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The Shreiking Violet Issue 19

July 31, 2012 Leave a comment

The current issue of The Shrieking Violet, a free issue, Manchester based arts fanzine, which has reached an impressive 19th issue over a three year span, is available to read online now…

The magazines creator and editor, Natalie Bradbury, was kind enough to include a piece of mine on The Plight of the Post War Mural. Currently a favourite topic of mine, this is a reworked blog post, in which I have changed the emphasis to illustrate how simply adding something of merit to the “Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest” (i.e Listing it) is no guarantee that the special thing will survive intact…

There are some screen grabs below (for my own records) but I would urge you to visit Natalie’s site and peruse the whole magazine (and some of the back catalogue as well if you have time). There’s some good stuff in there…

So big congratulations to Natalie on reaching her third birthday. Keep up the good work, and here’s to the next three years…

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Where has the Traffic Light Tree gone?

July 29, 2012 4 comments

The old roundabout at the top of the Isle of Dogs (over on the west where Marsh wall meets Heron Quays) has just undergone extensive regeneration. The roads and junctions have all been reconfigured and it looks pretty tidy now it’s all finished, offering swathes of beautiful flowers and expensive looking street furniture. There’s even some new trees… which is always a good thing…

However one of the biggest and best trees seems to have gone missing… The iconic Traffic Light Tree sculpture (Pierre Vivant/1998) that has stood in the center of the roundabout, and welcomed us back onto the island for the last 11 years we’ve lived here, is no longer there. I for one am disappointed that the designers and engineers couldn’t find a new new home for it, at what is effectively the main entrance to the island from the west.

On the plus side, Wikipedia tells me that Tower Hamlets have promised to relocate it elsewhere on the island, so lets hope they chose a suitably prominent place where everyone can enjoy this rather excellent piece of public art

It’s staggering how quickly our bit of London has developed in the time we’ve been here (and is still developing in fact). Much of it has changed  beyond recognition: Ever higher and ever more dense blocks now dominate the central spine of the island and whilst not all bad by any means, almost all of it is very obviously driven by the voracious need to make ever more and more amounts of cash…

Take the intriguing red buildings behind the Traffic Light Tree in the photo above (taken a couple of years ago) as an example. Known as Heron Quays, they were one of the very first developments at Canary Wharf by the old London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) and consisted of  small groups of rather odd, but strangely alluring, low key/ low density buildings which reflected the cautiousness of the early developments at Canary Wharf. Sat out on columns over the dock side water they came in a fine range of 1980’s colours: blue, red, brown and purple. All but the two purple ones have now gone, leveled in the short term for the temporary park described above, but in the long term to make way for some 30+ storey Richard Rogers towers.

Progress indeed…

Vertigo inducing photos by Sachigusa Yasuda

July 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Saw this amazing image in the weekend papers…

A Japanese photographer called Sachigusa Yasuda starts by taking 100’s of digital images by leaning out from the tops of tall buildings and then she stitches them all together to create something rather special…

Their seemingly simple, single point perspectives, are generated by images taken from a multitude of view points, giving a new twist to what we would ordinarily think of as familiar urban skylines…

Why I like cooling towers…

July 19, 2012 2 comments

Earlier this week I read that three cooling towers at Richborough in Kent were blown up in an event lasting only a few seconds and it sparked a quick, but memorable burst of nostalgia…

 

Cooling towers are without doubt one of the most instantly recognisable building forms in this country. When I was growing up and dad  would occasionally drive us to Birmingham for some family jamboree or other, I always used to look forward to seeing two things from the car: Fort Dunlop on the right hand side of the M6 (now a hotel development by Urban Splash) and the two huge, elegant structures that were the cooling towers of the Nechells Power station on the left.

I could never understand what such huge structures were for, especially after dad patiently explained that they were completely hollow on the inside, so allowing the hot steam and gases generated by the power station to be cooled and condense into water in these vast concrete spaces, before all heading up into the atmosphere…  I obvioulsy made a comment that stuck in my dad’s mind, as they became known in our family (and still are in fact, despite having being demolished many years ago) as “Joe’s waste of brick towers”…

It was this hollowness of form that resulted in a second part to my nostalgia trip…

When I was at Leeds learning to be an Architect, the journey back up the M1 after visiting friends and family in the Midlands, took me along the Tinsley Viaduct in Sheffield and past two cooling towers that sat eerily close to the road. As with the Birmingham ones, I was always taken with their effortless grace and beauty, and I can remember being very impressed when I was told that Terry Gilliam had shot the closing scenes of his dystopian masterpiece Brazil in one of these very towers, using the huge industrial scale to such stunning effect in the tourture scene…

I believed and told many people this fact for years, learning only a few years ago that it was untrue and the sequences had been shot in Croydon… Memories as shattered as these wonderful structures…

If like me, you find cooling towers fascinating and alluring things, and you know of some near you, I suggest you go and visit them soon.. Our recent industrial heritage seems not to merit the protection afforded their more domestic and residential cousins. All the towers mused over in this post have long since gone. As technology moves inexorably forwards, these peaceful old dinosaurs are destroyed and removed from the landscape, and I for one think that is criminal.

