Archive for the ‘Introduction’ Category

What’s in a name? (Part 1)

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….

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Posted November 16, 2011 by HighpointOne in Architecture, Introduction, Randomness, Words

Hello…

Hello, good evening, bonjour, konnichiwa, and welcome to Highpoint One — my blog. You’ll find it, I think, about as random and meaningless as anything on the internet — possibly even more so. I intend for it to be a collection of my thoughts, opinions, moods, amusements, and interests. I’m writing it more for myself than anyone else.

A typical blog post on Highpoint One might well look like the following.

I splashed a bit of an old cologne of mine on this evening, and was immediately struck by how certain smells can evoke such strong memories.

In my case, this cologne — a rather pleasant, woody scent that was a gift from my father — brought to mind a brief period of my life of about ten or eleven months ago. The mossy notes of the stuff brought simultaneous memories of “Mr. Brightside,” by The Killers (a song to which I was much addicted at the time), the taste of vodka and Red Bull cocktails (don’t ask me why, but for some reason I thought I was going to find the perfect way to make them, and love them deeply; in the end I drank far too many of them a time or three and haven’t had one since), darkened bars, and a tendency I then had to make out with girls in said darkened bars (and, in fact, memories of those individuals as well). It was not a happy time, and I’m glad to say that I somehow moved past it. I still listen to “Mr. Brightside” occasionally, and the same memories are brought back.

At a pub quiz tournament I found myself overhearing one night not long ago when I was feeling very low indeed (more on why some other time, perhaps?) I found myself feeling impressed with the degree to which I know trivia about Maryland. I don’t live in Maryland, though of course it’s not far away, and I wouldn’t have said that I know much about the place. Well, maybe I don’t, but I could at least tell you what Baltimore boy was well known for stories of the macabre (Edgar Allan Poe, obviously — one wishes one had his facility with language and one looks at his life and death with a mixture of sympathy and apprehension) and the old name of Baltimore’s airport (which was Friendship — in many ways a far lovlier name than Thurgood Marshall). 

Speaking of airports, isn’t it a bit of a pity that National Airport (DCA) has been renamed Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport? I don’t say this because I don’t like Ronald Reagan — I do, actually — but because, if you want to name something in honor of someone, good taste dictates that the thing being named is worthy of the person being honored. And that, I’m afraid, DCA is not. John Wilkes Booth National Airport might be a more fitting name, and not because the passenger facilities are really all that bad. About the best you can say for DCA is that its location could hardly be better for access to the center of Washington. This great asset, however, has led to the place’s two worst drawbacks: its pathetically short runways that limit the size of aircraft that can land there safely, and its proximity to the Capitol and the concurrent desire by politicos to place bizarre restrictions upon it (the “perimeter rule” never made much sense and today it’s completely arbitrary).

Ronald Reagan would probably have felt prouder about an even more prominent use of his name:

Finally, having introduced the subject of hardware, a word might be in order about the new Fiat 500. Out of curiosity, I test-drove two of the little pluguglies last week, and came to the conclusion that if you are looking for an automobile that handles almost exactly like every other economy car on the market yet is grimace-inducingly cute, this may be the econobox for you. Truthfully, from the standpoint of a driver, the thing has nothing to offer that you can’t get in a basic Ford, Toyota, Honda, or Hyundai — and frankly, what did you expect? It’s a mass-market Italian car, being sold by Chrysler in this country as some sort of boutique or otherwise upmarket product (and Chrysler’s last exercise in making a retromobile was certainly disappointing). Neither its Italianness nor its relationship with Chrysler are particularly confidence-inspiring. Besides, given a choice between a set of wheels made by a firm that aided Il Duce and one that worked for the Allies, I know which option I’ll always select. I continue to prefer a good sturdy piece of English hardware ironmongery:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, that’s how a blog post here might look, anyway.