Documenta1

Documenta is an art exhibition that has been organised and presented in Kassel, Germany, every 5 years since 1955. The reason behind the very first one was to disperse Germany’s cultural darkness due to Nazism after the war. Through the years though it has developed into one of the most important exhibitions of contemporary art worldwide, possibly because of its non-commercial nature. Usually the event is curated towards exploring a specific political, cultural or sociological theme, for example feminism or migration.

Documenta aims to showcase the work of artists from all around the world and regardless of the fact that its centre has always been in Kassel, the latest exhibition’s concept evolved around the idea of moving the whole event in Athens, Greece. Adam Szymczyk the artistic director of Documenta had been coming and staying in Greece for a number of years, as have many artists from all over the world who are drawn to it by the popular idea that Athens is the new artistic centre of Europe.

 

Documenta2

To be precise Athens has been referred to as the new Berlin so often that the local street artists write graffiti that reads: “This is NOT the new Berlin” or “Athens is the new Athens”. However the name of the exhibition was decided to be “Learning from Athens”. A contradictory title that along with the absence of representation of a large number of Greek artists, infuriated a significant part of the Greek scene. The exhibition has only a couple of days left before the Athens part is finished (the Kassel part will be open until September 17) but I believe there is much to be said still about it, especially since its creative director has stated that the organisation hopes to “leave something behind it that the city can profit from”.

Documenta6

Looking into the matter first from the aspect of Athens becoming the coveted place where artists, (especially those from other countries) want to go and live at, the possible results are rather daunting. Being Greek but having lived in London for a decade myself, I have witnessed artists relocating as a first sign of gentrification. The artists choose areas where rents are cheap and the environment feels genuine and inspiring. Then the real-estate agents follow, the area slowly gets a make-over and is sold to a high price to people who can afford it. Simplistic but telling description of gentrification in a couple of phrases. With the way things have developed in Greece for the last few years, one can only wonder if that could ever expand to the scale of a city, or even a whole country.

 

Documenta3

When I think about the title of the exhibition, “Learning from Athens” again I cannot but wonder, what does it really mean. Athens is a city full of contradictions. It always carries the massively heavy burden of its past, the one that gave to the world the masterpiece of the Acropolis and the concept of Democracy. It also occupies awkwardly a crossroads position between the Eastern and the Western world, being part of Europe but parading with pride a misogynistic, macho, god-fearing religious culture. On top of all of that, on top of the blue sky, the long summers and an always vibrant nightlife, lands the CRISIS. In capital letters because it can be nothing but capital (pun intended) what has changed the lives of all Greeks. The Greeks who have been mocked and criticised by the entire world for not being able to deal with their debt, when the power play of banks and rich nations have been plotting against them. Nor being able to deal with the burden of the leftish revolution that the world expected with Syriza coming to power or the pseudo-Grexit referendum. And then the Syrian refugee influx and entrapment in a country of zero ability to deal with the problem has thickened the plot, increasing both the solidarity and self-organisation but on the other hand heightening the power and righteousness of far-right nationalist parties like Golden Dawn.

 

Documenta7

In the middle of all that chaos lands Documenta 14 that wants to “Learn from Athens”. Wants to learn from a city which manages to look like it deals with all that and actually has fun as well. “How come the bars and restaurants and cafes are still open and people are having fun?”, “How is it possible that people get on with their lives wrapped in riots, tear gas, graffiti and vandalism?”, the universal scene seems to wonder. How can they be in so much trouble and still seem so cool? This is what they really want to learn. This cannot be learned though, much as they try. Coming to look at Athens from the outside, or even for a few months (maybe even years) from the ‘inside’, is as futile as trying to grasp what it is to be a lion, by observing it in its cage, in the zoo.

