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Posts tagged London
(photography by Jeffrey Kilmer)
Far removed from China and the Middle East, where super-tall buildings are sprouting like weeds, there’s a spectacular 1,017-foot tall, 72-story glass tower taking shape. It’s the London Shard, under construction in the south side of the city near London Bridge. Designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, the Shard will be Europe’s tallest building. But unlike so many other contemporary skyscrapers, which are obsessed with sheer height, the Shard has rather complex ambitions. Its state-of-the-art frame and cladding systems were designed to maximize energy and materials conservation. Its planning, begun in 2000, was refined after 9/11 to incorporate stringent fireproofing and exit guidelines. And it wasn’t conceived as a stack of office floors but as a kind of vertical village, with atriums to connect interior spaces. The tower will house offices below and, above them, restaurants, a hotel, and observation galleries. Right now floor framing has been completed and cladding and construction of the pinnacle are underway, with the building scheduled for completion in May 2012.
Though the Shard won’t challenge skyscrapers like the Burj Khalifa or the Shanghai World Financial Center in height, it’s bound to eclipse them in character. Similar to One World Trade Center in New York City, which is also in mid-construction, the Shard has gently canting walls that give it a distinctive, pyramid-like shape. But it has a much smaller, triangular footprint than the New York tower, and doesn’t resolve itself into a neat geometry. Its sides will taper to slender, asymmetrical panes at the very top that pull away from the core like petals. Renzo Piano is renown for making buildings with simple, striking volumes and finely-layered glass skins, so there’s little doubt that the Shard’s exterior shell will be beautifully rendered. Its tall, attenuated profile will furnish a fresh icon for the city. And the tower will make a graceful partner for the faceted, cigar-shaped tower that architect Norman Foster built in 2003 across the river at 30 St. Mary Axe, better known as the Gherkin. Like that other tower, the Shard will wear its not-entirely-flattering nickname with pride.
Sigmund Freud’s office has been wonderfully recreated in the movie A Dangerous Method. It’s decked out with blood-colored curtains, leather-bound volumes, dark wood furniture and ancient talismans, so that there’s barely space for the doctor to sit, or think, inside. And it’s a dramatic contrast to Karl Jung’s (movie) office, with its pristine white walls and scrubbed oak floors. Freud was thinking modern and living Victorian, searching for scientific clarity while weighed down by all of literature and history. The sumptuously shadowed, cluttered room might be the perfect (movie) symbol for his mind. I visited the Freud Museum in London, once, years ago, on a drizzly afternoon. It’s Freud’s old house and office, which his son, the architect Ernst Freud, remodeled and enlarged with a small sunroom. I remember walking uphill from the Camden tube station through winding residential blocks, ringing the bell, then being inspected and admitted by a smiling, overattentive docent, who followed me silently from room to room.
Freud’s consultation room at the museum is furnished with the books, artworks and furniture he brought with from his famed office at Bergasse 19 in Vienna, which has also been turned into a museum. His couch, the most mythologized piece of furniture in Western history, was not at all what I expected. It was small and lumpy; it did not beckon me to lie down on it and surrender myself to my unconscious. It had a tapestry thrown over it, the same way college students throw tablecloths over furniture they drag into their dorm rooms from the sidewalk. Yet seeing it was tremendously moving. Freud left Vienna for London in 1938, for the obvious reasons, when he was 82 years old. He was suffering from jaw cancer and a portion of his face had been removed, so that he could barely speak. It’s tragic that this great man was was uprooted at this stage of his life. And it’s poignant that he recreated his life at Bergasse — piece by piece — in this stodgy brick house in suburban London.