The British photographer Lewis Bush, using the technique of double-exposure, has been shooting scenes of highrise construction in London that might (at his suggestion) bring to mind the eternal night of scenes from the film Blade Runner. He describes his work as “less a symphony and more of a requiem, a funeral march for a city that might appear to be booming on the surface, but, inwardly, is facing an almost terminal decline.” In an essay for the British Journal of Photography, “How London’s new buildings show how the city faces terminal decline,” about an exhibit of his work, he writes:
Cities are places of constant change. It’s the nature of them, and it’s what makes them attractive. But not all change is equal; change can be organic, but it can be pernicious and abnormal.
London has always been a city in flux. But, for anyone living in London, the transformations of the past few years are impossible to ignore. Huge swathes of the city have been redeveloped, remarkable buildings demolished, long-standing communities displaced.
This current period of activity is unique, for it is is undoing many of the things that make the city unique.
My first visit to London was in 1979. Even then, long before my career writing about architecture, I was appalled by the infill buildings that had arisen since the war. The Prince of Wales was right in 1987 when he said: “You have to give this much to the Luftwaffe. When it knocked down our buildings, it didn’t replace them with anything more offensive than rubble.” Britain never seems to have considered restoring what was lost to the Blitz, or even of respecting what was left. For London, that decision was the beginning of the end. With has camera, Bush documents a London that is living beyond its intrinsic demise.
Much of what made London uniquely beautiful remains but is pocked by modernist infill and overwhelmed by modernist towers. The fate of London demonstrates not the evils of skyscrapers but of modern architecture itself, which undermines the sensibility of London even without necessarily eliminating the historic artifacts of its beauty. I am not sure whether Bush would agree that the devil is less in the towers he shoots than in their modernism. If not, then he has evidently spent years documenting a phenomenon that he may not fully understand. Which does not take away from the power of his photography.
Bush’s photography of London, from a book he’s assembling called Metropole, can be seen until Jan. 15 in an exhibit at the the London Metropolitan University’s Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design.
Toppers doffed to Christopher Liberatos for sending a link to Lewis Bush’s exhibit to Tradarch.
[This post goes onto my blog but not out to my blog send list recipients until my email server quits intercepting my bulk posts under the suspicion that they are spam. I am sorry to say that for the time being those who want to read my posts will have to visit my blog, or get them on social media. I will see if I can send to TradArch and Pro-Urb lists without punishment. – David Brussat]