I’m scared that my life is on a road that will make it stylishly bleak, like a rest break in Guggenheim museum
scribbles tagged ‘architecture’
I was able to explore some artsy stuff on a Sunday during my recent Minneapolis visit. The Walker Art Centre was a real pleasure. I found myself enjoying the building almost as much as the exhibits. First, they had a brushed-suede alcove for watching film exhibits.
Next, for visitors suffering from Museum fatigue they’d provided plenty of comfortable seating with views of the local scenery rather than the thought provoking exhibits. I watched children sledding down the hillside. Apart from myself the seats were…
Each corner that I walked around provided a new and interesting view of the architecture. There appeared to me more docents in the museum than visitors. I felt guilty looking at, and photographing, the building. There will be another post on the fabulous exhibits, to compensate for my guilt. The corridors were….
Normally I have to wait, twist, and stretch to find a view of a building without people messing up the view. Not in the Walker Art Centre on a Sunday in March. It’s a place where you can be alone.
Maybe even lonely.
The fancy new Reading town Grimshaw designed train station is not quite finished. It’s already showing some fundamental design flaws. It’s good looking, if you like big open spaces and an airport foyer feel. But they’ve already had to put in blue plastic barriers to direct the pedestrian traffic boarding and disembarking from the escalators – to avoid too many clashes. I followed the signs for the washrooms up onto the bridge concourse, but the signs stop there. A temporary design fix (information booth) was placed in the centre of the airport style open bridge concourse. I asked where the nearest washrooms were, On platform 12b.
On platform 12b?!
Almost all the pedestrian traffic goes through the bridge concourse and they didn’t put any washrooms there? How bizarre. The architect doesn’t appear to have thought of the station as a place where humans move in predictable patterns with predictable needs. The retrospective design fixes interrupt the ‘beautiful’ lines of the building.
I remember being taken to Leicester Forest East service station as a child. It was a big event, my parents paid for the silver service restaurant meal for the whole family. We sat over the M1 watching the traffic roar passed underneath while being treated to a quality meal.
The M1 was the first British motorway, my parents remember before the UK Motorway system was built. I can’t find a reference to it, but I think this was the first of the modern motorway service stations.
It’s gradually become like all the other service stations, lacking the stunning uniqueness that it had when I was a kiddy.
As a post-graduate student at Loughborough University in the late 80’s we would drive out to Leicester Forest East after a night clubbing. When Loughborough closed, Leicester Forest East was open 24 hours serving burgers and coffee. A place to hang-out and watch the waifs and strays taking a break on their journeys. Fond memories. It’s scheduled to close in 2017 to make space for a wider motorway. The end of an era.
This Rolex store in Wilmslow appears to be based in what was once a movie theatre. The tall coloured windows are something I associate with UK movie theatre architecture.
Late in the evening the coloured windows provide light, warmth, colour and a smile to the cold, dark, windy street. The colourful light made me smile. The colours are the colours of the Microsoft windows logo.
Without directly promoting products this Rolex store has promoted good spirit in a way that anyone, irrespective of income, can share.
Finnicky details like ‘not being in Durham‘ and ‘not being surrounded by Maples’ do not detract from the fabulousness of Mapledurham house (and mill, turbine, tea-rooms, village, riverside)
It is a well preserved Elizabethan building on the banks of the river Thames, a couple of miles outside Reading town. Getting there involved a 2 mile drive down a winding single-track country road bounded by 10ft ancient hedgerows. Thomas and I had to use our skills for
- looking around corners
- pulling into the hedgerow, breathing-in and closing our eyes/headlamps
A friend recently bought the derelict Flitwick Mill, that is mentioned in the Doomsday book (1066 AD). Looking around the Mapledurham mill gave me an insight into how the Flitwick mill might have looked and sounded. I loved the sound of the creaking cogs transferring the power of the waterwheel to the millstone.
Other highlights of the mill included the
- dangerous staircase (ladder)
- mill shop selling flour milled onsite
- modern turbine – big corkscrew being turned by the river-flow
Lots of lovely things in the actual house, staircases, wood panneling, furniture, textiles, fireplaces…..
I kept a look-out for woodcarvings or plaster mouldings of similar design to the carving on my new, old, bench. They might help me to ‘date’ the bench. I din’t find any, I’ll keep looking….
