Thursday, October 6, 2016

London By Bike

They used to be called Boris Bikes
- before he fell from grace
During the fortnight in London I cycled every day. The cycle paths are fantastic. I had two main ways to get into the city from Herne Hill.

One way followed Route 25 and was mostly a stress-free cruisy ride.

The routes are well-marked with signs as well as road markings.

Council bike lockers 

Burgeoning Battersea - shared bus/bike lane

Historic Chelsea Bridge  -
a whole lane just for bikes

Mud-larking time along the Thames

The other option was to join the north-south Cycle SuperHighway at Brixton and ride hard and fast. Why fast? Long straight stretches with a whole lane reserved for bikes, made for flying along. Except that the lane is shared by buses. And there is nothing scarier than looking up and seeing that a double decker bus has pulled up just ahead of you. Oh wait. Scarier than that is when you sense something breathing down your neck, and realise that one of those buses has snuck up behind you and and is coming alongside, so close that you seem to feel it brush the hairs on your legs.

 Actually I think the scariest thing of all on London roads is the other cyclists. Coming home during rush hour, I'd pull up at the lights in the space in front of all the cars marked for bikes, and by the time the lights changed (I love that they turn orange and then green int he UK) I'd hear a hundred click click clicks as shoes all around me slotted back into cleats and the muscles and mamils (middle-aged men in lycra) would be past me and shooting off into the distance.

Brockwell Park
Route 25 took me across Brockwell Park, along deserted suburban streets and past my favorite bakery and cafe, Gail's; across Clapham Common, down past the sprouting of high-rise apartments in Battersea, and over Chelsea Bridge.

Gail's goodies (him too)

Clapham Common 

From the other route I could either head into the City or over Waterloo Bridge and past The Strand where I used to work to Covent Garden and Soho. In busy Brixton, the marked cycle path goes down the laneway with a memorial mural for that Brixton boy, David Bowie; where there were fresh bouquets of flowers being left every day.

London Design Week 2016

It was Design Week in London and also my last weekend. In the courtyard at the V&A they have installed a robotic building machine that was dynamically constructing a super-light and super-strong structure in response to the movement and flow of people around the courtyard, which also is home to a busy cafe.

Described as a Garden Installation, the experimental Elytra Filament Pavilion (in fine architectural-speak!) is designed to

"explore the impact of emerging robotic technologies on architectural design, engineering and making. Inspired by a lightweight construction principle found in nature, the fibrous structures of the forewing shells of flying beetles known as elytra, the Pavilion will be an undulating canopy of tightly-woven carbon fibre cells created using a novel robotic production process. The Pavilion will grow over the course of the V&A Engineering Season in response to data on structural behaviour and patterns of inhabitation of the Garden that will be captured by real-time sensors in its canopy fibres." 
I wish I could see it now - did it respond to me as I moved around taking photos?

Another 2016 Design Week installation is the Serpentine Pavilion, designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). The Serpentine Gallery has a tradition of inviting an architect of note to design and build a summer pavilion beside the gallery in the Kensington Gardens. This year BIG created what they call "an unzipped wall that is transformed from straight line to three-dimensional space". During the day it houses a café and free family activities and at night it becomes a performance space.