February 11, 2014


It has been just over a month since I first arrived.  Naturally I’ve become better at navigating around town – town being figurative as London’s size rivals most states in the northeast United States.  I find it best to start with the bad and end with the good.

The rain continues to fall throughout the southern UK and it’s starting to overwhelm available resources, including the Armed Forces.  January actually broke records as in some places it was the most rain in the month of January in over 200 years.  The flooding has destroyed thousands of homes, businesses, rail services, you name it; and unfortunately there is more rain in sight.

So that’s enough bad news for this blog.  I’ve been pretty busy over the past month, much more than my first blog let on.  The graphic above is a collage of pictures I’ve taken from various sites, landmarks and anything I found appealing.  The diversity of people is a mirror to the diversity in the environment around the city with a vast range of art, goods and services, building designs, and social classes.  This is seen easiest by visiting many of the markets, street frontages, and arcades throughout the city.  You can find anything from antiques to fine jewellery, merchants whom craft by hand to large franchises, and small scooters to fully equipped McLaren sports cars.






But the mixture of architecture will still always catch my eye and keep hold.  One would think having so many combinations of the likes of Victorian and Gothic from the ages almost abut to Utilitarian and Modernist from the present, would contrast beyond anything that could be called enjoyable.  However, the richness of each design on its own creates a degree of competition likened to that of a child vying for attention.  You are left not wanting to look away, but instead trying to decide which leaves you in awe the most.  Let me give you an example; take the three buildings shown below (in order – The Shard, Millennium Dome, Westminster Abbey).






Though not adjacent to each other, all three are prominent landmarks in London.  Which is the best?  Is it the artistic detail and massive flying buttresses of Westminster Abbey, or the engineering marvel of the spires that support the Millennium Dome, or the crisp and elegant glass façade that comprises the envelope of the Shard?  How do you decide—can you decide?  My only disappointment is that this range in design is not prevalent back home in the U.S.  Whether it be the age of our country, the conservatism in design, or the nature of our economy; this mixure of bold design is lacking and I hope to someday see it flourish.

When it comes to the office, I’ve started on a new project I’m very excited about.  The project is a proton beam therapy centre in Manchester.  I encourage anyone curious to look up the technology, but think of it as a linear accelerator on steroids.  The basic concept is that a cyclotron speeds up protons to high velocities, which are then transported through a beam line to treatment rooms where a gantry directs the proton at cancer cells.  The idea is that this technology is more controlled at killing cancer cells with less damage to adjacent healthy cells.  There are only just over 40 of these centres in the world and this will be the first in the UK.

Similar to last week, I’ll end in the blog to the style of Peter King from SI, with ten things I think I think:

  1. I think the stick person on exit signs here looks guilty.  You’re probably evacuating because of him.
  2. … someone from London should go live in Richmond, VA (a true exchange).
  3. … large parks in big cities should be a requirement in the U.S.
  4. … my addiction to caffeine is becoming a real problem.  I’m dying for Starbucks and soda.
    • (Aside: I told myself I wasn’t buying anything I can find in the U.S. while I’m here)
  5. … any 230V outlet in the U.S. should have a switch at the outlet.  It just makes sense.
  6. … having a yellow light signal just before a traffic light turns green would be disastrous in the U.S.
  7. … folks in the design profession work too much.
  8. … it’s time to buy a new hat when I get home.
  9. … London would be quite a sight with a blanket of snow.
  10. … Roger Goodell is not a Broncos fan right now.


Michael Cochran - HKS Richmond, VA

Posted in Health
Tagged HKS London, HKS Richmond, Xchange