Perhaps you wonder how I hit upon “Highpoint One” for the name of my blog. Is it a forbidding and little-known mountain in Tibet? A reference to losing one’s virginity? A prototype spaceship? Codename for a new blend of scotch? A random collection of euphonious syllables I happen to fancy?
Well, it’s a building.
I love this building: Highpoint 1, one of two blocks of flats built by Berthold Lubetkin and Tecton in Highgate, north London, in the late 1930s. There’s much to love about its modernist aesthetic: its clean lines, its brilliant whiteness punctuated by strips of windows, its clever and efficient double-cruciform plan (see below) that allowed bedrooms and living rooms to each capture the best sort of light at the proper time of day.
Lubetkin and his Tecton group were among the British pioneers of moderist architecture (although Lubetkin himself was born in Tiflis, Georgia), responsible for, inter alia, the penguin pool at London Zoo. And while projects like Highpoint 1 were most certainly grounded in a classic socialist (even communist) Corbusian vision of the way man ought to live, the design was good enough for the building to actually be used in a completely different way: the social experiment found itself well-suited to providing middle-class Londoners with a taste of modernism.
There are several reasons why I like Highpoint 1 — most of all its sheer architectural beauty, standing as a human triumph in an Edenic setting. I’m not suggesting, though, that Highpoint 1 is my favorite building — I have more than one — or even my favorite block of flats. Some time ago, I needed an anonymous username for a website, and the idea of using the name of a building seemed intriguing. Ever since then, I’ve been rather struck by the name’s pleasant evocation of all that was wonderful and whimsical about British design in the 1930s.
Speaking of British design in the 1930s, today I’ve been reading two articles (here and here) about one of my favorite British architects of the twentieth century, Oliver Hill. I feel a bit of affinity for the fellow, as he sounds more than a bit eccentric as well as quite funny. One of the commenters on the first link in this paragraph says that Hill was married to the writer’s godmother, and that a design he prepared of a country house for a tobacco plutocrat was based on the design of a packet of cigarettes. Also, Hill owned a musical toilet-paper dispenser. Any man with one of those must have some good in him.
Coming tomorrow: “What’s in a name? (Part 2) and Trance Around the Office — Stuck in the Skybox edition.” Stay tuned….
The Flyers & Mike Sonar with the original mix of “Because I Wish To,” a lovely choon that was the Web Vote Winner on TATW #373 — I was re-listening to it just now at lunch.
Rather a new release, this — posted on YouTube just today.
I must say, I’m rather impressed with British Airways’ new advert, which not only resurrects the old “To fly. To serve.” motto, but features some rather impressive (though no doubt digitally produced) footage of some notable aircraft, both those operated by British Airways itself and some operated by its predecessor companies. I particularly enjoyed seeing Concorde, of course — if one can think of a lovlier aircraft of any category or any time, I’d be (a) sceptical and (b) willing to admit that there’s no accounting for taste.
Concorde, of course, was Anglo-French — but the basic configuration of the aircraft was British, the wing was entirely British-designed, and the Rolls-Royce/SNECMA Olympus 593 was… mostly British. When developed, at M2 cruise, it was the most efficient powerplant in the world. And, of course, Concorde’s more than 600,000 supersonic hours in revenue service far surpass all the supersonic hours of all other Western aircraft combined (all of them military, of course).
Another reason I’m fond of this video is the appearance — indeed, even prominence, if the last frame is anything to go by — of the Vickers (later BAC) Super VC-10 (aka the “Funbus”). As BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation, one of the predecessor companies of today’s British Airways) was more or less responsible for the commercial failure of the technically brilliant VC-10, it’s pleasant to see the old Funbus remembered in this video. (The nickname “Funbus” apparently comes from the Vickers F.B.5 “Gunbus” of World War I vintage. And the Funbus continues to serve today in the RAF, though not for much longer.) I saw one in person once, as I was departing Minneapolis-St. Paul International (MSP); an RAF Super VC-10 was parked on a remote ramp en route between Brize and Red Flag.
All this historical discussion leads to the second portion of today’s post. In the August 1964 edition of Venture magazine (on which more another time), there appeared a BOAC advert that managed to be both sexist AND racist:
Good Lord. No, of course the gauche Westerners can’t be arsed to pronounce a Japanese name. Naturally, because she’s Japanese, she’ll be serving you chiefly Japanese dishes. And what of the just-this-side-of-sexual overtones of “[she'll] thank you so nicely you know she means it. She does”? I guess we’ve all come a long way, baby.
One of the regular features of Highpoint One will be what I like to call Trance Around the Office, a selection of some of my favorite trance (or other electronic genre) tracks. Clearly the name of this feature is a direct borrowing from Trance Around the World, a weekly radio show produced by Above & Beyond. In case Jono, Tony, and Paavo are reading this, thanks guys, great work, I’m not trying to make any money via this site, and I hope everybody buys lots and lots of stuff from Anjunabeats.
To inaugurate this feature, this edition of Trance Around the Office has not one, but three wonderful tracks.