Thursday, 25 August 2011

A night in Glasgow and lunchtime in Edinburgh

Business, rather than pleasure, sent me to Scotland today. Visiting our office in Glasgow today and on to Edinburgh tomorrow. This necessitated an overnight stay in Glasgow. I had a hotel organised for me by the office - it turned out to be a brief ride down the hill - and just up the hill from George Square where Brad Pitt is currently filming 'World War Z'.

I was booked in to stay at a hotel on Renfrew Street CitizenM. At the moment it is the only one in the UK... and if you haven't any other reason to visit Glasgow a night at this hotel is enough.

Photos of the hotel can be found at this link.

It labels itself as 'Boutique Budget'. I don't stay in enough hotels to comment on the budget part, but the boutique part is certainly true!

I took a quick walk down to see the film set, a square in central Glasgow pretending to be Philadelphia. I had to see it just so that I can sit there when the film comes out I can sit and say 'I saw that, I was there'.

A short train journey the next day took me to Edinburgh. The Fringe Festival is drawing to a close, but there is also a Book Festival happening. As I waked along Princes Street I was given a free promo copy of a book (which I'm pretty certain I'd read a preview of and decided I want to read). See London Calling for what I think of it when I'm done! There was also a French market on Castle Street so I got a sausage baguette for my lunch.

Didn't get to see many sights in either City due to the business not pleasure bit, but it certainly reinforces my desire to take a real visit to both places.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Marble Arch and Hyde Park East

Designed in 1828 by John Nash Marble Arch was originally the entrance to Buckingham Palace. When the Palace was extended to its current configuration the Arch was moved to its current position (in 1852); although these days it is somewhat isolated by the roads around it - it is effectively on a (very large) traffic island along with Marble Arch Underground Station. There is frequent speculation that it might be moved across the road to Hyde Park, but nothing has come to pass.

Hyde Park has a lot of attractions. Opposite Marble Arch is Speakers Corner; where speakers can talk on any topic and debate and speech on any topic can take place. This right to free speech is not limited to Speaker's Corner (or any of the other Speaker's Corners in the UK) but provides a useful rallying point. Nobody was talking there on Saturday when I was there.

There is also a lot of public art and memorials in and around Hyde Park.  On the left is Nic Fiddian-Green's 'Mawari Head'. On the right The Jelly Baby Family, work of sculptor Mauro Perucchett - a temporary installation.

On Park Lane is Lorenzo Quinn's 'Vroom Vroom' a giant hand holding a Fiat 500. Both the sculptures on the right are only on display until Spring 2011.

There are also a number of memorials in Hyde Park. On the East side there are: the monument to Animals in War and also the memorial to the victims of the terrorist attacks on July 7 2005.

There is one post for each person who died, stamped with the location, date and time - and a plaque listing the names of those who died.

 You can plan your visit to Hyde Park (or any of the Royal Parks) using their website.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Jubilee Line

Once upon a time, over a decade ago, the Jubilee Line followed the Bakerloo Line and stopped at Charring Cross. Then somebody somewhere decided to build the Millennium Dome (now the O2) out on a scrubby piece of land north of Charlton and Greenwich, and a tube line was needed to get all the tourists there. So began the Jubilee Line extension.

The Jubilee Line is an odd line. It starts way off in North London past Wembley above ground. It then dives beneath London to become one of the deepest lines. It crosses the Thames not once but four times; and of the first four stops of the extension heading out of Central London three of the four had to co-ordinate with existing stations.

Once you come above ground at Canning Town (and stay there until the end of the line at Stratford) the stations become less impressive. But the new stations (I discount London Bridge and Waterloo as they are so integral to the stations that they integrate with) are all quite 'lofty' and possibly the equivalent of modern day Cathedral Building.
1. Westminster: this must have been one of the hardest stations to do. Running close to the historic Palace of Westminster, on the banks of the Thames and meeting up with two existing lines (Circle and District) which are sub-surface lines and not that deep. I remember as a student a journey on the way to the RICS (located on the North side of Parliament Square) and the major construction work that was evident all around. It is now a feat of engineering. The two Jubilee line platforms run at different levels between the existing SSL platforms and there is a massive network of lifts and escalators to get you where you need to go as well as some absolutely huge pieces of structure to hold the whole station up!

