London’s Iconic Bridges – Vol 1

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Having lived away from London for the last few years, I am occassionally asked where I am from. There is no simple answer but really the place I feel most at home is London.

Whether London is sweltering in 30 degree temperatures or chilled by the “Beast from the East” it is the location of many of my most happy memories and I suspect I shall return for good one day.

Architecturally, London has spent years reinventing itself. From the horrors of post War Modernist utilitarian blocks to the gleaming chrome and glass of the City and Canary Wharf, this New London is starting to look really good again. Developments that have been in planning for years are realised and have turned derelict Thamesside into smart, if expensive, but hugely desirable riverside addresses.

The Battersea Power Station development, with its new tube station due to open in 2020, is a fine example – see our previous post about BPS here – Battersea Power Station.

The Thames, that flows West to East through London, its name deriving from Celtic and Latin sources meaning “dark” gives London its name. It is suggested that the roots of  Londinium means the flowing river or the wide flowing unfordable river. Inevitably this has meant that the Northern and Southern banks of this wide river require to be crossed by bridges. The bridges of London have spectacularly contributed to London’s skyline.

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The earliest and perhaps the most historically important bridge is the iconic London Bridge. The present concrete and steel construction was opened in 1973 and its modest form belies a history of several important bridges over nearly 2000 years.

The City of London and its south bank neighbour of Southwalk, assisted by sand, gravel and clay on the adjacent banks, have been connected by some form of timber pontoon or rudimentary bridge since around 55AD. There followed a succession of bridges, including the Old London Bridge which stood for around 600 years, being finally replaced in the early 19th century and then again in 1973.

The rumour that a Oil millionaire, Robert McCulloch, mistakenly paid $2.4m in 1967 thinking that he was buying the more impressive Tower Bridge has been subsequently denied. London Bridge was moved stone by stone – at a further cost of $7m – to its new home at Lake Havasu City in the US State of Arizona.

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In my modern love story with London, Albert Bridge has played a key role. It is simply the most iconic and beautiful bridge.

Many will know that it’s frail. A sign warns marching soldiers to “break step” whilst crossing and rumour has it that the timbers are being severely affected by dog urine thought to come from those mutts who end up running around Battersea Park on its south side. When lit by 4000 LED lights against a London summer evening’s sky it is magical, so much so that our kids when toddlers always called it the “Cinderella Bridge”.

Albert Bridge stretches over the Tideway of the Thames joining Chelsea to the North with Battersea to the South. In 1860 Prince Albert – the then Queen’s Consort – suggested a Toll Bridge be built to alleviate the congestion experienced on two adjacent Bridges – Victoria and Battersea – the owner’s of the profitable latter being bought off by Act of Parliament and a takeover once Albert Bridge was completed. It opened as a toll bridge 1871 but the concept was not a commercial success.

It was designed as a cable-stayed bridge and built by Rowland Mason Ordish a master architectural engineer with the Royal Albert Hall and St Pancreas Railway Station on his CV. A dozen years after its initial construction Sir Joseph Bazalgette, famed for his work on London’s sewerage and water system, added elements of a suspension bridge to improve its soundness.

In 1973 two concrete piers were added for extra stability. Given its unusual history and its striking majesty the bridge now holds Grade 2 listed status from English Heritage.

A narrow bridge its struggle with motorized transport is ongoing. On both the North and South approaches there are bollards that sit, I am told six feet apart, that account for many dents on the doors of passing “Chelsea Tractors”!

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The most recently opened of London’s iconic bridges was initially opened in June 2000. Informally named the Millenium Bridge it is a steel suspension bridge built at a total cost of £18.2m from a design by a consortium comprising the Arup Group and the firms of architectural knights Norman Foster and Anthony Caro. It won a RIBA competition for selection. It spans the Thames between Bankside and the City – below St Paul’s Cathedral – giving the bridge the most engaging aspect across the river.

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Within days it had closed and became known as the “Wobbly Bridge” due to its alleged swaying of pedestrians – a recently understood phenomenon. Two years later after extensive modifications with the addition of viscous-fluid dampers to increase its stability, it was re-opened in February 2002.

Image Credits – used with grateful thanks – “London Bridge at Night” by Alison Day/Flickr. “Albert Bridge” – A Travellers View http://www.trover.com Joe Parnis and http://www.MrSmithsworldofphotography.com, Millenium Bridge – Foster & Partners

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AesthetIcons – Happy New Year

Targa 2018

For this, my 250th AesthetIcons’ post and first of the New Year, I am going to be a little self indulgent, introspective and, perhaps, somewhat overly analytical. Many of you will have read my praises of the “aesthetic” and the “iconic” – often both – but I want to regroup in order to further develop Aestheticons.com.

