Sunday, March 13, 2011

Blue glass and anonymity

click photo to enlarge
There's quite a lot to dislike about the building in today's photograph. It is faceless, it tells us nothing about those who inhabit it, and it allows them to look at us but not us at them. It is the sort of building that might feature in George Orwell's 1984 or Fritz Lang's Metropolis, a place of secret policemen, anonymous bureaucrats or super-rich tycoons. In fact, according to my researches, it is the offices of a company that owns a chunk of the British media including the Daily Express, the Daily Star, and Channel 5 TV - the populist end of the market, and in terms of the newspapers, the conservative end.

But, having said that, buildings are inanimate objects, and though they can influence society and contribute to our quality of life, they are not "political" in the sense that we usually understand the term. I seem to recall that

before the building was acquired by its present owners HSBC had offices here. And, whilst I can see things I don't like about the building, there are a couple of things that I do like. The first is the colour. Towers with curtain walls of blue glass are commonplace - More London, near the Assembly building, is a nearby example. This glass, however, is darker than usual, and that gives the building a weight and solidity that lighter coloured glass cannot offer. Moreover, with those qualities comes a greater emphasis on the surface and the blocks that comprise its overall shape. I like the way the architect has put these together, and the way the reflections in the glass repeat the blocky projections adding to the apparent complexity of the structure.

This building stands next to the Thames, and today's photograph was taken from the riverside path that runs past both it and its next door neighbour, Old Billingsgate Market. When you look at it from across the river it stands out from the buildings around it on colour alone. It also offers a fine grid of distorted reflections, and when lit by yellow internal lights at night looks quite stunning. On the day I took this photograph I could see only two lights on in the building. In my photograph they look like the sort under which someone - an overworked editor perhaps! - is getting the "third degree" treatment.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 28mm
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/30
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On