The “Centre for Anxiety Disorders and Trauma” sounds like just the ticket for Tiger. He’s been talking using phrases like “I get very anxious” and “it was traumatic” since before he even got to hospital. The sign label for the centre clearly maps to his, and my, more colloquial language
The entrance area was deserted except for a young man who looked of African origin sitting behind a desk wearing headphones. I could hear loud music escaping from his headphones. When he noticed me walking towards him he took off the headphones, switched the music off, turned to face me and gave a wonderful big smile. He was both cheerful and helpful. The place feels small and personable despite it’s obvious size
The walls are covered in photographs of key influential people in the history of the hospital and patients doing all sorts of things, mainly smiling. Natural daylight falls into the main corridors. Walking the corridors doesn’t feel like being trapped in subterranean tunnels – my normal experience of big hospitals. The architects have clearly thought carefully about helping the building provide things that raise spirits like natural daylight. throughout the building there were many more windows than normal in hospitals or other buildings of this period
Wouldn’t it be good if all hospital architecture, signage and decor could create this kind of caring supportive impression for their patients
The wedding practice-party mingle in the sunshine outside St James and St William of York church. I skirt the party and slip into the substantial entrance porch of Pugin‘s psuedo Norman church. A handsome young man in the porch is talking on his mobile phone:
I’d just like you to take the “a” off the end of my name. At the moment it looks like two girls are getting married – Nicola and Alexa. My name is Alex not Alexa. Please just put it right
I imagine the wedding with the grooms name miss-spelt as a girls name. If they are having the rehearsal, the wedding is probably fairly soon, I am impressed at how well the groom maintains a semblance of calm as he delivers his plea
The telephone pole’s spider silk lightly clings to the nearby houses
I wonder how long this will last when a substantial swathe of people find it easier to get connected and manage thier bills using a “Pay as you go” mobile phone – no connection charge, no deposit if you have no credit history….
This autumn the dragons that live in the caverns beneath the cloud making machines are taking a long, deep, extra Indian summer snooze before they start hailing winter by breathing steam, clouds, into the cold air
Let’s hear it for the sleeping dragons below the cloud making machines, whisper “Hip Hip…..Hoorah…..” and let the sleeping dragons lie
This August Bristol hosted a “see no evil” ‘block’ party, in a street dominated by 1970’s blocky, brutalist style architecture, Nelson Street:
“Some of the world’s leading street artists, some of the biggest pieces of permanent street art, some of the best music and one big block party August 20 2011!”
- Tats Cru (NY)
- El Mac (LA)
- Niels Shoe (Amsterdam)
- Mr Wany (Bristini)
- Inkie (Bristol)
- Aryz (Barcelona)
- Zeus (UK)
- Nick Walker (UK)
The artwork transformed places you might quickly walk through on your way somewhere else to places you go to linger. The varied pictures and styles change moods, raise questions, touch the soul. Bros 1957 and I lingered there, talking, smiling, photographing for several hours
The sound of christian church bells calling people to prayer cheerfully echos around the Wendy House garden on a Sunday morning. In April London Road, Wokingham Road, Cumberland Road, adjoining streets and park come alive with orange clad Sikh’s singing and sharing goodwill in the streets for Nagar Kirtan
Until recently there were only a couple of Mosques in Reading town. Converted buildings rather than purpose built. Can you imagine approximately 10,000 local Muslims using a couple of tiny converted buildings?
Reading town’s first purpose built Abu Bakr Masjid Islamic centre is part of the solution, and nearly complete. It adds wonderful colour, spirituality and architectural interest to the already diverse and vibrant Oxford Road
It’s on the outstanding Number 17 bus route. Alas, it’s not big enough for 10,000 muslims
Another beautifully architected Mosque is now planned for East Reading, also on the awesome Number 17 bus route
Reading town feels multi-cultrual and as-if people care about more than just the acquisitiveness of capitalism
Local authoress Ms Mary Russell Mitford laid the foundation stone of the “New Hall” in 1842. Contemporary writing refers to the New Hall as either the “Literary, Scientific and Mechanics Institute” or the “Theatre Royal”. The Institute appears to be part of a social movement that started in Wales to ensure adults of all classes, probably men, had the opportunity to learn about the arts and sciences. It provided a place they could go that had useful stuff like a library and events, for example plays
At the building’s opening in 1843 Charles Dickens read from his work. Some sources say he read from “Great Expectations” and others “Pickwick papers”
The building is later refered to as “The primitive methodist chapel” I wasn’t able to find clear, confirmed dates for this, or a reason why the Institute moved out of the building
Now it’s a public house and hotel named after the Dickens’ book “Great Expectations”. The ground floor of the pub still has a library room
In the cult BBC drama ‘Dr. Who’ the Dr travels in a time machine called the TARDIS (type 40) that uses a ‘chameleon circuit to change its outer visible form to fit with the local surroundings.
