Forgotten Futures: Blakeley’s Highwalk

Any visitor to the Barbican will know its highwalks. The criss-cross of raised footpaths provide a confusing but just-about functional means of traversing the much loved residential and cultural centre. But follow them to the estate’s edges, attempt to use them to exit to the City at large, and whatever strange logic they possess starts to break down.

A bridge you half-remember led to the tube station you want ends abruptly in mid-air, its access point fenced off.… Read more

Victoria and Albert and the Stardoor: The Vacuum Sugar Event

A giant shop window, a flashing of the spoils of imperial conquest, a chance to position monarchy side by side with social and commercial interests: The Great Exhibition of 1851 was many things. Officially, the world fair – opened by Queen Victoria and housed in a vast Crystal Palace of iron and glass in Hyde Park – was a showcase for advances in global industry, arts and sciences.… Read more

Londinium’s Lost Portal: The Quaerium

Stroll east along the Strand, on the side of the street closest to the river, and go past Somerset House. When you see a gap between two buildings, turn river-ward. After ducking beneath an old watch house you will find yourself in a steep, narrow alley. Suddenly you are a world away from the busses and taxis, from the harried tourists and coffee-seeking office workers.… Read more

Pilots, Pepys and the sky above Limehouse: The Great Whirl

(Short post):

The image heading this post shows a photo taken on a phone camera by a close associate of Portals of London. From near Deptford Creek he watched for several minutes as clouds above Limehouse “moved in a strange, very slow, swirling movement”, in contrast to their general easterly motion across the sky.

As it happens, such a sight from this vantage point is not rare.… Read more

The Gas holder that isn’t a Gas holder: Remembering Henderson’s Door

London’s gas holders are vanishing. These towering Victorian marriages of form and function have, for several generations, been a distinctive part of the urban landscape. But modern gas networks have rendered them obsolete, and they now stand redundant and vulnerable, occupying valuable land.

While most Londoners would acknowledge the need for new housing, not everyone looks at gas holders with the cold eye of the developer.Read more

The Black House: Searching for London’s Strange Embassy

For somewhere once marked out by Roman walls, the City of London is hard to pin down. Geographically, the capital’s oldest district breaks free of its synonymous Square Mile, owning guardianship of green spaces and housing estates across London and into the surrounding counties. As a political entity, it bares superficial resemblance to a London Borough, but look closer and you’ll see it runs its affairs according to a unique set of rules.… Read more