Tag Archives: City

The Pinnacle Of Atrophy

Imagine my surprise when, after over a year of inactivity, I saw the cranes towering above the Pinnacle construction site, actually moving, on my morning stroll to work this morning.

As I have reported previously, the Pinnacle is due to be the tallest building within the square mile of the City of London, upon its completion, but building work on the central concrete spine has been stalled at the 7th floor since January of 2012 due to a lack of funding as a consequence of pre-letting contractual terms. Heaven only knows how much the ‘leasing’ of three lumbering giants of cranes, lying static on the site is costing, but it is surely affecting the bottom line of the capital implementation costs.

The giants awake
The giants awake

Yesterday and today, there was visible activity with the behemoth structures, but there did not seem to be any other signs of ‘life’ around the site, so I am dubious as to whether this indicates progress, or merely a twitch prior to deeper sleep. Indeed, there has been nothing in the media recently regarding the recommencement of construction, so I pessimistically suspect the latter.

If people coursing through the streets are the life blood of a city, and the buildings are its muscles, we should certainly be worried about the atrophy in our capital city at the moment. There is some growth, but it is by no means consistent and the amount of stagnation is worrying with unused offices for let a constant reminder of the hard times we are currently experiencing.

It seems the recession is affecting all sorts of areas and nowhere, especially construction and infrastructure is immune from the impact. Investment is needed in these areas to kick start the economy from its current flatlining though, and the sooner the Government releases supply side reforms and demand side incentives, the better.

Mini Bridges Run

There are many runs that I used to love doing, especially around the City of London.

Indeed, if you accept that you have to run in order to train, etc., that the easiest and most convenient time to run is a lunchtime, and also that this means running on streets., there are little places better, IMHO, than London.

Bridges over the Thames
Bridges over the Thames

There is just so much variety to experience, if you look for it, of course, and every day you could run a different route.

Runners tend to be creatures of habit to a certain extent though and I’m really no different in that respect. I guess there is comfort in running the same routes so you can concentrate of technique and performance rather than city navigation and urban map reading skills. Still, having been running in the City for the last 7 years at least, I have huge variety of routes at my disposal, depending upon my mood or distance to run, although one of the things it is always easy to do is to add distance as necessary!

The variety comes from the huge range of ages of buildings and eras captured in the Capital. Sure somewhere like Rome might have a greater range, and New York Higher buildings, and perhaps Paris comes close in terms of different epochs represented in such a relatively small area. That is why London is so popular, that, and of course the cosmopolitan people that represent the city as well.

Anyway, I digress.

One of my favourite runs in the past was to take in as many bridges as possible down the Thames, starting at Tower Bridge and moving west on whichever bank is appropriate to and then swapping after crossing at the next bridge along – Tower Bridge past the Tower of London, London Bridge past the Shard on one side and The Golden Hinde on the other, Southwark Bridge, Millennium Bridge past the Tate Modern and St Pauls, Blackfriars Bridge where the new station is being built and Waterloo Bridge after passing the South Bank, National Festival Hall. This was my route today but in the past, and hopefully in the future I would also take in Hungerford Bridge, near Somerset House, and Westminster Bridge after the London Eye and with the classical view of the Houses of Parliament, before turning back and performing the whole route in a style which resembles a DNA double helix ladder from the GPS plots of the route.

As my pace improves I will be able to cover greater distances in a lunchtime, but even now, the pleasure quotient is rising rapidly, as my running slowly becomes easier again and I have less difficulty on each run remembering why I subject myself to the tourists, wind chill and hard surfaces

Architecture Update

When I was running round the streets of London at lunchtime today, I realised I had been remiss in updating my avid readers (both of them), on the current situation with the architectural renaissance that is occurring in the City of London at the moment.

In the past I have written about the Pinnacle, the Cheesegrater, the Walkie-Talkie or Pint, amongst others, which will shortly be joining the now famous Gherkin and the more recently completed Heron Tower, Bishopsgate Tower and the Shard which have significantly altered the London skyline over the last 10 years or so.

