Tagged : London

The Gherkin - 30 st Mary Axe - Norman Foster

London’s Gherkin

It’s an iconic symbol of London and one of my favourite buildings. London’s Gherkin, designed by Lord Norman Foster. Last week I visited London so I had to check out the Gherkin… again.

Yep. Again.

Since I love this building I visit the Gherkin every time I visit London. And every time I take many, perhaps too many pictures. This years winner is the photo pictured above.

Why a superprovince isn’t the solution

I’m concerned about something for quite some time now. Currently, there’s a discussion in the Netherlands about the so called ‘superprovince’. The Dutch government is planning to merge three provinces into a single big one. This so called superprovince includes the city of Amsterdam and houses over 4 million people.

It’s not the actual merger I’m concerned about. No, it’s the reason why. Doing this based on a vision is great. But the Dutch government appears to have none… unless you count ‘money’ as being a vision. Politicians argue it’s more efficient to centralize the government, which means less managers and more efficiency, thus more decisiveness and a better competitiveness. This results in more jobs and even more money.

But… if a merger of three provinces makes governing more efficient… why not merge five provinces? Or seven? Or why not all twelve?

“We have to do this”

That’s where the “we have to do this” argument comes in. I love this argument, since it’s one of the most commonly used arguments. The beauty is, you can use it for anything. Think, let’s say, of the airline merger which was announced last week. American and US Airways want to merge because the competition merged a couple of years ago. If the argument can be used by commercial airlines, it most surely can be used by the Dutch government as well.

So, why does the Dutch government “have to do this”? Well, competition from other countries and cities is growing stronger. Think of Paris and London, who try to attract the same Fortune 500 companies as we do. If we make Amsterdam and our main metropolitan area stronger (the superprovince), we’ll stay ‘in the game’.

Well, that makes sense. Maybe the superprovince isn’t such a bad idea after all. One question: What happens when our competitors respond by growing bigger as well?

San Francisco Bay Area merger

Recently I found an example which illustrates what happens then. It turns out the San Francisco Bay Area, which is the 13th largest economy of the world, wants to merge for almost identical reasons (but on a larger scale). This merger of the Bay area, which includes the city of San Francisco and Silicon Valley (home to companies like Apple, Google, Facebook and eBay) would result in a superprovince which houses 6,9 million people and gives them a lead over cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City and London.

Wait, hold on a second. London? Are the British going to be affected by this on-other-side-of-the-world-merger? If so, London has to act in order to stay in the game. And if London acts… we have to do something too. Maybe we can merge our superprovince with another one or two provinces… That’ll give us a change. Right?!

Why follow the others?

This is exactly why I’m concerned by the current situation. Ultimately, we’re forced to follow the others’ lead, grow when they grow and increase efficiency when they do the same. And this cycle repeats itself over and over again. Instead, I believe the Netherlands should focus on its own strengths. Doing so, it’s good to realize we have a major advantage. We’re a (densely populated) country with about 17 million people, which should make us competitive with about any western city or region in the world. Hence, let’s only merge things that make sense.

Why not establish a true national police force, a nationwide fire-response system, a few highly specialized hospitals at strategic locations, a nationwide public transit system which encompasses the entire country and a single national park service.

This leaves us with municipalities. They’re ideal to take care of services which require to be close to the people. Like social services, education and basic health care services. This makes it absolutely clear what a municipality is… it’s the local government.

A local and central government

I believe we don’t need another superprovince. Instead, let’s emphasize and strengthen the areas in which the local an central government excel at. Local government is close to the people while the central government is all about big plans and the big picture. Isn’t that all we need for a small country like the Netherlands?

OneMinute – Stadium Arsenal Football Club

During the past years I visited many football stadiums. Not because I like football that much. No, I just like to check out the architecture (and my brother is the biggest football fan out there, which definitely comes in handy). I went to some of the biggest stadiums like the ones of FC Barcelona and AC Milan, visited stadiums with a great history like the Fulham Stadium in London and went to very advanced stadiums like the Amsterdam Arena which has a removable roof.

This summer I visited the stadium of Arsenal Football Club in London (or Emirates Stadium as it’s named officially). It’s not the biggest stadium out there (it seats ‘only’ 60.000 people), it doesn’t have the biggest history (it opened in 2006) nor it’s the most advanced stadium (it doesn’t have a removable roof so to speak). Nonetheless, the Arsenal stadium is one of the most beautifully designed stadiums I ever visited.

Just to mention a few; I love the curved roof, the exterior glass and the concrete walls in combination with the Arsenal-red. Although many stadiums are (sadly) designed like bunkers, this one seemed very transparent. Please enjoy OneMinute number twelve.

OneMinute – The British Museum

OK. I admit. I like the work of British architect Norman Foster. During the past weeks I made OneMinute videos of his bridge and tube station. Today I’d like to add a third Foster-building to the ever growing OneMinute series. This OneMinute video will be about the Great Court of the British Museum.

The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world. Oh, admission is free!

The Queen Elizabeth II Great Court is a covered square at the centre of the British Museum designed by Foster and Partners. The Great Court opened in December 2000 and is the largest covered square in Europe. The roof is a glass and steel construction with 1,656 uniquely shaped panes of glass. At the centre of the Great Court is the Reading Room vacated by the British Library, its functions now moved to St Pancras.

Today, the British Museum has grown to become one of the largest Museums in the world, covering an area of over 75,000 m2 of exhibition space, showcasing approximately 50,000 items from its collection. There are nearly one hundred galleries open to the public, representing 2 miles (3.2 km) of exhibition space. However, the lack of a large temporary exhibition space has led to the £100 million World Conservation and Exhibition Centre to provide one and to concentrate all the Museum’s conservation facilities into one Conservation Centre. This project was announced in July 2007, with the architects Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners. It was granted planning permission in December 2009 and is expected for completion by 2013.

Enjoy the British Museum in just one minute!

OneMinute – Millennium Bridge

It’s 325 meters long, 4 meters wide and probably one of the best known bridges in London. I’m talking about the Millennium Bridge, designed by famous British architect Norman Foster.

During my visit to London, about a month ago, I just had to walk over this famous bridge. The bridge alignment is such that a clear view of St. Pauls Cathedral is presented from across the river, framed by the bridge supports.

Please enjoy the Millennium Bridge in just one minute!