Unfortunately the chameleon circuit broke when the TARDIS was disguised as a 1950’s London blue Police box. They are essentially a mini police station for use by Police people, and members of the public can use them to (phone) call the police. Police boxes were first used in Albany NY (1877) soon after the telephone was invented! The first boxes in Britain were placed in Glasgow (1891).
By the time I was old enough to visit London (1970s) the London police boxes had long since been removed.
This green police box is alive today, in Sheffield!
Seeing this Box kept me happy for weeks, I hope the photograph does something pleasing for you too …
theatre, opera and ballet attendees arrive
Covent Garden sparkles in the evening with laughter and smiles, people warmly dressed and chattering, clicking heels and long dresses, Dinner Jackets and cigars. Full of people it is a different place, just as beautiful
According to the church guidebook Jane Austen’s aunt was imprisoned in the local Gaol for shoplifting
The views from this Kensignton Palace building must have been severely hampered by the modern Hotel building behind. At first I was horrified that town planners had let this happen, surely people vociferously complained when they saw the plans?
Then the sheer perversity of the juxtaposition began to work a subversive magic on my taste. The smaller building looked so much more cute because of its unassuming presence in the shadow of a large and ugly Hotel.
I first heard of the Park Hill estate during my undergraduate environmental psychology classes in 1986. The architect’s, Ivor Smith and Jack Lynn’s, vision for a high rise estate to replace sprawling slums in the northern English city of Sheffield with “Streets in the Sky”. Streets in the sky would recreate the strengths of the communities which had flourished in the back to back slums and provide improved living conditions at a bargain price. Taking people out of small, damp, Victorian terraces where kids played in the streets and giving them streets in the sky with views over the city, inside toilets, covered walkways, balcony’s where children could play and neighbours could chat, with room for attractive open park land around the high rise buildings. Smith and Lynn’s designs were heavily influenced by Le Corbuiser’s Breton Brut as evident in his Marseilles Unité d’Habitation. Breton Brut became known in Britain as ‘Brutalism’, simple functional form. They wanted to build in a sense of neighbourliness into these functional spaces.
These changes were intended to improve the standard of living for people now living in a slum area locally know as ‘Little Chicago’ in the gangster era. The Park Hill estate was completed in 1961 with 995 flats that could house over two thousand people overlooking Sheffield city centre. Front doors opened to a 12 ft wide balcony, a street, that runs right across the estate over bridges between buildings. Milk floats could trundle from door to door along streets named the same asthose in the original slums they replaced. People that were neighbours in the slums were rehoused next to each other.
Worthy, admirable intentions
When built, the social ideal didn’t happen
The estate soon became known as Sheffield’s San Quentin. The failure of the original design vision has been blamed on many things including
- easy access routes for muggers
- poor sound insulation
- the streets being open to the inclement Sheffield weather
- the building’s ugliness
- the poverty of the occupants
It’s difficult to tell from the publicity what is being changed to make the project work as a successful place to live this time. A recent BBC TV programme about the renovation focussed on English heritage’s aesthetic and structural requirements for preservation not mentioning any changes to the space aimed at improving the occupants expereince of living there. The programme made the vision appear less social that the original. So what will have changed since it first opened? It looks like the renovation will be
- It’s prettier with bright rainbow colours
- occupants will not all be council tenants, some will be home owners and some shared ownership. They will be a different socio-economic mix
- the streets will not be open to the Sheffield weather
- living there comes with the kudos of living in a classic listed building
Turin was littered with clever and humerous architecture, sculpture, art. It was a pleasure to wander the streets and ride the trams. There was a bravery, passion , wit and optimism about the city that appealed to me.
