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Natural vs Man-made: A winter diversion

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Although, snow is pretty and lots of fun, the extreme cold that usually accompanies it can be a problem for wandering/clicking-machines like me. I mean, try clicking in -7 degrees without gloves on and it's almost certain death (or at least, frostbite) for your fingers. So I set the camera aside and patiently started waiting for the weather to clear. And I waited. And waited. And waited, growing extremely impatient. Hmm, this didn't seem to be working.

So what do you do when you're snowed in?

In my Book of Profound Answers, there is only one answer to such a question:

"Make the most of it, dammit!"
So that's what I set out to do.

By heading to the Natural History Museum in South Kensington in London.


Natural vs. Manmade - a winter diversion


The Natural History Museum houses some of the world's best collections of - well, natural history. Now here's the thing. Although I studied Science at high school level, I did it only because it was the path that would lead me to my chosen obsession (and profession) - Cities. Yes, that's the way it used to work when I was in school in India. So, although parts of the exhibit were really interesting, that's not what this post is going to be about. Because I'm no museum chronicler. I'm the flâneuse, soaking in the the city around me, and I'm the cities professional, who, when confronted with such a fascinating piece of architecture, can scarcely look beyond it.



Natural versus Manmade - a winter diversion


The museum was built by the architect Alfred Waterhouse in the German Romanesque style, in the latter half of the 1800s. The time I chose to visit was a snowy but thankfully not too cold morning and I was struck by the way the statuesque building stood out amidst all the foggy whiteness around it.


Natural versus Manmade - a winter diversion



Natural versus Manmade - a winter diversion



Natural versus Manmade - a winter diversion


But what enthralled me even more was the spectacular detailing inside the massive building. Every little detail in this building seems to have been lovingly created by an artist - and at least to my eyes it gave stiff competition to the actual exhibits it houses.


Natural versus Manmade - a winter diversion


The building is, in more ways than one, a tribute to its contents and its purpose. Yet, this structure manages to stand out on its own. It simultaneously manages to have a grandeur of scale and an intimacy with the user - the facade, the huge central hall and the grand staircase communing with the intricacy of the decoration, rather than overpowering it.


Natural versus Manmade - a winter diversion



Natural versus Manmade - a winter diversion



Natural versus Manmade - a winter diversion


You only just need to look closely at the ceiling panels which are beautifully painted with hundreds of plant specimens from all over the world, in colours that reflect the dappled light that comes in through the exquisite stained glass windows, to understand what I'm saying. Or, pay attention to the cornices and to the relief carvings of animals and plants literally 'climbing' and 'crawling' all over the terracota tiling.


Natural versus Manmade - a winter diversion



Natural versus Manmade - a winter diversion



Natural versus Manmade - a winter diversion


I could stand in here for hours just admiring this building. Of course, if you're so inclined, there's a really massive collection of dinosaurs and fossils and animals and plants and rocks and precious stones to gape at, as well. Either way, it doesn't fail to serve as an excellent winter diversion. Just what the soul needed.

7 comments so far:

Psychotropic said...

:) Hehehe...now this post, for obvious reasons will be a personal favourite.

Bhavna said...

This one, I love. Totally. How come I haven't been here as yet?!

Paul Nixon said...

Great photos, great architecture and a fantastic building. I've not been there since I was a child - you've just reminded me that I need to go back. When you're in the Westminster / Victoria area and have some time on your hands, try clicking Westminster Cathedral (not Abbey). That's an impressive building too; one of thousands of impressive buildings in London, of course.

mar00ned said...

The place looks deserted ... ideal for taking some pictures. Great post.

SloganMurugan said...

Bloody grand. Reminds me of the imitations that were created here in Mumbai. The ones here are not so grand!

Flaneurbanite said...

Psychotropic: Haha! :)


Bhavna: Thank you! Glad you like it:) And you haven't been here so far because...umm...because...ummm...


Paul Nixon: Thanks Paul! It is indeed a remarkable building, and you're right, London is full of such gems. Thanks for reminding me about the Westminster Cathedral! My then-boyfriend, no-husband used to live in the mansion blocks right behind the Cathedral when I was new to London...and I used to love the sight of it. Of course, this blog didn't exist then, but it does now, so you'll see it here very soon, I promise!

Flaneurbanite said...

Mar00ned: There were, in fact, quite a lot of people around, despite the weather! But I lingered for a long time and focussed on the building because that's what I wanted to do. :) Good to see you here!



SloMo: If I'm not wrong, most of Mumbai's colonial architecture is Victorian - not quite an imitation of Romanesque Europe...but I could be wrong, like I said, so do correct me in that case :) Imitation or not, I do absolutely love Victorian Mumbai as well...it's one of my favourite parts of the city to explore, to click and to just be in. :)

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