Thursday, 21 June 2012
on either side of Hungerford Bridge
Hungerford Bridge is so much nicer now than it used to be. Remember when the footbridge was that creaking old rusty attachment to the eastern side of the railway bridge? Crossing it made me feel like Indiana Jones on an old rope bridge. What's more, it was on the side without the nice view of Big Ben. When they tore it down and built two brand new shiny bridges on either side of the railway bridge, I couldn't have been more thrilled, and I still am. Officially they are the Golden Jubilee bridges, though nobody I know calls them that. One day I will even draw them, but in the meantime here are my sketches of the amazing views they offer. Above, after a morning of shopping culminating in a very confused Pete struggling to survive at Piccadilly Circus (it's like Piccadilly Circus down there) I ended up at the calm of the river. The Thames has always been my place of escape, ever since I was a kid I would come to the South Bank, do some drawing. It looked quite different then. There were a lot more homeless people, living under the bridges. The whole south bank of the river has been transformed in my lifetime, and keeps on changing. Even Big Ben will probably be renamed; well, Big Ben's just the bell, but the tower people often call Big Ben is really called the Clock Tower, and they said recently they may change it to Elizabeth Tower to mark the Queen's diamond jubilee; people will still call if Big Ben. That's ok. Just over a decade ago it wasn't possible to sketch this view from this spot, and now it is. I sat out there, a bright but windy May afternoon, and took advantage.
The London skyline continues to change as well. After completing my sketch of Westminster (and Lambeth), I popped around to the eastern footbridge and did a double page spread in the other direction. It was pretty windy, and I stood for most of the sketch (sitting down you get a barrier blocking the view). I started in the middle, at St.Paul's, the constant. Waterloo Bridge in the middle, that was built by Giles Gilbert Scott (who gave us the red phone box - the arched roof is the same curve as the arches on the bridge), and Cleopatra's Needle, on the Victoria embankment to the right, centuries older than Cleopatra herself. In the City you can see the NatWest Tower - sorry, it's called Tower 42 now (but still looks like the NatWest Bank symbol from above) - and of course the Gherkin (or '30 St.Mary Axe' as it's really called). Buildings keep going up. Coming soon will be the Pinnacle, a building in the City that twists and turns and blocks the view. The biggest and brightest and sharpest of them all is the Shard, that large 1984-ish triangle in the right hand of the panorama.
This whole panorama, a two-page Moleskine spread, took me a couple of hours, what with squinting to observe, waiting for people to pass by, and fighting the winds. I wonder what it will look like the next time I come to sketch this skyline?