Geoff Dann, a London photographer and I decided to take Friday as a day to tour around the City towards the end of the London Festival of Design; in my case to take pictures, Geoff’s to talk to some of the participants and take it as it came. As I write this with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight we chose our day well, but this was not certain as we set off for the South Bank in cloud, but surprisingly after taking our time walking to the Millennium Bridge, often referred to as the ‘Wibbly-Wobbly Bridge’ due to its somewhat ignominious start in life, we headed for the ‘Endless Stair’ and as we arrived so did the sun!
This was an intriguing structure paying homage to MC Escher and his famous stairs, with a very clever wooden structure made from American tulipwood, designed by Alex de Rijke, founder of architects dRMM. It can apparently handle ninety-three people safely at any one time, but there were not that number of visitors when we arrived, so around seven of us had the entire staircase to ourselves; not long after we had explored its heights, several large school groups arrived with mayhem in tow. We moved on visiting a Swedish contingent here to promote their City for next year’s City of Culture complete with carved blocks of ice, and the Malaysians with seemingly schoolchildren dancing and surrounded by numerous movie cameramen. Not far from the itv Studios was an excellent statue in honour Sir Laurence Olivier as Hamlet and further along the Embankment we came across a few skateboarders in a brightly-graffitied concrete playground amidst the mushroom-like supports of the structures above.
Further along was an Ali-Baba figure dispensing a vast cloud of bubbles to the obvious delight of young and old alike; the children rushing and reaching to follow and burst them amongst the trees, and the parents and other onlookers with their phones and cameras, both video and still – there was not a glum face to be seen.
The London Eye was now magnificent against the bright blue sky inviting all those crossing the Thames and passing the statue of Boadicea (Boudicca) and her chariot to point their lenses across the river. From there Geoff and I plunged into the subterranean depths of the London Underground where Geoff felt he was entering a Space Movie or James Bond set with all the structural pipework on show to the commuting public. The internal architecture is certainly brutal and harsh, but I find all the shapes and texture fascinating, and so reaching the platform was not speedy, especially as we took the wrong direction more than once! Next we headed for the Brompton Road area.
Leaving South Kensington Station we strolled the streets entering some of the listed venues of the festival, but only when we arrived at Cassina were we to find ourselves spending much time talking to the exhibitors and photographing what we saw; their showroom was intriguing, and the lady was eager to tell us about the furniture that was on display on both floors. By now it was also time to find somewhere for light refreshment and the spot we chose allowed us to remain in the bright sunshine and be served by an extremely attentive but unpushy waitress and whilst waiting, watch the world go by, and chat, I savoured their roast corn and Geoff, their Chicken paté. From there we headed for the Victoria and Albert Museum, supposedly the hub of the event, but we found their permanent exhibition to be of more interest and we also walked around the ornamental pool, before heading back to Moorgate and the Studio.
It had been a very worthwhile and relaxing day and it was hard to believe from our tour that we were in recessionary times, but the reality for both of us is that in our commercial world it is hard to find lucrative work, despite our best efforts, but we hold our heads high and work hard to keep clients happy and seek new ones to fill the gaps left by those whom we no longer retain.