diamond geezer

 Saturday, January 28, 2017

A photo I took on my trip to Battersea has become my most-favourited Flickr photo ever. It's also become my 6th most-viewed photo, in two days flat, which is quite some going. And because I never even included the photo in my post on the blog, I thought I'd rectify that now.

This is the new American Embassy in Nine Elms. The location was announced in 2008 under President Bush, the design was fixed in 2010 under President Obama, and completion is due later this year under President Trump.

In case you were wondering...
The chancery is a transparent, crystalline cubic form atop a colonnade. The crystalline form is simultaneously efficient and evocative. It represents the optimum ratio of maximum volume within minimum perimeter with resulting cost and energy management benefits. Its precise dimensions have been selected to afford the optimum distance for visitors and occupants to daylight and view. As a pure geometry, the cubic form is an ancient signifier of solidity, strength and permanence, all qualities of our democracy.
As for the pretty lattice covering the walls, that's called scrim.
Its surface is given form through the interface between a faceted external solar shading and collection system and the blast resistant glazing. This crystal-like ethylene-tetrafluroethylene scrim has been optimized to shade interiors from east, west and south sun while admitting daylight and framing large open view portals to the outside. Its pattern visually fragments the façade while it intercepts unwanted solar gain. The design of this scrim works vertically, horizontally and diagonally to eliminate directionality from the building’s massing. The scrim also renders the largely transparent façades visable to migratory birds to discourage bird-strikes.
I'm assuming 'visable' is an American word for 'can be seen', or else related to the issue of travel documents, previously unnecessary for avian migrants.

I took my photograph from the service road round the back of Waitrose off Nine Elms Lane. One day this will be the bustling centre of a new residential-cum-diplomatic district, with a green boulevard and cycleway sweeping through. For now it's the outside of a building site, or rather several building sites, as blocks of luxury flats spread along a vast area to the north of the railway. Many are substantially complete, with those around the supermarket already occupied, while others so far exist only as umpteen-storey liftshafts. The street corner is busy with workmen taking a break, workmen parked up in vans and workmen enjoying a fag, all of whom will stare at you if you attempt to take a photo.

I had to find the right spot to stand to ensure two intrusive streetlamps to either side didn't encroach in the frame. I have cropped the original slightly, to remove a pole, another crane and some safety railings. But the tiny cargo dangling from the crane was a coincidence, as was turning up with the angle of the sun just right. Take enough photos and some of them will 'work', but that's a very subjective thing, and it's rare for admirers to pile in.

Flickr has a daily feature called Explore where yesterday's 500 'most interesting' photos appear in a lengthy scrolling gallery. Feature in this list and the world descends, for 24 hours, to take a closer look and leave over-appreciative comments. But these days it barely takes half a dozen 'favourites' for a photo to be sucked into the updraught, whereas previously it took a lot more, and all because Flickr's userbase is on the decline. For example, in 2005 when Flickr was new I managed to get five photos into Explore, but then only three in the entire period from 2006 to 2011. The Olympics permitted me three Explores in 2012, then I got three again in 2013, and six in each of 2014 and 2015. But last year I managed twelve, because the bar for inclusion is somewhat lower than before, and now January 2017 has delivered again.

My American Embassy photo now appears mid-table in what Flickr claims are my Top 50 Most Interesting photographs. I'm pleased to see the Thames Estuary sea forts still at number 1 (and 15 and 22), Blackfriars' impossible yellow lines at number 2 and a Canvey Island gas tank at number 3. There is at least one photograph of Blackpool in the collection, but taken from the top of the tower, and definitely not of the pier. Quite what the Night Tube roundel, a collection of Red Noses and Bagpuss are doing in the list, however, I'm not sure.

Whatever, it's nice to know we still live in a country where taking photographs of the American Embassy is permitted, even encouraged. And if any of you fancy painting my photo in watercolours, particularly if you're famous, perhaps you could ask first.

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