Should London's Tower Bridge be painted red?

Probably not, but (1) London can be a grey old place (2) red is London’s emblematic colour (3) Tower Bridge is one of the best-known London icons (4) the colour would appeal to Chinese tourists (5) from time to time, one should ‘paint the city red’ (6) I had a red toy model of Tower Bridge when I was 5 years old have always been disappointed by its present colours.

24 thoughts on “Should London's Tower Bridge be painted red?

  1. Rachel

    I love the subtlety of 100s of different greys. When on the London Eye this summer, I was alarmed to spot splashes of bright colours over towards the Barbican. I am told it is a new building by Renzo Piano.

    It reminds me sometime ago, when a friend had a Nicaraguan guest visiting them in Hebden Bridge. She couldn’t understand why they didn’t all paint their stone houses bright colours.

  2. Tom Turner Post author

    OK, you can forget my childhood memories, even if I can’t.
    But is it a good idea for a city to have an emblematic colour and, if so, when and how should red be used in London? Jaipur is known as the Pink City and Jodhpur as the Blue City. Singapore wants to be the Green City. Aberdeen is the Grey City. Marrakech is the Red City. I think colour policy should figure in urban and landscape design policy – and refer you to books on the subject by friend and colleague, Michael Lancaster.

  3. Tom Turner Post author

    1. Martha Schwartz’ style seems very appropriate for children’s playgrounds.
    2. I am pleased to hear about the red trousers and feel the blog has an achievement at last (!).
    3. It would be good if every city could have its own colour. Linguistically there are 7 or 8 colours and I believe the human eye can distinguish millions of colours. But it would also be interesting if cities were willing to classify themselves in terms of ‘theme character’ (along the lines of Harlequin space). I would like to know whether I am going to visit a Red City, a White City or Green City. Let’s not think about the problems of a Blue City.

  4. Tom Turner Post author

    Thank you for the link – I need to plan a trip to India to cheer myself up about the end of summer. Whenever I hear on the radio that India’s economy is surging ahead my thought is that I must get back there before they wreck the place. And a fear of modernisation makes me questioning (very very slightly) about democracy in Myanmar/Burma.
    I was thinking about my lost toy (ie the bridge only) but to be serious, I think there should be sections in the various London plans about use of red. Letter boxes, old telephone boxes and busses are fine. But I think London could do more and I would like to know what should be done. There are in fact far too many non-red busses in London. They have been putting up some map boards for tourists recently (in a ‘good taste’ functionalist style and in bad locations) and they might have been an opportunity for some old-fashioned red-blooded brashness.

  5. christine

    There is the underground sign.[ ]

    Perhaps an industrial design competition to rethink the trains could also result in an iconic train service? [ ]

    I wonder whether the message board is the right choice?
    [ ]

    Now for some informative critique of the respective merits of the London v Paris metro signs…
    [ ]

    Sydney is known as the Emerald city.
    [ ]

  6. Tom Turner Post author

    Silly of me, but I never paused to wonder how Australia became Oz and need to thank the Times of India for a clear explanation. Wiki supplies the additional info that ‘David Williamson (whose brother-in-law wrote the Oz-inspired musical Oz) wrote a play in 1987 called Emerald City. The term is used as a metaphor by the character Elaine Ross, describing Sydney as “the Emerald City of Oz”, where people go expecting their dreams to be fulfilled, only to end up with superficial substitutes and broken dreams’. So is ‘Emerald City’ an example of the Australian talent for self-mockery? I can’t imagine this being a popular activity in China.
    The Barclays Bank Cycle Scheme in London seems to be working very well. There is something very comfortable and black-cab-like about the bikes but they would indeed have been a wonderful opportunity for the use of red. If they had to have sponsorship then it should have come from the Bank Santander. See my previous post on the use of bilious blue for London’s cycle superhighways, also sponsored by Barclays Bank. One thing I will say: it is a damn sight better than sponsoring motor racing!

  7. Poppy

    Suddenly, I felt it will be good to make a questionare survey to disscuss the colour of POS,like tower bridge. Maybe the answer will be : Most people like it. So, why not make it red.

  8. Tom Turner Post author

    I don’t think they are enough, because most of the telephone boxes have gone and given the steep decline in physical mail the post boxes may be on the same path.
    Wiki says that red symboilizes courage, sacrifice, sin, guilt, pain, passion, blood, anger – and warning. So does London, not to mention it being the city of Karl Marx and William Morris. We should proclaim our heritage!

  9. Tom Turner Post author

    Those proud pantiles were probably imported from the Low Countries. If you walk along the
    Thames beach today you can find masses of broken terracotta, which may be the remains of those tiles. Sorry I do not know about Olav. We had a lot of trouble with Vikings and don’t get as much attention as they deserve in histories of England.

  10. Christine

    It seems Boris is taking the subsequent verses of the nursery rythme seriously and plans to build London Bridge ‘up again’ in a) wood and clay b) bricks and mortar c) iron and steel or d) silver and gold.
    [ ]

    Not sure why the tobacco companies haven’t exploited this one in their advertising!
    [ ]

    Whoops! I knew this…London Bridge and Tower Bridge are different.
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    It is quite possible that Olav gained gold and glory as the Norwegian version says. [ ]

    Back to the present, I agree with Boris. Rebuilding London Bridge is a good project! London should hold a design competition.

  11. Tom Turner Post author

    I agree with you and with Boris. They should rebuild an ‘inhabited’ bridge in London BUT with no thought of ever allowing motor-powered vehicles to use it (though the Galata Bridge in Istanbul works well enough with the vehicles on top and an inhabited section below). Professional bridge designers should be deconstructed to give them a similar role to structural consultants on a a building project; they should never be the lead consultants. Maybe we need Bridge Parents, as well as City Parents.


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