Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A public lounge?

click photo to enlarge
Words come and words go. I learnt the other day that "bae" has been added to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Apparently this word is used by many young people on social media to mean "before anyone else" i.e. their nearest and dearest, significant other, the person (or even thing) to whom (or which) they attach most importance. I've listed elsewhere in this blog several words such as paling, aerodrome and petticoat, terms that in my childhood were widely used, that today have fallen almost completely out of use. We shouldn't lament the birth and death of words unless the newcomers replace perfectly good synonyms or the departures carry a meaning that becomes lost when it is is still needed.

But, there is a modern way with words about which we should be concerned. I refer to the use of a perfectly serviceable and widely used word for a different meaning: a usage that confuses, is lazy or is just plain stupid. One of my early blog posts concerned the appropriation of the word "boutique" by hoteliers in the term "boutique hotel". The original English meaning of boutique was principally, a small shop, or by extension an independent shop, specialising in fashionable clothing. The wider use referring to exclusive, upmarket services appears to have been coined in the U.S. and then applied widely. It reminded me of Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass" where Humpty Dumpty says, "When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less."

That quotation came to mind when I looked up details about a photograph I took in London over Christmas. What I'd assumed was Deptford Library is actually grandly and confusingly titled "Deptford Lounge". Now the word "lounge" is today more usually associated with "departure lounge", but in my childhood it was a synonym for "living room" or "sitting room" (the latter also on the way out). What, I wondered, could have caused the local authority to call the building a "Lounge"? Was it a place of rest and repose? A gathering place of loungers? A public sitting room? All these are OED definitions of the word. In fact, this large building provides a range of community services including a public library, computer labs, study areas, a café, room hire and a roof-top ball court. None of these, apart from perhaps the café, incorporate lounging. So why the silly name?

Why too, I wondered, the external screen wall of pierced metal? This feature made me think the building was designed to survive urban unrest because it reminded me of the clip on panels that tanks and APCs sometimes wear that are designed to cause ant-tank rockets to explode early before penetrating the body of the vehicle. What were the councillors of Deptford expecting? A quick look at Architecture Today tells me that the architects, Pollard Thomas Edwards chose the cladding "...to symbolise cultural richness, the facades comprise a perforated brise-soleil constructed from gold-coloured, Aurubis Architectural Nordic Royal copper alloy panels. In addition to its aesthetic appeal, the material was favoured for its durability, long lifespan and environmental credentials." Who would have thought it?

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 10.4mm (28mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5
Shutter Speed: 1/80
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation:  -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On