Coventry – Railway Station

Steven Parissien, director of Compton Verney Museum in Warwickshire, says:

“Coventry is a great station. Its predecessor was pummelled to bits but it really wasn’t particularly marvellous anyway.

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“The new station really came into its own. Built in the same month as the cathedral, in a way it was just as emblematic as the cathedral, though not quite so famous.

“It’s a light and airy place with a nice design. You do come out and have the ring road right in front of you which pedestrians have to guess where to go but that’s not really the fault of the station developers.”

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The original station was built in 1838 as part of the London and Birmingham Railway and could be entered from Warwick Road, where two flights of stairs took the passengers down to the platform. Within two years it had been replaced, with a new larger station, a few hundred feet nearer to Rugby, this time, accessed via Eaton road. In the late 19th century the Coventry tram network extended to the station at Eaton Road. The original station remained in service as the station masters offices, until the station was redeveloped in the early 1960s by the London Midland Region of British Railways.

Sent to Coventry, under an imperative to explore the post-war redevelopment of a great city, I arrived by train, more than somewhat unsurprisingly at the station.

A fine building of 1962 light and airy, warm wooden ceilings, gently interlocking aluminium, glass and steel volumes, original signage and a lively feeling of calm controlled hustle and bustle.

The ideal way to start the day – take a look.

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William Mitchell – Liverpool

To wander the streets with a broad smile, open heart and eyes, is to enter into an unwritten contract with the unexpected and inexplicable.

Chance encounters with old, new or familiar friends.

Imagine my surprise, when for the first time ever I unexpectedly came upon these William Mitchell reliefs on Hope Street, whilst walking aimlessly away from Lime Street.

That sense of surprise has never diminished, my spirits lift and my smile broadens to a cheeky grin, my pace quickens in ever so eager anticipation as I approach.

Wrapped tightly around the low, low waist of the former Federation House – big, bossy and very, very beautiful – though at times obscured by more recent architectural intrusions.

Public Sculpture of Liverpool – Terry Cavanagh 1997

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The original raw concrete is now awash with washes of off-magnolia exterior emulsion.

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Hughes and Willet were seemingly less amazed or amused, the opinion of the Aztecs, or for that matter the Neo-Aztecs, is sadly not a matter of record.

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I remain impressed by the impressed concrete relief, a convincing addition to a sharp functional modern office block, all of which have not dated disastrously as soon as the fashion supporting it has collapsed.

Treat yourself take a walk, surprise yourself once in a while.

Aztec bars were withdrawn shortly after their launch in 1967.

The Aztec race was all but wiped out following their disastrous encounter in 1519 with the Conquistadors.

The William Mitchell reliefs prevail to this this day, as of last Sunday.

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Myrtle Gardens – Liverpool

Once again I wandered the warm and welcoming streets of Liverpool in search of houses.

Once again I found older housing, dressed up as newer housing with a new roof, windows and clientele, a stone’s throw from my former encounter in St Andrew’s Gardens.

Myrtle Gardens in Edge Hill was part of the larger project of Liverpool’s inter-war rehousing programme – a tale very well told by Municipal Dreams.

An area with a whole heap of history

And a whole heap more on this fine site The Liverpool Picture Book from whence these images were taken:

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There is also a  comprehensive visual history here in this clip:

Containing the poignant lost faces of the estate:

A familiar tale of bomb damage, decline and sale to private developers and here we are today, a mix of short student lets, newcomers and a handful of long term residents.

Eddie the porter – named Eddie Porter, a clear case of nominative determinism, proved the perfect host, I introduced myself as the man from the Manchester Modernists, doors opened and the conversation flowed like fine wine.

Tales of lads illicitly playing football in the roof voids, families leaving concrete structures in order to huddle in corrugated iron Anderson Shelters, A Hitler’s time in the ‘Pool and his resolve  save the Liver Building, bombs that did fall on the now missing blocks of flats, a family celebrating the return of their son killed in an air raid.

