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Catlin Guide aims to catalogue Britain’s most intriguing new artists

Category : Business

Annual picks out 40 of the most promising graduates from art schools across the UK – and a quarter of them are painters

Predicting the careers of young artists is a perilous game, for outrageous fortune has a good many slings and arrows in her armoury. But the fourth edition of the Catlin Guide attempts to do just that, picking out 40 of the most intriguing recent graduates from British art schools from Bournemouth to Glasgow.

According to Justin Hammond, the curator who narrowed down the shortlist of 200-odd graduates “through a process of studio visits and stalking”, the year’s haul has seen a “particularly diverse” selection, with work ranging from oil painting, sculpture and installation to video to performance.

The recent calming of the art market in the face of the recession is taking its effect. “There’s a good trend of artists who are not making market-ready art,” said Hammond. “And that’s really positive.”

One manifestation of that trend is the prominence of performance work: artists making live art range from Lydia Brain, a recent graduate from Wimbledon College of Art, who creates video and performance about men from Hasidic Jewish communities; and Andrew Gannon from Edinburgh College of Art, whose work, he writes, may consist of “performing unrehearsed rope escapes and painting the faces of gallery invigilators”.

The opening of the Tanks at Tate Modern last year – and the appearance for the first time of a performance artist, Spartacus Chetwynd, on the Turner prize shortlist – has confirmed the current interest in performance art among artists and curators.

There’s also some refreshingly upfront feminism in the guide, which will be launched on 16 January at the London Art Fair. The work of Hannah Lyons, she writes, “is concerned with aspects of personal inadequacy and the undesirable and unwanted feelings associated with being a bloody woman”. The work she shows in the guide is an armless, headless, classical-style sculpture of a skimpily draped woman, titled Ironic Piece of Work by a Female Artist.

According to the art historian Ben Street, who has contributed the guide’s foreword, there is something else that draws many of the artists in the book together. If the work of recent Turner prize winners could be characterised, through its quietness and self-effacement, as a riposte to the bombast of the YBAs, young artists emerging from colleges now are, perhaps, post-post-YBAs. There is, writes Street, “a shrugging-off of the Oedipal battles of the modern past, towards an acquiescence, and engagement even, with aspects of art’s history. They’ve decided … ‘that the grandparents were cool’.”

Nearly a quarter of the artists, for example, are painters. One, Steven Allan, paints “humanised objects such as bananas, teapots and paint tubes”. So far, so peculiar, but his work We’re All In This Together is a knowing reworking – with bananas – of Poussin’s A Dance to the Music of Time. Another, Philip Booth, who recently gained a BA from Camberwell College of Arts, works in as unfashionable a genre as still life. Hyojun Hyun, from the fine art MFA at Glasgow School of Art, makes paintings that attempt to capture “the new shapes and textures of the neglected, disorderly urban landscape” – fleeting moments of beauty amid the rough-and-ready streets of his adopted city, so “different from Seoul”, his hometown.

According to Hammond, the guide is about “locating potential; I try not to burden the artists with hyperbole”. He adds: “A lot of collectors ask me, ‘Who’s the new Damien? Who’s the new Tracey? I guess even if I did know, I wouldn’t tell them.”

How a high-rise craze is ruining London’s skyline

Category : Business

Ken Livingstone ushered in a new skyscraper era during his time as London mayor. But the dash for height has continued under Boris Johnson. Most of the 20-plus towers being built or breaking ground are of inferior quality and fail to meet guidelines, argues our architecture critic. What has happened to the planning system… and where is all the money coming from?

There is no nice way of putting this, but the skyline of London is being screwed. There are now, built and in the pipeline, at least 30 towers, typically in a height range of 150-200 metres (or 490-650 feet. The BT tower is 177 metres high and more slender than anything now proposed). They are the fulfilment of the desires of investors and of the policies of Ken Livingstone, pursued with equal vigour by Boris Johnson, even though he once promised to take a tougher line on height.

