Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Crystal, Royal Victoria Docks, London

click photos to enlarge
I returned yesterday from a visit to London and, as I sat looking through the photographs that I'd harvested during my time there, I fell to thinking about the metaphors that have been used to describe our capital city. The political reformer and farmer, William Cobbett, called it "the great wen" in his book, "The Rural Rides" that was written in the 1820s and published in 1830. A wen is a sebaceous cyst and Cobbett saw its rapid growth and the way it attracted people and money as detrimental to the country as a whole. For a couple of centuries centuries the city has colloquially been called "The Smoke" because of the amount it generated from its houses and industries. Economic geographers frequently refer to it as a "magnet" for capital due to the way it sucks in national and international investment.

What prompted these thoughts, and why was I pondering "black hole" as another suitable metaphor and rejecting it (there quite a bit that I like about London)? Well, it was something my son said as we walked past a shiny, angular, new building standing on the edge of the Royal Victoria Docks across the Thames from the Millennium Dome (now the O2 Arena). He commented that in most British provincial cities "The Crystal" - the building's name - would be a noteworthy, feted structure used to draw visitors, whereas here it was just another such building, one of so many in the London, that he'd never been in. It has been built as "a sustainable cities initiative exploring the future of cities". I imagine it's also a so-called iconic building intended to help with the regeneration of this area of former docks. The Crystal's origami-like appearance made me wonder whether Terry Farrell had a hand in its design because it put me in mind of his aquarium in Hull, "The Deep". But no, this building is the work of Chris Wilkinson of Wilkinson Eyre who says that its "crystalline geometry" is inspired by nature. There can be few natural objects that share this building's faceted exterior but I suppose some quartz formations do. For a photographer the building provides some striking shapes and reflections, and as my companions went to watch some wake-boarders using a fixed line at the edge of the old dock, I circled the building with my camera putting together a few semi-abstract compositions as well as one or two more conventional photographs.

photographs and text © Tony Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 19.1mm (51mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5
Shutter Speed: 1/60 sec
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On