My pace run today took me past all of the above, whilst also taking me around and over some of the more traditional London landmarks such as Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral and even a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hinde. When I am totally grumpy with having to commute to work, I simply have to remind myself how lucky I am to be able to run around so many historic sites everyday.

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My run was actually really good – the training with a backpack and on the hills, must be having a good impact since I am thankfully starting to find it easier to add a little pace into my runs. I actually managed to kick out a few kms at an average of 4:15 with which I was more than happy.

The buildings that are being worked on have been taking shape nicely.

The Cheesegrater or 122 Leadenhall has a distinctive wedge shaped design facing south to the Thames, and is right next to the Lloyds of London building. This building is unusual in its construction for the present in that most steel buildings have central concrete cores around which the steelwork is built, but the Cheesegrater is a ‘megaframe’ construction, and will be the largest of its kind in the world and it will also feature exterior glass lifts like those on the Lloyds building. The building is progressing well, and ‘topping out’ is expected shortly. The builder has also started the glass cladding on the lower floors.

The same level of success cannot be claimed for the Pinnacle, construction of which has now been stalled for nearly a year due to a lack of pre-letting arrangements. This problem seems to have been resolved recently and work will ‘potentially’ resume shortly. The distinctive spiral form of the Pinnacle will dominate the London skyline, upon its completion, as the tallest building in the City of London, and the second tallest in both The UK and the European Union, after the Shard.

In what seems to be the fickle world of commercial real estate ‘the Pint’, ‘Walkie-Talkie’ or 20 Fenchurch Street, is also progressing well. Topping out of the metal framework was completed in Dec 2012 and the glass cladding is now over half way up the 36 floor construction the novel design of which by the Uraguan architect, Rafael Viñoly is denoted by the top floors having more area than those lower down, although this is probably because the upper floors, with their better views over the Thames, will command a significantly higher lease rate.

The Shard, in Tooley Street south of the Thames close to London Bridge, was inaugurated on the 5 July 2012, but will open to the public shortly (Feb 2013) when the viewing gallery between the 68th and 72nd floors will afford spectacular views over London – sounds like one for the diary.

Another Chase

I suppose I needed to record this ‘event’.

It is significant, not in the distance it entailed, nor really in the ‘blistering’ pace in which I completed it!

The major point of this race was that it was the first race I have completed since my DNF nearly two years ago.

It was more memorable for other reasons though 🙂

I did not have high hopes for the J.P.Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge this year, but you never know what is going to happen when the adrenaline starts to course though your limbs and anyway I had made a commitment to my work colleagues. In previous years the best time I had managed for the short 5.6km run around Battersea Park was 22:13 – a shade under 4:00 / km. this year I was not expecting to be able to run much under 5:00 / km, with a lack of speed training and a rather more intense desire to guard my left leg from any further harm for the sake of what is effectively a training run.

So, imagine my surprise when, at 5 km I glanced down and my watch registered less that 22:00 – expectation is a funny thing 🙂 I had set out to take things really easily, but in the end this had been a better ploy than if I had gone all out to beat some of my previous times, in which case I would have failed at the first hurdle, so to speak. The run was muddy, but nothing compared to some of the boggy races I had done in the past, and anyway, I had trail shoes on, so maybe that helped a touch 🙂

The other reason for the race likely to take a place in the Pomeroy ‘Hall of Infamous Races’ is that it was the worst weather I remember for some time – great for running in, but pretty awful when you stop, and although I changed into the freebie tee-shirt and put on a dry long-sleeve top as well, I very quickly started to get cold and left soon after the rather damp picnic had started.

Everyone had fun, but this damp and cold summer is starting to get even the most stalwart of us Brits down!

Warming Up

My last day at work for a few days, and a quick (short) run run planned.

Wednesday’s is normally my day for a pace or interval run and lunchtime was my only chance today.

