Never have I seen a city have so few garbage cans! I know it sounds odd, but this was one of the first things I noticed during the first two days of my stay in London. From the very moment I claimed my bagage at London Gatwick airport, I struggled to find a rubbish bin, in which I could dispose my bagage sticker. I fortunately succeeded in the end, but I have to say the search was long! Besides the whole garbage can issue, my trip was delightful to say the least. I stayed in the suburban town of Kingston - home of Kingston University London - where my host studies psychology. Since this is an architectural blog, I'll do my best to stick to the architectural content, rather than making this a post about my personal holiday. I've taken a great deal of photos during my visit, and since this might end up being a rather lengthy post, I'll try to upload as many as possible to ease the long reading. By the way, it was raining practically speaking all of the time, so it was some challenge taking good photos! In many cases I was forced to take pictures from sheltered areas, due to the heavy rain.
So having mentioned the whole garbage can issue, London seems to have a greater problem than that. Before I go on to explain and comment on this metropolitan issue, do keep in mind that what I write in this blog is most often my personal views and oppinions on the architectural universe, so whether my writings are right or wrong, well, that is always a discussible subject - as are a lot of general things in the architectural line of work. This issue that I speak of, is London's infrastructure.
The thing about it is that the city is often somewhat messy. Vast lengths of the streets are patched up in different patches of asphalt, sidewalks are covered with patterns of old dried-out chewing gum, that has become one with the sidewalks, and at the railway stations, the metal beams and pillars that hold the stations' long shelters are covered in rust. Such infrastructural issues would seem unnoticeable, but once they gather in great numbers, they seem to become quite clear in the urban landscape. To be fair, London, being perhaps Europe's greatest city and a with a population of 7,5 million, is so huge in its size, that keeping the infrastructure perfect may be a somewhat impossible task - especially during these days when budget cuts are ever so common due to the global economic situation.
Besides the infrastructural issues that London faces, I also believe that the city often has some issues with integrating modern architecture with historic architecture. As I have experienced, the two most dominant architectural styles in London are industrial-era architecture and modernist/brutalist architecture. These two have little in common, and since London doesn't seem to have taken great consideration to integrate the two architectural styles so they coexist harmoniously, the urban image is often one that shows a somewhat messy mix up of different architectural styles. Again, I have to admit that I haven't read on the history of London (I visited the Museum of London, but only briefly, so I didn't manage to get in detail with the history), so I'm judging based on what I saw and how I experienced it. I furthermore believe that my photo above illustrates what I'm talking about, regarding the whole architectural contrast.
As you may have noticed, I'm really trying to be critical here, but the fact is that I actually like London. Sure it has its flaws, but don't all cities? And once again, I'm quite sure that many of these flaws can be related to the colossal size of this British metropolis - It must really be some challenge to maintain a city of such dimensions! But the thing is, when you ignore the architectural flaws and such, it is a city that is bustling with life, and I have to admit that the British people are rather friendly and open (at least that's what I experienced). A city having great life, isn't that what it's all about? It is also a city of many architectural monuments, such as The Gherkin on the photo above, or Big Ben below.
It is a city of greatness. One with a long and powerful history. After all, it was once the capital of the greatest empire on earth, and traces of its greatness still characterize the city this very day. Having made a brief visit to the London Building Center, I saw that upcoming projects in the capital are pointing towards a more sustainable London, and projects that better the city's infrastructure were plentiful as well. Furthermore, developement is bustling (well, as much as it can anyway, in these economically harsh times) due to the upcoming 2012 olympic games. The great city of London has far from lost its greatness, and the future looks promising. I could write much, much more on the subject of this great city, but I'll end this post before my enthusiasm seduces me to write for hours and hours. Below are a few links for those interested in knowing more about London.
- Andy Minchev