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[About me] About the author

Touring Britain bit by bit with a pair of boots, a few bicycles, a lot of trains and a bag of lenses. I take pictures and then I write about them.

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abandoned places and things architecture bristol coastal dorset events highlands history industrial lake district lakes london mountains not the uk photo essays photography politics protests rural rural decay science scotland somerset structures the north uk urban urban decay wales westcountry all tags

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Sun, 11 May 2014

Uncanny Valley


[Tag] Tags: architecture, coastal, north wales, portmeirion, rural, tourist attractions, uk, villages, wales

Sat, 1 Mar 2014

Lots Road Power Station


[Tag] Tags: architecture, chelsea, industrial, london, lots road power station, the same photo again, uk, urban, west london

Tue, 5 Jun 2012

Denny Church Walk


[Tag] Tags: architecture, council housing, denny, falkirk, scotland, structures, uk, urban decay, urban

Sun, 29 Apr 2012

Courthill House


[Tag] Tags: abandoned places and things, architecture, highlands, history, northwest highlands, rosshire, ruins, rural decay, rural, scotland, uk, wester ross

Thu, 16 Feb 2012

Edinburgh Castle


[Tag] Tags: architecture, castles, cityscapes, edinburgh castle, edinburgh, history, scotland, uk, urban

Thu, 10 Jun 2010

Location: Millennium Bridge

Ten years ago today, a new bridge across the Thames was opened in central London, between St Paul's Cathedral in The City and the recently opened Tate Modern and Globe Theatre attractions in Southwark's Bankside.

Millennium Bridge

The media loved it: another public project that perfectly fit their millennium story, the story of hugely expensive and over-budget government initiated construction projects providing absurd and unloved attractions. Like the Dome, or the "Millennium Wheel". Do you remember the ridiculed and ridiculous Millennium Wheel? Who thought a giant ferris wheel opposite parliament would be a good idea?

Millennium Bridge

After the big tent and the crazy carnival ride, the press thought they'd seen it all. And then, six months later, The Wobbly Bridge was opened, over-budget -- of course -- and late. And, due to an engineering oversight, the bridge rocked. The 100,000 people per day walking upon it caused synchronous lateral excitation: people stepped, the bridge swayed in time to the steps, the people stepped in time to the sways, the bridge swayed further. So two days later, the bridge closed again. It was two years before the problem was fully fixed.

Millennium Bridge

But none of the millennium projects ever did quite fit the farce invented by the newspapers. They succeeded in dampening enthusiasm somewhat for the Dome; but the ferris wheel proved so popular that it became it a permanent fixture, running near capacity every day for ten years. The bridge had its construction issues, but the story was quite the opposite of the badly managed public works project bailed out by the taxpayer: the bridge is built and maintained by Bridge House Trust -- the 700 year old owner of Thames Bridges that has so much investment income that it can afford to fulfil its charter of maintaining London river crossings while building new ones and giving away a surplus to charity.

Millennium Bridge

And the bridge has been a huge success with locals and tourists alike, perfectly placed between attractions, but also a convenient route between the transport hubs of the south bank and the employment hubs of the City. During rush hours it is saturated; tides flood across, several thousand people at a time. And its unique design has been a success: designed to keep a low profile and leave a clear view of the cathedral and the skyline, the short stocky concrete pillars and the gentle steel curves that cradle the deck are much loved.

Millennium Bridge

But the most important and most loved feature of the bridge -- another feature that was unique at the time that it opened -- is that it is a pedestrian-only bridge. The Millennium Bridge represents a wider welcome improvement in the central London environment: a fight back against the anti-social practice of bringing cars into the centre of the city, the reclaiming of street space for people, and generally making it easier and more pleasant for people to get around and to enjoy the city -- especially along the river. It's a job that is very far from being complete, but after the Millennium Bridge opened, the twin pedestrian Jubilee bridges were constructed between Embankment and the South Bank Centre; and there has been massive expansion to the riverside paths. Progress seems to have been slowing lately. It seems like a good time to remind people what a difference the Millennium Bridge made, and how much still needs to be done to fix the streets of central London.

Millennium Bridge

Where and when to shoot it? The obvious spot is on the south side, looking to St Paul's. The bridge deck divides at the south side, such that you can shoot the bridge deck and pedestrians, but also the river and piers beneath at the same time. You will notice that Sir Christopher Wren made a mistake in designing St Paul's: because it is not built perfectly perpendicular to the bridge, when one lines up the shot for symmetry, one finds that the dome of the cathedral appears slightly to the left of centre, rather than appearing exactly above the bridge piers. Other good spots to shoot are from the beaches on either bank at low tide, and also from the top of St Paul's, if you can get in sufficiently early in the morning or late in the afternoon to prevent shooting directly into the sun. The cafe balcony in Tate Modern also looks down on the bridge. The view from Southwark Bridge rarely makes exciting photos. Shooting on the bridge itself would be difficult during the weekday rush hours.

Millennium Bridge

[Tag] Tags: architecture, bridges, london, millennium bridge, photo essays, river thames, structures, uk, urban

Sat, 27 Mar 2010

Battersea, in all its desolation

So Beautiful Britain magazine a magazine that I could find no evidence of anybody having ever heard of is putting out press releases about their latest "survey". It's a survey of Britain's worst eyesores and best loved buildings. But wait, doesn't that press release get a little bit, er, weird?