One Hundred Thousand… That’s a big number.

July 9, 2012 2 comments

I can hardly believe it, I’ve just had the 100,000th visitor to my site…. how amazing is that?

I have to admit that recently, what with work and holidays and other writing commitments, my target of at least 2 posts a week has slipped slightly. I think this Blogging lark (at least for me) is probably more of a winter thing, when the temptations of meeting friends and going out are less (although with the summer we’ve had so far here in London, that excuse is obviously rather weak..)

Visitors however seem unaffected by the seasons, as my busiest day was just a week or so ago when 681 dropped in. And although this was something of an aberration (caused for some unknown reason by the post I wrote on Peter Saville and his New Order Colour Wheel getting nearly 400 visitors all of its own) my daily average is around the 350 mark, which I’m pretty happy with.

So onwards and upwards… I shall take encouragement from this huge total and will let you all know when I reach 250,000 (which should be in 2 to 3 years time…)

My thanks again to everyone who stops to look and takes the time to comment, this Blog really has been one of the best things I’ve ever decided to do..

Joe

Amon Tobin @ Bloc 2012

July 7, 2012 2 comments

I write this on the Saturday afternoon that I should be getting into the mood for the second day of Bloc 2012, the new East London festival billed as a celebration of all things electronica.. (i.e. everything i really like about music)

Well as you may or may not know by now, Bloc was closed down last night due to overcrowding and health & safety issues, and today has been cancelled, so we won’t now get to see Orbital, Flying Lotus, Squarepusher, Ellen Allien, Space Dimension Controller or Battles…

To be honest, right from the off you tell there was something not quite right. We got there at about 5pm, as I wanted to see the Steve Reich show. Getting in was pretty easy for us as we had express tickets, but from then on it was queues all the way: into the arenas, onto the boat, at the bar… all ridiculously long and seemingly unnecessary, like nothing we’ve experienced before (and I’ve been going to festies for about 17 years)

It took us about 30 minutes to get onto the (admittedly pretty amazing) MS Stubnitz where, bathed in the glorious setting sun and nodding along to some pretty cool techno we stayed for an hour or so before heading over to see Amon Tobin and his ISAM show in one of the biggest tented structures I’ve ever been in…

I admit to only being vaguely aware of Amon Tobin before last night, a few tracks on Ninja Tune compilations that never really grabbed me, but having now witnessed something, the like of which I have never seen before in my life, I am a believer…

His difficult, strangely organic and at times bowel tremblingly powerful music was played through the most amazingly clear and fantastically loud sound system and was accompanied by a truly mind bending digital mapping show. Projected onto a 3 dimensionally cubed backdrop, the constantly changing shapes, colours, textures and forms were perfectly synched to Tobin’s soundscapes, creating an almost unimaginable experience. After about 20 minutes, Tobin was revealed to be standing within part of the structure in a translucent control box, nodding away and doing whatever it he does to make this future music…

Check out the ISAM album here on Spotify. As I said it’s not easy… slow, quiet and almost alien like in places then countered with soaring dub step, planet sized outbursts and intense shocks of machine noise, compositions not seemingly based on any structure as such (in fact almost perversely unstructured) but mesmerising all the same. So whilst certainly not to everyone’s tastes, see it live and loud, and I would challenge anyone not to be impressed..

It’s a real shame that last night’s Bloc turned to shit, and that today won’t happen. The rumors are that the tickets were  seriously oversold (25,000 instead of the agreed 15,000 per day) hence leading to the horrendous overcrowding and police intervention. If this festival failed because of greed, then the organisers should be ashamed of themselves for ruining such a potentially amazing experience.

I’ll finish with a couple of videos that I took last night. You don’t get any of the sense of scale or theatre of Tobin’s ISAM show, but they give an idea of the imagery and sound, whilst the photo at the end is of him standing in front of the structure onto which it was all projected.

Dubstep Dispute…

July 7, 2012 3 comments

My good friend Wong seems to have a knack for finding cool things online…

This one is particularly good, if far too short… I like the yellow droid that gets so agitated he falls over…

And as for the interpretation of those huge dub step sounds… genius

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