop on the Northern Line – Barnet branch – and so is one of North London’s outermost areas. Indeed one of my photos shows a footpath from Whetstone which goes all the way to the northern section of the London Loop – that walkway that (sort of) mirrors the M25 for walkers.

Whetstone is not an exciting area – it is quiet and middle class – in an ordinary sort of way – not some posh middle class area like parts of Kensington and Chelsea. It is the sort of area the produces the backbone English Middle Class.

I have compared it with the large scale – but very pleasant – redevelopment of the Kings Cross area which started with the station itself and now encompasses a large geography to the north of the Station, totalling 67 acres.

The station both the inside and the front of Cubitt’s great building (which cost more to build originally than the vastly more ornate St Pancras over the road) are improved beyond recognition and the front of the station – removed of it’s awful former clutter – is particularly fine. The new part of the station with its splendid roof structure is designed by John McAslan and Partners.

North of Kings Cross was for years a complete mess and a dump. The very large scale redevelopment of the area is one of the most pleasant redevelopment areas in London with a mixture of shops, offices and housing, together with the main campus for the University of the Arts London. One of the main new office occupants will be the UK HQ of Google.

One of the most interesting developments is the housing built inside the frameworks of the former gasometers – a development that I wasn’t sure would work – but from an outside view, at least, certainly does.

I have taken a number of photographs of the cleaned up Regents Canal – which was for years in this part just a dumping ground. I took a photo (not shown) of a swan and its cygnets on the canal as an indication of how cleaned up here it has become.

I do not know the date when the Kings Cross development will be fully complete – but it is well worth a walk around even as it develops.

40 Soho Shops

40 Soho Shops – Photos

I have taken some photos of some of Soho’s shops largely because Soho – like so many other areas is subject to change and many new buildings are going up. They are not, of course, skyscrapers – but the new nature of the buildings – often with residential on the higher floors – means that any new retail units are set to be expensive. This means that the traditional Soho shop (I am not talking about sex shops!) is finding life increasingly difficult. The chains are perhaps able to afford the new retail units – but if Soho ends up as just chains it will loose much of its character.

Recently there has also been concern about the market in Berwick Street. (I have not photographed the market but have a number of photos of Berwick Street shops). Westminster Council are considering “privatising” the running of the market and many of the traders are concerned that this may lead to its demise – see the Guardian.

It is possible, of course that with the slowdown in the commercial property market that appears to be now underway that the pace of change in Soho will slow down and thus help to preserve its present character.

Dulwich Village & Clockwork Orange

Dulwich Village & Clockwork Orange – photos

My photos this month are of Dulwich Village and the Thamesmead Estate – which is where the film Clockwork Orange was shot.

Dulwich is one of the nicest and poshest suburbs in London, looking as if it were almost a completely separate town – a jewel in the crown of the London Borough of Southwark. It is almost completely white middle class – the only non-white people that I saw were two young very middle-class black ladies emerging from Pizza Express discussing what cakes they had been asked to bake for their school-fete.

Thamesmead Estate – which straddles the Boroughs of Greenwich and Bexley is really quite gruesome and one of the worst example of poor quality Town and Country Planning that I have seen. My photographs of it are some in colour and some in black and white – reflecting the gloomy mood it put me in.

Thamesmead is going to be completely re-built by the Peabody Estate over an extended period. The nearest station which is at Abbey Wood is being completely re-built as it is to become a station at the end of one of the Eastern branches of Crossrail. The station will become a double decker station so that it will achieve the height of the motorway style overpass of the A2401 – the Harrow Manor Way – which forms the main means of egress to and from the Thamesmead Estate.

At the moment, you either have to use a car or a bus or walk along the narrow pavements of the A2041 to get to the Estate. Many of the residents are poor West African immigrants and either they have to spend money on bus fares or walk with – it seemed to me – usually a kiddie push-chair along the narrow pavements of the A2041 with fast traffic zooming past.

The present residential blocks on the estate look about as welcoming as you might expect from Clockwork Orange. Indeed when they were first built all manner of problems came up – including leaking rain. Because the area was liable to flooding most of the walkways on the Estate are built at first floor level.

The Town Centre of Abbey Wood is very poor with few shops and facilities and apart from a large Sainsburys along the A2041 there is little in the way of shopping facilities. There is no sign of the gentrification or middle-class-isation (if there were such a phrase), despite Crossrail, in Abbey Wood and so even with the re-building of Thamesmead it will be a long time before this part of London becomes a “desirable” area.

I did not enjoy Abbey Wood and the Thamesmead Estate and was glad to leave it, not because I felt in any way threatened, but because it was so very depressing.

Special Edition

I have been taking these photographs for five and a half years and have collected nearly 14,000 of them. I have almost certainly taken over 25,000 – but I am rather stringent about the quality of the ones that I keep. This blog has been around for less than five and a half years and on it I show only a very small percentage of the photos that I have shot.

My main interest has been – and continues to be – in the development of London which over this time span has been dramatic and very large scale. Not all of the new architecture is brilliant, not all of it is socially valuable but most of the new architecture has changed London in huge ways. Vast areas have been (and still are) subject to complete re-development. New skyscrapers are springing up everywhere.

There is just one photograph in this Special Edition – of a new speculative development – only 16 stories – next to Old Street Roundabout – nowadays called Silicon Roundabout, because of the huge amount of new high tech companies in that immediate area. It was taken just two days before the Referendum.

White Collar Factory – photo

The building is one that will provide office/workspace for some of these high-tech companies. It will be called The White Collar Factory and of course the developers hope that it will be a success with some of these growing high tech companies. It is not a particularly exciting snap that I have taken, but I have presented it to show my concern that such speculative development, which is reported to be a £200M development, and which is merely one of very many in the city, might rapidly come to an end now that we have foolishly voted to leave the EU.

We shall all be very much poorer when much of such development does stop – and I am sure it will over the next few months. We have been taken over by buffoons, liars and fools who have ignored over 600 of the best economists in the country and we are probably now set for a major slowdown in the development of London.