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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Alfa Romeo 1300 Duetto – For Sale

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Many of us will dream of owning a Sunday Car – a preferred classic car – that can be enjoyed in the right climate but for a limited amount of time. The aim is not to add materially to the mileage whilst ensuring that it works well when needed with  minimal trips to the mechanic. The dream is for you and your nearest to enjoy, pose a little, relax and breathe.

One of my clear favourites in this precise category is the Alfa Romeo 1300 convertible. I have celebrated this wonderful vehicle on several occasions in the columns of Aestheticons. Please click on the highlighted following links to read our previous posts – Alfa Romeo Spider and Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider

The difficulty for many of our UK based readers is the availability of good stock of this beautiful car in Right Hand Drive. Well here’s a potential solution.

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The guys at the amazing Swiss-run curation site – in a nutshell comprising classic cars and associated lifestyle – Classic Driver –  Classic Driver – are busy celebrating their 20th anniversary with 20 Limited Edition Aston Martin DB11! Yes they launched in 1998 on the internet, geez I have shoes older –  Church’s Brogues . They are also currently running a campaign for an auction to take place on 7th July 2018 and by Historics at Brooklands. One particular vehicle to feature at this sale is a red – is there any other colour – 1970 Alfa Romeo 1300 – Alfa 1300 Convertible  – It carries a guide price/estimate of between £22,000 – £27,000. My feeling, whilst I am rubblish at valuations, is that looks like a particularly good sweet spot to kick off the innumerable pleasures of owning a classic car and enjoying classic motoring.

As many will know the Brooklands Museum is a venue particularly close to my heart – please see my previous post Mike Hawthorn – 1958 Formula One World Champion.

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This charming example of the Alfa Romeo Duetto is a right hand drive version and pre-dates the rather challenging era of added rubber bumpers that, in my view, detrimentally affected the aesthetics of this wonderful car in later models.

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STOPPRESS – Don’t know if you have yet had a chance to look at the listings for the Historics at Brooklands auction on 7th July 2018? A deeper study of what’s on offer has disclosed another classic Alfa Romeo – this time a left hooker – with an estimated value at between £50,000 to £60,000. A 1290cc 1957 Alfa Romeo Giulietta – simply one of the most stunning Alfas ever made.

 

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Image credits – with grateful thanks – Classic Driver and Historics at Brooklands https://www.historics.co.uk

 

Lancia Fulvia Coupé

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There are several well known, even iconic brands, particularly in the automobile and fashion businesses, that having been subsumed into larger acquirers and, subsequently, shelved. A good example of this is Lancia, now part of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA Italy) conglomerate.

Their most recent car, the Lancia Ypsilon – based on the Fiat 500 platform – was re-branded in 2014 for the UK and Irish markets as a Chrysler. In 2017, it was announced that the Chrysler brand would no longer be used in the UK and Irish markets! It seems unlikely that the Lancia brand will be revived – which is a great tragedy.

I guess there’s a “dirt sticks” argument to the demise of Lancia for a UK audience. In the late 1980’s the Lancia Beta suffered greatly from sub-frame rust and corrosion issues so much so that they had to be repurchased by the company from disgruntled owners. Lancia withdrew from the right-hand drive market in 1994 selling their last model, the Lancia Delta, in 1995.

There have been some trophies among the mire, with a wealth of rally success but one particularly fine road going example is the iconic Lancia Fulvia Coupé.

Lancia & C. Fabbrica Automobili was founded in Turin in 1906 by former Fiat racing drivers, Vincenzo Lancia and Claudio Fogolin. The first Lancia was appropriately called “Alfa” and was produced between 1907 to 1908. Following Vincenzo’s death in 1937 his wife and son poached one of Alfa Romeo’s designers, Vittorio Jano, who oversaw a period of great innovation, including hydraulic dampers, five speed gearboxes, V4, V6 and V8 engines. Early vehicles were virtually handmade.

The business was sold to Fiat in October 1969 and there followed an era when Lancia’s claim to fame was in World Rallying.

The Lancia Fulvia was produced between 1963 and 1976 following its launch to great applause at the 1963 Geneva Motor Show.

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Like its predecessor the Aurelia, it took its name from a Roman Road; the via Fulvia being that stretch that ran between Tortona to Turin.

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The Fulvia was available as a Berlina (saloon) 4-door saloon – as above – (in 1972 as a V4 version), a 2-door Coupé, and Sport. Ugo Zogato’s team also designed and built a fastback coupé – based on the Coupé’s floorpan – and, in 1968, a prototype Zagato Sport Spider that debuted at the 1968 Turin Motor Show.