What may be aesthetic and/or iconic, is probably in the eye of the beholder. Clearly, it’s primarily subjective. Indeed, I am happy that not all of us with love the same designs. Conversely, it is entirely possible to appreciate something that we don’t particularly like. The Toyota Prius, whilst I recognise it may be iconic – in a curiously evolutionary way – it’s just not particularly aesthetic!

Not all will appreciate my almost clinical devotion to the products produced for over seventy years by the Stuttgart based Porsche AG, from the earliest incarnations of the 1950’s with 356 to the most recent iterations of the Porsche Targa. To me, Porsche cars are the very definition of what is both Aesthetic and Iconic.

Porsche 356

The use over many hundreds of years of Icons by the Russian Orthodox religion gives us much of the substance to our present day usage of the expression – although the etymological root of the word itself comes from the Greek “eikōn” meaning “image”. Whether worship of icons is entirely sound is a matter of personal faith but they do present a focus for devotion.

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The word “iconic” is often used in the media as short-hand for “famous”. Is David Beckham an “icon” – possibly – he was certainly was an amazing footballer who is now using his brand equity for commercial and philanthropic purposes. Coco Chanel, the originator of the Little Black Dress and the wonderful No. 5 perfume, is often described as an icon and her creations are equally titled. She also very ably ticks the box that spells ”Aesthetic”.

Kim Kardashian is described as having her own “Aesthetic” aside from her charms I struggle to see this as being more than “style”. This may result from the relationship between the host of a Twitter or Instagram account and their legion of followers, who, sadly, are unlikely to ever see yet alone meet their icon! For me Aesthetic is adjacent to “Art”. Essentially, the viewer’s reaction that confirming the objects status – again entirely subjective.

It seems that an adopted definition of an “Icon” is that the subject acquires its title through familiarity, use and enjoyment, especially, over a number of years.

Whilst New York’s Chrysler Building – see our previous post here Chrysler Building, New York City– or the Guggenheim Museum – see our previous post here Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and London’s Battersea Power Station – see our previous post here Battersea Power Station are undisputed icons of world architecture and they enjoy substantial praise for their aesthetic values. Is it time alone that has cemented these giants into the public’s consciousness, appreciation and nostalgia? Can London’s The Shard by Renzo Piano, The Gherkin by Foster and Shuttleworth or Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao see our previous post here Guggenheim Museum Bilbao hope to stand shoulder to shoulder with these masterpieces? Obviously yes, but it is much more than a question of  merely adding time.

It seems that there are certain icons that are loved and cherished that fail, taking their brand equity with them. Some of the familiar brands that have disappeared recently include: The US airline, once the emblem of the “Jet Set” international travel, Pan Am collapsed into bankruptcy in 1994. Hummer, once the Schwarzenegger of SUVs, in 2008 General Motors sensing the end of the road for conspicuous consumption tried to sell the brand but due to a lack of commercial interest in 2010 the doors were shut. Woolworths, the Home of Pic’N’Mix, largely due to the 2007 Credit Crunch, filed for Administration in November 2008, closing all stores within a couple of months. Athenasee our previous post here – Tennis Girl and Friends – founded in 1964, the home of student poster decoration, entered administration in 1995.

Some truly iconic brands have been saved and thrive, evolving into new markets whilst ensuring the continued affection of fans. These include: Falcon Enamel Wear see our previous post here – Falcon Enamelware Bugatti was founded in 1909 by Ettore Bugatti, following years at the leading edge of motor racing the factory was bombed in WWII and with Bugatti’s death the business was eventually acquired by Volkswagen in 1990s today producing £2.0m supercars. Moleskinesee our previous post here – Moleskine Notebook the original manufacturer, a France-based family, ceased production in 1986 following the death of its principal. The brand was very successfully revived eleven years later by Italian publisher Modo & Modo.

I am particularly determined to revive – see our previous post here – Woods & Sons “Beryl Ware” crockery – quite simply the most familiar crockery that you have known for years, as used in all manner of cafes and, I suspect, you’d love to own. Do you remember the Husky Quilted Jackets? Loved by English Princesses and Milanese businessmen – with the corduroy collar and cuffs that came in fire-engine red, marine blue and Hunter welly’s green – see our previous post here – Hunter Green Wellington Boots My research has shown the brand was acquired in a corporate buy-out but I challenge you to find a new Husky jacket.

