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Technology Intervention #3 – Tower Bridge, the Monument, GRAD, The Photographers’ Gallery and… burgers

My third Friday in the technology intervention series was a busy one. It really was one of those days when you seem to manage to cram in whole load of stuff without really trying.

Having walked past Tower Bridge last week, I decided it would be my first stop this week. It’s one of those London landmarks you see all the time, but aside from the odd taxi journey that takes me across it, I actually knew very little about it. The Tower Bridge Exhibition costs £8, but for an extra quid you also get access to the Monument. So I did that (although I hadn’t planned to go there).

Tower Bridge sign

The bascule bridge opened in 1894 and was designed and built by Sir Horace Jones (who died before completion) and Sir John Wolfe Barry. At the time, Tower Bridge used unprecedented hydraulic power on a scale never attempted before. Which is pretty cool. High fives all round for pushing the envelope.

The exhibition takes you up to the walkways that run across the top of the bridge, 42 meters from road level. Apparently the walkways were closed in 1910 after they became a haunt for pickpockets and prostitutes. They reopened in the 80s and now hold the exhibition itself rather than the aforementioned scoundrels. Alas. There’s a few short films, a good deal of stuff about the bridge itself (including the below amazing and completely unexplained picture) and there was a bridges exhibition – which was pretty interesting. Bridges are actually kind of incredible. Bridge.

You also have the opportunity to take a few good pictures up and down the river.

From the bridge

After the walkways you can take a tour of the old steam rooms, which I did. The machinery is still there, along with some good explanations of how it all worked, but obviously the mechanics of the bridge are all taken care of elsewhere now (and they can push a button to raise and lower the bridge). I walked back over the bridge (at road level!) after coming out of the engine rooms and walked along the river, heading towards the Monument. Despite having been close many times (Monument station is about 100 feet away), I’ve never actually been *to* it.

The Monument to the Great Fire of London or ‘the Monument’ as it’s better known, stands 202 feet tall and 202 feet from the place where the great fire of London started. It was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, constructed between 1671 and 1677 and remains the tallest isolated stone column in the world.

311 stairs

The ticket I’d bought earlier let me in to climb the 311 steps (which is about 20 stories, ffs) to the viewing platform at the top. Despite the fact my legs felt like they were going to explode, it was totally worth it. The 360 degree view from the top is great (and it was nice to see the bridge I’d just walked across in the distance).

From the Monument

A slightly easier 311 steps later and I was ready for some food. I strolled along to St Paul’s and headed into Byron. It was the last day they were serving up their ‘Hot-A-Doodle-Doo‘ chicken burger, and as we all know, chicken burgers are fat free*, so I treated myself to one of those. Pretty good it was too. I think crispy onions make everything amazing – case in point was Byron’s crispy onion and Roquefort special last year. That thing ruled. Anyway, I’d recommend it, but you can’t get it anymore.

Hot-a-doodle-doo!

Satisfied and full of burger, I headed to the tube and took myself over to Oxford Street. A short walk from the station is GRAD – the Gallery for Russian Art and Design, who had an exhibition on called ‘Kino/Film: Soviet Posters of the Silent Screen‘. I love film posters (hell, I love posters in general), and I love big, bold, bright prints. This didn’t disappoint.

GRAD posters

Lack of cash and equipment meant the designers had to use novel techniques when coming up with the posters. Often they hadn’t even seen the movie. This meant a lot of colour blocking and some fantastic typography. There’s not a huge amount of posters there, but it’s free to get in and take a look, so if you’re trying to kill a half and hour and you’re near Oxford Street go and take a look – it’s there until the end of March.

Having done everything I planned and needing to waste 90 minutes, I walked towards Carnaby Street to grab a coffee. On the way I walked past The Photographers’ Gallery, who had on a David Lynch exhibition. With time to kill, I thought – why not?!

There were actually 3 photography exhibitions on with collections of photos from Andy Warhol, William S. Burroughs and David Lynch.

Apparently Warhol carried a camera around and documented everything. Some of those photos are here – either as single stills, or art pieces with photos stitched together. Kinda cool, really. Burroughs’ photos were much the same, he carried a camera around and took a lot of snaps. Some of them were actual ‘art’ photos, some of them were just documenting what he saw. Again, kinda cool.

Warhol pictures

The Lynch exhibition was different to the other two. It featured dark, moody, super high contrast black and white photos of angry industrial buildings. There was also Lynch composed ‘music’ (ie foreboding and mildly terrifying industrial noise) playing over the top. I probably enjoyed this the most, but maybe only because it felt like a ‘collection’.

David Lynch exhibition

The Photographers’ Gallery cost £4 to get in, and the Warhol/Burroughs/Lynch exhibitions runs until March the 30th.

I’d like to say that concluded my Friday, but I met some friends and went for some dinner at Soho Kitchen and Bar. I had the burger of course, which was actually pretty decent and very familiar. Turns out they’re owned by the same people that run the Electric Diner and the burger was identical (‘bacon’ is more like a big slice of gammon and confusingly the single has two patties and the double has three). Not a bad thing and actually pretty enjoyable.

Soho Bar burger

Good times. See you next week.

* Chicken burgers may not be fat free. But if we all lie together, the world will be a better place. Thanks.

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