With minimum discussion, proposals are being waved through the planning system – and while both the mayor of London and the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, have the power to intervene in major decisions, neither has done so. A decade ago, plans for buildings such as the Shard and the Gherkin were widely publicised, provoked debate and were the subject of public inquiries. Now, developers and architects hold modest public exhibitions in the immediate neighbourhood of their proposals and are not overanxious that they should be more widely known about.

Developers have long represented their projects with flattering, shiny visualisations that greatly over-estimate the seductive power of their cladding systems, which are bathed in an eternally golden glow. Now some of them have a new strategy, which is to act is if they are not there at all: sometimes, on their websites, you get views of plazas strewn with café tables, and pastel-coloured ground plans, and little clue of the large objects that will rise over their heads. If many of the proposals shown on these pages are new to you, that could be because their makers are so reticent about designs which, when built, will be anything but.

Last month, another clutch was approved. Almost all forms of resistance, such as the statutory bodies that are supposed to guide the planning system, have been neutralised, leaving only little-heard neighbourhood groups to voice their protests. All of which, if these tall buildings were making the capital into a great metropolis of the 21st century, might be a cause for celebration. Towers can be beautiful, and part of the genius of London is its ability to change, but what we are getting now are mostly units of speculation stacked high, garnished with developers’ ego. They are invitations to tax evaders to park their cash in Britain.

What is happening now is the culmination of 15 years or more of gathering pressure to build high. In the 1990s, plans were first unveiled for what would eventually be the Gherkin, controversially built on the site of the Baltic Exchange, a building that was listed but also damaged by an IRA bomb. It was eventually decided that, if this building were designed by a celebrated architect, such as Lord Foster, and were an exceptional work of architecture, other planning issues could be overridden.

When Livingstone was elected mayor in 2000, he enthusiastically supported tall buildings. He dined with developers in private, at a huge property junket in Cannes called Mipim, and publicly announced his grand bargain with capital: they should be allowed to build as big as they wanted, as long as he could take a tithe of the proceeds to spend on such things as affordable housing.

He produced a London plan, which encouraged, among other things, building high around major transport interchanges, so as to encourage the users of these buildings to use public transport. It was all part of Livingstone’s then vision that the future of London lay in the never-ending boom in financial services, with which a socialist mayor could cut a deal.

It was repeatedly said that, following the precedent of the Gherkin, tall buildings should be of the highest architectural quality and also in “the right place”, two principles that would turn out to have flexible meanings. The Shard was proposed, and being by the celebrated Renzo Piano and having a certain classiness in its form, was approved following a public inquiry. It has a substantial impact on St Paul’s Cathedral, when seen from Hampstead Heath, a view recognised by planning policy as significant, but not seen as reason enough to stop it. In 2005, Lord Rogers, once a business partner of both Piano and Foster, won permission for the 225-metre Leadenhall Building, or Cheesegrater, in the City of London.

Encouraged by these precedents, further proposals popped up, with increasingly tenuous claims to be of the highest architectural quality or in the right place. They were not just in the City of London, but also south of the river in Southwark, Waterloo and Vauxhall. The 180-metre Vauxhall Tower (the St George Wharf tower to its developers) was proposed, smack in the middle of a view from Westminster Bridge, officially deemed to be important and requiring special care.

There was not much evidence of special care in the design. It went to a public inquiry, in which the inquiry’s inspector concluded that it should not be built. John Prescott, however, who was then the minister responsible for such things, used his powers to overrule this advice. This tower is now being built, its exterior nearly complete.

In the City of London, planning officer Peter Rees long treasured the idea that tall buildings should be in a “cluster”, collectively forming a roughly conical shape that would rise to its peak close to the Bank of England. But then came the “Walkie Talkie”, officially called 20 Fenchurch Street, an office block designed by Rafael Viñoly, whose brilliant concept perfectly captured the money-worshipping zeitgeist of the pre-crash years: it gets fatter as it rises, to reflect the fact that floor area becomes more valuable the higher you go. The Walkie Talkie, whose frame is now rising, is by no stretch of the imagination inside this cluster, but Rees somehow persuaded himself that it is in the “right” place.