Ignoring Waterloo I move on to Southwark.

2. Southwark: I happened to get on a Southwark the other week. Not a very impressive station from the outside - but an award winning building according to the sign inside.

Again there is an almost Cathedral like feeling to the inside with buttresses up in the roof.  There is also a small ocular as you come into the station, which is a bit of a nod back to the styles of the 1930s with the glass blocks. 
Southwark doesn't have to join up with any of the other underground lines, but does have to link up with Waterloo East main line train station, which itself links with Waterloo; which is itself a station on the Jubilee Line. You could get confused if you weren't paying attention!

Ignoring London Bridge we move to Bermondsey.

3. Bermondsey: Despite my daily trips in both directions through this part of London I'd still struggle to locate Bermondsey station above ground. I didn't on my mini-trip as leaving the through the ticket gates would have added to my journey! It's a bit more light and airy here - much less of the soaring feeling, but still the unfinished concrete look of many of the stations at this end of the line. 
Like many of the stations it also has the the ticket hall concourse and the middle concourse on its way down to the depths of the Jubilee Line at this point (which is still crossing at re-crossing the Thames at this point).

5. Canada Water: for residential and shopping. I've been to this one a few times when North Greenwich has been scuppered, as it is a quick bus ride on the 188 (traffic permitting). 
The slightly domed roof at the entrance is a bit church like again, with the continued motif of unfinished concrete. There is some soaring architecture as you plunge down to the depths of the station the catch the trains.

The space and any natural light these station can capture is maximised by not separating the opposite running platforms (which can also be very helpful for the occasions when the Jubilee Line isn't working properly and you have to go backwards to go forwards!).

6. Canary Wharf: given its unique position amongst some of London's tallest buildings the outside of the station is always a bit in the shade. It's also a very complicated area with the underground and the DLR - but Canary Wharf underground station, like Canada Water is soaring. 
It must have been another difficult one to build. Two of the four crossing of the Thames on the Jubilee Line are just to get the trains to Canary Wharf and on, digging down amongst the basins of the docks. Well it is a feat of engineering.

7. North Greenwich: we go no further as we're home. Also - after this point the line rises from under the Thames and remains above ground until Stratford.

North Greenwich is also the proud possessor of some soaring architecture. Not like many of the stations in unfinished concrete, but covered in tiny blue mosaic tiles (amazing prescience that one day O2 whose corporate colour is blue would take on the dome?!). 
There are two parts to North Greenwich - the underground station and the bus terminus, itself a soaring piece of Architecture, which as far as I have ever seen (based on the crowds inside) is much larger than it needs to be, serving most of the time as a conduit to transit people between the two forms of transport available.

I am grudgingly fond of the Jubilee Line. It has its fair share of problems - Engineering works nearly every weekend, a half-hearted reliability record - but it is also South East London's quickest link to the rest of town.

Friday, 8 April 2011

One New Change

When we go to watch the Lord Mayor's Show we stand in the same spot, at the end of Cheapside, by St Paul's. In 2006 they were getting ready to knock down the building opposite, and by 2008 it was gone!

Since then the new building has risen from the ground, and now finally is finished. I took a brief stop on my way home today. Which ever approach you take it is an impressive building.

You enter in the shopping area from New Change, passing the exit out from the lower ground shopping area and looking up to shops and offices either side.

There are shops on lower ground, ground and first levels (with a light well all the way up through to the sixth floor) and offices on the upper levels (not yet occupied).