My interests in the Aesthetic and Iconic are unlimited by genre, item or product type. There are the new and old, the familiar and less familiar. As we evolve, our core philosophy remains constant – to celebrate beautiful things. We will continue to curate and to introduce our audience to iconic designs. I relish the journey!

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Image Credits with thanks: Porsche AG, Volkswagen, Falcon Enamel Wear, Hunter Wellingtons, Moleskine, Tudor Watches, Chanel.

Battersea Power Station

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City skylines usually evolve by way of demolition, often to the regret of the local population. I am delighted to say that the iconic Battersea Power Station is being  restored and integrated into an exciting riverside development.

For those who have never visited London but have only ever seen the great city as depicted in mid-last century’s movies they would believe that a “peasouper” – a dense fog that ground London to a wheezing halt – was typical.

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Sadly, meteological conditions alone were not entirely responsible for the London’s fogs, the unabated burning of fossil fuels, particularly coal, was a major contributor. London’s  Great Smog of 1952 led to the 1956 Clean Air Act.

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Battersea Power Station is a decommissioned coal fired power station – that burned around 1m tons of coal annually – located on London’s south bank at Nine Elms. It was designed Sir Giles Gilbert Scott – the designer of London’s famous red-telephone boxes – and built of brick. It comprises two buildings: A Station – containing many Art Deco influences including Italian marble and parquet floors – was being built in the 1930s and B Station – slightly to the East – was built Post WWII in the austerity of 1950s.

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In 1983, as direct response to the need for more careful environmental management the station ceased to generate electricity thus leading to a nearly thirty-five year long struggle to maintain the stunning Grade II listed building whilst trying to decide what and who should be entrusted with its future.

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Various attempts were been made to purchase the building with a view to redeveloping the site. In 1983 it was thought that a Theme Park might be a bright idea, planning permission was granted in 1986 and work stared including the removal of the roof. Costs rose astronomically and development was halted in 1989. In 1993 a Hong Kong based consortium started a decade long journey to try to develop the site. Further attempts in 2004 stalled and a sale in 2006 collapsed when loans were called in.

In 2012  a Malaysian consortium purchased with the restoration of the Grade II Power Station as a centre piece. A combination of  shops, leisure facilities and office space would sit alongside residential homes and a new Northern Line tube extension. Construction commenced in 2013 with an intended completion in 2017. The Northern Line extension will take until 2020, with Frank Gehry – see previous post – Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and Foster & Partners being appointed joint architects of this latter stage.

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In September 2016, Apple announced plans to relocate 1,400 employees to the station by 2021.

Battersea Power Station is not only a world famous London landmark it has appeared in many films including Albert Hitchcock’s “Sabotage” (1936) – before B Station was built, The Beatles’ “Help”, Monty Python’s “Meaning of Life” and the 2007 Batman movie “The Dark Night”.

Perhaps the most celebrated artistic uses of Battersea Power Station was on the cover photo of Pink Floyd’s “Animals” album in 1977 which was loosely based on George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”. The band’s Roger Waters commissioned artist Jeffrey Shaw and Ballon Fabrik to design, “Algie”, an inflatable pig which was tied to one of the Station’s southern chimneys. The pig broke loose and caused consternation as it drifted into Heathrow’s flightpath eventually landing in Kent.

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Buy your own copy of Pink Floyd’s “Animals” – in formats including vinyl by clicking the following AMAZON link Animals (2011 Remastered Version)
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Put an “Animals’  mug in the Christmas stocking of a Pink Floyd fan by clicking the following AMAZON link

Pyramid International “Pink Floyd (Animals)” Official Boxed Ceramic Coffee/Tea Mug, Multi-Colour, 11 oz/315 ml

Images courtesy of Pink Floyd/Jeffrey Shaw/Warner Music Group/The Telegraph

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Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

Gugenheim Bilbao

Canadian born Frank Owen Gehry has been called by Vanity Fair “the most important architect of our age”. If you are looking for iconic building in cities around the world his contemporary roster is hugely impressive including the new home for The Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris (France) and his Deconstuctivist, primarily residential tower comprising 76 floors of stainless steel and glass, at 8 Spruce Street in Lower Manhattan (new York City) which upon completion in 2011 stood at 265 metres and was the tallest residential tower in the Western Hemisphere.

