Category Archives: London

A damp overcrowded cut-price Dubai

The City of London today, writes Dalrymple, is largely composed of

Brobdingnagian dildoes and early mobile telephones.

 

Decaying, degenerate London

Made in China

Dalrymple writes of a visit to the English capital:

I stayed on the border between a rich and a poor part: on one side houses costing millions, on the other social housing for the drawers of social security.

Dalrymple’s hotel

faced the poor quarter. Two huge liquid crystal screens, one of them relaying a trailer for the latest violent film, ensured that no one had to rely on the resources of his own mind for stimulation.

The paving stones were

mottled with trodden-in chewing-gum. A guitar-strumming beggar, probably a drug addict, sought the attention of hurrying pedestrians.

The hotel was noisy. In England, Dalrymple points out,

the sound of people enjoying themselves is indistinguishable from the sound of someone being kicked to death (the two are often the same), and this noise filtered into our bedroom. From time to time, including at 4am, police cars with a variety of ear-splitting sirens passed by, giving notice from afar to malefactors of their approach.

The architecture

was as appalling as that in the rich area was graceful, appalling as only British, French, and Soviet modernism (which are of the same lack of inspiration) can be.

The number of fast-food outlets was very high, and on the border between the two areas was a vast shopping mall catering to both

the hamburger-eating classes

and

the organic-gluten-free-bread-eating classes, worried about the state of their bowels in 30 years’ time.

The mall attracted the typical British shopper, i.e.

the insolvent in pursuit of the unnecessary.

Nearby was

a market in which the really hard-pressed searched for bargains, from their carrots to their niqabs, the latter manufactured in China. What better symbolises modern globalisation than a cheap niqab made in China and sold in London?

Psychopathic æsthetic arrogance

Repulsive and barbaric

Repulsive and barbaric

The Shard (2012), writes Dalrymple, is

grossly incompetent.

It

unbalances an already much damaged skyline

and is an example of

the devastation wrought by barbaric architects.

The egotist Renzo Piano imagines that

his adolescent rebellion is something to be proud of.

Technical advancement,

for which gigantism is often a metonym, is mistaken for improvement.

The Shard would, says Dalrymple,

be perfect for Dubai: its glassy vulgarity would hardly attract notice there. But London is not Dubai even if its prosperity is built, metaphorically, on sand.

Modernity

is the most fleeting of qualities, and useless for assessing the worth of anything. Fascism and nylon shirts were once modern, but no one would now call them the finest flower of the human mind or spirit.

Postcards from Southwark

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 08.51.34On one of his London perambulations close to the river, Dalrymple wanders near Blackfriars Bridge (not too far from the site of the Globe Theatre), finding himself in Hopton Street. Here he happens upon

a little building [67 Hopton Street] of the first half of the 18th century, not an architectural masterpiece by any means (as it was never meant to be), but charming and graceful, of human scale but not entirely without grandeur, well-mannered.

Immediately behind it has been built

a modern office block [71 Hopton Street] obviously inspired in style by the Centre Pompidou in Paris, though with bright yellow rather than red as the deliberately garish color.

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 09.01.51It overwhelms its neighbour,

as if setting out deliberately to humiliate it, to demonstrate to every passerby how much progress we have made in our power and structural engineering—to demonstrate that builders in the 18th century lived in the architectural equivalent of jahiliyya.

Thought has been given

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 08.55.03to the question of compatibility of the two buildings, and the decision taken to make the new building as incompatible as possible, to make a virtue of such incompatibility.

The constructive urge, says Dalrymple, reversing Bakunin’s dictum,

is also a destructive one.

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 09.08.14Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 09.06.45Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 09.23.01

Hopton Street, S.E.

Another view of Hopton Street

Illiberalism in the French labour market

It has turned London into one of the largest French-speaking cities in the world, Dalrymple writes.

Postcards from Stoke Newington

N16 perambulation

Dalrymple strolls through Stoke Newington,

where Hasidic Jews and Turkish Cypriots live cheek by jowl and where elegant 18th-century terraces coexist with the public housing that will secure the area forever from full gentrification. Roughness and refinement struggle in Manichæan fashion.

Azizia Mosque, Stoke Newington Road

Azizia Mosque (Stoke Newington Road)

18th-century terrace, Newington Green

Mid-17th-century terrace (Newington Green)

King's Crescent Estate, Stoke Newington

Late 20th-century terrace (King’s Crescent Estate)

History of Stokey points out that these are London's oldest surviving terraced houses

History of Stokey points out that these are London’s oldest surviving terraced houses

Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 12.52.45

Another view of 52-55 Newington Green. See The History of Stoke Newington Facebook page for more information on the quarter