The roof terrace is given over to public open space, and there will  be a restaurant up there. At the moment it is worth the trip for the view of St Paul's and South and West London (the Shard, the new building at Elephant and Castle and all the way to Crystal Palace). The view from the glass lift going down is pretty impressive too!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

From Farringdon to Kings Cross

Clerkenwell Green
When I first started work (over a decade ago now) I worked in Clerkenwell Green. The Clerks Well (from which the area takes it's name) was not rediscovered until the 20th Century and can now be seen through the window of a nearby building on Farringdon Lane.

Also nearby is St John's Square and St John's gate; once the English headquarters of the Knights Hospitaller and now the Red Cross.

Farringdon Station
Farringdon was originally the terminus of the Metropolitan line (the first of the underground lines)... and a lot of the original architecture can still be seen today - both at the front of the station and on the platforms.

Farringdon is undergoing a facelift however, and will have a new station to accommodate both Crossrail and the upgraded Thameslink. I hardly recognised the area which I once knew quite well. 
Construction of the new station.

There was once a row of shops and a fairly substantial office building here! By 2016/18 this will be a busy station serving not only the mainlines but four sub-surface tube lines.

One of my favourite buildings in the area is right across the road from all the construction work. This rather gothic building which always makes me think of 'Rosemary's Baby'.

From here it is a short trip back to Kings Cross to change tube lines on my journey back to the office (I'd been to a meeting near Hatton Garden).

In Memoriam
Whist there I noticed the memorial to the Kings Cross fire memorial. Until 1984/85 smoking was allowed on both trains and platforms. Although by the time of the Kings Cross fire smoking was banned the cause is thought to have been a discarded match which ignited wooden parts of the old escalators; 31 people died in the tragedy.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Piccadilly: Green Park to Hyde Park Corner

Piccadilly runs east to west from Piccadilly Circus to Hyde Park Corner, thus connecting two of London's busiest traffic hot-spots.

There is a natural divide to Piccadilly at Green Park Station and the Ritz Hotel where the south side of the street becomes bordered by Green Park itself. So apart from Green Park, what happens to Piccadilly between Green Park and Hyde Park Corner?

There are a number of streets running north - all of which are part the West End's horrifying one way maze. This delightfully Victorian looking street is White Horse Street which if followed north will lead to Shepherd Market.

As with many of the buildings in the area a lot of what were once residences for the gentry the buildings in this street are in poor repair although some construction work was evident.

In Down Street the distinctive facade remains of an abandoned tube station. Sitting between Green Park and Hyde Park on the Piccadilly Line it was squeezed out of use by the expansion of the other two stations and closed in 1932. The areas behind the bricked up platforms were used as bunkers during the second world war.

If you pay close attention you can spot the location as you travel between Green Park and Hyde Park on the tube as the face of the tunnel material changes.

At Hyde Park Corner is Constitution Arch (also known as Wellington Arch) with the lovely sculpture of The Angel of Peace descending on the Quadriga of Victory. This was put on the Arch in 1912 replacing a statute of the Duke of Wellington. The Arch is cut off from its surroundings by the gyratory that is Hyde Park Corner - a by-word for busy and chaotic traffic. There are also a number of other monuments to be seen at Hyde Park corner... which will have to wait for another post. 
The view was spoiled a bit on Monday lunchtime by a gentleman taking his exercises in front of the Arch.

Amongst the buildings on this stretch of Piccadilly are several luxury hotels these include The Athenaeum which boast London's only living wall. Rather than the normal sedum or climbing ivy this is a vertical garden.  It contains 260 plant types and includes species from all over the world.

The ballroom entrance to the Park Lane Hotel is not its main entrance, but I rather like the faded 1920s grandeur.

Almost back to Green Park Station again when I noticed two engraved panels on Stratton House. I have worked in Mayfair for six years and this is the first time that I have noticed these, which does not say much for my powers of observation!
Home to the Netherlands Government for five years during World War II.