On the South Bank, the 140-metre Doon Street tower was proposed. Another public inquiry was held and refusal recommended. Hazel Blears, who by then had inherited Prescott’s mantle, like him decided she knew better and approved it. Construction is under way.

In Elephant and Castle, the 148-metre Strata SE1 was built, which would be the winner of the 2010 Carbuncle Cup, awarded by Building Design magazine to the worst building of the year. Another view considered worthy of protection by planning policy is of the Houses of Parliament seen from the Serpentine Bridge in Hyde Park, its gothic spires framed by trees and water. Here, Strata waddles into the background from stage left, like SpongeBob SquarePants in a production of Hamlet. It is not in the “right place” either.

There was a pause following the crash and the election of Johnson in 2008, whose mayoral campaign had included promises to be less tower-friendly than Livingstone. However, although he has the power to refuse significant planning applications, he has not once done so. Rather, he chose to approve the 237-metre Columbus Tower in Canary Wharf, reversing the decision by the London borough of Tower Hamlets to reject it.

A new wave of proposals has come forward. An application will be submitted shortly for new towers next to the Shell Centre, near Waterloo station, with every expectation of being successful, and two more are planned at Elephant and Castle. Several have been approved near to the Vauxhall Tower, which a few years ago was considered impactful enough to require the inquiry in which the inspector found against it. Some of its new neighbours will be higher and not obviously more beautiful, while their collective effect will be much bulkier, but neither Johnson nor Pickles is using his authority to give pause to the process: at least half of the developments we picture in our gallery have been approved in the Boris era.

And so it goes on. Policies are framed that, generous to start with, are then stretched far beyond any reasonable interpretation of what they might mean. Rules are made, then broken. It is doubtful, for example, whether Vauxhall is a major transport interchange of the kind that the London plan thinks is right for tall buildings, but it is becoming a mini Dubai nonetheless. Developments in the same area are supposed to follow a masterplan drawn up by Sir Terry Farrell, but when he pointed out that two proposed towers by Michael Squire broke its principles, they got permission anyway.

Notions such as “the highest architectural quality”, to quote Johnson’s version of the London plan, are rapidly debased. At one point, tower proposals felt the need to proclaim their sustainability, with ostentatious wind turbines included in the designs for the Vauxhall Tower and Strata (where, to be sure, they are almost never seen to turn). Now, developers don’t even bother with these.

Older applications, including the Walkie Talkie, proposed viewing galleries that, although they would actually be privately controlled, were called “public spaces”. Again, these are no longer on offer. Recently, the developers of the 163-metre One Blackfriars successfully applied to have their once-promised viewing gallery omitted.

London has a multilayered planning system, in which borough councils make decisions and the mayor and minister can then overrule them. Bodies such as English Heritage and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (Cabe) advise and public inquiries can be held. Yet these layers, while retaining the ability to complicate and slow things down, no longer do their job of revision and review. Willingly or not, they have been disempowered.

English Heritage has opposed several tower proposals, but after many losing battles (which, due to the cost of planning lawyers, were also expensive) its objections are now reduced to demoralised bat-squeaks. Although, for example, it thinks that proposals in Vauxhall will cause “substantial harm to the setting of the Westminster world heritage site”, it did not even issue a press release on the subject.

Cabe, a watchdog ever fond of nuzzling the developers it was supposed to be watching, has been shrunk and further enfeebled. Even when it summons up the courage to state the bleeding obvious, such as the fact that the Quill, a risible block of student housing next to the Shard, is poorly designed, Cabe is ignored. At the relevant meeting of Southwark council’s planning committee, an officer reported that Cabe supported it, even though it had said it did not. This provoked guffaws from the public gallery.

It doesn’t help that boroughs such as Southwark and Lambeth are unlikely to be tough on new towers, as they can order developers to contribute “planning gain”, which is money to be spent on affordable housing elsewhere in their territory. Livingstone liked them for similar reasons, as well us for the special delight that skyscrapers seem to have for mayors. Johnson is likely to be influenced by the community infrastructure levy raised on new developments, which helps pay for the Crossrail project. Of course, affordable housing and public transport are good things to have, but thoughtless plunder of the city’s airspace is not the way to pay for them; by the same argument, we could build on parks or on the river.