At the beginning of the year we had a period of unseasonably mild weather, which the whole country enjoyed, with the exception of the the local water authorities, who, when the weather finally took a turn for the worse, declared the inevitable drought condition and hosepipe ban. The weather has been pretty non-descript ever since, being sometimes grey, sometimes drizzle and sometimes rain.

Heat wave in the City

The British are very accepting of the weather and the climate in general, so there haven’t really been any complaints about the fact it is nearly the end of May, nearly the start of summer and yet the temperatures are still as one might have expected for several months earlier, the occasional morning frosts and the central heating still kicking in to remind us how accustomed we have become, as a race in general, to the control and invariability of our climate requirements. People at work have not started complaining about the public transport saunas they would normally be using to travel to work at this time of year, or the fact they have still been wearing overcoats, well past the time of their consignment to the back of a wardrobe.

So, although the marble steps and water feature adorning Exchange Square were suddenly full of people bathing in the rays of our nearest stellar companion today, I was distracted enough to not think about the consequences of a pace run under such conditions.

Until I stepped onto the street

Maybe because I had run the day before, and maybe because of the sudden quantum leap in temperature, I felt heavy legged and sluggish today. Indeed, compared to the exuberance of my pace run a week ago, along a similar route, I felt like a different person.

The rest of the populous seemed to be sensibly enjoying ice cold, wheat and barley derived beverages in the local drinking establishments around the periphery of Exchange Square, so perhaps summer is finally here, but either way I’ll have to use the opportunities as they arise and take a lot more of this ‘punishment’ before I hit the desert next year 😉

Spoke too soon!

As I mentioned the other day in one of my posts, it is nice to see the changing landscape around the City as I walk to and from work everyday.

Under Construction

I had been wondering though, why the Pinnacle construction which I mentioned did not seem to be making a lot of progress (after all with so many floors of the backbone to construct as well as the rest of the ‘skin’, my current estimate for completion would be about 2020!)

However, all became clear today when I read that construction has been postponed for the second time as the agents are having trouble pre-letting the minimum amount of floor space (current estimates are at about 10%) in order to secure further finance. Quite what they are going to do with what is there if it doesn’t continue is anybody’s guess. Maybe I’ll investigate and do a future article on proposed use of defunct and derelict structures in London.

Yesterday I did a speed work session in the gym, only 5k but enough to get my legs moving – I must try that zero-G treadmill sometime soon – I’m sure that would help. Still, I was pleased with my time during the speed part of the workout 10 x 200m @ upwards of 4:00/km – it’s coming back slowly.

I followed up the yesterday’s session with an easy run outside today, where yet again I resurrected a familiar route. About 8km from work through Moorgate to the Bank of England then towards St Paul’s where I crossed the Thames over Millennium Bridge and then followed the South Bank before crossing back over the Thames at Waterloo Bridge and following the Embankment back to St Paul’s and back to the start. The sights I get to see are phenomenal really and I often have to remind myself how lucky I am to be able to do this on a regular basis.

The trains were up the creek again tonight; some poor unfortunate soul had decided to end their life and in the process traumatise another driver by placing themselves in the path of several hundred tonnes of speeding locomotive (no contest really) and reek havoc on the branch of the network from Guildford to Petersfield, not to mention the thousands of commuters affected.

Training and Planets

The late mornings seem to be catching 😮

My alarm went off for me to get out for a run this morning before work, but Liz had uncharacteristically not woken up with her alarm so I said she could go out and I would run at lunchtime, so at least she got her run in.

Tower Bridge, London

I managed to get out on the streets again at lunchtime, a familiar run from work to the Thames, across Tower Bridge, then along the embankment at Southwark to London Bridge where I cross back and then along the north bank of the Thames before braving the cobblestones around the Tower of London. before picking up the road back to work. Only 5 miles or so, but a good lunchtime run.

