The Rainbowfication of London


You may have noticed that very bright colours are in at the moment. Gone is the sterile white and grey and glass and concrete of the past few years, and everything now looks like a rainbow is being sick over it. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Improved lighting techniques are changing night skylines all over the world. When they’re unsophisticated, you get a purple neon key line around all the buildings, but when they’re done subtly you turn a concrete bunker (say, the National Theatre, London) into a stunning wall of light.

This happens every few years, spurred by improvements in technology and the fact that everything is cyclical. Drab, respectable Camden Town exploded into colours in the 1980s. But buildings can also then become quite age-specific in whom they appeal to. If you’re a teenager you may love to see a giant pair of boots stuck to the side of a building more than if you’re a sixty year-old who remembers it as a graceful Edwardian structure now obscured.

Which brings us, it seems, to the Euston Road, London – an unlovely stretch of tarmac largely obscured by trucks and buses, and one of the unhealthiest thoroughfares through the city. It has a mix of elegant Edwardian buildings and some ugly horrors, like the monstrous Camden Town Hall, so when the building opposite King’s Cross station dropped its dust sheets yesterday and did this…

…well, a few eyebrows were raised. They didn’t need permission because it was planned by the owner and he is allowed to do so under his local laws (not so in the next borough over, Westminster, who would have refused it). Actually, it looks better than the photo suggests, and brightens up a notoriously drab road. But the problem is that it will require a lot of upkeep. And the paint cannot ever be completely removed from the brick, so next time around, if a new owner has had enough of it, the whole building will have to be painted white.

Meanwhile, it seems every building in the city is getting coloured lights at night – most are subtle, a few not so. What happens when the fad for rainbowfication dies?

14 comments on “The Rainbowfication of London”

  1. Alan Morgan says:

    That’s the dazzle camouflage used in London during WWI, it meant that buildings in King’s Cross weren’t so easily targetted by U Boats (as it confused speed and heading).


  2. Nostalgia.Detected says:

    I remember during the late 1970s – probably around the time of the Silver Jubilee – there was a fad all around the country for painting big bright murals on the sides of houses. They looked fantastic at the time, with people making big bold statements and capturing the public imagination, but as you say when they faded and peeled they could end up looking quite tatty and anyone wanting their red brick back would have a lot of work to do.

  3. Dan Terrell says:

    I don’t know, Admin. Find I prefer the Before better than the After. No focal point, just that thrust up and to the left of viewer. What in heavens name will the Taggers do? Or were they the ones who redid the old thing?

  4. Gretta says:

    I might like it more if I knew what it was supposed to be. Still, tis better than anything Damien Hirst would’ve come up with…

  5. Helen Martin says:

    It looks as if several strings of flags have come adrift from the right corner of the building. It’s certainly bright and cheery, but as you say, people can tire of things like that. Some people might be tempted to sand blast the paint but if you do you damage the surface of the bricks and they deteriorate as well.

  6. Madeline says:

    I really like it- very medieval! Now, if only we could paint all the plain limestone in London, a la Roman statues or Normal cathedrals!

  7. Madeline says:

    I really like it- very medieval! Now, if only we could paint all the plain limestone in London, a la Roman statues or Normal cathedrals!

  8. Madeline says:

    Double post, not quite sure how that happened. My apologies.

  9. Dan Terrell says:

    Madeline – Maybe this happened: You hit Submit Comment, the rectangle turned briefly green, and then went back to grey and nothing appeared to have happened. Your post continued to appear in the Leave a Reply box. You waited a while, decided it hadn’t worked and hit the rectangle again. It went green and then back to grey. If all is go you should get a white-page comment at this point asking did you want to do this? (That is send the comment twice. Or a white-page Internal Service error, which brings a speck of fear into the process. At this point only one Comment will/should get posted. Admin knows there’s a problem and has a hard man lined up to talk to his software at WordPress.) Much of the time it works: tap Submit, the wheels spin and your comment is sucked in, gets turned around, and pops up above the posting rectangle.
    Another problem on some days is it’s difficult to edit what you’ve typed. You can’t enter the blinking line at the point of an error to make a change. I find this can be got around by moving the mouse arrow to the beginning of the error, clicking and waiting (as nothing will appear to have happened). When the invisible line thing reappears and is blinking, highlight the error and hit delete and retype. Yet, some days it all works great. You are not alone Madeline.
    Long comments like this one is getting to be, may also cause some difficult, as they’re a Big Gulp. BUT it’s a great blog and will be fixed. (PS: I started on an Underwood Upright, so my vocabulary is not the most current, sorry.)

    arrowget the written You are not alone. Has happened before.

  10. Dan Terrell says:

    And that line is flotsam and jetsam washed ahead of the text I was typing. Didn’t spot it because I’d expanded “below’ the Reply box. Sor-ry.

  11. Madeline says:

    Thankyou, Dan for being so gracious. My router has been hiccuping, so it appears it was the first error that hamstrung me! Lately it keeps behaving like a giddy horse and having random starts and stops.

  12. Dan Terrell says:

    And I have that, too, but not every day.
    So I run to the basement office computer, crawl under everything, unplug the plug-in cable to the router, count to 10, and replug it, which works. It is all so high tech, just like the old days when you could establish contact between a wall outlet and the slightly-bent prongs on an electric cord by putting spit on the prongs, plugging in, and then doing whatever until the moisture dried out.
    And, thank you, but I don’t have a framed electrical degree. I, however, can do a temp fix on a leaking ceiling with a bed sheet, a piece of string, some thumbtacks, and a bucket; or an old Russian jeep’s engine with well-chewed raisons and flat bread.

  13. Helen Martin says:

    Are those raisons d’etre, Dan? Your methodology seems to be the standard one for malfunctioning routers (which are rooters, by the way, not rowters since we don’t want to frighten them away.)
    What I get is a white screen with ‘error detected, please contact…’ so I arrow back to the site, ignore it and wait. If it seems to be too long a wait I hit submit again and get ‘duplicate message detected.’ I arrow back and wait some more and just one message posts – usually. It’s all an exercise in patience and not admin’s fault at all. Just think how miraculous it is that we can take part at all in this conversation from at least three continents

  14. John Howard says:

    Anyway, back to the blog… The painted building thingy reminds me of something “The Fool” did to a certain shop in the sixties that sold clothing and, unfortunately, the locals din’t like it. Ah, well just because it was the Beatles apple boutique didn’t mean it could stay. I thought if was a great idea then and still think so. Because it is so random then it has a point. If all the buildings around it were the same then it wouldn’t cause comment. As admin says, it is at least brightening up a drab road. I too have been along that road on a hot summer afternoon in the rush hour traffic and tried not to breathe in the fumes..

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