The results of these shoddy processes will be visible all over the capital, in the background of famous buildings, from hills and parks, down the ends of streets. They will change the Thames, bringing a completely different scale to its banks. None of which need be a problem, if they conformed to the official planning line that tall buildings should be well designed and in the right place. Or, to quote Johnson’s policy, that they should form “cohesive building groups”, “contribute positively to the image and built environment of London” and be “resisted in areas that will be particularly sensitive to their impacts.” What is a world heritage site if not the latter?

On the question of being “well designed”, the supporters of these towers will produce the well-worn arguments that design is subjective, that St Paul’s was derided in its day and so on. One could, however, look for what might be thought qualities of good design and usually they will be hard to find.

Do they, for example, show consideration of scale or proportion or try to make a meaningful relationship with their surroundings? Is there anything special about their detail? Is there consistency or integrity in their overall concept? Do they create handsome new public spaces at their base? Does their internal planning produce the best possible living or working spaces, which are well laid out and make good use of daylight?

Failing all the above, do they have any worth in the rapidly debasing currency of iconicity? Are they, in other words, exhilarating to contemplate or innovative – do they transmit some sort of buzzy excitement about London being a dynamic world city? I would suggest that, if that’s what you want, Shanghai and Dubai do it better.

The Shard and the Gherkin, conceived early in the current tower boom, are impressive, going on magnificent, albeit with major defects – I defy you to stand at the base of either and say that you are in a world-class public space. But it turns out that they were as good is it gets.

To take the Vauxhall Tower as an example, it makes no apparent effort to form any kind of relationship with its surroundings, neither a Georgian house behind it, nor even St George Wharf, an existing development by the same architects as the tower, Broadway Malyan, and the same developers, St George. It does not relate to the river in any particular way or, in longer views, to the Palace of Westminster. It is just there, sullenly uncommunicative.

It seemingly wants to be a slender cylinder, but contradicts itself with a sawtooth plan. At the top, it changes its mind again and adopts a stepped, zigguraty form. At the bottom, it is something else again and there is little attempt to reconcile the various elements. Its cladding is an ordinary-looking glazing package. Around its foot is precisely the sort of shapeless, windswept, nothing place that we were supposed to have learned not to do in the 1970s.

There are some honourable exceptions, with purveyors of rectilinear dignity doing better than those attempting artistic flourishes. Allies and Morrison’s 100 Bishopsgate is an example or David Chipperfield’s Elizabeth House at Waterloo station, the result of a rare occasion on which the developers were pushed to improve their initial ideas. They would have every right to be furious, having made an expensive effort with this project, at the easy ride given to other proposals. Others – Strata, the future towers at Vauxhall and Nine Elms – tend to follow their own, similar patterns. They offer a paltry “public realm” of Chinese granite and Costa coffee, standard glazing, a few loops and convulsions, like a dad at a disco, suggesting that they are bit on wild side. They don’t bother at all to work with their neighbours to make a three-dimensional entity.

There is no vision, concept or thought as to what their total effect might be on London, except that it will be great. In planning a kitchen, it is usual to envisage the totality before you start, but a great city has not been granted this courtesy. The onus should be on those who want to make such large changes, and to profit from them, to demonstrate their quality – the more conspicuous a building the more important it is that it is well-designed. As it is, they would rather we didn’t notice them until it’s too late.

Has the Pinnacle reached its peak?

Category : Business

Owners of a partly built skyscraper planned to be London’s tallest face a winding-up order one year after work stopped

The owners of the Pinnacle – the partly built skyscraper that was planned as the tallest in the City of London – face a winding-up order that could see the site seized by the builders.

The ambitious £1bn project has been known as “the stump” since work stopped almost a year ago. Only the core of the first seven storeys has been built. Banks pulled the funding after the developer, Arab Investments, failed to secure a major tenant.