 

Documenta4

I can attest to that, after living for 10 years in London I have a vague idea about Britishness but I cannot really explain what it is to be British. Of course I did not come here from a position of power, with any imported funds. I did not come to London to advertise any supposed superiority in life’s wisdom quoting Anthony Quinn impersonating Zorba the Greek. “Boss, life is trouble, only death is not”.

Going through the galleries of Documenta 14 in Athens I run into many artist friends of mine working as invigilators or gallery assistants. I was pleased to see them and they all told me how they felt excited to be around all that international art and also to have finally a steadily paid job, even if it was only for 4 months. Of course I knew that they would rather be on the other side, that of the celebrated artist sipping wine at the opening, but alas, they were the help.

 

Documenta5

Adam Szymczyk said at the announcement of Athens as the Documenta location that he wants to leave something behind. Much as I enjoyed strolling through the galleries with my friends, “inhaling” this abundance of art that was mostly imported; supposedly to learn from us but really to subtly patronise us, I was reminded of the 2004 Olympic games. Where so much money was spent into building new sites that were afterwards only left there to rot and crumble.

That was not an exhibition about Athens, it just happened to be there.

 

Documenta8

Documenta website

An interesting article I read about Documenta

Athenian Panopticon by Iason Athanasiadis

An article in Greek:

Αθηνόραμα : Τα επόμενα χρόνια όλος ο κόσμος της τέχνης θα μιλάει για την Αθήνα της Δέσποινας Ζευκιλή

BBC article:

Can Athens become Europe’s new arts capital

New-tate-1

The new addition to Tate Modern is a building that attracted the attention of the general public before it was even built. After all since its opening in 2000, Tate Modern has been one of the most visited tourist sites in London. The reason for its success is a combination of factors. Its location, its status in the world of art and without a doubt its architecture as well. Herzog and de Meuron did, back then an undeniably good job with it.

New-tate-2_At a time when industrial relics and retrofuturism was just getting to be fashionable they renovated an existing building, previously a power station and turned it to the hugely famous Tate Modern. The brick bulk, the landmark chimney and the cathedral-like Turbine hall compel the visitor immediately. A composition which demonstrates the importance in the simplicity of straightforward architectural gestures. What could the architects come up with that would be equally strong?

New-tate-3

The obvious answer would be at least externally an equally bulky and strict building. So the quasi-pyramidal shape that we watched rise for a few years, was a rather logical decision for a form. It makes me think a bit of children’s blocks and their basic shapes, the rectangle, the pyramid the sphere.

New-tate-4

As a first impression though, the outside of the new building is not as interesting as the interior spaces that it encloses. I am not sure why; Is it maybe because the sequel is never as good as the original? The one good thing that I had to give to this building is that somehow it manages to hide its scale; it seems smaller than it is. When I got myself all the way up to the viewing terrace I realised how high it was because one sees the old Tate modern’s roof from above. This is still a sort of an optical illusion because in my memory the original building seems taller, when actually it is not.

New-tate-5

Entering the new building from its own entrance on Sumner St. the visitor goes past the restaurant to the left and then has a choice, either take a staircase going down towards The Tanks, the basement part of the building that was first opened a few years back, or go up towards the new galleries. The staircases are beautiful, the detailing is impeccable throughout the interior spaces and has a clean slick feel to it. Beautifully finished concrete with no visible paint and simple black metallic rails.

New-tate-6

The route of the visitor is really thought-out well. There are surprises all the way up, little sitting corners, seemingly randomly shaped windows and views as you wind yourself up. Circular stairs, straight stairs design details, inviting corners to sit or balconies one can look over to a foyer at a floor beneath.

New-tate-7

Also the way the two buildings are connected, at three levels with the turbine hall on level 0 and then two bridges, one on level 1 and another one on level 4 also enrich the experience and broaden the choices of how to move inside the galleries.

New-tate-8

Walking through this building though, interesting as it was, had a negative side to it too. Gallery spaces, which by nature are more introvert in order for the visitor to focus on the art on display were too generic and also felt slightly claustrophobic. The spaces that link them, foyers, staircases and such are much more interesting to walk through.

