If you're like me, you've hunkered down in your house to stay safe and keep the community safer. The new normal is waving across the street to your neighbors as you carefully gauge your distance, facetime with family and friends and lots of zoom meetings and conferencing. There are no more walks in the park, lunch with friends, client meetings or weekend plans. If you're lucky, you are able to walk outside easily while social distancing. Times, for sure are difficult and scary and many of us are struggling. We are social beings and doers. We are worried about the future and our friends and colleagues. There is so much uncertainty. I want to do my part to help, so I've written this article from last summer's trip to England to virtually transport you to the Thames River and London's South Bank.
Picture it, summer of 2019, London. One of the coolest cities I've been to. It's clean, great food, great people and has loads of expansive parks and public spaces and a fantastic waterfront. Above is the South Bank. A gorgeous tree-lined promenade with a generous walkway has plenty of space for vendors and people. It acts as the front yard to the various attractions along the South Bank. And there are many.
Let's start with the pedestrian footbridge that carried us across the river. The pedestrian bridge is a marvel all its own. I'm not an engineer so I can't explain the precise method of the construction, but the angled tension lines which meet at the top of the bridge to form mini mountain peaks has a rhythm that is breathtaking to watch (at least for me).
Let's continue with the entry stair. This stairwell connects above to a pedestrian bridge which spans the Thames River. The glass and metal railings are (1) clean and free of graffiti and (2) architecturally stunning. The change of materials on the landing and the steps is quite beautiful and the different levels in the plaza below make a dramatic entrance. Even the welcoming columns of Southbank Centre with its yellow sign and bold black font follow the angles of the stairs and plaza below.
Inside the Promenade
Benches align with the trees and the trash bins and the railing on one side while the second row of trees creates a perfectly comfortable and cozy space. This essentially creates three zones. The first is the sitting zone for looking at the water or to people watching. The center zone is for strolling and to people watching. And the interior zone is for the attractions and for people watching. Are you getting my point? I really do miss people watching in this self quarantine. Trolling twitter and instagram aren't a good substitute at least not here in Miami. If you live here you know what I mean!
Bursts of Color
Art wrapped trees and food trucks line the promenade.
Color and Texture Abound
Further down from this part of the South Bank I was inspired by the colors and textures of this spot. The red brick, the green living wall in the background, the trees, the pink flowers and the people. All the colorful people.
Restaurant Under the Bridge
And this restaurant was a delight to peer down on from one of the interior ramped walkways that occurred at the terminus of each bridge. It was reminiscent of the restaurants on the High Line.
The Path Continues: Old and New
One of the really lovely things about the South Bank is the variety of spaces and the ever changing public walkways. The image above illustrates how the path narrows with two structures on either side. One is a modern building while the other is an ancient structure with retail spaces beyond the archways. I like the modern black and white retail signs against the large old stones because its a good transition between the modern building and the original structure which sits opposite it.
Battersea Power Station [Click on the image above to scroll through.]
What I LOVE about this next series of images is the unexpected cool spaces underneath the bridges. Usually these places get less light and are typically unpleasant. Lots of trash and dirt and graffiti. But low and behold a ping pong table, florescent lights, shopping and restaurants. Think about it. The spaces a covered from the rain and offer easy access to the waterfront. Let's look at some more cool treatments under the bridges on the South Bank.
What Could Be Cooler?!!!
A narrow pedestrian bridge circles the supporting structure of the larger bridge above it. Let's see, high end materials are clean with a modern design and three overlapping designs that make up the bridge railing. One is the white upper banister and angled posts. Two is the rounded metal railing and tension lines. Three is the set of white bridge arches in the distance under the bridge in the distance. Granted the arches are not part of the railing, but they look like they are as you approach the high point of the bridge.
I leave you with this. An interactive fountain. Perched on a platform, you step up onto a blue, squishy floor. A large grid give each person enough space to safely stand in the center while water projects up in the air in a random pattern, but always in a perfect line. If you're inside the grid, you shall remain dry, but if you don't pay attention, you can easily get soaked. The fun is jumping over the grid when the water stops and getting stuck inside the grid with a magical reverse waterfall surrounding you. It was great fun. And one of us did get wet.
And by the way, the walk along the South Bank was my idea. Each member of my family picked one thing to do during our three days and four nights in London. Shopping, site seeing and urban plannering. Ok that's not really a word, but it could be a thing.
So while the kids are driving your crazy and your dog is totally confused by your constant presence and your office hours are up-ended, please know that I am thinking of all my friends and colleagues during these difficult times. Stay safe and more virtual touring to come soon.