The high court has ordered the special purpose vehicles that own the scheme to pay £16m of unpaid fees to the main contractor, Brookfield Multiplex, after they failed to file a defence. The project is majority backed by a Saudi Arabian investment manager, Sedco, while the fund manager Pramerica also owns a stake. Brookfield has said it will launch insolvency proceedings against the owners if it does not receive payment by Friday. Other developers have circled the project in the hope of a sale.

Billionaires’ basements: the luxury bunkers making holes in London streets

Category : Business

A new billionaires’ craze for building elaborate subterranean extensions is making swiss cheese of London’s poshest streets – but at what cost?

Walking around the stuccoed streets of Kensington and Chelsea today, you are in for a surreal sight. The marching rows of doric columns, pedimented porticoes and dentilled cornices that define these imposing ranks of wedding-cake mansions have been joined by an

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Mayfair’s art galleries under threat from developers

Category : Business

Cork Street gallery scene, hub of London art world for almost 90 years, could be broken up by luxury apartment deal

As one of the country’s most important art hubs for nearly 90 years, the exhibition spaces of Cork Street have launched the British careers of many major modern artists – with the Mayor Gallery alone giving Paul Klee, Francis Bacon, Max Ernst and Joan Miró their first London shows.

But now seven of the 22 galleries, including the Mayor, will have to leave the Mayfair location as early as next year in what owners fear could be “the death of the whole street”.

Their landlord, the British insurance firm Standard Life Investments, has agreed to a £90m deal to redevelop their building as a luxury apartment block.

The 7,700 sq metre (83,000 sq ft) site at 29-30 Burlington Street, which includes a stretch of Cork Street, will be bought by an international partnership made up of developer Native Land – 45% owned by a Gulf investment firm – Singapore company Hotel Properties Limited (HPL) and Malaysian investment firm Amcorp.

The deal, which is expected to be completed on 30 November, will mean that the Mayor, Alpha Gallery, Adam Gallery, Stoppenbach & Delestre, Waterhouse & Dodd, Beaux Arts and Gallery 27 will lose their leases and must move out. Several of the galleries said they understood the existing building will then be demolished.

James Mayor, whose father opened the street’s oldest gallery in 1925 that bears his name, said: “It will be hell. It could be the death of the whole street. It’s very sad.” He fears he will be unable to find another space in the area. “It’s a nightmare trying to find suitable premises in Mayfair, the fashion trade has taken over everything,” he said.

“It’s all about short-term gain. Who will these flats be for? They won’t be for residents or nationals. Haven’t we got enough hideous apartment buildings being built? We’re losing all individuality as a city.”

The redevelopment plans include a restaurant and an unspecified number of new galleries, but they will not open until the project is completed in 2016.

Jamie Anderson, manager of Waterhouse & Dodd gallery, said Cork Street would lose some of the most “significant players in the British art gallery world”.

He said: “Losing a gallery of the stature of the Mayor Gallery will be a major loss to Cork Street. If they leave Mayfair, it will be a major loss to the area.”

Announcing the deal earlier this month, Alasdair Nicholls, chief executive of Native Land, noted Mayfair’s reputation as “the cultural and lifestyle epicentre of London” and the site’s proximity to the “fine art galleries of Cork Street and bespoke tailoring of Savile Row”.

A spokesman added: “We recognise and respect the significance of the Old Burlington Street and Cork Street neighbourhood to the international art marketplace. We have no intention of undermining it. We envisage gallery space being provided in any new redevelopment proposals.”

But with Malaysian billionaire Ong Beng Seng – the managing director of HPL and a major shareholder of luxury handbag maker Mulberry – involved in the deal, gallerists fear an incursion of upmarket retailers will price them out of the street.

Louis Singh, director of the Beaux Arts gallery, said: “They’ve had to put in a provision of galleries but I understand that encompasses boutiques, jewellers, etc. There’s no doubt they can get a lot more money if they let in fashion. But we can’t afford to compete with Prada.