New-tate-9

These connecting spaces had a very weird quality to them as well, the strong voyeuristic character of their windows.

The last 17 years that Tate Modern has existed in this location and as its importance and status increased, so did the value of the land around it.

New-tate-10

New-tate-11-

New housing developments popped up which are mainly luxury apartments. Most of these buildings with their often wall-to-wall curtain windows wide open to the Tate, pose an interesting contradiction. A large display of design furniture and art visibly showing off their status, while at the same time signs everywhere inside the Tate ask us the visitors, to please respect the neighbours privacy.

New-tate-12

I thought those signs to be very ironic. It is the contradiction of our way of lives really, obsessed with selfies in an ongoing struggle to show off and attract attention. Only to claim retrospectively false modesty along with the request towards the spectator to look elsewhere. Capitalist exhibitionism in denial is what it felt I was observing. And strangely this stayed with me more than the crisply detailed new building.

New-tate-13

Tate Modern web site here

Big2

This year’s Serpentine pavilion was designed by Big, an architectural practice whose main force is the 41 year old Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. The practice’s signature is using simple lines in a bold way to support a conceptual story. Usually there is also a playful element in Big’s projects and the user of the building is urged towards a rather adventurous, at times even childlike behaviour. For example they have designed a waste-to-energy-power plant in Copenhagen with a roof that is in fact a ski slope and the Serpentine pavilion (if it weren’t for health and safety measures in the UK) was originally meant to be climbed to the top.

Big1

Left photo:Copenhagen Power plant CGI by Big

The pavilion, as has been observed by many writers already, is quite beautiful. It encloses the space but but it also “leaks” views to the park from certain angles. The structure does not however manage to protect from nature’s elements very well, but really how many of the pavilions ever did? Similarly as far as its spatial qualities are concerned, like many of its predecessors, it photographs better than it feels when visited.

Big4

This year though I would like to focus on an event that I attended when I went there for the first time, on June 24th one day after UK’s famous referendum that decided the future of the country within the European Union. That strange day, Implicated theatre a group of theatre practitioners, funded by Serpentine Galleries and directed by Frances Rifkin took over the space. Implicated theatre’s performances are based on Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed which is an experimental workshop-based practice that aims to “explore the relationships between political speech and action”1. Usually a scene is presented to the audience who later on is urged to participate in transforming it by taking the place of one of the original actors. The focus usually is underprivileged people and their stories. Their struggles and their interpretation of their experiences within the frame of society and its political structures.

Big3

This particular performance called Towards a Radio Ballad: Songs of the Journey emerged from a year-long collaboration with unionised migrant hotel workers from Unite’s Hotel Workers Branch. As described in Serpentine Gallery’s website: “The sound piece that accompanied the performance, is a sketch working towards a possible Radio Ballad, taking its cue from Charles Parker’s original BBC Radio Ballads, a series that aired from 1958-1964.

The audience was divided in two groups depending on whether they had ever worked in the Services industry or not. Walking freely within the pavilion we were given trays and by holding them the feeling of being a waiter was simulated. The stories of actual migrants who have come to London and worked as waiters were heard in the background. In the actual scene presented by the actors and later on moulded by the audience’s participation, a waiter was cheated out of his tips by the head waiter, a common story of professional abuse of power. I will not go into details on what happened as the experience of it is what really matters.

 

Big5

Photographs by Lewis Ronald

The intellectualisation of a workshop-based performance where everyone’s conclusions are purely personal would diminish the importance of the experience with weak generalisations. In the end though we were all given seats and a microphone went around. People spoke of how they felt and shared thoughts on their being in that particular space as part of the group. Very personal stories were heard that attested oppression and injustice. Migrants’ search for a better life by leaving their country of origin were juxtaposed with the dramatic political events in the country, as the decision of the previous day’s referendum. Ultimately the migrants’ journey instead of easier is going to become much more difficult. Surrounded by the loose boundary of the pavilion, we were confronted with the sad reality of a world that chooses to become more closed-minded and closed-bordered. And the feelings were real, people spoke of their lives and their families passionately and even cried.

