About Me

"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"

Monday, 3 September 2012

I stood on Battersea Bridge and wept

Well, not quite. To say I felt sick and sad at heart would be more accurate, looking again at that magnificent stretch of the Thames as it sweeps around from Wandsworth Bridge to Chelsea Reach.

Early winter evenings with a low sun and some cloudscape, the view west here can be astonishing - the Thames is still wide enough at this point to seem like a truly great river, and not the wealthy playboys' amenity it seems to become upstream of Teddington.

That view, to my mind, was only slightly compromised by the towers of the World's End estate in the 70s, or by the silly Costa Brava look of the 1980s folly Chelsea Harbour.

But since the mid-90s it's the south bank that has offended most, as great lumps of riverside residential development  emerged like diseased teeth from the mudbanks of Vauxhall,  Battersea and Wandsworth. The view - sorry about this cliché - has been yuppified.

Immediately to the east you get Norman Foster's offices and the same practice's doughnut shaped building, which are each elegant and interesting buildings.

But to the west, all hell. The hideous Wimpy-style townhouses of Morgans's Walk  set the tone (I remember when it was still the crucible factory, somewhere around there Nick Drake was photographed for the cover of Five Leaves Left). Battersea Church Street. Up the fucking junction, remember?

Beyond the beautiful church (thank Christ, it is still there), there is an unbroken row of show-off, stupid, ugly, shiny projects, none of them in itself quite as foul as the stuff at Vauxhall - but in a way their lumpish, mean-minded, stupid inadequacy is all the more offensive than that brash turbo-yuppie nonsense on the site of the old pleasure gardens.

Worst of all, though, is how it affects the view from the bridges. Cannot help feeeling that old Whistler etc would have wept blood.

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