“It does my head in that money is the only consideration. The street is known all over the world. Related businesses, like framers, are also going to suffer. It’s the only place you can see a variety of art in such a short distance. It seems madness to me. It’s one of the attractions of London.”

Singh predicted that the building work would also disrupt the business of galleries not in the affected building. “They’re going to pull it down completely. Imagine the dust, the scaffolding, the noise. I’d be livid if I was a gallery across the street.”

Christopher Battiscombe, director general of the Society of London Art Dealers, said: “It would be disastrous if galleries were forced to leave.

“Cork Street has been a headquarters for the art trade. Some of the galleries have been there many, many years. It’s a very sad day to see this coming to an end.”

The society has contacted Westminster council to propose the creation of a protected area for art galleries in Mayfair, although as such a scheme would require up to two years of public consultation it seems unlikely to prevent the Cork Street redevelopment.

A council spokesman said it had not received any planning application with regard to Cork Street, adding: “As a general principle, we can protect the fact that retail units exist in buildings but not dictate the occupier or type of retailer.”

Some galleries remain hopeful that recent moves by the nearby Royal Academy will make the developers think twice about threatening the street’s art heritage. In June, the Royal Academy unveiled plans for a major renovation of Keeper’s House, part of the eastern wing of its historic Burlington House building. It is also leasing out an 835 sq metre (9,000 sq ft) gallery in the west wing of 6 Burlington Gardens, which will open just before the Frieze art fair in October.

Johnny Messum, director of Messum’s gallery, opposite the affected building on Cork St, said: “With all the effort going on in the street you’d be crazy not to put in spaces for new galleries. A landlord who wasn’t engaged with the art world would be crazy.”

Bluewater thrives by not alarming shoppers with anything new or strange | Owen Hatherley

Category : Business

The expanding mall is a kind of undemocratic city, with levels of planning and security that almost guarantee ‘no riots here’

Bluewater, the enormous north Kent shopping mall, is planning an extension. About 1,500 “private sector jobs” will arrive in a deindustrialising area, as if to answer the coalition’s increasingly desperate prayers, but the continued success and expansion of a shopping centre during a double-dip recession might seem unexpected. Its co-owner, Lend Lease, has recently been better known for closing down high-profile projects – as in the chaos of its redevelopment of Elephant and Castle, or the demise of the Tithebarn “mall without walls” in Preston. Somehow, Bluewater endures and grows. How can an out-of-town mall manage to become more successful during an apparent decline in retail spending? Why are people going there to nose around chain stores, when we’re all apparently buying on Amazon or going to farmers’ markets and niche high street shops? What exactly is Bluewater’s secret?

The first thing you need to know about Bluewater is that it’s not merely a shopping mall, but something much more ambitious. I know the place very well, having regular appointments at the nearby, contiguous PFI-built Darent Valley hospital. As the crow flies, the two are about a quarter of a mile apart, but you couldn’t walk it – buses have to loop for some time around the massively over-engineered motorways that feed the mall. But when you finally do arrive, the entrance is exceptionally well defined. Neoclassical gateways and signs make the distinction from straggling north Kent subtopia apparent. Even the flyovers here have their concrete decorated to make it clear you’re somewhere different. There is a reason for this – a reason for everything in Bluewater.

According to its architect Eric Kuhne, head designer at the multinational firm CivicArts, Bluewater is “a city rather than a retail destination”. Its design and planning are intended, he said in a 2008 interview, to “dignify the heroic routine of everyday life that drives you to produce a better world for yourself and your kids”.

What this means in practice is that Bluewater is not solely a retail hangar, in the vein that runs from the Arndale Centres to Westfields. It’s the same typology, a heavily patrolled and surveilled series of shops and restaurants in a big enclosed box, but it takes some of those spaces’ innovations much further. Not just private security, but an entire code of conduct for entry, not to mention a dress code. No hoods, no baseball caps, no swearing, even.

