June 8, 2007

London 1

We're getting good at taking red-eye flights... 8AM Tuesday the 5th we arrived in London in a dazed state... being channeled through the airport, buses, customs, and the london underground (tube) felt like going down a sink drain. London is dense... and feels very transient at its core... reminiscent of Tokyo in that sense. Though this is our first time here, the city seemed familiar with all the recognizable historic and iconic landmarks. One recent landmark that has become a strong icon of the city is the London Eye, rumored to be the largest observation wheel in the world. We found it to be a great introduction to the city.. offering an overall perspective and orientation to the many different districts.

From about 8:30 PM to 11 PM in the evenings we have been enjoying walking though the city and photographing.. colors seem most alive right after sunset and we have had better success isolating subjects in reduced-light conditions. This was partially due to the overcast grayness during many of the days.

The small GPS unit we have packed along (
Garmin Nuvi 370) has been a great resource... its easy to walk in circles when trying to find obscure buildings and museums... especially at the end of the day when wandering has lost its charm. Though we pre-loaded many points of interest before leaving the States, the best feature has been its ability to cue addresses from keyword searches. There were several museum installations we saw posters for and were quickly able to plot a route.

Throughout the city there are subversive-esque stenciled tags by Bansky.. the first we noticed on the way to the Millenium Bridge (see photo). They offer some comic relief from the thousands of CCTV monitors and British royal-ness.

At 2 million pounds over budget the
Millienium Bridge (Foster + Partners with Arup) opened with some unexpected lateral vibrations, earning it the nickname "Wobbly Bridge.". Concerns with unexpected driven harmonic motion (read: Tacoma Narrows) required the bridge to be closed for a year while 52 'tuned mass dampers' were installed at a cost of 5 million pounds. (You can locate the dampers in the photos where swaths of paint color vary). Despite the initial problems, this is a very beautiful bridge and an impressive structural feat... the suspension cables lighten the overall mass to the form of a string instrument. While we walked over it the sun was out causing the aluminum deck to gleam. The bridge is cut off abruptly at the Tate side of the Thames which was inconsistent with the attention to detail and fluidity present with the rest of the structure. (Note the massive bank of cables... tensioned to resist 2000 tons on either side).

Tate Modern museum, which was converted from an old power station by Herzog & de Meuron in 2000 did not disappoint. The 5-story expansive turbine hall that once housed generators is breath-taking. The character of the power station is retained while the integrated moves by Herzog provide clear circulation paths, observation spaces, galleries with natural light, and an overall feel of 'sleekness.' The museum appears to be wearing well, with the exception of large clumps of dust bunnies collected behind frosted glass at the ceiling above lower banks of escalators.

We took a ferry to the
Millenium Pier (Marks Barfield), it's stealth-like form and wood slat interior were unique to the London landscape. While this might seem out of place on the streets, we thought it worked well as a pier, separated by water and joined by a truss-encased walking bridge.

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