Wednesday, 30 September 2020

THE ELBE: AND LOVE AMONG THE RUINS*

 

Mysterious  Factory? Offices?  Wittenberge in the district of Prignitz, Brandenburg 

A garage on main street   Wittenberg - along the River Elbe in eastern Germany 

Going through some snaps the other day I came across a series taken in May 2017. That year, with friends, I travelled along the River Elbe.  Extract


This great river was the border with the former DDR. It bore exciting some points of interest, especially sites of ruins and abandoned places.  

I am glad I took photographs.

 

Recently, reading of Jonathan Meades’ Museum Without Walls published by Unbound Books, has provided a damascene understand of why we (well some us) find the neglected so alluring.

 

A telling two extracts from the book here:

 

‘Everything is fantastical if you stare at it for long enough, everything is interesting. There is no such thing as a boring place.

 

And

 

‘Ultimately they are expressions of an incurable topophilic, of a love of places, which are what you find when you’re on the way to somewhere else.

 

Taken from Museum Without Walls published by Unbound Books 2012  All copyrights and ownerships acknowledged.

 

 



Love Among the Ruins: A Romance of the Near Future is a 1953 novel by Evelyn Waugh.

Sunday, 27 September 2020

THE TRINITY SQUARE MASSACRE

Concrete that provided the means to a sculptural ends

 THE TRINITY SQUARE MASSACRE

It was sometime ago when the crushers, cranes and bulldozers moved in to demolish Trinity Square Gateshead. I discovered this tragedy through my studies into architecture known as Brutalism (think Barbican, Royal Festival Hall).

 

This period of architecture, roughly 1954 – 1970, was when Britain wanted buildings fast and cheap. Well, it was concrete that provided the means to a sculptural end. With rabid Thatcher-tastes and admittedly, some tower block collapses, Brutalism is well behind us. 

 

The term ‘brutalism’ comes from the Fr. bĂȘton brut translated meaning concrete raw. It is not a judgmental term merely descriptive.

 

Trinity Square was multi-storey car park and shopping complex originally opened in 1967 by Rodney Gordon. The car park starred in the 1971 film Get Carter, Michael Cain had the lead male role.

 

Bish, bash, bosh, down came Trinity Square in 2010. And in 2013 a new Trinity Square home to one of the largest Tesco Extra stores in the country AND a nine screen fully digital Vue cinema.

 

Are our councils and town planners prone to a Primark condition? ‘Lets just replace perfectly good buildings because we can afford to and we don’t like the style of what we got now.  Other examples of this ailment include most of Bracknell and in Birmingham, the destruction of Birmingham City Library replaced recently by something akin to a set of assorted paper doilies.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

THE THOROUGHLY MODERN CHURCH

Having spent the last twenty years exploring churches built between 900 and 1900, I decided to give those built after 1945 a go. And I kept the ‘survey’ local, the High Wycombe area.  What I discovered, sketched and subsequently painted was a confection of all shapes and sizes, in range of materials.

 

Once upon a time the layout and character of a church was pretty much fixed. Arguably during the centuries of its cultural and moral centrality the church was an unmatched architectural force.

 

Now? Well anything goes, and characterised in the writings of my favourite polemicist, Jonathan Meades:

 

‘Churches started to come in all shapes. There were bunkers and ships. There were churches that looked like silos… churches with swervy roofs and hyperbolic paraboloid roofs. The faithful must have had to work hard to convince themselves they were attending church at all.’

 

Museum without Walls by Jonathan Meades 2013 Published by Unbound Books 




St Thomas  Holtspur

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

The Pastures Church

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

FABULOUS FAVERSHAM

FAVERSHAM – QUITE FAB

 

“Not the ideal day to wear a hat“ cried elderly gentleman in a thick fleece and a Morrison’s carrier bag. He purposefully strode past me, to catch up with his hat, which was scurrying in along the pavement.

 

We were in Faversham, Kent, on a blustery extremely wet day on Tuesday. Tuesday is market day. The air was festive. I was joy-riding to Kent with Trevor the Architect who was there to size up a job!

 


What a great place! Full of proper shops not a Costa, Pret, M&S in sight. 

The Tesco with petrol at £104/litre was tucked around the corner. If you are careful you can stand it it’s car park and line up the building’s high point so as if it appears to have a cross and spire. The spire actually belongs to St Mary of Charity church restored by George Gilbert Scott (St Pancras Midland Grand Hotel).

 

Faversham’s Creek takes the River Swale past the town. We are not far south from the Isle of Dogs another worthwhile Kentish destination.

 

Mentioned in the Doomsday Book the explosives industry was vital to the town until it went bang! in 1916 and one hundred folk lost their lives.

 

Beer is the other important, less dangerous, industry this home of Shepherd Neame (1698). Doubtless its output will be enjoyed on September 25th when ABBA Chique (tribute band) perform at the Alexander Centre - bookings@thealexandercentre.com

 

 Eventually the sun came out, the air was good-natured and festive. There were a number of elderly men, including the hat chaser, in shorts trying to eek out the summer. 

 

Gosh it was lovely. I enjoyed a sausage in batter and was given a few complimentary chips to go with it.

 

Fab Fav and lots more here https://www.visit-swale.co.uk/experience-swale/welcome-to-visit-faversham/




 

Sunday, 13 September 2020

SOUTH OF SLOUGH

SOUTH OF SLOUGH

 

We made a small tour of villages south of Slough, Datchet close to the river,

Wraysbury, Horton, and Colnbrook.

