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The Shard glimpsed behind St Magnus the Martyr from Fish Street Hill on the other side of the Thames

From the southern end of London Bridge



Entrance to the British Library's courtyard - a sophisticated and reassuring space adjacent to a very busy main road

Always more the other side, more knowledge, more money? - It's reality flipped, a human construct, the eye of a needle .... walk straight through

As you are the Nomade

From September 2021 London has had its own pair of Jaume Plensa statues but whereas the Nomade towers over his surroundings the London pair is towered over and contends with almost monochromatic conditions in certain weather.

One hangs by the thread under the Shard and the other faces it.

Hieroglyphic head up display

Given the limitations of the townscape, despite efforts, the pair are very well placed to add some animation to their environment. This is a place with still some potential. By osmosis it could become more sophisticated.

More Plensa now and more than letters

Birdlike will you fly?

Or levitate?

Or face the obelisk?

Knowing you hold the key to the Needle on the other side

The courtyard of the British Library viewed through the perspex of the model

I have always liked three-sided courtyards. They give the enclosure that gives a sense of security but let in light and the enticing vistas of possibility that space leaking out can give.

The space created by the intersection of roads in front of the Bank of England

Near the Bank of England, before the Royal Exchange and the Mansion House, there is a nine-way confluence of roads that creates a space that forever leaks outwards, delivering the most sophisticated architectural space in London. Not just a melody but a Beethoven's Ninth.

The latest tower is an intrusion but we will grow to live with it.

At the British Library it is a space in the courtyard idiom, one with which the architect was well familiar. Two sides of the site have incredibly noisy and polluting roads thundering by, more so than when the library was conceived when diesel cars did not exist, but the road by the more open side is surprisingly unbusy. The chequer grid continues into the library.

At the Shard there are currently unfortunate elements, mainly relating to the materials used in road engineering and to bus stops, but the bones of a space that can be honed are there. Space does leak out in a number of directions but some of the bounds are different - they are the verticals or in the case of the Shard, the most important, an inclined vertical.


We are walking through the eye of the needle provided by the coronavirus and the reality needs to flip, has to flip, once on the other side.

No more do we want to see the world for the joys of land values, the beauties of work or the delight of activists thralled by insulation and diesel engine manufacturers, stitched together by a liberal construct of working together to file balanced books in the library of targets.

Peppa Pig can leave business to look after itself, as it can very well without gooning government to its service and subsidy. Government can go back to the easier task of just mainly holding the ring.

We need to look for more, to the cultural value of things and people.


Jaume Plensa

Beyond Plensa, collage is art's revolt against the serialisation of the business world and digitalisation.

It is fragile in more than one sense.

It steals (as Eliot would have it) from both of these and makes the human and the unique.

It makes do and makes good.

As did the coronavirus, it reasserts the primacy of the individual over business values.

Not over the community, true, but over the corporate.

During the virus neither academic institutions nor businesses properly stood behind those who came forward with developed views - they spoke or had to speak 'in a personal capacity'. Politicians came forward with some wacky views - but that is perhaps to be expected given the advice they were given. Now we trust those who knew what they were talking about and they were mainly individuals. It was mainly individuals, too, who stuck out their necks to get vaccines developed.

Institutions and corporations have not regained their mojo.

They have their places.

Collage is the graffiti on the wall, saying something different.

To serially reproduce collage is to misunderstand the drift of culture in 2022.

Jaume Plensa, Macbeth V, 2000

Britain is at the extreme of a society which has substituted business systems for expertise which is why it is struggling in so many areas where it used to be the innovator of the world.

Business systems are very efficient until you really have to think. Many at the top of business do not want middle rankers with expertise, or who can think, at all. They are a threat; they might work out how they really make money.

Defensible intellectual property is not expertise.

A profession like architecture, which produced the Shard, is termed part of the creative industries but to call a profession part of an industry is to diminish its expertise and, paradoxically, its creativity.

So the age of the individual is the revanche. A gullible politician would go to a business conference and promise all sorts of costly things in a back room. Boris, one surmises, had the nous not to promise billions and changed the subject to Peppa Pig. If politicians want to oversimplify they may as well be part of the entertainment industry.

Artists know a bit more about that.

Artists are now very much under attack by business systems. The British ones are beginning to lose their edge.

Defensible intellectual property rules music so fewer and fewer musicians make worthwhile money but choose your own example.

You cannot serial produce collage and fly to the pinnacle.