Friday, 23 January 2009


It's pretty cliched to say that the East End of London is a place of contrasts but sometimes it throws things at you that so beg the phrase it's impossible to avoid. The boy and I went to have a look at the Swiss Re building (better known as the Gherkin) at night when we stayed in Spitalfields over Christmas. It was cold but worth seeing it close up in that crisp, bleak and empty atmosphere that you could only get in financial district on Christmas day at midnight. On the way back we spotted this very near to where some of my family are from (Frying Pan Alley) going back to the beginning of the 18th Century. I liked this a lot so went back the next day to take a picture. I'm glad the frontages are round this way and not the other. The old one, though redundant in terms of its original function, shows what we have lost with a lot of functional new architecture. The boy is interested in architecture and has often said it's something he'd like to do. If he does get into it I'm going to try to make him reintroduce the ornate Victorian facades. Or at least I hope he has the right combination of hindsight and foresight to build his glass and steel monstrosities behind the remnants of the past.

Talking about this reminded me of one of the things that struck me most about Berlin. The Kaiser Wilhem Kirche in the centre of the city is a memorial to the devastation in the war and symbolic of the forward thinking new Germany that grew from the ashes of the Third Reich. It's strange how the 'new' church is already so dated and anachronistic while the shell of the original maintains of lot of its splendour despite the shrapnel marks and what it may have once represented.

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