Friday, February 06, 2004

Blatantly nicked from Cas-Av - What on earth happened to this 2CV (well more like one and a bit horses)? What did they do - leave it parked on a railway or something? Somehow I have a hunch that the French peasants' eggs may have got broken, and that this car is no longer capable of taking on a ploughed field[1]. Hmm, I've also just noticed the back button on this page doesn't work - here be the main site.

I like this site. Except for when it makes me feel stupid because on seeing the last picture in the Graffitti section, I though "Wow, that's some skilled topiary". Click bigger picture. Ah (that be a building, somewhere under there). And kudos to Salma et al for cunningly using tip-ex for graffiti. But as the site also has the only bit of graffiti I knowingly took a picture of (and which isn't there anymore, the revolution one under the railway out of Cannon St, [by Vinopolis?]), I think I'll forgive the use of tip-ex.

Basically all manner of ephemerata, that adds the odd little quirks, the interesting and ignored, to any city. But idiosyncratic shabbiness has always been cool (except for if you're trying to sell a house next to it for a lot of money). Sooner or later the low-road[2] areas gain an increasing influx of those who enjoy an artistic temperament, seeking out cheap space and different environments, working in the creativity that meshed social groups create. Those with more money appear seeking out the cool and innovative, and gradually perception spreads, more money comes in, rents go up, coffee shops appear, any building which cannot be profitably converted is demolished and the land used for something which can be sold easily, the latest residents complain about the noise and the grime, and get them removed. And so the area is restored, rejuvenated and repopulated, and that which caused it to be so is no longer there.

Is this bad? How does one judge?

And so the area becomes conventional and convenient, and somewhere else holds ephemeral beauty. Neighbourhoods bubble up, and sink away again, as the city chunters on. Another X, the new Y, rising and subsiding, occasionally lingering, bloom and grow, bloom and grow forever.

Sorry I had to. I realised how presumptive I was being, and so I had to mock and deride it, and what better way than by lapsing into a silly camp song from a silly camp musical?

Anyhoo, so yes I like this site, I like the concept behind this site, the passing, fading, easily romanticised quality, that's half blight, which makes the other half unintentionally beautiful. And once again I go into the Fleurs du Mal theme (and I really ought to read it, but I tried once and found it both impenetrable and pretentious). But it is the fleetingness of these sights that makes them rare, the incongruous mix of grandiose Victorian architecture, with functionalist modernity showing an utter disregard, and the detritus of life scattering across the uneconomical surfaces.

But then I really liked these collection of Coal Bunkers (though I'm not sure bunkers is the right word).

And this time I really will stop talking about these buildings and landscapes - it's just another variant on theme of London, itself one diverse group's response to the concept of a city.

[1] Apparently Citroen's original design brief for the 2CV was for small cheap car that could carry four peasants in hats, across a ploughed field, whilst not breaking any of the eggs being carried in baskets on the peasants' laps.

[2] To nick Stewart Brand's term (he wrote a very good book on How Buildings Learn, as well as a television series on the same topic [sometime in the mid 90s] - Go and read it. I was given the book after talking incessantly about the series, and have kept reading it since then).

I've been getting distracted, so I think this ought to be it for today.

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