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The Fulvia Coupé was a compact two-seater coupé was initially equipped with a 1216 cc engine, delivering 80 bhp at 6000 rpm, this was gradually enlarged to a 1534 cc engine delivering 132 bhp. Designed by Lancia’s in-house designer, Piero Castagnero, the Fulvia had a shorter wheelbase than the Berlina and it was the last Fulvia model to be discontinued. It was replaced by the ill-fated Lancia Beta Coupé in 1977.

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In 1971 the Lancia Fulvia Coupé Series II Coupé had a 1298 cc engine producing 90 hp (67 kW) at 6000 rpm. A special celebratory model was released in 1972 to celebrate Lancia’s Montecarlo Rally victory that year. An update Series 2 Coupe – becoming the Coupé 3 – was introduced in 1974 .

In 2003 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, the Fulvia name was re-imagined in a concept from the Centro Stile Lancia headed by Flavio Manzoni. Sadly, the new Fulvia Coupé, with its distinctive brown leather interior, didn’t progress past prototype.

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As Lancia Fulvia Coupe’s are increasing in value – may be you’d be happy to settle of a desk top but loyal die-cast model? Please click the Amazon link after the image.

There’s a choice – a red Lancia Fulvia Coupe in rally livery – please click the Amazon link below the image

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Lancia Fulvia Coupe Hf Rally Car Lampinen Andreasson 1/43Rd No1 Type Y0675J

Or in a beautiful dark blue – please click the Amazon link below the image

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BEST MODEL BT9645 LANCIA FULVIA COUPE’ 1300S 1967 DARK BLUE 1:43 DIE CAST MODEL

Do you have any Old Italian Legends in your life? If so this is the perfect long sleeved T shirt for them! Click the Amazon link below the image 

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 Teesandengines Men’s LANCIA FULVIA COUPE Grey Long Sleeved T-shirt Size Medium

Or the short sleeved version – for the Spring and Summer! Please click on the Amazon link below the image.

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TEESANDENGINES Men’s Lancia FULVIA Coupe 1972 Italian Grey T-Shirt Size XXXXLarge

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Images courtesy of Lancia

Castiglioni’s RR126 radio-phonograph

Unless you have been living under a rock you will be familiar with the work of the colossus of popular music, David Bowie and that he sadly died in January 2016 after an 18 month long fight with cancer.

In November 2016 Sotheby’s held a two day auction sale entitled “Bowie/Collector” which featured 350 pieces, around 65% of Bowie’s carefully chosen and hugely personal collection.

My wife and I saw the small capsule exhibition of pieces at Sotheby’s Mayfair salesroom some months ago and were struck by the eclectic depth of the collection that included Surrealist, Modern British and African art.

Stand out pieces for us included Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Air Power” – Bowie played Andy Warhol in the 1996 movie “Basquiat” – Damian Hurst’s  “Beautiful, Hallo, Space-Boy” – which Hurst painted for Bowie and Peter Shire’s vibrant “Big Sur”sofa.

The sale was a massive success with many lots tripling – and more – their estimates.

However, it was a radio-phonograph designed by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni (estimated at £800 – £1200 that sold for £257,000) that really caught my eye. Not least as it may have been the real music orientated piece in the sale but it also begged me to know a little more about the designers, although I am passingly familiar with Achille’s work with the Alessi collection – see before our piece on Richard Sapper’s Bollitore kettle.

Pier Giacomo (b.22 April 1913) and Achille’s (b. 16 February 1918) father was a sculptor.

Achille studied arts and architecture in Milan prior to wartime service in Greece but graduated from the Politechnico in 1944.

In 1938, Pier Giacomo and older brother, Livio, had started an architecture practice which Achille joined working on projects such as the reconstruction in 1952-3 of wartime bombed Palazzo della Permanente in Milan which was transformed into new home for the Società per le Belle Arti ed Esposizione Permanente.

Following brother Livio’s departure from the architectural practice until Pier Giacomo’s death in 1968, he and Achille worked as a team.

In 1965 the brothers designed the RR126 radio-phonograph cabinet as a celebration of the beauty of machinery turning a piece of audio equipment into something decorative even sculptural. The RR126 is featured as part of the amazing New York Cooper Hewitt collection of Product Design and Decorative Arts.

The Castiglioni brothers designs radios and televisions were also realised by Brionvega.

Interestingly, Brionvega, now makes the RR226 version which is a faithful reproduction of the original the only changes being an updated technical specification that includes a cd-dvd player.

Do you like the idea of an iconic Italian design gracing your home?

 

Photo from Sotheby’s