Posts Tagged ‘Cities’

I have visited London many times, and as a UK citizen I feel almost as if I am a resident of the great metropolis. Even though I feel disenfranchised with previously strong institutions, I still claim a stake in the capital which I wouldn’t in other cities of the UK. In this greyish vacuum between being a tourist and local, I often feel a deep sadness and nostalgia when I visit places which have changed in directions which I feel a little queezy about.

Without doubt, my favourite location in London is the area between Liverpool Street and Brick Lane – where Whitechapel meets Shoreditch. Every time I have visited London I have made an attempt to get there. It’s a well worn route so I will try to describe to describe it with various layers of time piled on top of each other. As I try to imagine it I realise that it’s not a journey thought the actual locality but more of a journey through my own memories of the place.

Shoreditch (1)

Shoreditch (20)

 

I leave the station and walk down through the large banks of the City of London. The City of London Police station is where I once spent some time, a very brief time. I was once interrupted during an outdoor McDonald’s breakfast by two very polite policemen who wanted me to take part in an identity parade. They spoke in that dusty old man London accent that you get in original Sherlock Holmes dramas with Jeremy Brett, the accent used by Johnny Depp in the ripper movie. I obliged and spent some time standing next to various young adults, all of whom had short dark hair and a similar build to myself. Since I was a teenager I have always been followed in shops and generally suspected of wrongdoings, this was the final proof. The lawyer decided that we were not right so I never actually got to have the witnesses inspect me. There was an element of anxiety despite the Police telling us that it’s impossible for any of the identity parade to be incorrectly sent down. I think I may have watched too many movies to fully believe them. Anyway, I got paid so I was happy

Shoreditch (14)

Shoreditch (17)

Shoreditch (18)

Shoreditch (19)

Outside the police station I head down the Bishopsgate  then make a right turn into the wide street running down to Spitalfield’s Market. I love the houses in this part of London, they are very London in colour and seem to watch disapprovingly as their friends and neighbours  get turned into start-up tech firms and overpriced bistros. I think most of the houses and buildings were used as storehouses and shop-fronts when the East India Company was still going. At leasts some of the pubs seem to have remained intact and kept their character – like the 10 Bells on the corner. I walk through the line of franchises into the vast market, a lady with a local accent mistakes me for a foreign tourist because I don’t shave and I wear sunglasses ” I fought you woz Spanish or samfink!” I smile and move on to another stall. The cafes get hipper and seem expensive so I plot my escape. Opposite the  large right angle of original terraces I am  interrupted by the eccentricity of Hawkmoor’s church on the corner. This spawns a cross London quest in which I try to visit as many Hawksmoor churches as possible. The quest is made all the more interesting by running out of battery and forgetting my A to Z map of London.

DSC_0192

Shoreditch (12)

Christchurch looks on silently as if unaffected by the earthly pursuits of buying vintage furniture and comparing new cocktails. For Christchurch guards one of the points of the underworld pentagram which connects the other Hawksmoor Churches. The streets near Fournier Street remind us of the Huguenots and of course Jack the Ripper. This part of London has always been the first port of call for many immigrant communities. In some cases they only remain in the proper nouns of streets and surnames, in others they can still be smelt. As I approach Brick Lane I enjoy the smell of the Bangladeshi spices in the numerous curry houses. I’m sure they are good but I have no intention of eating there. A brief sensation of Northern pride prevents me from analysis, Manchester’s Curry Mile must be much better. Brick Lane is colourful and bewildering, the novelty of Bengali Street names on such typically domestic streets quickly wears off as I spot Rough Trade East. The ghost of John Peel tells me to go in and find a gem but I settle for a catalogue instead. I really really want to buy a T Shirt but I have never been good at being a fan of anything. Moderation stops my impulse buys and hunger takes over.