On the way home I saw Venus high and bright on the western horizon, and I am reminded that we have quite a few planets in view at the moment. Venus is an evening star, Jupiter is still obvious in the early evening sky and the vivid red of Mars is also unmissable on the eastern horizon mid-evening, just below the ‘back foot’ of Leo, the lion. Saturn follows Mars just after midnight in Virgo and I think will be at opposition (i.e. opposite the Sun when viewed from Earth and hence closer, larger and brighter than it will be for another 12 months or so) sometime in April – I’ll check that one.

I got home early enough to look after the little one’s while Liz took Joshua and Morgan swimming, but they were already engrossed in Lilo and Stitch, so I finished making some bread for tomorrow.

In the evening I had swimming again which went a lot better this week. I am actually starting to enjoy swimming a little bit more, as it is becoming less ‘drown-prevention’ than it had been in past – at least as far as my front crawl is concerned. Still a few more months before I I just reel off the lengths without worrying about it though. I’d love to be able to just swim a couple of miles front crawl without thinking about it.

At The Pinnacle

One of the (many) advantages of coming to London every day is that one gets to see the skyline as it metamorphoses itself into a new form.

Slowly, and almost imperceptibly over the last few years the skyline has been changing after the easing of the height restrictions in 1938 (which nevertheless still tried to maintain historic views and hence became know as St Paul’s heights) new edifices have sprung up to replace the older crumbling buildings. Through necessity and an almost insatiable demand for office space within the Square mile of the City, architects have fallen over themselves to produce buildings to dominate the skyline into the 21st Century.

St Paul’s Cathedral, finished in 1710 after the old cathedral was burned down in the great fire of London (1666) remained the tallest building in London for over 250 years, until eclipsed by the BT Tower in 1962. This was followed shortly after by Centre Point in 1966 and then Tower 42 (Natwest Tower) in 1980. During the development of Canary Wharf, One Canada Square took over the mantle of the highest building in London and the UK in 1991.

Over the last few years, since opening in 2004, the now iconic Gherkin (30, St. Mary Axe) has heralded in a new era of building construction, some more conventional than others, but all fundamentally modern designs. These include Broadgate Tower (2008) and Heron Tower (2011) which is currently the tallest building in the City of London.

Currently under construction are 2 notable buildings including The Shard which at 310m (1017ft) will become the tallest building in the EU when opened this year, and The Pinnacle, which I pass every day on my walk from Bank to Liverpool Street along Threadneedle street, which in 2014 at 288m (945ft) will become the highest in the City of London.

So that was my walk to work today! It is quite interesting to see how they push up the floors on the Pinnacle; I haven’t worked out how long each floor of the concrete ‘spine’ is taking them at the moment, but it is not more than a couple of weeks each. I’m sure you’ll hear more about this over the next few months.

Technology Trial

NFS Shift 2 by EA Games

A quiet journey in today, but the funniest thing that happened was that I sat next to a guy playing a motor sport racing game on his iPad, NFS Shift 2 from EA Games. I have to say the graphics and flow were excellent for a mobile device, but it did look rather odd to see this iPad twisting and turning like a steering wheel to my right as the rest of the commuters and myself were digesting our morning dose of City A.M., Metros and Financial Times, with the odd smattering of Telegraph, Times and Guardian thrown in. That wasn’t the funny thing though. Although I thought little more of my morning journey next to Mr Schumacher, the irony was not lost on me when at 12:00 midday, I received my ’12 Days of Christmas’ download notification from iTunes, and what should the free download for today happen to be? NFS Shift 2 for iPad 🙂 – needless to say I immediately downloaded it and will try it out with the boys later – a bit of a step up from Mariokarts!

My gym session was much less entertaining. I had planned an interval session of about 6k and chose to do 400m intervals. After a bit of a warmup I only managed 3 reps at my target pace (which I am NOT going to share with you!) before almost expiring. In my defence I have been recovering from a cold which has been blocking me up for the last couple of weeks and I was thrown by having to visit the cario equipment on the second floor of the gym, something I haven’t done for a good 30 months or so. Have you noticed how runners seem to always have explanations and excuses ready for their potential impending failure at the start of a run, especially races; in fact come to think of it, it is practically obligatory to toe the start-line and start discussing how badly your training has gone, whether your little finger has recovered from the frost-bite you had last February or whether the altitude induced stress fracture you had to the anvil in your inner ear really will heal before the London Marathon next year. I just had a cold. So I called a day early and did 20 minutes of physio exercises instead. Gym honour retained.

