Architectural admiration (7)

Here is another selection in this series. It takes in a vast area, from London, to Beijing. I hope that you find something to interest you. Please let me know, in the comments.

Battersea Power Station, Battersea, London.

This Art Deco monolithic structure was built on the south bank of the river Thames, during the 1930s.
The signature chimneys have dominated the skyline in that area ever since. It is actually two power stations in one, and remains as the largest brick-built building in Europe. It has been a part of my life, and the London skyline, obviously for as long as I can remember, and its imposing presence in south-west London, has attracted film-makers and architectural admirers ever since it was opened. Although it has not been used as a power station since 1983, it has a listed exterior, and many developers have fought for the rights to make it into something. From a concert venue, to a luxury housing development, many planning applications have been submitted. The most recent to gain approval includes a hotel, luxury flats, and a shopping centre. Luckily, the facade will be retained, so Londoners will be able to continue to enjoy this marvellous structure in their city.

GUM, Moscow, Russian Federation.

I first encountered this amazing shopping complex during the late 1970s. This was a department store on the grand scale, built during the latter part of the 19th century. By the time of the Russian Revolution, it contained more than 1,000 individual shops, trading under one fabulous glass roof. The different levels were connected by walkways, and even after it was nationalised, it was still a wonder to behold. Since Russia became more commercialised, it has only 200 stores remaining; most being over-priced, and with goods out of the reach of ordinary people. Nonetheless, it remains an imposing edifice in Red Square, and a wonderful building in its own right.

The Ascension Cathedral, Almaty, Kazakhstan.

When I visited Kazakhstan in the late 1980s, Alma-Ata, as it was then known, was the capital. It has since been replaced by Astana, after independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. At the time of my trip, there wasn’t a great deal to be seen there, for a tourist. The Kazakh people were unusual, to be sure, as many were descendants of the Mongols. We were mainly there as a staging point on a trip around Central Asia. However, they were exceptionally proud of one particular building, and took us on an excursion to view it. In Panfilov Park, stood one of the largest all-wooden structures in the world, the Zenkov Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral Of The Ascension. It was very impressive indeed. Built in 1903 as part of the Russian Orthodox Church, it is a majestic wooden structure, which even today, is the second tallest wooden structure still standing. We didn’t get to go inside, as at the time, it was not being used as a church. It remains in my memory as one of many outstanding buildings we saw during that trip.,_Almaty

The Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic.

This iconic structure dates from 1357, and is a landmark of this famous Czech city. Dominated by large watch-towers, it is a pedestrian only bridge now, but once carried traffic. No trip to that city is complete without taking a stroll across this famous bridge, which spans the Viatva River. In the 18th Century, a series of thirty statues were erected, lining both sides of the bridge. Although now mostly replicas, they still give the bridge a unique style, which is not replicated anywhere else. It is rich in history, having endured wars and floods, and played a significant part in the Thirty Years War, when the Swedish army fought there, attempting to take the city. If you ever journey to Prague, it is unlikely that you will not go to see this magical bridge, and take your own walk across it.

Beehive Kiln, Walmer Road, London W.11, England.

The area known as Notting Hill in London, is now a very trendy place. Made popular by Hollywood films, and used as the location for many TV shows, it has become fashionable over the last few decades. At one time, it was a poverty-stricken district, just on the western fringes of an expanding London, during the 18th and 19th centuries. This was an area where the main industry was the firing of pottery, to make cheap kitchen items, and in particular, bricks. The soil contained thick deposits of London Clay, ideal for this purpose. The area was considered dangerous, due to the slum dwellings and rough inhabitants, and it even gets a mention from Dickens, writing about the place in 1850. Today, only one thing remains to give a clue to the area’s past. The Beehive Kiln, with a memorial plaque, stands as the last reminder of the industrial heritage of this part of London. I used to drive past it every day, and I never ceased to enjoy the quirky building, at the end of a residential street.

Temple of Heaven, Beijing, China.

Situated in a lovely park in the south of Beijing, this is a complex of temples, dominated by the iconic pagoda-style circular hall. The whole area is incredibly impressive, and well-worth the effort to find it, if you are ever in that city. It was constructed in the early 14th century, around the same time that the famous Forbidden City was being built further north. It has understandably been adopted as a UN World Heritage Site, and is one of the foremost destinations for Chinese visitors to the city. For a small admission fee, you also get to wander around the vast peaceful park, and see locals enjoying the outdoors. It is a very different tourist experience, as well as being one of the best preserved examples of this style of architecture anywhere. I have added a Chinese link, with English text.

Aigues-Mortes, Petite Camargue, France.