Shoreditch (8)

Shoreditch (9)

Shoreditch (10)

I have a OCD capacity to know everything about food. One of those foods is the humble bagel – invented in Poland for pregnant women. The bajgiel was eaten by the Yiddish speaking Jewish community in Krakow. Many of the Jewish diaspora emigrated to this part of London too. One of my many food quests led me to search out two beigel shops towards the end of Brick Lane. After getting past the post industrial chic of the warehouses I finally make it. It seemed like a shorter journey in my head but it doesn’t matter because salt beef makes everything vanish. If mindfulness is living in the moment and forgetting all other thoughts then I may have just experienced it. The lady put huge quantities of salt beef on the בײגל and then doused it in strong English mustard. I stand on a corner eating my beygl and my journey stops.
Shoreditch (2) Shoreditch (3) Shoreditch (4) Shoreditch (16)

 

I’m not sure why people choose to eat cereal for double the price but that’s the price of being hip these days. I backtrack to the cereal killer cafe because it wasn’t there when I last walked past. I noticed the cereal fetish with many North Americans in Korea. Someone tried to explain it to me once but I didn’t understand. I believe it may be mixture of nostalgia and brand loyalty. I appreciated the concept and quirkiness of the imported cereal, and I do admire the willingness to follow crazy ideas. However, I think I fall into the category of feeling slightly ashamed that people would spend a fiver on a bowl of cereal when you could buy a full box and a pint of milk round the corner. My breakfast habits have changed beyond recognition since wolfing down crunchy-nut cornflakes as a kid. These days I only eat oatmeal or refrain from cereal all together. If you think it’s difficult to quit eating cereal, I assure you it’s not – just read the ingredients. Most of what you find in boxes of cereal is pseudo food and by the way, what does fortified actually mean? I’ve never found a castle in my cereal.

Shoreditch (6)

Shoreditch (5)

My hunger is busted now so I try to find a coffee. If all coffee is a little overpriced and if most cafes look and feel the same then why not go for something different? This is why I choose to support another hipster, and if you wanted proof then he has the beard to prove it. I get a coffee from a converted black cab. Admiration and anti-hipster reflexes conflict again in my conscience. The solid authenticity of this neighbourhood really does clash with some of the modern elements. If anything, Shoreditch and its environs echo what is going on the real world day to day. There is no authentically industrialised inner city any more. There are no jobs for life, no job security. The service sector has taken over. You don’t need to make anything or be good at anything. You just need a new concept and hope people are dumb enough to buy into it. I leave my favourite neighbourhood with mixed feelings and as if to raise more questions Russell Brand walks past me whilst nattering into his mobile. Is he an authentic East End boy done good, looking out for social justice? Or, is he just another hipster?

Shoreditch (15)

Shoreditch (13)

Shoreditch (11)

 

Here is Charles Bridge:

Karlov Most (1) Karlov Most (2) Karlov Most (3) Karlov Most (4) Karlov Most (5) Karlov Most (6) Karlov Most (7) Karlov Most (8) Karlov Most (9) Karlov Most (10) Karlov Most (11) Karlov Most (12) Karlov Most (13) Karlov Most (14) Karlov Most (15) Karlov Most (16) Karlov Most (17) Karlov Most (18) Karlov Most (19) Karlov Most (20) Karlov Most (22) Karlov Most (23) Karlov Most (24) Karlov Most (25) Karlov Most (26)

The Dongdaemun Design Plaza is the new landmark building in a landmark area of Seoul. It can get confusing around here, so let me be specific.

동 = east대 = big문 = gate

Dongdaemun is literally a large gate on the eastern part of what once was the Seoul wall. This wall is intact (if recreated) in many places. Several of these gates necklace the former walls of Seoul and provide useful compass points for navigating the city.

Dongdaemun-gu is the district which takes its name from this famous gate; it’s a bit further east from the gate. It’s also my home.

Dongdaemun History & Culture Park is the area which used to house a famous baseball and football stadium. It has been demolished and rebuilt to include museums and ramparts from the wall. This backs on to the markets and busy fashion trade centres. It is also the name for the underground station. Finally we get to the edifice I would like to write about – Dongdaemun Design Plaza. It is quite a mouthful so has been shortened to ddp. I have noticed that many Seoul residents are still unfamiliar with this acronym, but from here on I will refer to it as ddp.

