March 03, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

                                                         NEWLY BUILT LLOYD'S OF LONDON - WHEN WE WERE BOTH YOUNG, 1990

This week I'd like to continue to explore my archives as a way of encouraging you to do the same. There are some marvelous things you can find ther, especially if you are as disorganized as yours truly. This poupourie has no real theme except that they caught my eye when I struggled through several dozen pages of old slides. When I say they caught my eye I really mean that I saw some element of hope, since my early struggles with my camera were exceeded only by my enthusiasm. Exposure and White Balance were often wildly off the mark. I would show you some of the original slides but for my embarrassment, even considering that slide film is a very unforgiving medium. Suffice it to say that most of these images have actually come to life only after my working on them in their newly digital form.

This first image can serve as a good example. Like all of these other images, it is more than thirty years old. No one outside of Little Rock had ever heard of Bill Clinton. This detail is of the exterior emergency stair of a ground-breaking modern tower by Richard Rogers for Lloyd's of London, taken when it was almost brand new.  This was way before it was joined by a whole host of newer and larger towers in The City, the financial center of London. For all I know it has probably now undergone a renovation, and Rogers eventually became Lord Rogers. For once my exposure wasn't that off, but my camera had been so mistaken that the original slide rendered the aluminum stair tower almost as blue as the sky.

                                                          SIR JOHN SOANE'S MUSEUM - LONDON, 1990 : FINAL VERSION

This next image is a detail from one room of Sir John Soane's house in London. The next time you fear that your hoarder tendencies might have gotten the better of you, head to London to see this place. Sir John's collection overgrew his townhouse so he bought two more adjoining houses, and even then the resulting architectural hodgepodge has to be seen to be believed. The man was a genius and crazy at the same time, and his various spatial strategies have inspired generations of architects ever since his death, when his home became a museum.


Any trip to the Mother Country always has to include a few "There will always be an England Moment", like this understated sign in Spitalfields Market in the East End, several hundred years older than Saturday Market in Portland. Sometimes stuff like this in one of our British mysteries on the telly will cause Fran to scream out "But how do they reproduce?" There is often no real answer.

                                                       IF IT AIN'T BROKE, DON'T FIX IT - CAMBRIDGE, 1990 : FINAL VERSION

In a similar vein is this detail from one of the college courtyards in Cambridge. My total lack of understanding at how one can easily make this knot is only exceeded by the idea that this is still the way that the groundskeepers will keep me off the lawn, hundreds of years after the grass was first laid in the college quad.


A typical East Anglian landscape, somewhere outside Cambridge. Yes, the image is still a bit noisy, but just pretend it was taken on some ridiculously fast color film instead of completely underexposed Kodachrome. I'm sure this place still looks exactly the same, many generations of ducks later.


But sometimes England is not "a green and pleasant land." This is the sky that greeted us in Orford, a town on the coast of the North Sea, just before a near hurricane hit - red sky take warning indeed. The original slide is nothing short of an exposure disaster.

                            DUMBARTON OAKS, WASHINGTON, 1989 : FINAL VERSION

We move back one or two years to our former home in Washington, D.C. This is a small portion of one of my personal "most beautiful places on Earth, man-made edition" - Dumbarton Oaks Garden north of Georgetown. Their is truly nothing like Springtime in Washington, especially since it might just be "The Last Nice Day" before the heat and humidity arrive.


Part of the charm of this place for a retired architect of my persuasion is that the wealth of the family, and the army of gardeners that keep the place ship-shape, allowed the original landscape architects to virtually ignore any semblance of "common sense" in many details around the garden. Notice the total lack of concern for protecting the wood of this wonderful trellis in one "room" of the garden - if needs be we will just rebuild the thing, and no one will be the wiser. The detail that I love most in the garden are the incredibly comfortable curving brick benches that violate every rule possible in brick construction - horizontal brick that will collect water and inevitably lead to it's own destruction. But until we have to rebuild them a generation from now, they are the most comfortable brick surface you have ever had the pleasure to sit on, so stop worrying about maintenance will you!

                                        YET ANOTHER DEMO, WASHINGTON, 1989 : FINAL VERSION

Let's end this essay with an unfortunately timeless image. It's somewhere in our Nation's Capital, and we are at yet another demo. We are blissfully unaware that almost thirty-five years later we not only will still be fighting the same fight, but that we will be in the process of losing it. Some things unfortunately never change.