Big6

Left photo by Lewis Ronald. Middle and right by the writer

Never did I expect to experience the sharing of real emotions and harsh truths about major political events, especially in a group, within the Serpentine Summer Pavilion. A space which is a product created and consumed by an international cultural and economic elite. Most nights at the pavilion not that many working class people are present, other than the waiters of course. And there is not that much truth spoken by the well-groomed guests that sip cocktails while exchanging empty pleasantries.

June 24th ‘s performance placed a small bomb of controversy within the fabric of the pavilion focusing on the lives of those who stay in the background unseen and uncelebrated. The space of the pavilion did not matter to me that night, not because its architecture was unworthy but because no architecture should be more important than the people who inhabit it.

 

Big7

1. From Implicated Theatre’s website

Serpentine Pavilion’s website here

Big’s website here

Read about Theatre of the Oppressed here

Implicated theatre’s website here

Park nights Towards radio website here

Lea1

Going to Lea Anderson’s retrospective performance at the V&A Hand in Glove, I never thought I would be writing about it on my architectural blog. How could dance be ever associated with architecture? Architecture is made of solid elements that define space and create empty vessels for bodies to conduct their lives in. It protect us from the clutter of the world and the elements of nature so that we can cross out things in the list of must-dos-to-survive. What is taken for granted though is that the empty space is usually available for the people to occupy with their volume. What happens when space has to be fought for, and it is not defined by solid elements like walls or roofs?

Lea-2

This often happens in market places, concert halls, music clubs, stations. Lea Anderson’s performance was for me a study on how one achieves space-creation via movement.  The space that the body occupies can be claimed from nothing else. And as it moves each body moulds a trace of itself. What if this space does not exist because other bodies have taken it?

marcel_duchamp_1_nude_descending_a_staircase_no_2

Nude Descending a Staircase, No.2 by Marcel Duchamp

In Hand in Glove the dancers’ bodies had to claim their space from the audience, who was there to see them. A complex combination of admiration and antagonism.

Lea3

Being in the V&A room where the performance took place one had to negotiate their position and it was not exactly clear what was each person’s agenda either. Possibly the negotiation, or at times even confrontation of the performance, had a very deliberate raison d’etre. Most of the dance pieces presented in the retrospective, obviously speak about gender making a political statement of sorts.  However this was done by means of space negotiation something that resonated with me as an occupational hazard.

Lea5

It made me think of personal orientation and the primordial action of standing up. Somehow the symbolic action of placing oneself in space with intention is also a symbolic gesture of self-realisation. Being a tai chi practitioner for many years I have realised the importance of assuming one’s space with awareness of one’s state, position in space, relation to other elements and people around. Every movement in space ultimately is such a negotiation. When in public inside our cities we co-exist with others want it or not and have to find a way to do so. It is not relationships which I am interested in here as I contemplate this balancing act, it is the importance of space in negotiating relationships.

Lea6

In public spaces like the ones mentioned above, concert halls, stations and airports, market places, the “other” body is almost unimportant. It is someone who is potentially in your way of getting where you want to go. In this play though the “other” who is next to you and whom you are “fighting” with to claim your position is also the one who you have come to actually see perform.