The via Roma runs from the Porto Nuova train station (1861) through three gorgous city piazza’s (Castello, San Carlo, Carlo Felice) to the Palazzo Reale. The roads facade is a classic Italian art Deco (1933) style that houses designer, expensive stores (and footlocker). We noticed some ‘city angels’ wandering along the street. Commmunity policing? Free accociating with art deco, with 1933, brings thoughts of Hitlers rise to power, the German ‘brownshirts‘. Though technically speaking the city angels are wearing red shirts.
Suprised that my mind so easily sees echo’s of fascisim in places it has been…
With the quick approach of my HOLIDAY to CAIRO I skipped out in search of some Holiday reading. Normally I pop into the tiny yet beautiful Reading Oxfam. The friendly staff and customers chat, the book choice is excellent, always something to inspire and entice.
One of my friends has recently moved to Cairo and made a specific request for a copy of the Lonely Planet guide to Egypt. Alas, the local Oxfam cold not deliver
A short walk to the Waterstones chain, a small Victorian style shop front. Inside the store is like the TARDIS it goes backwards and upwards, from house to house with glass roofs between. The store is architecturally beautifully designed and maintains unusual features such as the mezannine floor pictured below
Once I stopped looking at the architecture and started looking at book shelves I was lost with no idea of where the ‘Travel’ section might be. Looking at the labeling on the shelves only tells you what is here, not where something that is elsewhere might be. Unperturbed I wandered over to the foot of the stairs (both of them) expecting to find a list of the sections on each floor. Nothing.
The front door did not offer a guide to the store store layout with the sections identified. The cash and information desk by the door was being stormed by an outsized orderly queue of people. Glancing back into the huge store I felt a little overwhelmed and wandered in looking at shelf labels and the people nearby, which are the staff who might help me? Before full panic could set-in, eye contact with a lady….
Lady: Can I help you?
Wendy: Do you have a map of the store layout?
Lady: What section would you like?
Wendy: Is there a display showing where the sections are?
Lady: No, I’m working on that, what section would you like?
Lady: upstairs ahead through the arch, on the right hand wall arranged in alphabetical order by country
Wendy: Thank you, love the display thing you’re working on
During 1980, like any self-respecting UK punk, I would indulge myself in freeform meandering around deserted warehouses.
In those days who didn’t?
The right warehouses were quite good places to hide from the strange people that send messages describing our past in ways I don’t remember. Gradually, deserted warehouses became harder to find as rampant film crews, homeless people, musicians and punks sought their particular ambience.
OMD sang Messages
Using the helter skelter is an anytime activity, not reserved for emergencies.
I didn’t check if there was a helipad on the roof for emergency entrances.
Why would architects want to impose brutalism on their users? I’ve not quite grapsed the subtlety here. Maybe there isn’t any subtlety. Any public building that requires it’s users undertake a training course in order to understand it is a public building that has failed on at least one experience level.
The Royal National Theatre on London’s south bank is a Grade II listed building, a brutalist building. I do not appreciate Brutalist buildings. It reminds me of Portsmouth’s now defunct Tricorn Centre.
Not ‘Our father’ in a christian sense, in a continuously circulating open entry elevator sense like a vertical escalator! I coudn’t find any explanation of why this name was applied to this type of elevator, maybe because it felt so scary that you were advised to say some Paternosters before attempting to jump onto it. Of its origins the elevator museum say:
Englishman Hart developed idea of a continuous human bucket elevator called “The Paternoster.” 1884 — J & E Hall installed the first Cyclic lift (Paternoster) in England.
Things are developed and possibly patented at different times in different countries, with different names and different design details, the US patent for a Paternoster style elevator was granted in 1934.
In the early 1980’s Aston University’s main science building had a working Paternoster inside to the left of where where the external ‘sky lift’ was added in the late 1980’s. I vaguely remember that it ran between the 2nd and 7th (top) floors.
It was good fun jumping on and off the ever-moving Paternoster, especially during the then annual Charter (May )Ball in the early hours of the morning wearing a ball gown and under the influence of cheerful freinds and alcohol. Many people would not use it because it just didn’t look safe.
The Natural History Museum, originally opened in 1881 and now open 7 days a week, free to everyone. It’s got Mammoth skeletons, literally, Mammoth! Designed by a young manchester architect, Alfred Waterhouse, the building itself is a work of art. Arches have spines and unique varied animals climbing them.
There are no rules posted about the use of cameras which meant I got a tiny-bit snap-happy.