Naples: Living layers of laundry

First impressions last.

What struck me about Naples, the ‘city of dark sun’, in the first few minutes of arriving there – as I was passing through on my way to Ischia this Summer, Thursday 19th July 2012 – was the laundry. Everywhere I looked, layers of clean laundry were flapping in the breeze, rustling against balconies and window boxes, pulsing in the sunlight.

Even though as they hung there drying, the newly washed sheets and shirts and underwear of Naples must have lost some of its cleanness – rubbing against grimy ironwork

and soot stained stone – the visual effect was scintillating and bright. The permanence of those tall tightly packed buildings was enriched and enlivened by this transient layer – layer upon layer – of diaphanous fabric, shimmering in continuous motion.

Was it messy ? no. There was enough of it, and in enough variety, to be beyond messy. It had (to use a developer’s phrase) ‘critical mass’, or perhaps I should say ‘critical density
Why do people in Naples hang laundry out more than in other cities I know such as Rome or Toulouse ? Is it a habit; a tradition ? The people living in the old city are not rich but it feels like more than economics which accounts for this aspect of Naples’ character.

It is ironic that intimate objects such as bed-sheets, bra’s and vests can contribute tothe privacy of a home but in Naples that is what they do.

And it makes sense of course in a hot climate to shade the window with a sheet. As it dries, the air is chilled around the window. As the sheet flaps in the breeze, the room cools.

25th November 2012









The Joy of Jaywalking


This is a sketch about ‘the Joy of Jaywalking’ – on a street where, even if it is busy with traffic, it is easy to cross, whenever you want.

The traffic gives way and the pedestrian is free to move as they choose; to follow lines of desire.

To move South from the noise of traffic into the quietness of an old part of town; through places where wandering is easy and you can hear yourself think.



Film about 10×10, courtesy of Crane TV & Article 25.

This film is about 10×10 – courtesy of Crane TV and Article 25.

The idea is simple:
100 architects, artists and designers each take a square of London and put together a ‘collective snapshot’.
Each of us explores … and then draws … whatever catches our eye.
The pleasure is in 3 things:
1. Looking at places we are familiar with in a new way – finding that what seemed ordinary yesterday is extraordinary today.
2. Sharing our discoveries with others – being part of something broader than our own experience.
3. Helping to raise money for projects in places around the World where life – and the built environment – is not as comfortable as it is in London – delivered through the expert hands of Article 25.
The first post (see below) was about the picture I did, with my son Noah’s help, in Great Scotland Yard.

Empty Plastic Water Bottles in a Disused Drinking Fountain – Doha

Empty Plastic Water Bottles in a Disused Drinking Fountain

In Arabia it was traditional to place a drinking fountain out on the street, as a welcome to visitors and passers by.

Here is a disused fountain of this kind – a simple basin and tap – on a side street in Msheireb West, only a few steps away from Msheireb (the neighbourhood whose name means ‘Place of Sweet Water’).

It caught my eye because what fills it now is not water but empty plastic water bottles.

Sweet irony.