Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Wrong Kind Of Everything

The second part of my recent post on hipster urbanism was meant to consist of a journey on the newly opened East London Line. Two things have slightly scuppered this. First off, Owen has already written a very good review of the line and its generally pretty uninspiring architecture at BD. If you haven't read it yet you should. A quick scroll down the comments section will also reveal a horribly familiar response from Chris Williamson of Weston Williamson - architects of some of the stations - which reads like the sort of thing I write to clients on a regular basis.

The second problem was that my journey was somewhat aborted when our train terminated unexpectedly at New Cross, rather than Crystal Palace which is where we were hoping to get to. Up to this point the missus and I been busy extolling the swift efficiency of the service and the unexpectedly pleasant trains, but we were rapidly plunged back into the usual abyss of London public transport despair. At New Cross no one knew why the trains had stopped or when they would start again or indeed what a train was and why everyone kept asking about them.

Anyway, I might post up the few photos I managed to take at some point soon. But I guess the point is, if you're going to do non hipster urbanism - i.e. ugly infrastructure - then it needs to work. Coming on the back of England's dismal performance against Algeria on Friday night it was tempting to see the whole weekend as an indictment of this countries all round shabby crapness. Which raises the question: are England playing PFI football? Partly to answer this I can be found moonlighting over at the excellent World Cup blog Minus The Shooting with an upbeat piece on our pathological addiction to national footballing failure. There may be more to come, unless I get substituted by the gaffers. I just hope I've been a credit to myself and put in the requisite 110%.

I have a short piece in the French magazine Dorade too, where I make some wholly expected choices in response to being asked to name my five favourite houses of all time, ever, in the whole wide world. Dorade describes itself as "an artistic periodical where mermaids admit to their slightly fishy odour" which is the sort of thing the Architects Journal should do more of I think. Dorade is available "in some shops in Paris and WH Smiths".

Finally, I'm off to Moscow for a few days so I probably won't be blogging, but if anyone has any places to recommend visiting I would love to hear about them....


Matt Tempest said...

Are you sure you didn't just legitimatetly end up at New Cross (a termination stop), rather than passing through New Cross Gate at a canter on your way to Crystal Palace?

New Cross is a bizarre spur line.

When/if you ever get to Crystal Palace, do check out the National Sports Centre, an overlooked, listed but threatened 1962 gem, with 50m pool, diving boards, concrete pillars and 360 glazing, all sadly unloved and deeply hated by the staff and Greenwich Leisure Limited.

Charles Holland said...

Sort of. We got stranded at New Cross Gate. The trains terminated there because they closed Crystal Palace station for some reason.

Would love to see the stadium. Combination of that and the disused race track were the reasons I wanted to go in the first place.

owen hatherley said...

Cheers for unearthing that Weston-Williamson comment - am pleased and a bit amazed that an architect I've slagged off have written in support, rather than to tell me how their scheme advances the city's retail offer and provides interconnecting connectivity, or whatever.

'PFI football' is a brilliant phrase; seems to fit the way both PFI projects and the England team are based on a confidence trick; one on a national perception that because of the (largely bought and imported) importance of the Premiership the actual national team should be at least competent; the other based on the belief that because something visible is being done, it must be good; hospitals, infrastructure, schools are being built; then quality inevitably follows, even if it's done via the most shabby and inept methods. They're both all about the kick-and-rush.

Re: Moscow - as you probably I know I have millions of suggestions, but if you're strapped for time, I'd recommend just spending as much time as possible in the Metro stations, because they're the greatest achievement in the history of civilisation (rush hour is a bit Soylent Green though). You'll enjoy VDNKh, as well...

Anonymous said...

National Sports Centre, an overlooked, listed but threatened 1962 gem, with 50m pool, diving boards, concrete pillars and 360 glazing... cockroach AND rodent infested changing rooms. The whole place was mysteriously evacuated mid-swimming gala and then closed one day about 3 years ago. Monumentally surly staff. Glad to hear it's open again, if it is. It is simultaneously wonderful and a national disgrace.