 

Oh joy! The Costa Coffee was open in Datchet staffed by two extremely happy and courteous people. Datchet nestles on the north bank of the Thames and to its north thunders the M4. East Enders’ Danniella Westbrook lives in Datchet but I didn’t bump into her. 

 

The church was closed, not a surprise.

 

Onwards to Wraysbury where St Andrew Parish Church was closed also, no a surprise, however it was nicely situated of the main road and solidly remodelled by the Victorians and sat it a lovely church yard. 

 

Under a cloudy sky this is a curious part of the world, either the housing stock is falling into disrepair or huge mansions boast high wrought-iron gates of impossibly intricate design. A garage cuddles up to the Nail bar next door, Five Star Nails, 15, The High Street. Wraysbury is also served with two railway stations. Christine Keeler hails from this village. 


Well remembered in Horton Churchyard

Travellers Rest


 






Horton and the church, St Michael, were closed, we were denied examining the Norman arch of the north door porch. What was open and exciting was the extension to the churchyard. It was full of highly decorated and beautifully tended graves. A local resident informed us that these were Romany graves. Each week family members come to tend the graves. Special services are held each year for the Travellers in this part of the world. Full story here https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2017/17-march/features/features/ministering-at-the-margins


Will PANAM relaunch from Wraysbury?


 

 

Lakes of varying sizes are all around originating from former gravel workings are a particular feature. During the 1930’s, due to the presence of huge quantities of gravel in this area, farming started to give way to the gravel extraction industry. And there are two whopping reservoirs Wraysbury and the Queen Mother. 

 



We passed desultory Waterpark with old London Buses parked at its boundary perhaps they were changing rooms?

 

Bingo!  Down the road in the village of Colnbrook the church was open! St Thomas’s Church, It was designed by Benjamin Ferry who was a pupil of the great Victorian neo-gothic designer, Augustus Pugin, and the church is very much in the gothic style.

Inside it was spick and span. David Shields the Church Warden welcomed us. He showed us round and then offered tea and coffee.


A fine welcome from St Thomas' Colnbrook


 

This was a remarkable end to a thoroughly interesting and to be reaped tour of one of the most beguiling parts of Buckingham or it is perhaps Berkshire?  Well south of Slough anyway.

  

Thursday, 10 September 2020

LLANELLI ESTABLISHING RAPPORT

     

RH long building clad in some strange horizontal stripy stuff

                                        Two Grade II chapels swept up into the scheme


              

Our usual place was booked so we checked into the Travelodge in the centre of Llanelli a town equidistant between Swansea and Carmarthen. 

 

This was on the cusp of that change from August heat wave into August monsoon. 


Any town looks uninviting in a downpour.  We escaped the hot hotel room to get provisions from Aldi. 

 

Walking back this view of a long building clad in some strange horizontal stripy stuff caught my eye. It was the Y Ffwrnes cultural centre

 

I was looking at a scheme comprised of ‘a new build for a purpose built theatre with flexible space for a wide range of community and professional events and activities’

 

Next to it there were some grade II listed former chapel buildings known as the Zion Chapel and Old Sunday School. These were swept up into the scheme, to house a studio theatre, office space and a social enterprise centre.

 

The Architects responsible, Lawray, put it perfectly on their website: 

“Y Ffwrnes Cultural Centre needed to stand as a contemporary expression of the Llanelli’s history in tin-making and create a relevant setting for art and drama in the regenerated town centre. Overall, it had to establish a rapport and sense of ownership within the community.”

 

We checked out and moved on.

Monday, 7 September 2020

LION FARM

Lion Farm - still with us, just.

 I have become an autodidact. I had to look it up before admitting it. 

One definition: Generally, autodidacts are individuals who choose the subject they will study, their studying material, and the studying rhythm and time. 

My chosen field is modern architecture 1900 to the present. My education is taking me to all kinds of wonderful places, like the Lion Farm Estate.

 

Part of my studies involves watching Jonathan Meads on YouTube. One of the programs was a documentary on the Lion Farm Estate, tellingly narrated by Mr Meads made by photographer Rob Clayton 1990. 

 

Enjoy the film here https://www.robclayton.co.uk/Estate-Film/1

 

Lion Farm Estate is a housing estate near Oldbury in the West Midlands Borough of Sandwell and Dudley. The estate was built in the 1960’s. By 1980 the place was falling apart from neglect and a victim of Tory ‘right to buy’ policy in the Housing act of 1980. Several of the towers have been demolished (2015). And last year some gluttonous developer was courting the council to turn the playing fields into a £200m outlet village. 

https://www.expressandstar.com/news/local-hubs/sandwell/oldbury/2019/10/29/plans-being-finalised-for-200m-shopping-centre-on-lion-farm-fields/

 

Clayton’s work, photographs as well as the film, have been widely exhibited across the UK in 2015 and there were plans muted for a follow up work on Lion Farm. https://www.lionfarmestate.co.uk/selected-images-2018

 

 

TORY TURMOIL CONTINUES. 

 

Conservative governments are still pushing right to own, allowing speculating investors were able to buy up council properties hastening the rise in property costs. Commercially and socially valuable council assets continue to be sold at below their market value or replacement cost another waste of public money; The remaining stock of council housing (akin to Lion Farm) is concentrated in undesirable areas with little employment opportunity, further isolating and stigmatising the people that make their home there.

 

Moreover Tories are set to unleash a building frenzy as announced earlier in August. Adjustments to UK planning laws have Boris’ own rabid supporters taking up arms. 

https://www.theweek.co.uk/107746/boris-johnson-war-conservative-party-housebuilding

Is it any wonder we have a housing shortage, perennially.