Beautiful Britain magazine stresses need for more red tape and launches e-petition.

some PR bollocks


Turns out that the purpose of the survey is not entirely to attract publicity for the magazine that nobody has heard of. Rather it's a chance for some poor provincial nimbys with money enough for a PR company to push their grudge against the planning laws. Their meaningless survey has come up with some brilliantly bizarre and entertaining "facts", though.

  1. Three quarters of Britons live within six miles of an eyesore. FACT.
  2. "A staggering 68% of Brits want to see more red tape."
  3. "Most Brits (82%) claim that wind farms are noisy and destroy the countryside" another reminder that ignorance should be no barrier to having an opinion.
  4. Three quarters of Brits prefer "old-style buildings" to "run-down industrial estates". Presumably the other quarter are quite fond of the nation's run-down industrial estates.

The main purpose of the press release then is to promote Beautiful Britain's publicity stunt petition to the prime-minister:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to defend, encourage and enhance local democracy in the planning process, ensuring that everyone has a voice in decisions about large-scale and significant developments that affect them, and so deliver urban and rural communities that people can live and work in and enjoy.

Submitted by Rob Yarham of Beautiful Britain Magazine

Number of signatures? Five.

I hesitate to make fun of absurd press releases and publicity flops like this because the hyperactive children in PR will, on cue, claim that the fact that somebody is making fun of it means that it must have been a PR triumph. But by that meaningless metric, this one has already been a triumph: everyone is already making fun of the parochial nimbys at Beautiful Britain for including two of Britain's best loved landmarks in the list of eyesores: Antony Gormley's Angel of the North, and Sir Giles Gilbert Scott's Battersea Power Station:

Battersea Power Station

Europe's largest brick building, a great art deco cathedral of industry and progress, literally the source of our power, the light that lit our homes for fifty years.

Battersea Power Station

A cavernous hall hung with golden brown bricks that light up each time the sun goes down over Chelsea Bridge.

Battersea Power Station

It is true that Battersea Power Station makes the eyes sore.

Battersea Power Station

And it makes the heart ache.

Battersea Power Station

A building that is such a part of the nation's history and heritage and culture from its fundamental position in the development of the modern city infrastructure, through the iconic films and album artwork that defined an era, to the time that it decided to catch fire and have a blackout on the day that they had wanted to launch BBC Two.

Battersea Power Station

Now roofless and rotting, surrounded by rubble in a neglected neighbourhood.

Battersea Power Station

Empty inside, where once there were great panels of art deco controls for early electronics, quietly keeping the city moving through every shift and surge.

Battersea Power Station

Paint peeling on crumbling chimney stacks supported by scaffolding that could fall in the next storm, already too late to save.

Battersea Power Station

It is in this desolate state of destruction because nimbys and greedy developers have pissed around for thirty years with toy models and red tape. Beautiful Britain have cited this "eyesore" as evidence that planning laws need reform to give more power to local people to block modern eyesores in favour of the good old fashioned "old-style" old buildings from the good olden days, which three quarters of Brits would prefer to see in place of run-down industrial estates. Meanwhile, the actual local people of Battersea fight tirelessly to save their monument of maturing modernity from the red tape of the councils and the bullshit of the developers who calmly stand by watching the clock count down the remaining days before it simply topples over in the wind and washes away into the river.

Planning laws, corrupt councils and ineffective politicians really do alienate local people. They make it difficult for local people to improve their homes and communities, and easy for outside companies to come in and mess up. That makes people feel helpless, ignored, oppressed, and angry. There is a productive reaction to this: to organise and fight for the right progress and the right improvement. And there is a counter productive reaction: to oppose modernity whatever its individual merit, and hide away in a sickly-sweet mock-tudor facade of "Beautiful" Britain.

Battersea Power Station

Catch it while you can. "The ruins of Battersea Power Station" are exhibited on the south bank of the River Thames from now until their collapse. Nearest tube: Pimlico.

[Tag] Tags: architecture, art deco, battersea power station, derelict, good locations, industry, locations, london, nimbyism, photo essays, pr, structures, uk, urban decay, urban

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My other blog is a...
  • Science blog! A blog about cancer cell and molecular biology, coming soon...
  • Skepticism blog! I contribute to the group blog Lay Science on the nature of science, skepticism, and bad arguments.
  • Science publishing blog! It's called Journalology and it's a group blog about publishers, journals, papers and data.
  • Fiction blog! Where I make stuff up, coming soon...
  • Cycling and transport policy blog! I run the group blog At War With The Motorist, where we look at evidence-based urban planning and transport policy, and ride bikes.

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Creative Commons License All text and photography on this site is Joe Dunckley 2001-10, except where stated otherwise. Text and photos are released under the terms of the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license, meaning that you may reuse, remix, and republish the work for non-commercial purposes, on the condition that a credit is given to "Joe Dunckley/" and you make it clear that the work is released under this license. See this page for more detailed conditions. Contact me to enquire about commercial and editorial use.