The trains were delayed again today. It seems like any breath of wind over 2mph is likely to upset the signalling network at this time of year. Or maybe they’re just waiting to see what type of snow falls in a few weeks time and, let’s face it, it’s hardly worth moving all the rolling stock around only to leave it somewhere else. I’ve only been commuting for about 6 years – imagine how cynical I would be if I been living the Waterloo dream for 20 years!

Given the delays, I decided to try to update my blog on the train today, something I am going to have to figure out if I am going to do this for the whole year. The wireless hot-spot of my iPhone has failed me though and doesn’t seem to want to play ball. Probably something nasty in the wireless setup of my (Bank) laptop which I’ll be unable to circumvent without contravening several million security guidelines and a similar number of the rules of the Geneva convention. Probably.

The children were just bathing when I eventually got home and since it is back to school tomorrow – Liz is doing cartwheels around the room at this point 🙂 they have just bedded down for an ‘early-ish’ night.


Police Vans and commuting

Well, somebody really didn’t want to go to work this morning!…and it wasn’t only me 🙂

On the corner of the High Street which I pass on the way to work, a police car had stopped a motorist and another was holding the traffic back from coming down the same road. Not sure what was going on there, but I’m certain they were frustrating a lot of journey’s back to work, with people not being able to use one of the main routes through Guildford.

Back to porridge

Still there were a lot of grumpy faces on the 07:54 into Waterloo as well as the January blues starts to set in 🙁

The signs of Christmas have all disappeared along the streets of London; all the decorations and lights have been removed and the only visible signs that the festive season has occurred at all, is the occasional piece of torn wrapping paper drifting in the wind and the pine needles adorning the business doorways, testament to the final struggle of the myriad of seasonal firs being extracted and taken to do their bit for the City recycling targets.

I was a bit concerned when I actually made it to work through the windy streets of London which, despite the date, were not all that crowded; I found that my security card had ceased to function. In the end it turned out to be just a glitch in my pass which was fine after a reset, and not some subliminal attempt to indicate the termination of my employment!

As I was downing my breakfast today, a particularly frugal carton of porridge after the excess of th last couple of weeks, I downloaded the new Firefox browser today – new year, new browser and all that – how do Mozilla (the Firefox creators) manage to put out so many updates nowadays? Looks good at first glance, but then thinking about it, it doesn’t look much different to the old version. Emperor’s new clothes anyone? 🙂

Jupiter, a Gherkin and the moon

I got my aerobic cross-training sandwich in at lunchtime; elliptical trainer warmup with a bit of physio in the middle and cycling cool-down. Easy session really. Pace tomorrow though 😮

A good day at work, although I was thrown a couple of times by the fact I still thought it was Monday. There must be a name for that; Xmas lag? Holiday hallucinations? Lapland lapse? Still I only arranged one meeting too many and double booked myself twice so the day wasn’t a complete disaster.

I am lucky enough to have a relatively easy walk to the tube across town, and I regularly see unexpected sights. Take today for example, the Moon and Jupiter framing the Gherkin, (30, Mary Axe) in the City. Now there’s something you don’t see everyday.

Something that is a little more common though, is the trains playing up from Waterloo, although in fairness it hasn’t happened for some weeks and the weather today all around the UK (not just the South East) has been appalling. There was a tree on the line at Godalming this evening but why this seemed to cause so many problems with the trains 40 miles up the line was anyone’s guess, and I have a sneaking suspicion it was more likely related to guard not turning up or something after the Christmas break or something equally mundane.

Anyway, a pace run to look forward to tomorrow and if that goes well I might start to share some stats with you about how badly my speed has deteriorated during my convalescence, and how Christmas has affected my weight 🙂