If Bluewater is a city, then it’s obviously not a democratic one. Kuhne wouldn’t have it any other way – in the same interview, he pointed out that “democracy has a pretty poor track record of building great cities. The great cities of the world that we travel to see were built by benevolent despots”.

Like any other city, Bluewater has its periphery. Ebbsfleet, the exurban new “town” that boasts its own line to Paris, is effectively its suburb. Its cul-de-sacs and wood-clad flats abut wide motorways and retail parks, discouraging any civic or public life in anything but the mall itself. The Thames Gateway, the unofficial eastward expansion of London, has no centre, no real public space – for that it has Bluewater, and its older, gawkier north-of-the-river cousin Lakeside. Also, like a city, it has its slums. Nearby towns such as Chatham or Northfleet are as stricken as Barrow-in-Furness or Merthyr Tydfil. Their former centres are practically decimated by Bluewater.

Yet to discover Bluewater’s secret you have to go inside. Its architecture is so didactic it sometimes evokes Stalin’s pet projects, like the Moscow Metro or the Exhibition of Economic Achievements. Sculptures and slogans urging jollity, exhorting commerce, singing the beauty of nature and stressing historical continuity are in every corner. Many depict the trades that people once practised in north Kent, appropriately for this mall scraped out of a chalk quarry. Cutlers, Tanners, Fletchers, Bowyers, Chandlers, Glaziers and others are all immortalised by little statues in niches on the mall’s upper levels.

From a distance, the big box’s glass extrusions resemble Kentish oasthouses. Bluewater tears the heart out of older towns, and replaces – partially and inadequately – older jobs, but it immortalises them as it does so. It is, in Kodwo Eshun’s phrase, a “future shock absorber”, a new and destructive landscape that strains every sinew to reassure, to make the shopper feel secure and at ease, to eliminate anything alarming or obviously new and strange. It boasts levels of planning and security that practically guarantee “no riots here”.

Bluewater’s architects are right – its success is not merely about shopping, but about the production of a particular kind of place. The successful city, as represented by Bluewater, is clean, corporate, homogeneous, authoritarian, and, should anything unexpected occur, easily sealed off. The worse things get, the more it will thrive.

Protesters take 16-metre wind turbine blade to Tate Modern

Category : Business

Activists who oppose BP’s sponsorship of the gallery carried one and a half tonne blade across Millennium bridge

Dozens of activists have deposited a huge wind turbine blade in the Tate Modern in protest at BP’s sponsorship of the gallery.

Members of the Liberate Tate pressure group carried sections of the 16.5-metre blade across the Thames’s Millennium bridge on Saturday morning before assembling it in the gallery’s Turbine Hall.

The one and a half tonne blade, taken from a decommissioned wind turbine in Wales, was presented to Tate staff along with an official request for it to be made part of the gallery’s permanent collection.

Liberate Tate spokeswoman Sharon Palmer said that “in a time of climate crisis” visitors to the gallery “should not be made to feel that they’re legitimising” oil firms such as BP.

Last December, Tate’s director, Sir Nicholas Serota, was presented with a petition from 8,000 Tate members and visitors, organised by Liberate Tate and two other campaign groups, Platform and Art Not Oil.

BP’s sponsorship of British arts institutions, including the National Gallery and the Royal Opera House, is worth more than £1m a year. It first attracted protests after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

Two months later, five gallons of molasses were poured down Tate Britain’s stairs at its summer party. Demonstrators also released helium balloons with dead fish attached in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. Gallery staff shot the balloons down with air rifles.

Sponsorship is increasingly contentious as arts organisations make up the shortfall in government funding.

A spokeswoman for the Tate said: “Tate can confirm at 11.40am today there was an incident in which a wind turbine blade was left in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. The blade has now been removed by Tate’s security staff.”

BP could not be reached for comment.

London’s Shard opens to fanfare, but not for the common man

Category : Business

Copland tune inaugurates western Europe’s tallest building, but its luxury hotel and £30m apartments show how exclusive it is

Twelve laser beams will radiate from the 310m-high pinnacle of London’s Shard on Thursday night on to other city landmarks as part of the inauguration ceremony for western Europe’s tallest building.

