From London

Capital of England and the UK

New Year, New Linen

As you have probably noticed Randomwire is sporting a brand new look today in what seems to have become a yearly occurrence. While I was quite happy with the previous design (from early 2010) I felt like I wanted something lighter and fresher. The theme is a customised version of Linen produced by the wonderful people at The Theme Foundry (where my past two previous themes also came from). Read more

Tube Map Evolution: 2009 Edition

So it looks like someone at TfL was listening last year when I posted my critique of the 2008 version of the London Underground Tube Map which had become horribly cluttered and complex. Last month they issued a new version of the map which immediately sparked controversy because the River Thames had been removed along with many other changes designed to simplify the map which made the original so effective. Now that the outcry has died down I thought I’d take an objective look at the changes…

Let’s recap – the clean and simple 2004 version (click for larger version):

London Underground Tube Map 2004

The horribly complex and cluttered 2008 version:

London Underground Tube Map 2008

Leading to the new 2009 version:

London Underground Tube Map 2009

What a breath of fresh air – at a glance you’d think they’d simply gone back to the 2004 version but aside from the obvious removal of the river and fare zones there are some more subtle omissions:

  • walking distances
  • blue/orange info boxes
  • limited-time junctions (e.g. Kennington, Woodford)
  • “check before you travel” symbols

In keeping with the tidy-up the DLR and Overground lines are now better integrated into the rest of the system and many junctions have been simplified. The wheelchair accessibility symbols are still excessive (but probably required by law).

In general I like this new design a lot; it solves most of my gripes with the 2008 version and brings back a certain artful elegance to the classic design. There is only one problem I have with this version: the lack of the River Thames. This was an iconic part of the map which was also a useful geographical indicator to help you know which side you were on (North/South). Apparently Major Boris Johnson feels the same way and has promised it’ll be reinstated so it’s not all bad news.

Despite its drawbacks the London Underground is the circulatory systems that supplies the lifeblood to the city so it’s no wonder that people are passionate about how we look at and navigate through it. Within the perspective of its evolution it seems that a step backward was needed to move things forward; “back to basics” if you like. It will be interesting to see how this continues to develop but TfL definitely deserves a small pat on the back for taking this brave step.

London Calling

Keep Calm And Carry On

I spent the weekend in the fine capital city of London, once my home for three years, catching up with old friends and family. Whilst bouncing between Waterloo, Esher, High Street Kensington, Bank and Canary Wharf I came across this rather intriguing poster. While the slogan is rather appropriate for the current economic crisis the poster actually originates from 1939 and was commissioned by the British Governments Ministry of Information during the Second World War (but never used publicly). Since its rediscovery in an obscure bookshop it’s become somewhat of an icon spawning many derivatives online (as well as opportunists ready to flog you a copy). I’ve created an iPhone wallpaper version here.

London 2012 Concept Poster

It reminded me of these concept poster designs for the London 2012 Olympic Games by Alan Clarke designed to help people find the right tube stations for various events. It’s just a pity that it’s unlikely these will ever be seen by the general public either.

Classic British sentiment and design, I love it. Anyone from the Olympic committee listening? (hint: hire this guy)

Farewell Britannia

Photo by Gilbert R

As the saying goes “a goodbye isn’t painful unless you’re never going to say hello again” and so it is with my imminent departure from the UK tomorrow. I’ll be back, I’m just not sure when! My flight to Hong Kong departs from London Heathrow tomorrow at midday and will touch down at 7am local time Wednesday morning after eleven-and-a-half hours of economy-class boredom. Then the real fun begins.

Hong Kong dawn
Photo by slack12

I wont actually have any time in Hong Kong this time as I’ll be hopping directly on a coach across the border into mainland China and my final destination of Shenzhen (about 1 hour away). During the next two weeks I’ll be staying in a hotel while I find myself somewhere more perminant to live (fingers crossed).

I’ll be blogging as much as I can, time permitting, here and keep an eye on my FriendFeed / Flickr photostream for the latest goings on there. See you on the other side!

Skyline Time Lapse

Apologies for not posting so frequently for the past couple of weeks – work/life has been very hectic (even more so than usual) and doesn’t look like it will let up for a few weeks yet. That said, I will endeavour to get a few posts out starting with this experiment I made recently…

A couple of weeks back I moved rooms in the house where I live to the top floor “penthouse” which one of my previous housemates had just vacated. Aside from having its own ensuite bathroom (a major plus!) and a balcony it also has great back and front views. Whist enjoying watching the world go by I decided to try creating a time lapse video with the inbuilt camera on my MacBook Pro. Above is my first attempt which I captured using an open source program called Gawker which took a picture every 20 seconds and then mixed together in iMovie ’08. The music is “Red-Eye” by The Album Leaf and the view is looking towards Canary Wharf which you can just see peeking out from behind some of the houses in the foreground.

Although the picture is fairly compressed it’s nice to see what you can do with the tiny camera in a MBP and I hope to be doing some more experiments in the near future.

The View From The Top


Last weekend I was lucky enough to be taken on a tour of One Canada Square, the tallest building in the UK, courtesy of a friend who works there. Situated at the heart of Canary Wharf close to where I live the main structure is 235m tall with 50 floors and is a prominent landmark on London’s rapidly evolving skyline. Having featured prominently in a string of recent films (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, The Bourne Supremacy, 28 Weeks Later…) and the UK version of The Apprentice recently it’s likely you’ll recognise the location.


The higher floors offer amazing panoramic views of east London with the river Thames snaking its way around the Isle of Dogs. On a clear day you can see for many miles and it’s striking just how flat London without a hill in sight! It’s a shame there is no public viewing gallery but presumably fears of terrorism have curtailed any possibility of that.



There’s a lot of construction taking place around this area at the moment, mostly luxury apartments (like Pan Peninsular) but also various infrastructure projects to prepare for the Olympics in 2012. Part of this includes the lengthening of Docklands Light Railway trains which is causing mass disruption for anyone trying to get to and from central London at the moment (i.e. everyone)!

London -> Tokyo by Train

Sometimes you come across an idea which is so mad that it might just have a chance of success. This was the case when I first heard about proposals to dig a 200km+ undersea train tunnel between Korea and Japan in a similar fashion to the Channel Tunnel which connects Britain and France (albeit 4 times longer). The tunnel has a number of proposed routes, a couple of which would see it also pass through the territorially disputed islands of Tsushima and Iki on it’s path.

It’s estimated that it would cost around 100 trillion Won (£1=W2000) and 15 to 20 years to build the so-called “peace tunnel” which would be a joint venture between the two countries if it ever comes to fruition. The technical, economic and political feasibility of the project is currently being estimated but it is still far from clear whether it will ever get the go ahead given the uncertainties.

Aside from improving relations between the two countries and promoting economic growth what excites me about this project is the wider implications for trans-continental travel around the world. With the cost of flying rising every year and the environmental impacts ever more present could high-speed rail links, taking advantage of new connections such as this, be part of the solution?

If the tunnel is ever built it would be physically feasible to travel by train all the way from London to Tokyo without the need for flying (ignoring the small problem of North Korea for the moment!) and combined with new technology in the future such as magnetic levitation the journey time wouldn’t necessarily be a huge amount longer than flying.

In the wake of the devastating earthquake in China yesterday you have to wonder whether building a massive underwater tunnel in an area of tectonic instability is a good idea but as pipe dreams go (excuse the pun) I’m all in favour! Humankind has always strived to push the boundaries of science, technology and engineering and it can’t be a bad thing if this helps bring together two historically hostile neighbours.

RAF Anniversary Fly-Past

Red Arrows Fly Past London Bridge

I’m a little late in posting this but on Tuesday I was lucky enough to be in central London at the same time as the RAF (Royal Air Force) was celebrating it’s 90th anniversary which included a cool flypast of the Red Arrows and Typhoon fighter jets. I watched from London Bridge which gave a great vantage point as the planes appeared seemingly out of nowhere over Canary Wharf leaving coloured smoke trails in their wake.

Red Arrows Fly Past London Bridge

It was all over in a matter of seconds but I still managed to snap a couple of OK pics with my iphone – more from the BBC. Not a bad way to spend a weekday lunchtime 🙂