Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Bull Finch in the Heritage China Shop - Protecting Views Across the Thames: a New London Architecture 'punch up'

"The city that stops building dies," rages Paul Finch.
An architecture and urban design guru, Finch warns a cluster of architects, developers and planners that London risks becoming a "dead zone" - provocatively adding, "just like central Paris". 
  Finch says heritage lobbyists like UNESCO and English Heritage seem hellbent on delaying and preventing new towers rising up on either side of the River Thames.
   Finch fears these "mimsy" lobbyists will festoon London with "a creeping stasis" that could undermine London's reputation as a dynamic, changing city.
   Jabbed repeatedly by Finch, the heritage specialists try to counter. They say they are preserving ordained 'strategic views' of heritage sites like St Paul's Cathedral as seen from Primrose Hill, and the Thames at Waterloo as glimpsed from Parliament Square. They restate their "balanced approach" - to promote quality buildings that preserve vistas of historic buildings such as the Tower of London.
  Yet it's Finch's lively and, at times, compelling rhetoric that draws more applause and laughs.
  Amidst the guffaws, I couldn't help wondering what would happen if ordinary Londoners could visit the Shard, Gherkin, Tower 42 et al and enjoy the views of the city these towers offer. Maybe then the heritage crew might find it less easy to try and thwart these buildings going up in the first place. 
  Nevertheless, New London Architecture's Peter Murray breezily refereed a good-natured bout of verbal fisticuffs that fired up  breakfast hearts and minds.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, September 2012

Top Photo: St Paul's and City of London skyline from Waterloo Bridge north end showing 'Walkie Talkie' under construction (far right).

Words & Photos Copyright, Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, 2012

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Marchmont Street, London WC1: Street Party 2012

I treasure some happy memories of working for a community organisation on Marchmont Street in the late 1980s. Today’s Marchmont Street Party provided me with some fresh happy reflections.
  Smiling people and lovely September sunshine filled the street that runs north-south close to Russell Square and the Brunswick Centre. Barred traffic gave way to a variety of street entertainment that included Kings Cross Brunswick Youth’s brand of R‘n’B and Coco Express’ Salsa and Merengue. Zany, fire-juggling and escapology came from Juggling John and Jonathan the Jester.

Face-painted children skipped between fun fair rides and sideshows. Caf├ęs, restaurants and the local pub provided street food and drink.
   Traders, community groups and charities with their stalls tempted party-goers with goods and services ranging from second-hand books to beauty treatments, from children’s toys to give-away plants in window-boxes.
  The Marchmont Community Garden, one-year-old and blooming lovely, hosted Professor Gary Wilson’s colourful and noisy Punch & Judy for bemused younger children and nostalgic parents.

The 2012 party was organised by the Marchmont Association and generously supported by sponsors such as Gino Hairdressing, Judd Books, Fork deli and by local hotels.
  Everyone involved deserves congratulation. Marchmont Street is definitely one of London’s brightest and friendliest streets. Mustn’t forget also, Marchmont Street offers the finest homemade cakes in London.

Paul Coleman, London, September 2012.

Words and photos: Copyright Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, 2012