Thursday, 26 November 2009

Sweet dreams or a beautiful nightmare?

The Barbican is my idea of what living is all about. It fulfills every notion of what I think a home should be. It is a complex with history, density, supreme architectural design, dead central location and most importantly skyline dominance.

Looking at the building today its brutalist domineering style seems somewhat aged but not out of place in London's skyline. The three towers sit comfortably at the beginning of the river skyline, followed by St Pauls, the Natwest Tower and the Gherkin. The steep concrete faces create an imposing glare over the square mile and are reminiscent of the mass produced social housing structures typical of the artichectural modernism 60s and 70s. The Brutalist style of the barbican was a response to this, a movement away from internationally styled housing to that of a more monumental emphasis, a literal domination of the skyline. It is this domination of
London's skyline that earned the complex its Grade II listed status in 2001.

Historically the real inspiration behind the barbican lies solely with one man, Le Corbusier. The Frenchman rejected all forms of ancient architecture, deciding the modern man needed his own form of artichecture to represent his place in the modern world. In 1922 he envisaged a group of buildings of magnificent proportions, Ville Contemporaine, numerous sixty-floor structures linked by circular walkways, included within and around the structures would be airports, office bulidings, shops and any other amenity you can imagine. Man would quite simply give himself over to the dominance of the architecture, three million of those men. Le Corbusier's plan was to build standardised, mass-produced structures that would end urban deprivation in Paris, his vision would become an international standard by the mid 1960s.

Conceived in 1953 and completed in 1969 the Barbican has at its heart the idea of a completely contained living experience. In 1959 artichetcts Chamberlin, Powell & Bon mapped out their vision for the Barbican "The intention underlying our design is to create a coherent residential precinct in which people can live both conveniently and with pleasure. Despite its high density the layout is spacious: the buildings and the space between them are composed in such a way as to create a clear sense of order without monotony. Uninterrupted by road traffic (which is kept separate from pedestrian circulation through and about the neighbourhood) a quiet precinct will be created in which people will be able to move about freely enjoying constantly changing perspectives or terraces, lawns, trees and flowers seen against the background or the new buildings or reflected in the ornamental lake." The notion of meeting tranquil beauty within this dominating structure seems to represent a marriage of the modern with traditional Britain, and until this day the lawns of the complex are amongst its most favoured aspect with residents.

One of the most depressing aspects of the complex has become part of its zeal, the failure of the shopping complex paved the way for the arts centre, and the arts centre is now one of the defining features of the Barbican. Additionally, in 1984 the conservatory was opened and this was an absolute feat containing exotic flora, tropical and domestic plants, pools and fountains, an aivairy and the largest cacti in Europe. The pools used to house terrapins and fish and amazingly the pest control is not chemical but a delicate balance of predators and pathogens (that's basically biological germs).

All in all the Barbican is an incredible project that continues to live on forty years after its unveiling and over half a century after its inception, that it is one of the only complexes of its kind is a tragedy but I am lead to believe that the Pan Peninsula in the Docklands is somewhat similar with its self contained amenities and now stands as the tallest residential building in London. I would do anything to be a part of the Barbican and its beautiful and unmatched existence, my one and only true aim in life is to wake up each morning and view my amazing city from its dizzying heights.


Saturday, 21 November 2009

The nuclear power followup

It seems that big Ed Miliband (brother of little David, the foreign secretary) has conceeded defeat on the nuclear issue and the UK is going to get ten brand spanking new nuclear power plants! This means that by 2025 a quarter of all energy produced in the UK will be nuclear sourced.

Also packed into the deal is a removal of previous planning rules which could hold up build plans for up to six years, this means that a plant can go from proposal to approval in little under a year, fantastic news for the likes of me and shit news for the hippies who hate nuclear power and think that the wind, waves, the sun and Russia can power the UK's growing energy needs.

However, I probably didn't properly address the downsides of nuclear power and that was very wrong of me. It is very VERY expensive, some estimates suggest as much as £5bn per plant and there are a number of issues regarding whether or not this bill will have to be subsidised by the tax payer, although Miliband has consistently stated that no subsidies will be handed out to the energy companies. This draws into doubt if energy companies will be willing to foot the entirety of the bill and thus whether or not all of the proposed plants will actually be built. The problem with this is that the energy gap needs to be bridged and if not it is more than likely the government will have to step in to stop blackouts from occuring (think about 2017).

So a likely increase in energy bills is what is going to stop the blackouts, that or we can all make the small changes to our day to day lives that will help to reduce our national power consumption. You know, things like turning lights off, not boiling a full kettle, using the TV a bit less, all that crap that everyone is unwilling to do because it constitutes a mild inconvenience, because I am telling you now that every politician, researcher, journalist, economist and academic with even half a brain is well aware that blackouts are more than a possibility in the next decade, they are a dead cert.

So that's enough on nuclear power, all the image searches are probably flagging me up all over the intelligence community and that can never end well.


Wednesday, 18 November 2009

my giant american Cliché

Dr. Pepper's all round!

Lately I have become obsessed with the idea and reality of America. I'm not sure what has really got me on this road but I suppose two things are mostly to blame, firstly my notion of music seems only to fit in with a narrative concerned with sleazy 1980s NYC block parties and the emergence of studio 54 (I found an insane picture of my mum and dad hanging out there!) and the other reason seems to be the emergence of the American nation bullshit I am studying at the moment.

Basically myself and my camera are itching to get across the pond ASAP but I have a problem with leaving London for anything longer than a week. I'm certain I will figure it out because I really can feel those plantations in Louisiana calling me to get lost in their woodland goodness, so me thinks me need to plan now for a summer excursion, I have to find the REAL AMERICA as my textbooks show it, the vast voids and the lush landscapes that a nation so enormous affords, as well as the MEDIAMERICA that has basically taught me all that I know. I guess this will take something like six weeks, maybe more, but I have to factor in my need for civilisation and metropolis, so all that shit wondering around the middle needs to be offset by equal time in big cities like NYC, LA and AOL. That gives me three weeks coast and about three weeks centre, but I could be tempted to more inland shenanigans if I successfully locate some pioneer communities. We are talking about a HUGE country here and I feel the need to tread the soil of every state.

Money will be tight. I could die but I bet I wont. Im not sure about skinny jeans in the middle of America. Summer emo vibes coast to coast.