Although, snow is pretty and lots of fun, the extreme cold that usually accompanies it can be a problem for wandering/clicking-machines like me. I mean, try clicking in -7 degrees without gloves on and it’s almost certain death (or at least, frostbite) for your fingers. So I set the camera aside and patiently started waiting for the weather to clear. And I waited. And waited. And waited, growing extremely impatient. Hmm, this didn’t seem to be working.So what do you do when you’re snowed in?In my Book of Profound Answers, there is only one answer to such a question:
“Make the most of it, dammit!”
So that’s what I set out to do.
By heading to the Natural History Museum in South Kensington in London.
The Natural History Museum houses some of the world’s best collections of – well, natural history. Now here’s the thing. Although I studied Science at high school level, I did it only because it was the path that would lead me to my chosen obsession (and profession) – Cities. Yes, that’s the way it used to work when I was in school in India. So, although parts of the exhibit were really interesting, that’s not what this post is going to be about. Because I’m no museum chronicler. I’m the flâneuse, soaking in the the city around me, and I’m the cities professional, who, when confronted with such a fascinating piece of architecture, can scarcely look beyond it.
The museum was built by the architect Alfred Waterhouse in the German Romanesque
style, in the latter half of the 1800s. The time I chose to visit was a snowy but thankfully not too cold morning and I was struck by the way the statuesque building stood out amidst all the foggy whiteness around it.
But what enthralled me even more was the spectacular detailing inside the massive building. Every little detail in this building seems to have been lovingly created by an artist – and at least to my eyes it gave stiff competition to the actual exhibits it houses.
The building is, in more ways than one, a tribute to its contents and its purpose. Yet, this structure manages to stand out on its own. It simultaneously manages to have a grandeur of scale and an intimacy with the user – the facade, the huge central hall and the grand staircase communing with the intricacy of the decoration, rather than overpowering it.
You only just need to look closely at the ceiling panels which are beautifully painted with hundreds of plant specimens from all over the world, in colours that reflect the dappled light that comes in through the exquisite stained glass windows, to understand what I’m saying. Or, pay attention to the cornices and to the relief carvings of animals and plants literally ‘climbing’ and ‘crawling’ all over the terracota tiling.
I could stand in here for hours just admiring this building. Of course, if you’re so inclined, there’s a really massive collection of dinosaurs and fossils and animals and plants and rocks and precious stones to gape at, as well. Either way, it doesn’t fail to serve as an excellent winter diversion. Just what the soul needed.