2014-03-12 16.39.54

ddp has been taking shape during the years I have been in Korea. It used to be a building site but as it neared completion I used to ascend the building opposite to view it from above, luckily there is an elevator on the outside of the building which goes up about 17 floors. Finally after 5 years it has been officially inaugurated and I have been able to see it from every other angle, including from the inside. It was designed by Iraqi British architect Zaha Hadid, and it’s a multifunctional mixture of post modern play things. Under the shiny aluminium panels you can find a fashion design information center with seminar rooms and a lecture hall. There is a convention hall, exhibition halls, museum and my personal favourite – a kind of design market.

Zaha Hadid 360 degrees Opening Event

Zaha Hadid 360 degrees Opening Event

 

The fun mixed use nature of the building adds to the playfulness and post industrial vibe that you can find here. Each part of the building morphs into the next and getting from one area to the next is so much fun that you almost don’t care what’s going on in the exhibition spaces. It’s got a minimal feel to it, especially with all the white. However, it differs from any modernist structure because it is completely freeform. There seems to be nothing holding anything up. Moving around the building makes no sense at all, but that’s one of the reasons I like it so much, you never quite know what’s going to happen round the next corner.

ddp

 

The highlight of the interior has to be the staircase which coils round in a triangular direction. There seem to be no straight lines and at one point you can look across to a window and realise that the floor is uphill, the same floor you walked on before without noticing the gradient. I think a lot of organic architecture dates quickly with materials and concrete looking shabby after only a couple of years.  With ddp I think technology has finally caught up with concept and it has allowed Hadid to build something straight from the sketch book with very little compromise.

IMG_3010

From above, and from certain other angles it looks like a spaceship has docked in the middle of the city. The shape of the spaceship resembles the head of some exotic reptile. These curving forms are all contained within a metallic shell of aluminium panels. The underbelly of the building joins into the cultural plaza where you can find some shops and the subway station. There is a lot of concrete surrounding the building but it manages to keep some kind of harmony with the grassy park and the ramparts of the old buildings which sit in the shadow of the silver spaceship.

2014-03-12 16.31.50

It has been criticized for not fitting in with the surrounding area and for not having a specific purpose. I would admit that it does look strange next to some of the larger retail buildings in that area, but it was a large space to fill and I admire the bravery of going for such a structure. I think over time many of the surrounding buildings will be knocked down, and Seoul has far too many geometric blocks littering the skyline anyway. Whether it will be the new fashion and design hub of Asia only time will tell. For the moment, it has provided the city with something different and something which goes some way to shaping the future urban landscape. I think it is far more successful than the City Hall building for demonstrating how this metropolis sees itself moving into the future. The future here seems to be soft edged, fun and playful. If you visit ddp you will be able to walk on it, in it, through it, round it, under it and over it. Someone told me that you can do those things in a multi story car park, if it is just a large post modern car park then I would be more than happy to park myself there every Saturday afternoon – because I love the place!

IMG_2997_Fotor_Collage

 

 

Links and further reading:

http://www.ddp.or.kr/MA010001/getInitPage.do

http://www.zaha-hadid.com/architecture/dongdaemun-design-park-plaza/

http://www.arirang.co.kr/news/News_View.asp?nseq=159617

 

 

DSCN4017 DSCN4018 DSCN4022 DSCN4023 DSCN4025 DSCN4027 DSCN4028 DSCN4030 DSCN4031 DSCN4034 DSCN4035 DSCN4039 DSCN4043 DSCN4045 DSCN4046 DSCN4049 DSCN4053 DSCN4054 DSCN4058 DSCN4086 DSCN4087 DSCN4091 DSCN4095 DSCN4100 DSCN4108 DSCN4113

Taiwan (215) Taiwan (216) Taiwan (217) Taiwan (218) Taiwan (219) Taiwan (220) Taiwan (221) Taiwan (222) Taiwan (225) Taiwan (226) Taiwan (227) Taiwan (228) Taiwan (229) Taiwan (230) Taiwan (236)