Lea7

I have been to similar shows where performers were free-moving within the crowd and of course it is no great novelty. Actually in theatre performances where the actors are supposed to interact with the audience this freedom of movement, I must confess, made me more stressed than happy. Hand in Glove was flowing though. There was confrontation, but there was also respect. There were lack of boundaries but some boundaries also existed. There was no stress, no violence, no uncomfortable feelings. It seemed there existed a flexible barrier able to include but also separate. A beautiful concept to meditate and build upon in the use of any space really.

barnes1

Jeanette Barne’s art is undoubtedly about architecture and this particular exhibition at Anise Gallery is all about London. Vibrant drawings along with objets trouvés recovered from Thames banks and reconstituted into sculptural works, paint her view of the city. What makes her work vibrant though is not colour because her palette is rather monochrome. Countless axes leading towards all possible directions intersect and seem to capture buildings in motion. Looking at them many images emerged from my memory: Duchamp’s Nude descending the stairs, photographs that I have taken from moving trains and of course time-lapse videos that architects make to document their buildings’ construction.

barnes2jpg

Barnes is interested in large buildings hence Canary Warf, the Olympic stadium, new high-rises in the City and bridges and cranes are in the centre of her work. Having lived in London for almost a decade myself, I can attest that the change in its cityscape is at times frantic. One day you notice a hole in the urban fabric with the demolition of some old building. In a few weeks the concrete core of the a stairwell or elevator shaft pop-up like a concrete mushroom. Then floor after floor the slab layers appear and finally the metal and glass skin wraps them. I believe I have mentioned in this blog my opinion about skyscrapers more than once so I do not want to elaborate. I will only say that the awe inspiring grandeur of their scale and their existence as engineering achievements cannot leave an architect indifferent. On the other hand the companies they house and what they represent politically is an important enough reason for me not to admire them for their physical superiority.

barnes4

I am not sure if it is my own reading of this artist’s work and not her actual intention but to me it was obvious that the massive structures that swiftly rise take over the city and leave behind them relics which the river devours. Perhaps this is why Jeanette chose to work with bones and old pieces of metal that she found and display them next to her dynamic drawings. Although my interpretation of this fascinating work left me rather sad it also brought to my mind a wonderful memory of my student life. When I first started to understand what it is to design a building and made my first efforts to sketch, the drawings always involved innumerable criss-crossed lines like these ones, either in plan or elevation. I do not think though I drew like that intentionally, nor in order to express movement but rather because of indecisiveness and exploration of my rough drawing skills in the making. The outcome though, within its innocence kept in its heart some utopian dream, not making companies or even myself richer.

barnes3

Another thing that I have mentioned only too often in this blog is that much as it is exploited by profit architecture is undoubtedly an art. In its goal to house the human body speaks of the human existence both individually and collectively. Its ability to preserve history and imagine the future is often appreciated only by architects who know how to speak its language and see the beauty in technical drawings. Barnes shares an interpretation of the architectural process in a more visceral dialect that can be understood without the need of technical training and this is what I loved the most about it.

barnes6

Visiting the Gallery some days ago I was very lucky to meet Jeanette and have an interesting chat with her. She is as vibrant in person as her work is and she generously shared stories about how she gets her inspiration and the way she observes buildings before she paints them. What stayed with me the most though was her pointing at the river in one of her paintings when she was telling me how enchanted she was by the ripples a swan made when she was sketching. She spoke of the swan passionately and kept pointing at the painting and although in reality there was not such detail there, I really think I saw it.

The exhibition will be open until December 5th 2015.  Anise Gallery is at:

13a Shad Thames, SE1 2PU.

Find out more about it in the Gallery’s website here
Find Jeanette Barne’s website here

Serpentine15-2

I know this is beyond old news. In fact the pavilion has only one day to go until it is taken down. My article was so extremely delayed partly because of personal reasons and partly because I was so underwhelmed by this structure. Still I thought it made sense to write something about it, even if it is only for the records.

Serpentine15_4

Same as every year I try to turn a blind eye to the waste of money that the Serpentine is (this year Goldman-Sach’s money to be exact) and focus more on its artistic value. It is built as an architectural experiment in order to remind to the public that architecture is an art and it may carry strong representational and symbolic values. As Brian Eno pointed out in his John Peel lecture on BBC radio 6 recently, art is basically not necessary. Eno said that art in most areas of culture is exactly what one does not need in order to survive but ultimately is exactly what brings to us the greatest pleasure.

