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Silent City

Isolation | Grant Smith

Friday 3 April 2020

Since a day before the lockdown I have been cycling into the City taking photographs of our changed environment every few days. I lock my bike near Liverpool Street and walk, keeping the regulatory 2m from any other human being.

Silent City

The lack of traffic, apart from the empty buses that are providing necessary transport for key workers, is something that is at first exciting, as views of buildings are no longer interrupted by parked or stationary vehicles, but becomes a reminder as to how this period of isolation is impacting on our lives. The only activity on the streets is the occasional cyclist or jogger. Joggers have emerged to run the City, cyclists cruise around enjoying the freedom of movement without having to anticipate erratic drivers (though vehicles are now travelling much faster).

I am able to photograph buildings and sights that I have long admired, ones that define our city, without visual clutter. The buildings appear as life-sized models, pristine, clean and devoid of any movement in and out of them, apart from bored security personnel. The buildings are untouched and unused. There is no life in them, they are reduced to their material components, without soul or heart. The public space around the buildings is as deserted as the streets they address.

Silent City

While this period provides photographers with previously unseen views, the images are not the reality of the buildings in the City. It is only the present condition, but not the real view, and has a similarity to the CGIs presented by architects.

The visual aspect is one element, another is the absence of noise, which is very welcome. The silence is overwhelming. Few vehicles, no horns, sirens nor throaty motorbikes. No one is on the street talking, no human voice can be heard. Construction sites have stopped, save for a few small sites and some roadworks. No jack-hammers, piling rigs, reversing muck trucks nor concrete mixers are making a sound. A motorbike roars past me and I am brought out of my moment of silence. I wonder how we’ll adjust to the assault on our senses when the restrictions are lifted.

Grant Smith words and photos
The Architecture Club member