This is a fascinating walled town on the salt marshes of the Petite Camargue, completely enclosed by ancient fortifications. Believed to have been founded as a settlement in Roman times, it is in an area known for salt production. Once on the coast, it is now inland, though still surrounded by marshes, and susceptible to flooding. It was developed into its present form during the 13th and 14th centuries, when existing towers were joined by walls, making the whole town secure inside what was, in effect, a large castle. Wandering around there in the 1980s, it felt as if time had stood still. Only the souvenir shops and modern bars gave any idea of the passing of time. If you ever find yourself in this area, south-west of Arles, be sure to make time to visit this historical gem.

Seven more memories of my travels, places I have visited and admired. I hope that you discover something new, click the links, and enjoy the photos and the additional information.

14 thoughts on “Architectural admiration (7)

  1. You have some great memories Pete, in fact you have a great memory!
    I can never think about the power station without the flying pig, thanks to Pink Floyd.
    I first visited Prague around 2000, just before the floods, and saw our hotel on TV, under water about a month after staying there. I have visited twice since, having friends who live on the outskirts of the city, but I’m sad to report that it has become a bit of a mecca for stag parties now and has lost a great deal of it’s charm. Mind you Krakow is very similar and a lot closer 🙂
    By the way, did you change your gravitar recently or am I last person to notice?
    And happy birthday Ollie!


    1. Because I m unlikely to be able to afford such excursions again, I do tend to think about them a fair bit, which helps me remember. Like most people as they get older, I find that I might not remember where I put my keys ten minutes ago, but what happened ten years ago seems to get sharper. Perhaps it is compensation for crumbling in all other areas.
      Sorry to hear about Prague, and glad I went when I did. I have heard that Krakow is nice, but I never did get to Poland.
      Cheers Eddy, love to all in Winkoville. Pete.


      1. Oh the picture. I changed the old body shot of Ollie a couple of days ago, for this head shot taken by a friend. Only a couple of people noticed, so you’re not the last to catch on yet.


  2. Thanks for featuring all these lovely and impressive structures Pete. I particularly like the Ascension Cathedral and the Beehive Kiln. What’s inside the Beehive Kiln building? Notting Hill reminds me of Hugh Grant’s movie 🙂


    1. I have never seen inside the Beehive Kiln Arlene. I imagine it is just like a huge oven. Glad to see that you liked the article though. That cathedral is very big when you stand before it, most impressive.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pete, I enjoyed the tour. Despite some familiarity with various regions of France, I have never had the opportunity to visit Arles or Aigues-Mortes. I would love to do so. I was particularly impressed with GUM, and enjoyed the sequence of photos from construction to modern day. I would very much like to visit Prague one day. I’ve heard so many people say it’s a prime European destination. Your travels are quite impressive, and I look forward to more “Architectural admiration” entries.


    1. Thanks David. I am sure that you would enjoy Arles. It is a compact and attractive city, boasting a well-preserved Roman arena too. Prague has a real east-European feel, and is easily covered in a few days.
      I will try to add some similar posts in the future.
      Best wishes, Pete.


      1. Pete, one of my favorite films is “Ronin” (1998). Its superb cast includes Robert De Niro, Jean Reno, Jonathan Pryce, and Sean Bean. Much of this movie was filmed in Paris and Nice, but Arles was also a shooting location. In the film, there is a shootout in the Arles Amphitheatre (les Arènes d’Arles). As an aside, if you enjoyed the car chases in “Bullitt” and “The French Connection,” you’ll not want to miss this film!


        1. I have the film on DVD David, and knew about the filming in Arles. The car chase on the Peripherique is thrilling indeed! It also stars Natascha McElhone, one of my favourite English actresses, and of course, Stellan Skarsgard, a modern ‘legend’.
          Best wishes, Pete.


          1. “What’s in the case?” (A reference to the film’s MacGuffin.) The movie also availed itself of the skating expertise of Olympic gold medalist Katarina Witt. Pete, I’m glad you have this film on DVD. I’ve taken mine out for a spin quite a few times!


  4. I loved reading this post, Pete. Battersea Power Station and Beehive Kiln have been added to my list. Funny, you mention Dickens; the other day we spoke about your characteristic way of writing and Klausbernd said, you are the Dickens of today!
    Best regards from the Four of us,
    lost of pats for Ollie!
    Dina x


    1. Thank you both so much Dina, for your kind words. I am glad you liked the Kiln, and Battersea Power Station. As for a comparison to Dickens, that is without doubt the best compliment I have ever received!
      Love to you both, Pete, and Ollie the birthday boy. (3 today) X

      Liked by 1 person

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