Kew Gardens is a botanical research institution situated in southwest London, and is home to the world’s largest collection of living plants. Even though I can still recall the many occasions upon which I have visited the Gardens as a child, I realised that I had not yet had a chance to fully understand it from an architectural point of view. And so, I recently revisited the beautiful site to fulfill this modest wish of mine.
The end of summer time, like the morning air which feels more and more crisp as the days go by, is one of those things that remind me of the coming of the long winter season. This “summer time” is a system that has been adopted in most European countries, where the clock is set forward by one hour during summer months. The idea of British Summer Time was first proposed at the beginning of the 19th century by an English construction entrepreneur, William Willett. He was convinced that sunlight was being put to waste, when early one morning as he enjoyed riding, he noticed that the entire town still remained asleep with all the shutters closed, even though it had already been hours since sunrise. He later came to publish a pamphlet titled “The Waste of Daylight”, and throughout his life continued to advocate the benefits of utilising sunlight by means of adjustment of national time. However, it was only in 1916 that the system was officially introduced, when the First World War broke out and resource had become a serious concern for the government. At the time, the primary aim of the system was to cut back on the consumption of coal.
As surprising as it may seem, I feel that the true quality of a city such as London lies in its “disorderliness”. Within the city, countless elements with various historical backgrounds coexist; their territories constantly overlapping each other. For instance, a single building is likely to have undergone multiple phases of reconstruction and extension in its lifetime, and it is never easy to distinguish the boundaries between the old and the new. Taking a step back and observing the city from a further distance, it is evident that the streets do not have a basic logic in their compositions. This is due to the fact that historically London has lacked an overall urban planning scheme, and as a result the streets form an almost organic network by sequentially linking one place to the next, rather than employing a strict geometrical pattern.
Strolling through the labyrinthine Georgian streets in the City of London, whilst the tall skyscrapers soar high above my head, I am able to enjoy a kind of pleasant disharmony. The image of this city seems to be formed by a sequence -an uncoordinated continuity of individual elements with ambiguous boundaries. It is only understandable that this city is often described as a collection of villages.