Tenants will not start moving in until next year, but the building’s exterior is now officially completed. As Prince Andrew and the prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor al-Thani, cut the metaphorical ribbon, the London Philharmonic Orchestra will play Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man.

That might be considered ironic by some inhabitants of the capital, for whom the Shard is the most divisive building in living memory.

Designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, the slender pyramid-like spire has won praise for its technical sophistication and prismatic form. Even its opponents are not particularly incensed by the design.

The real issues are the Shard’s size, location and ownership. The building does nothing for the “common man”, say its critics. It is out of scale with the London skyline and the immediate surroundings. Its defenders point out that inner-city density is preferable to urban sprawl, and siting the building over London Bridge station reduces journeys across the city.

The content of the building is also largely exclusive. From marble lobbies, double-decker lifts whisk users up to office space on floors four to 28 (40 to 50% is already let out, they say), a luxury hotel in the middle 18 floors, and 10 duplex apartments on the top floors, valued at £30m-£50m each. There is one concession to the public: a viewing gallery on the uppermost floors, 68 to 72, which opens in February 2013. Tickets go on sale on Friday morning, priced £24.95 for adults.

Thursday night’s inauguration also exposes the extent to which Qatar has become a dominant force in the UK property market, particularly in London. Qatar owns 95% of the Shard, having stepped in when original developer Irvine Sellar ran short of funds in 2008. Swelled by new oil and gas wealth, its sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), has well over US$100bn (£64bn) in assets, and plans to invest $30bn this year – the equivalent of a Shard a week.

Qatar’s London portfolio also includes Harrods (which it plans to roll out into a global hotel chain, it announced this week), the new Olympic village, west London’s Chelsea Barracks, portions of Canary Wharf and Chelsfield Partners, which owns the former US embassy and Camden Market. This is in addition to stakes in Sainsbury’s, Barclays and the London stock exchange.

At the press briefing on Wednesday, Sheikh Abdullah bin Saud al-Thani, chairman of the Qatar Central Bank, spoke of the Shard symbolising “the solid and continuing relationship” between Qatar and the UK. The last time those ties manifested themselves was when Prince Charles privately requested that the Qatari royal family fire Richard Rogers and appoint a more “traditional” architect for their Chelsea Barracks redevelopment. The Shard has visibly transformed the London landscape, but economically, the transformation may have only just begun.

There’s a strange beauty to the Hoo peninsula. Is this any place for an airport? | Ian Jack

Category : Business

Along with birds and their habitat, the hidden traces of Hoo peninsula’s previous eras of industry will be buried by railways and runways

I’m not sure I fully understand the term “psychogeography”. To me, it means the exploration of an unlikely place or a hidden aspect of a place, and whenever I hear it I think of Sunday walks in my childhood, when we would follow an overgrown and neglected path and sometimes scrape away the turf to discover a square stone with bolt holes drilled through it. As beetles hurried this way and that across its surface, my older brother would explain that the stone had once held an iron rail and that the path had once been a wagon-way, built in the 18th century to take coal from the Fife pits to a harbour on the Forth.As nobody else seemed to know or care about these facts, I felt I was sharing a historical secret. There were several of them close by: dark, deep ponds that had once been quarries; a ruined slipway built to take seaplanes; steel rings that had tethered barrage balloons; an abandoned railway tunnel where bats flew. Like a great many people in what was at that time an industrial country, I grew up in a landscape that was interestingly pockmarked with successive eras of exploitation, and all of it so commonplace that beyond a mention of

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Burtynsky: Oil – review

Category : Business

Photographers’ Gallery, London

In 1997 Edward Burtynsky had what he now calls his “oil epiphany”. Having just filled up his car at a petrol station, it came to him that, as he puts it, “the vast, human-altered landscapes that I pursued and photographed for over 20 years were only made possible by the discovery of oil and the mechanical advantage of the internal combustion engine”. His work ever since has been about oil: its production, transportation and myriad uses as well

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