Saturday, June 07, 2008

Whitechapel: Home of the Ugly Building Contest

Catching up on my posting as it's been a busy couple of days. Well, actually most of Saturday was spent in the room doing some editing and trying to let my back and feet rest from the marathon on Friday. By afternoon I was back in the saddle. I took the Underground to Bank Station and then hoofed it into the East End to the Aldgate Exchange (a pub) where the Whitechapel Society meeting was being held. My walk took me through the financial heart of London and on Saturday afternoon it was dead quiet. Come Monday it'll be full of all sorts of black-suited folks, but yesterday it was eerily quiet.

So was Whitechapel, which seemed odd to me. I steered a few lost British tourists toward Brick Lane (home of some excellent Balti restaurants) and then descended into the basement of the pub. I know a fair number of the Whitechapel Society members, but not all of them. We caught up on life since last October when I was last here. Last night the speaker was Sarah Wise who did a presentation on The Old Nichol, a part of the East End located just north of Spitalfields. It's an area I knew nothing about so the talk was of interest. After a pint or two, I headed home at about quarter past ten as I don't like to stay out too late when I'm on my own.

Instead of taking the Tube, I went by bus which means you have to find the right bus stop. Just because the sign says Bus 15 stops there doesn't mean it's the right 15 for you. And not all the bus stops are the kind where bus always stops. You have to know if the sign means they will automatically pick up your tired bum or sail by if you don't wave them down. I did a couple of bus changes (it was drizzling rain but pleasant) and made it to Victoria Station about an hour after I started. The buses were packed at 11 at night. Like SRO (standing room only). Unreal. Probably has something to do with the hellacious cab fares.

Speaking $. I ate at Subway -- six inch Subway Club, crisps (potato chips) and a drink. $9.60 in our money. Wow. I want to thank those in charge (you know who you are) for making our currency Third World.

Okay, my rant for this blog: The contest. Now I suspect this isn't an official contest per se, but I'm seeing a trend in London architecture. I believe the contest consists of the following challenge: "Build us the ugliest damned building you can possibly imagine and you might win a fabulous prize." I jest not. Now The Gerkin (that's it at the top of this post right behind St. Botolph's Church) is downright gorgeous compared to some of these things. Like the one they're building in Whitechapel at present. It's like this: Π

As if someone decided to build two elevator shafts to the moon and then decided they'd best put a walkway between them. It's hugely tall, far above the old Victorian brick buildings in the neighborhood. You half except it to grow feet and start marching across the landscape, crushing cars, buses and humans underneath. I was so appalled I never got a picture of it.

But then there's the Matrix/Blade Runner/I Got The Bad Drugs This Time building (below is both a distance shot and a closeup for your viewing horror.) It really does look like something out of Blade Runner, though a bit more shiny. In contrast to the Victorian building to its right, it seems like an alien who planted itself in the middle of London and is just awaiting the arrival of the Mother Ship.

So that was my day. Tomorrow I'm off to Waltham Abbey to visit the Royal Gunpowder Mills. Should be fun. I'll post more when I have time. That pesky book calls...

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