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Gehry’s is perhaps, curiously, best-known for his titanium-clad Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. It was opened in 1997 and is already regarded as amongst the world’s most contemporary iconic structure. Built of titanium, glass, and limestone the museum features exhibitions organized by the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and comprises elements from the permanent collection of the Guggenheim museums – please see our earlier post on the equally spectacular Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City – Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

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Plans for a new museum in Bilbao date to the late 1980s, when the Basque regional authorities began formulating a major redevelopment of this previously highly industrialised region. It was not until 1991, however, that the authorities proposed the idea for a local Guggenheim Museum to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

A site of 32,500 m2 by Nervión River was identified and three architects—Arata Isozaki, Coop Himmelb(l)au and Frank Gehry — were invited to submit conceptual designs.

The finished Museum was opened in 1997. The museum sits harmoniously alongside the River in the old industrial heart of the city. There are 11,000 m2 of exhibition space constituted of nineteen galleries. Ten classic galleries – the largest 30m x130m that is use as a temporary exhibition space – and nine irregularly shaped ones.

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao represents a pinnacle in Gehry’s career. It is a classic blend of art and aesthetic architecture that is, arguably as compelling as the piece displayed within.

Like many of Spain’s autonomous regions, the Basque region has so much to offer from compelling scenery, to surfing, amazing art galleries, tapas called ‘pintxos’ and museums. Whilst many are drawn to the more familiar South and South Eastern coasts of Spain, I’d recommend a visit from the UK/near Europe for a long weekend trip to the Bilbao and Santander regions – but remember the weather can be a “bit Cornwall” so bring a raincoat!

Since posting this piece, in later 2017 Dan Brown, the celebrated author released “Origin” – a real page turner. Much of the opening action in this compelling story takes place in or around The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

Get your copy of Dan Brown’s “Origin” by clicking the following AMAZON link Origin: (Robert Langdon Book 5)

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Images courtesy of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

 

Levi‘s 501

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501’s were seen as work-wear for much of its first sixty years being rechristened ‘blue jeans’ in the 1950’s.

Jacob Davis, a tailor, was approached by a workman’s wife asking for a stronger pair of trousers. He sought a solution to pocket and fly tearing experienced by workers using his denim trousers by applying copper rivets to the stress points of the garment. He then went in search of a partner to help make these early examples.

Levi Strauss was a dry goods vender who had sold Jacob the denim he needed for his early samples. They joined forces and the production which following its the grant of Patent on 20th May 1873  for “waist overalls” heralded a massive success.

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In 1886 the Two Horse leather patch was first used and added to the overalls.  In 1890 the Patent passed into the Public Domian, meaning the company lost their exclusive over riveted denim. As a result the company introduced the “501” as the definitive version of their denim work “waist overalls”, with copper rivets and the Two Horse leather and later the “leather-like” patch.

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By 1936 the Red Tab appeared. These ingenious and other design elements have ensured that Levi Strauss have been able to seek protection for their design against cynical copying. The company spend million of dollars annually protecting their Intellectual Property Rights.

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Always at the heart of youth culture, the universal appeal stems from its integrity, a loyalty to the original design, the highest quality denim and sturdy manufacture.

I have loved Levi’s jeans since a teenager. Whilst the waist band may have expanded – and indeed contracted on various occasions due to mad cabbage soup diets etc – I have been through zip-fly, yellow label and 360 degrees back to red-label button-fly 501.

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They are simply my favourite jeans that have seen me through endless concerts and music festivals. Dylan at Blackbush in 1977 (that included sleeping on Waterloo Station concourse due to a missed last train), to Glastonbury mud-caked, U2 and the Rolling Stones at Wembley to Mumford and Sons at Benicassim they have simply been more than a wardrobe anchor.

Today they combine perfectly with classic shoes, an Argentinian woven belt and a great shirt and/or jacket – depending on the season – for London creative business meetings. Less Revolution and more Evolution my 501s – and I now have several favourite pairs – are still beautifully made, ooze classic iconic style and are, above all, hugely dependable.

Would you like a pair of Levis 501? Click this AMAZON link to buy your own iconic jeans click the Amazon link below the image: 

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Levi’s 501 Original Fit Men’s Jeans, Blue (Onewash), 34W x 30L

The essential Argentinian belt can also be added here by clicking the Amazon link below the image – make sure you get the right length!

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Carlos Diaz Mens Womens Unisex Argentinian Brown Leather Embroidered Polo Belt (85 cm/ 32-34 Inches)

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Photo by Levi Strauss