Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Free Trade Wharf, names and ziggurats

click photo to enlarge
There was a time in the 1980s and 1990s when the language of the Conservative government, with its red in tooth and claw capitalism, infected every new industrial estate that sprang up on the edges of our towns and cities. So, the development became an Enterprise Park and its roads and offices sported names such as Endeavour Way and Venture House. There's nothing wrong with these words - they're fine words - but it almost seemed that the builders of these developments naively felt that the right names would engender the right entrepreneurial attitudes in those who set up their businesses there.

On a completely different tack (but with a connection that will be made clear shortly), when I stay in London I look across the Thames at this large, rambling, block of flats. Ever since I first saw it several years ago I've wondered about it. Its plan is clearly designed to give as many of the 208 flats as possible a balcony and river view. The whole effect is somewhat Mediterranean in feel, with a touch of Lego thrown in for good measure. However, it isn't Spain or Italy (or even Denmark) that come most to mind when I look at it, rather it's Mesopotamia and its wonderful ziggurats. It must be the pyramidal shapes, the brick facing and the slightly "tumble-down" appearance that evokes those crumbling structures from the 3rd millennium BC. I was in London last weekend and took the smaller photo then: the larger one was taken in February. When I decided to post these photographs I thought I'd better find out what the flats are called and when they were built. It seems they dates from 1984-1990 and are called Free Trade Wharf. A name very much of its time I thought. But then I thought a little harder, and wondered what had been on the site before the flats. It turns out that a group of several warehouses built in the 1790s sat on, guess what? Free Trade Wharf! So, the name isn't new, but is probably late Georgian or Victorian, and is one that resonates with the capitalistic spirit of those more distant times rather than the end of the millennium..

The fast catamaran ferry in the photograph is one operated by the Thames Clipper company. These boats can be frequently seen whizzing up and down the River Thames between Greenwich and central London.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Main Photo
Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 73mm
F No: f7.1 Shutter Speed: 1/500
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: On