I recently had the opportunity to accompany a group of photographers to the Thames Barrier located just downstream from the O2 in London. The outing was organised by, in my opinion, two of London’s finest photographers, Umbreen Hafez and Arpad Lukac. The view of the Thames Barrier with Canary Wharf in the background is probably one of my very favourite cityscapes in London. I’m not exactly sure why, but perhaps it’s to do with my fascination for the intersection of nature, the built environment and beauty. This gigantic series of gates is the second largest in the world (after one located in Holland) and its importance to the safety and welfare of London is immeasurable. I learned a lot in this project by just looking online and also discovered that 2014 was, unsurprisingly, a spike year for tidal and fluvial flooding and therefore the closing of the gates. In comparison, in the 1980s there were four closures, in the 1990s there were 35 and in the first decade of this century there were 75. According to the Environment Agency, the rate of closures is above that predicted and is increasing rapidly.
Now getting back to the aesthetics of this structure, I’m so struck by how the piers that control the opening and closing of the gates appear at night. They’re like beautiful golden beacons or turrets guarding the city and its inhabitants behind them I’ve personally never seen anything like the Thames Barrier anywhere I’ve been to in the world. And the fact that it’s beautiful but also technologically complex and a vital component of London’s infrastructure make it all that more fantastic to me.