Forms of Industry

The @RIBA Forms of Industry: Online Architectural Photoday is this Sunday 13th June and this image is from quite an extensive collection I’ve made about the utility buildings in the London Olympic Park. The Energy Centre at Kings Yard, designed by John McAslan architects, is inspired by London’s great historic power stations such as Bankside and Battersea but has a contemporary Corten steel facade. From this reverse angle it is the striking red staircase and large container cylinders that feature and which emphasise the functional qualities of the design. 



2012 pin trading


These images were made eight years ago today and show pin badges being traded at the end of  the 2012 Olympics fortnight. The etiquette of pin trading is that the pins are always swapped and not sold and if pins are worn they are usually not available for trade. Pins are produced commercially as Games merchandise but other pins that were never officially available for sale such as those given to staff or athletes are more elusive. The serious traders go from Games to Games in the expectation of adding some missing pins to their collections and it really adds to the social atmosphere in a host city. 


Masjid Jamek - Kuala Lumpur

Designed in the Mogul style by British architect A.B. Hubback, the Sultan Abdul Samad Jamek mosque in Kuala Lumpur opened in 1909 and is one of the oldest mosques in Malaysia. I have been visiting Malaysia for over twenty years but only recently researched its preserved colonial architecture. This image shows the grand staircase from the mosque to the river which was ‘re-discovered’ in 2014 having been covered over as modern Malaysia developed. 

This and other heritage images of Kuala Lumpur have been contributed to the RIBApix library.


History Trees - a self-guided walk

With my photowalks remaining on hold, I’ve put together this self-guided walking tour around the Olympic Park using the ten History Trees, by the artists Ackroyd and Harvey, as markers to the route. The History Trees was a public art commission for the 2012 Games that involved planting ten semi-mature trees at locations that were planned to be future ‘gateways’ into the Park. The trees are all different specimens and at the time of planting were some of the most impressive of the 6000 new trees in the Park. Suspended within the canopy of each tree is a large metal ring, six metres in diameter and weighing 500kg, with text engraved on the inner surface memorialising a history of the site. These rings are substantial and the trees are mainly easy to spot so long as you know where they are located. 

The whole walk is about four miles as the History Trees are largely located around the perimeter of the Park but it works well as two shorter walks too. On this map I have pinpointed each tree and made an anti-clockwise route starting at the Turkish hazel tree (Corylus colurna) on the Hackney Wick edge of the Park. Ackroyd and Harvey list all the different tree specimens on this page along with background information about the commission. As well as visiting the trees, this self-guided walk will lead you past the 2012 Games venues from the Copper Box, Olympic Stadium, Aquatics Centre, the former Athletes’ Village, now East Village and the Velodrome.  

Having photographed the History Trees on my walks around the Park for over five years I know the locations can be at times subject to construction works. The silver lime (Tilia tomentosa) was inaccessible for several years when a section of the Greenway was closed. Access to other trees such as the London plane (Platanus x acerfolia) has also been restricted by post-Olympics construction. Ackroyd and Harvey are often described as artists who work with time-based process and so these photographs, while often showing temporary obstructions, are about a gradual rooting into place. The current Park legacy plan concludes after 25 years in 2037 and it follows that the trees and their gateway settings will both reach maturity at around the same time.  


Oslo Opera House

In 2012 I ended a holiday in Norway by staying two nights in an Oslo hotel that overlooked the city’s waterfront regeneration. The cultural centre-piece was the National Opera & Ballet building which had opened in 2008 with the architecture practice, Snohetta, winning the Mies van der Rohe Award in 2009.  The building still looked like new with its angular exterior of glass and granite and interior of oak louvres and white marble. 

There is much that I like about this building but in particular how the architecture embraces the public realm as if the building and landscape are from the same idea. A continuous surface from the rooftop to where the building disappears into the fjord invites an interactivity between the building and the people visiting. They enjoy the views, hang out on the slopes, find spaces to play and can, of course, go to the opera too. 

At the end of the stay I spent a couple of hours making photographs like a street photographer would in a public space where the urban landscape interfaces with the architecture and which was full of people and life. 


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