Serpentine15_3

Things get complicated with architecture because undoubtedly it is an art but a structure cannot really claim the title of “architecture” if people cannot enter it or use it. According to most historians this is the very reason why the Parthenon in Athens is not really considered a building. More often it is seen as sculptural work of art because it was never entered by the cult’s believers. Naturally I would not even try to associate this shiny-plastic worm of a “building” with the Parthenon. The only thing that they have in common is the fact that they both were not used as a shelter of any sort. Obviously I am exaggerating because the entrance to this year’s pavilion was not forbidden. However on the beautiful summer day that I visited it I witnessed people rushing out of it more than they were willing to stay in it. The reason was that it had a micro-climate. It was extremely warm and humid the fans which were installed inside had to work full time in order to make any short stay there bearable.

Serpentine15_6

Selgascano, the Spanish architectural office that won the commission was not aiming for that effect I am sure. They did not do much to anticipate it or prevent it either. No aesthetic goal is important enough (according to my standards) to counterbalance the lack of viability of a building.

Serpentine15_1

And this particular one did not even manage to reach a very high standard of aesthetics either. It looks cheap, the plastic looks and feels and like plastic and the ribbons give a juvenile and crafty air to it. Not to mention the metal structure which supports it that according to the contractors had to be extremely precise for the structure to hold nonetheless, managed to look totally random.

Serpentine15_5

The one real success of this year’s Serpentine pavilion is that it is very photogenic, hence it scored high Instagram-points. Appearances are most important nowadays, people are more keen to photograph their food than eat it. Therefore this hot-air balloon is both literally and metaphorically exactly that: bright colourful and totally devoid of substance and meaning.

Serpentine15_7

The Serpentine pavilion website here

Selgascano website here

Brian Eno’s John Peel Lecture here

 

20 Fenchurch Street Tower or Walkie Talkie as it is usually referred as is not far from where I live. I watched it go up slowly for years and I never particularly liked it. To be more accurate I actually always disliked it. Every time I cycle west down Whitechapel Road it dominates the skyline totally filling up the horizon.

20 Fenchurch building seen by Whitechapel street and Algate East. Dominating the horizon

20 Fenchurch building seen by Whitechapel Road and Algate East. Dominating the horizon

As it was being built I realised that it was flaring up the taller it became. For a little while I appreciated its geometry and was rather intrigued by the potentially interesting engineering calculations it required. However when I came across the drawing of the original idea and saw how much taller it was supposed to be it occurred to me that there was something wrong with its proportions. Proportions determine a building’s scale hence are extremely important.

The Walkie Talkie hovering over the street

The Walkie Talkie hovering over the street

Therefore if a building is ultimately constructed shorter and wider than its original design, it shows. And this is just one of the conclusions that one comes to by examining Walkie Talkie superficially, as a sculptural object. Something which I always find secondary in critiquing a high-rise.

Going up to the higher part of the "garden"

Going up to the higher part of the “garden”

Researching a bit the building’s Skygarden I discovered that it was not part of the original concept. The tower which is not situated in the part of the City where all the other high-rises are, was at first denied planning permission. The case was eventually reviewed and permission was granted because the architect pledged to give the top floor to the public. A smart and cheeky move. I am usually put off by investors’ justifications. Especially when they advertise their generosity which is often a calculated move in order to get their way.

Another interesting fact about Walkie Talkie is that the true reason for the building getting larger in plan towards the top, had nothing to do with creativity and architectural inspiration. It was mainly a smart idea in order to increase the rentable floor space of the upper floors where it is considerably more expensive. The skygarden was the idea that helped the project go through but profit was again in the heart of that decision. A large part of the top floor’s space is occupied by private restaurants.

