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Peter Murray

 

A large and knowledgeable audience were treated to a “Celebration” of street furniture when the Society welcomed back Matt Brown of the essential Londonist website. Jo East reports.

From phone boxes to stink pipes Matt “set out his stall” that this could only be a canter through the various street furniture that gave such interest to this great city of ours.

Beginning with phone boxes Matt briefly outlined the history of the K Series and taught us to identify our K2s (bigger with a regular lattice of panes) from our K6s. (Smaller and with glass recalling old celluloid film – Big frame in the middle and smaller runners down the side) and then talked about how they had been repurposed throughout the city as mobile tech takes over. From a flower kiosk in Russell Square to a book exchange in Lewisham inventive uses have been found for these structures that, being listed, often have to grace our streets long passed the time of their original purpose. Diverting briefly into the sociological significance of tart cards – A 30 year collection now held by the Wellcome Trust to reflect our changing taste, tech and morés – Matt then moved on to post boxes: We saw a map of all the relatively rare Edward VIII boxes. Outer London reigning supreme reflecting the direction of development at that time. As before the more interesting uses to which various redundant boxes had been put were shown. A city farm chicken hutch surely being the “coop” de theatre.

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Peter Murray

 

Hugh Broughton Architects has been engaged in the careful restoration of the TUC’s London headquarters Congress House for the last 23 years. The Grade II* listed Modernist building in Fitzrovia, is just north of New Oxford Street and a few minutes’ walk from the British Museum. Jo East was part of our tour of the new spaces.

The latest Society tour of a building took us to Congress House, the HQ of the TUC. Our guide for the evening was Adam Knight of Hugh Broughton Architects who have recently completed the latest stage of a sympathetic refurbishment of this large imposing Post War institution.

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Peter Murray

 

The Travellers Club in Pall Mall were generous enough to invite members of the Society for a private tour. Jo East was lucky enough to get a ticket and reports. 

Our host for the day was Club Secretary David Broadhead. Asked to explain his role he denotes himself as “Headmaster of a Public School for Adults”. Having been in post 10 years he brings with him as a former hotelier all the nous and knowhow to both look after this Grade 1 listed building and its 1300 members.

Assembling in the Outer Morning Room, one of the five major rooms we were to see on our visit, David explained the club’s history: Founded in 1819 after the Napoleonic Wars the club was set up as a meeting place for anyone who ventured 500 miles from Trafalgar Square. Undertaking what we would now know today as “networking” tales would be exchanged, the latest maps pored over and anecdotes shared and bested. Obviously today to travel 500 miles is considerably easier than at its founding so the rules have been changed. Now members must have travelled to four countries! This isn’t the end of the process however: There is a waiting list, members can only be proposed, seconded, gain five additional signatures of support and then dine with the Club’s membership committee before being accepted. Although the Foreign Secretary of the time is offered honorary membership – of which the present incumbent has taken full use.

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Peter Murray

The last in the Planning School series of lectures – The Future of Planning – was held on 18 November at the Building Centre in Store Street with Zoe Green – Strategic Urban Planner at PriceWaterhouseCooper. Jo East was present.

Zoe Green advises cities across the globe on how to prepare for “4IR” – The Fourth Industrial Revolution that many believe we are entering right now. Promising to tackle broad themes, Zoe did just that taking in all the new technologies from synthetic biology, through 3D printing to the “Internet of things” (machines communicating directly with each other) unpacking these buzzwords as she went. The good news is that by looking at various indicators her recent report believes that London is 59% ready in preparedness to implement these technologies – Only Singapore scores higher although this drops to 42% on a Matrix of Social Readiness.

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Peter Murray

 

On 5 December, Matt Brown, editor at large of the Londonist and author of Everything You Know About London is Wrong, gave the Christmas talk to the Society members at the offices of Pilbrow & Partners in St John’s Square. Jo East reports.

Founded 14 years ago by Matt and other likeminded enthusiasts for all things London, and described by Frank Skinner as “the thinking person’s guide to London” the Londonist has grown to be an online font of knowledge about both London’s current events, and its history and myths. Over the years this has given Matt privileged access to areas denied to most people and Matt took us on a tour of literally the highs and the lows of his time at the Londonist – roofs and tunnels.

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