1. Your journey to the future

    Posted November 5, 2013 in ephemera, Photos  |  No Comments so far

    Your journey to the future

    You’d think they could have at least laid on a bus replacement service.

  2. Some photos of nicely designed house signs in Fowey

    Posted September 6, 2013 in ephemera, Photos  |  No Comments so far

    We recently went on holiday to Fowey in Cornwall. It’s a bit hilly and out of the way but it’s a gorgeous place. This is the view from the house we stayed in:

    Looking across the bay


    While we were there, we noticed nice signs on some of the houses which seem to have been designed and made in the same place. We took photos of them and I thought I’d post them here.

    18 Harbourside


    In 18 Harbourside you can see the hallmarks of this sign-maker, with the scorched-clay cream and terracotta colours and concentric circles emanating from the centre. The designer’s interest in typography is also evident. The font reminded us of the famous Computer typeface, but that might not have been intentional.

    The famous Computer font

    That famous Computer font in full (sort of)

    This next one is the first example of the boat motif appearing in these signs. Fowey is a harbour town so boats are a bit of a thing there.

    23 Beam Reach

    Again, lots of attention has been paid to the typeface, which is a block Roman with slightly sloping serifs. Staring at it long enough you start to see some imperfections in how the type is laid out, but that’s to be expected as this wasn’t done in Photoshop.

    Here’s the smallest and most boring one.

    Number 38BWe spotted it towards the end of the trip, after we’d seen all the other signs, and only photographed it because we recognised the style. If I’d walked past this sign on its own I don’t think I’d have given it a second glance. It’s still a nice sign though, especially the style of the numbers, although the “B” sits a little too low.

    So now we’ve got 38B out of the way let’s move on to the last two which, you’ll be pleased to hear, both feature boats.

    Number 45

    Number 45 is quite a simple and compact arrangement with only three elements: the number, the boat, and a couple of squiggles representing the sea. The style of the numbers is a bit more distinctive than in the previous signs where the designer seemed to be using other typefaces as a template. He or she seems to be discovering a form of their own, which is nice to see.

    As good as it is though, number 45 is a test run for the best of the bunch: number 53.

    Number 53

    The chef d’oeuvre

    This sign wins on every score. Firstly, the concentric circle effect has been toned down – it’s still there, part of the sign-maker’s design language, but it’s not in your face like  on 23 Beam Reach and it doesn’t do any fancy spiralling like on 18 Harbourside.

    Secondly, the composition, with the boat centred above the numbers and the mast lining up with the left hand side of the 5. There’s a lot of empty space in the sign but it’s being put to work by how well the sign is laid out.

    Thirdly, the design of the boat itself. If you ask me it has more character: a ‘working’ boat, unlike the others which look like yachts for leisure. I know nothing about boats though so maybe you shouldn’t ask me.

    And then finally there’s the numbering, which takes the distinctive, personal style of number 45 above to the next level. It has some similarities to Souvenir, a classic 1970s typeface (from 1914, natch) but it really has its own personality.

    Next time we go to Fowey I’m going to try to find more of these signs and to figure out where they come from. In the meantime I’ve created a set on Flickr with the photos above. If you know anything about them, leave a comment!

  3. The Penguin Pool at London Zoo – I liked it more than the penguins did

    Posted May 8, 2011 in Diary, Photos  |  No Comments so far

    Last weekend I went to London Zoo for the first time. The thing I liked most – apart from the animals obviously – was the Penguin Pool.

    Penguin Pool outside photo

    You can tell from the typeface that it’s going to be good

    The Penguin Pool was created in the 1930s by Berthold Lubetkin and Ove Arup, and is now taken care of by an independent pool management company.  It’s a masterpiece of modernist architecture, but the penguins don’t live there any more. They were evicted in 2004 amid concerns that waddling around on reinforced concrete was hurting their joints.

    Photo of inside the Penguin Pool

    To be fair it doesn’t look like an ideal penguin habitat

    I was transfixed by the Penguin Pool. The intensity of light, the curved white space, the bold double helix in the centre: I didn’t know what to do with the space, but I had a strong urge to go in there and use it somehow. Obviously the penguins didn’t feel the same way. I guess me and penguins don’t see eye to eye on everything after all.

    Another shot inside the Penguin Pool

    It’s not easy to burrow in concrete

    JG Ballard’s landscapes of broken suburban landscapes being reappropriated by nature came to mind when I gazed into the Penguin Pool. Crystal-shelled armadillos crawling along the floors of long-empty swimming pools, that sort of thing.

    Sometimes architecture serves a purpose, sometimes it doesn’t. Like the brutalist Elephant House, another listed structure at London Zoo that no longer houses its original tenants, the Penguin Pool failed to accommodate the needs of penguins just as Le Corbusier’s grand aesthetic failed to address the problems of human cities.

    But this doesn’t detract from the beauty and impact these works can retain. For me, the Penguin Pool’s only failing is that the creatures it was really designed for just haven’t been invented yet.