The restaurants dividing the "garden" in half. Bulky and disproportionate volumes

The restaurants dividing the “garden” in half. Bulky and disproportionate volumes

The garden is divided in half by the bulky volume of the restaurants and is reduced to two sloping areas where the plants are placed. The sitting areas are basically a couple of small seats in the middle of these slopes. In case they are found empty, they are impossible to enjoy as they are constantly coveted by the hundreds of visitors.

The very few sitting areas cannot really be enjoyed by anyone. A fact that beats the whole purpose of naming the place "Skygarden"

The very few sitting areas cannot really be enjoyed by anyone. A fact that beats the whole purpose of naming the place “Skygarden”

Places like this, especially when there is a deadline in the time that one is allowed to stay there, make relaxing there extremely difficult. Ultimately this is a space to be consumed. It exists to go see and maybe take a selfie at, in order to be able to say, “been there done that”.

Of course there is the view, which is undeniable. Any 360 view from a high building is always fascinating. Even from this particular building which most people find rather ugly. The proportions are wrong the detailing is wrong, it feels clumsy and crude and somehow pretentious.

The building is rather crudely detailed. Lacks elegance but offers some good views

The building is rather crudely detailed. Lacks elegance but offers some good views

And to top all that, it melted a couple of cars and set the carpet of a shop across the street on fire with the beam of sunlight that was reflected off it before its brise-soleil panels were installed. Later on its architect Rafael Viñoly stated that he remembered London less sunny which to say the least seems like a ridiculous excuse for the poorly thought out implications of the building’s geometry.

Diagram of how the reflected sunbeams (also known as the deathray) melted parked cars and burned shop carpets

Diagram of how the reflected sunbeams (also known as the deathray) melted parked cars and burned shop carpets

The experience of visiting Skygarden did not leave an indelible impression in my memory. Yes it was free which was good but one has to book in advance, bring a photo ID and go through the airport-like security of x-rays and metal detectors. The hostesses in fake fur that check the IDs and give information look like airline hostesses giving a sexualised 60’s air to the experience that made me rather uncomfortable.

The hostess the metal detector and what you see as you come out of the elevator

The hostess the metal detector and what you see as you come out of the elevator

Once upstairs I did not go immediately to the terrace as most people do. Instead I felt the need to check out first the “garden” which in fact is not visible when you first step out of the elevator. Going up the steps towards the higher level of the “garden” I had what I call “a Planet of the Apes moment”.

My "Planet of the Apes" moment. When it crossed my mind that we are nearing the end of civilisation

My “Planet of the Apes” moment. Seeing the top of other skyscrapers through the plants

Seeing the Gherkin and the Cheesegrater towers through the plants, reminded me of the classic science fiction film when the protagonists realise that the end of civilisation has occurred as soon as they see the remains of the statue of Liberty. The top of the towers through the plants was a similarly compelling image.

Inside the sky garden the restaurant balcony looks like the desert

Inside the sky garden the restaurant balcony looks like the desert

After that I went further up at the restaurant’s terrace which is shockingly bare. What garden? That was the desert. So sad, empty and disorientating, as far away from the concept of the garden as possible. The whole experience seemed more of a hoax. Eventually I went outside to the terrace where I enjoyed my 15 minutes of false superiority that any visit to a skyscraper ultimately is all about.

20 Fenchurch Street's terrace experience

20 Fenchurch Street’s terrace experience

Once again I got to think about how twisted the whole concept of public space is getting to be. This place is as public as any London square owned by a private company that you can quietly stay in if you obey a set of rules of behaviour. No skating, no smoking, no protesting, no rough sleeping and who knows what else. Public space seems to be turning into a plane of restrictions which slowly but surely squeezes the freedom out of our lives. This is not as science-fiction-like as it seemed during my Planet of the Apes moment. Slowly but surely the only thing allowed in these so-called-public places will be to marvel at capitalism’s overwhelming superiority, solidified in scary tall buildings that the masses will be able to admire from a distance.

Book your visit to the Skygarden here

%d bloggers like this: