Weekly Photo Challenge: Masterpiece

Just what is a Masterpiece? It’s a term most usually attributed to works of art – the Mona Lisa is the obvious example, though one that I find lacking in inspiration for me. I much prefer the works of the Dutch painters. Cheri illustrated the challenge post with an image of the Sagrada Familia Duomo by Antoni Gaudi, still under construction in Barcelona. I would agree that it is a masterpiece both of artistic vision and engineering.

So we have established that Masterpieces don’t have to be works of art in the traditional sense as the Sagrada Famila shows. Baker’s cantilever bridge across the Firth of Forth stands as an icon of Scotland – it has never been eclipsed in that role by the road suspension bridge that opened in the 1960’s. To me that is a Masterpiece. But, what about other areas of art? How about Holst’s Planet Suite or Vaughan William’s Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis – no one’s going to tell me that they aren’t Masterpieces (except a diehard Beethoven fan perhaps). And what about modern popular music – Doesn’t some of that genre warrant Masterpiece status?

Examples of modern architecture are often cited as the latest masterpiece by a particular architect / architect studio. Whether you view them as masterpieces is again a matter of personal taste. Here are some London examples juxtaposed with existing buildings…

Heron Tower - designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox - looms over Bishopsgate and reflects work in progress on The Pinnacle.
Heron Tower – designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox – looms over Bishopsgate and reflects work in progress on The Pinnacle.
30 St Mary Axe - Designed by Sir Norman Foster - with St Andrew Undershaft in the foreground
30 St Mary Axe – Designed by Sir Norman Foster – with St Andrew Undershaft in the foreground
20 Fenchurch Street - Designed by Rafael Viñoly - Under construction.
20 Fenchurch Street – Designed by Rafael Viñoly – Under construction.
St Margaret Patterns Chruch overshadowed by Rafael Viñoly's 20 Fenchurch Street
St Margaret Patterns Chruch overshadowed by Rafael Viñoly’s 20 Fenchurch Street

So – Masterpieces? Over to you…

20 Comments

    1. Thanks Christine – our London skyline changes continuously as each plot of land gets rebuilt. It seems to be an ongoing process of renewal.

    1. Thank you Abby – How great we wait to see 😉 It’s ever a case of change in London and sometimes we hope for some form of stability in our city because there seems to be one new building after the next. A skyline shot I took 3 years back is already out of date! So much change so fast.

  1. The building at 30 St Mary Axe reminds me of a Fabergé egg–or a UFO. I’m fascinated by the unusual shape. Its position so near the cathedral and other more traditional, older buildings definitely gives it flair. I’d be very willing to use the word “masterpiece” to describe these architectural wonders. They are riveting to behold! Great photos once again, Martin!

    1. Thanks Debra 🙂 30 St Mary Axe is affectionately referred to as ‘The Gherkin’ over here 😉 Directly behind me is one of the more controversial modern buildings – Lloyds…Must post an ‘artistic’ shot of that one! I’m sure the Vicar of St Andrews will be pleased to hear his parish church being called a Cathedral 😉 That’ll improve his chances of Sainthood !!!

  2. So many brilliant pairings comparing and contrasting the masterpieces throughout the ages. At least with the new glass buildings we get to enjoy a good degree of reflection. Am with you on the Dutch paintings!

  3. As for Simmery Axe (still pronunction of St. Mary Axe?) —
    there is a similar building in Barcelona, without so many bumps. You say this one is called the Gherkin. I can tell you, the one in Barcelona is not called anything like that. Some people all it the Lipstick Tube, but most people call it something I will leave to your imagination.
    The Sagrada Familia? Yes, a masterpiece. I like some modern architecture, but by no means all. Your photos, as Patti says, are brilliant pairings, each one.

    1. Never heard that pronounciation Judith. The street takes its name from the medieval church of St. Mary Axe that was demolished circa 1565. The parish was merged with St. Andrew Undershaft.

      I assume that the building you refer to in Barcelona is the Agbar Tower 😉

      1. You really DO know everything! It is the Agbar Tower (just googled it for images to see).

        That pronunciation, BTW, is how it’s sung in Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Sorcerer”, the one operetta I’ve never seen, but it has a famous patter song, “My name is John Wellington Wells, I’m a dealer in magic and spells, in blessings and curses and …..” who dwells at Number 70 Simmery Axe (St. Mary Axe). (On You Tube you can choose between Martyn Green in action and John Reed in a still photo, but with incredible elocution, you can understand every word.)
        And for good measure, G. B. Shaw used Andrew Undershaft as the name of Major Barbara’s husband in his play of the same name!
        Gotta be a connection!!!!!

      2. I think that’s called a ‘slur’ in music – instructing the player or singer to merge the notes 😉 So the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta does that well but you’ll never hear that pronounciation in the city today 🙂 Undershaft refers to a long since defunct Maypole on the site. So much history and probably much more to discover! Great to chat with you Judith 🙂

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