Monday, 24 August 2015

A stroll down the architectural ages of London — or a few of them

Architecture does not really tell us much about the quality of life it surrounds or encloses — A palace may be a gilded frame for a cold and loveless life. A peasant’s cottage might be a cosy nest of marital bliss. Wars and cruelty may rage as glorious gothic cathedrals reach up for heaven. But it’s hard not to believe that architecture does not say something about the human spirit.
A short stroll in London took us past some typical London shop fronted streets, probably built in the 1920's and 1930's. These are pleasant to the eye, well proportioned and spacious despite their humble roles. Yet Londoners walking past them in their time were walking as the General Strike split the country and later, the Fascist Mosley’s thugs fought running battles with the Jewish community of East London.
Later, we came across some fairly bland apartment buildings, probably built in the 1980's. Nothing but mediocrity and consumerist complacency reflected in these dull blocks. But it was a lively time in Britain. The miners were on strike and the bankers were starting to make their fortunes.
Now, we come up to date — a mean faced monstrosity of an office block near beautiful and posh Holland Park. It looks like a prison. It is dull. And the world is on fire.
Finally, we are back in Kensington Gardens outside Kensington Palace, home to William and Kate. It is a fairly dull brick building. It was built in 1899. Britain then was in the grip of labour unrest. The dockers were often on strike for good reasons. The ruling class was finally losing its hold over the country as the Labour movement fought for its rights. But this building was designed as a stolid and complacent affirmation of privilege. Some things don’t change.

Text and photos by Mark and Elena Rapley, founders of Blabmate. you can find an online English teacher who suits you.

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