June 10, 2007

London 2

The fabric of London is transportation, the main network being the 'tube'.. with a 5.10 pound day-pass the city is opened-up. You don't have to wait more than a few minutes (countdown monitors when you're feeling impatient) and the routes are extensive. The day-pass is also good on the double-decker buses, no need to pay for a tour. One tube station worth mention is Canary Wharf, by Foster + Partners. The smoothly sculpted spaces feel futuristic and the level of refinement and detail is comparable to Calatrava's work.

The interior of Embassy of Iceland by Arne Jacobsen was not accessible as we didn't have an appointment, but we enjoyed the exterior. The base is tough with cement block and concrete walls with a geometric mural, while a modular of tube-like spaces wrapped in greenish-gray metal (with signature Jacobsen rounded corners) and glazed at the ends protrude from above. The break-up of the residential suites at the street level on the 'back' side were a great example of how all systems (lighting, mail, hardware, glazing, materials, etc.) can be integrated effectively.

A highlight of London for us was the Peckham Library by Will Alsop. Sited in a vibrant eastern suburb of London (Peckham, described by some as 'undesirable'), the library at first glance seemed run-down. There were some smashed glass panels on the back facade, and the metal screen that wrapped the front facade and underside looked like an afterthought from a distance. The scale was smaller than expected. It seemed appropriate for the neighborhood, and was comfortable upon entering and circulating through a brightly lit stair (colorful glass panels added personality). The library in general is very playful with: materials, range of color, an amorphous form peeking from the roof line, and alternately canted tube steel columns. On the top floor in the main library space (3) wood pods (children's library, meeting room, and study-centre) distinctively stand on tapered concrete columns. Below are study desks and computer stations, and the perimeter is lined with stacks and additional study tables. Most were occupied when we visited.

The British Museum Great Court is another good example of Foster + Partners strong vision, craftsmanship, and execution. In a sea of museums, this space stands out. The original buildings are cast in a new light with a mesh of thin shadows created by the canopy's unique geometric form. Originally built in the mid-19th century, the courtyard was an open garden that was taken away with the addition of a round reading room in the center. The new canopy spans that gap, provides cover in adverse weather, and reduces solar gain.

Others we visited:
The B&B Italia showroom by John Pawson was beautifully detailed (especially the stone tile, 3/4" guardrail panel glazing at the stair stringer and mezzanine edge, and main level ramp (if you don't trip like I did!).
30 Finsbury Square by Eric Parry Architects was a somewhat straightforward office cube with alternating apertures cut into the stone facade... deceivingly simple.
And finally the Barbican Estate, a massive and strange corbusian-esque living community (spans 2 tube stops!) Thank you J.S. for the recommendation... we were dumbfounded.

While food may not be London's strong suit, British pubs in general have an excellent selection of beer. Grolsch (Dutch brewery founded in 1615!), Kuppers Kolsh, Leffe, and Kronenbourg 1664 were our top picks.

We finished our London visit with a night at the Fabric club ( record label under the same name). There were artists playing in (3) differently-sized rooms simultaneously and the mood and feel varied from stage to stage. The highlight was Cassy on stage 1, and some Clone Records djs on stage 3. It was really crowded around 3AM when some Italian guys started moving in on Aya, so we called it a night.

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