For years we looked at the crazy modernist building at the end of our street and said "What a fucking dump!" (It's not exactly Nikolaus Pevsner, I know.) It was either sheltered accomodation or an athletes village for a joint East German/British Olympic bid in 1972. A few people lived in the crazy modernist building – walking past at night you'd hear crackly garage radio blaring out from an open window, or shouting coming from another window. But nobody ever went in or out.
A few weeks ago the crazy modernist building
began gushing water like an incontinent cow. Then a wooden wall was put up around it, which usually means demolition time. I asked a hard-hat bloke what was going up in its place.
"Dunno mate. I only started today."
So, looks like there will soon be a crazy free improvised building at the end of our street.
Had to go into the City on Monday – around Mansion House – and was reminded how beautiful the old streets can be. You have to look along the curve and twist of the lanes, squint, then try to ignore many of the most modern buildings and attempt to see the City as it once was. Some new projects seem to be trying to obliterate the past with agressive bombast, like the 1990s No.1 Poultry, which was ugly (but not even good modernistly ugly) to begin with and has not improved with age, its creator perhaps obsessed with Battenburg Cake due to a moment of Prousian recollection with his sketch pad.
I worked in the City for brief periods in the late 80s, including a stints temping at Warburgs, the Financial Times, BP and a couple of others whose names I can't remember. As a computer input drone my mind was free to explore and after work I could drift anonymously around the alleyways and lanes, imagining, then sit in old pubs and try to guess which era particular people would look best in.
I love the 60s/70s building at 30 Cannon Street. Although bursting with crazy 60s humour it gives a substantial nod to medieval architecture of the past in the way it seems to get bigger the higher it gets. There's something edible, biscuity and Italian about it. (for more info see http://www.mimoa.eu/projects/United%20Kingdom/London/30%20Cannon%20Street).
The names of the streets around here are magnificent. Old Jewry. Ironmonger Lane. Poultry. Cheapside. Walbrook. Garlick Hill. They give you the sense of rapidly changing environment, something London can still offer in pockets. Old Jewry is now slabs of concrete, expanses of glass, but a vision of the past can be found in an old plaque embedded into the wall telling of the synagogue that stood until the late 13th Century around the time the Jews were expelled from England.
And one suprising thing is the amount of small, old fashioned shops in this part of the city – tailors, cobblers, cafes, galleries, old restaurants, hats, umbrellas. Everywhere you look, fragments of the past are still woven into the fabric of the streets. Tiny churchyards. Old houses next to office blocks. Ancient coats of arms peeing out from the roof of a bank.