On the Thames with O’Looney – Again

Friday 2nd March 2018

This time we took the special architectural tour in effect from Canary Wharf to Chelsea Harbour. A boat tour. O’Looney stood on the deck in frightful conditions of rain, wind and cold and commentated for 3 hours. The throbbing life of our great National river, at its burning central core as it passes through the very heart of Our Nation.

We saw secret things, though, not known to the public – strange outlets into the Thames, storm drains etc. Bazalgette’s hidden schemes, the great underground life of the Capital on which all depends. Now being updated, we learned – huge new sewage facilities being installed on the river bank .

Strange chains are looped all along the embankment and around every bridge pier. What are they for? O’Looney didn’t mensh but they must have a purpose – miles and miles of loops, never failing, from Chelsea to Canary Wharf. One could have asked him, had the weather not been so awful. He’s bound to have known.

The great revelation was the statues on Vauxhall Bridge, which you never see when on dry land. Various allegorical figures. That Victorian thing. Fancy putting them there, where nobody would ever see them.

Otherwise what a plethora – by the end we were shattered but thrilled: Bruce McBain was with, of course, my private architect. He pointed out a work of Arno Goldfinger near Vauxhall Bridge, apparently overlooked by O’Looney. Also Archie Armitage plus one. He’s the great fitness man and architect as well, but not private to me. There’s great optimism in the river – the buildings on its banks. They never stop, they grow and grow. Constant renewal.  They’ll all important in their way, although you might not like them. That prison-like structure on the north side of Lambeth Bridge. It’s the ‘Beaux Arts’ style apparently. Thought went into it. It’s supposed to make a grand statement on the other side of the bridge, a palatial kind of entrance to the Westminster area. Then you’ve got Millbank Tower. Not as hideous as thought: subtly curving in all aspects. When O’Looney doesn’t like something he says, it’s a ‘bit scary’, as with St George’s Wharf at Vauxhall. But he likes the MI6 building – the high garden terraces, with spies hiding, the Minoan influence – well, one of the ancient civilisations. They’ve all been busy on the riverbank – Norman and Richard. New blockies hurling up, new materials. There’s a firm from Manchester that specialise in a glass case round the building. Then the new American Embassy at Vauxhall. By that time, I was overwhelmed. I’m not even sure exactly which one it was. At Canary Wharf there’s incredible new bracing being applied. Oh, and the ironwork on Chelsea Bridge. So decorative. Like a cake. Bedroom colours. They wanted to get rid of it in the ’60s, but it was saved. Too fragile and narrow.

I never knew the Royal Dolton Sanitary and Tile Works were all along the Embankment between Lambeth and Vauxhall bridges. Had to go after the Clean Air Act of the 1950s. The Head Office survives, actually in a side street and now used for some other purpose, but visible from the river. The facade displays all the Royal Dolton ceramic art, although not actual toilets of course. The Clean Air Act did for a lot of the industry along the Thames, including the great power stations, of course.

Incredible Art Deco building by Tower Bridge. 1928. Police station at Limehouse by London Metropolitan architect of late 19th who conceived of the London police station as we know it. More flatties hurling up. New young firms of architects firing away. What a hive! The Royal Festival Hall itself, the National Theatre, the National Liberal Club – and don’t forget, the Houses of Parliament, which aren’t by Pugin on the outside. I never knew that. Charles Barry. And actually great because by rights it should be a very monotonous building but somehow it isn’t and has a air of fantasy and not beginning or ending. Bruce McBain said something about the roof – could it be made of iron?

I could go on and on. So many buildings, facilities and bridges.  What a life of our great National river as it passes through the core of Our Nation.  What hope for the future.

Lots Road Power Station: Development in Progress Here. You can See there was an Inlet Provided to Access It

Lots Road Power Station: Development in Progress Here. You can See there was an Inlet Provided to Access the Original Power Station 

Vauxhall Bride: Her Unseen Statues

Vauxhall Bride: Her Unseen Statues: Various Ladies Inspiring Improvement but Never Seen by the Public on Dry Land 

Archie and Bruce Thought this new Wavy Blockie Could Have been Better

Archie and Bruce Thought this new Wavy Blockie Could Have been Better

'A bit Scary', O'Looney Said: St George's Wharf at Vauxhall

‘A bit Scary’, O’Looney Said: St George’s Wharf at Vauxhall

I think This is the Arno Goldfinger Building at Vauxhall, by Chance Quite Near the M16 Building where James Bond Operated. Ian Fleming got the name 'Goldfinger' from Arno Goldfinger

I think This is the Arno Goldfinger Building at Vauxhall, by Chance Quite Near the M16 Building where James Bond Operated. Ian Fleming got the name ‘Goldfinger’ from Arno Goldfinger

Possibly the New American Embassy: Archie Said It was Impossible to Get into It, even if you Work There

Possibly the New American Embassy: Archie Said It was Impossible to Get into It, even if you Work There

There is the Great Art Deco Building by Tower Bridge

Here is the Great Art Deco Building by Tower Bridge: St Olaf House by Harry Stuart Goodhart Rendel (what a name!) The Decorative Outburst in the Middle Suggests the Influence of Adolf Loos Perhaps 

Incredible New Bracing at Canary Wharf

Incredible New Bracing at Canary Wharf

 

 

Posted Friday, March 2, 2018 under Adrian Edge day by day.

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