We parted and I strolled amongst the elevated homes some 300 flats, over 80 years old and continuing to provide shelter and succour for the many, though sadly no longer under the sheltering wing of the Municipal Housing Department and their team of engineers, architects and builders.

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Wavertree Liverpool – Pathfinder

How does the modern world treat the past?

With a disdain bordering on a sociopathic destructive indifference it appears.

New Labour with an eye to rehouse the housed, tinned up hundreds of homes prior to demolition and redevelopment. They were and still are solid late Victorian terraces possibly in need of improvement – during the 1990’s, period housing stock was refurbished with central government funding, through a system of easily obtained grants. Improving the living conditions of many, maintaining the structures, and  supporting the local self-employed building trade.

So several years down the line, I visited the streets of Wavertree discussed in Owen Hatherley’s article of 2013.

Little or nothing has changed there are some tenanted houses, interspersed between the blanked out windows in sadly deserted streets, save the two camera shy free runners, who had lived and played in the area for some seven years.

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When one door closes another door closes.

If working-class areas are to defend themselves, they need confidence, both in themselves and in the places they live, otherwise the whole grim process will go on, with councils making the same mistakes and the same lives being destroyed, without interruption.

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Motorways an Introduction

Once upon time there was no such things as motorways, we made our way across country in a haphazard fashion, by way of of a raggle-taggle bunch of muddy, puddle strewn byways, tracks A, B and C roads.

Journey times were long and often unpredictable, it was not unusual for a traveller to never ever reach their intended destination.

But then as if by magic:

On 5 December 1958, the day the 8 mile Preston bypass opened.

Robert Gornall was the AA’s first motorway patrol and he was on duty on the Preston by Pass – now the M6, from day one – he even attended the opening ceremony.

Robert recalls that in those early motorway days, when there was no speed limit or hard shoulder, things were very different when it came to dealing with breakdowns. 

Robert said:

 

“This was entirely new and when we reached a broken down car we simply pushed it, bumper to bumper, out of the way to a place of safety where we could fix it – our vehicles were fitted with special rubber bumpers so as not to cause any damage.

Breakdowns came thick and fast because cars just couldn’t cope with the higher speed – engines just simply blew. The vehicles we used were Ford Escorts and even a soft top Land Rover.”

Having overcome these early teething troubles a whole complex network was developed.

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Opened by the transport minister Ernest Marples and other assorted worthies.

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Speed limits and controls were applied to quell the threat of crashes and blow-outs.

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Welcome to the fact packed modern world of the modern motorway.

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New typography and signage systems were developed by Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinneir.

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Special provision was made for provisions for the motorway motorist in special places, with special names – and their own unique approach to modern cuisine.

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Quite literally food on the move at the motorway services.

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Ever eager to communicate their fondness for the modern motorway, the modern motorist would often send a picture postcard to friends and/or family.

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A whole literary and visual culture built up over time, to celebrate a deep and growing affection for the motorway network.

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The rest is history, so break out the string backed gloves, top-down hit the road!

Jacqueline and/or Jack.

 

Greenside Primary School – London

Sunday 18th September and this enchanting school had thrown open its doors to an awaiting and admiring wider world – I know, I was there, having travelled down by train from Manchester with my pal Natalie, we were more than delighted by what we discovered, on our grand day out.

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This Grade II* listed building was one of two primary schools designed in 1949 by architect, Erno Goldfinger (1902 – 1987), an influential figure in the British Modernist Movement.  Opened in 1952, it was originally named Westville Road School, and in 1987, the same year Goldfinger died, it was renamed Greenside School.  The building earns the star on its listing due to the fine mural in the entrance foyer by architectural artist and urban theorist Gordon Cullen (1914 – 1994).

The school was built in response to the need to create a better Britain after the Second World War and inspired by the optimistic influences expressed in the Festival of Britain in 1951.  The school is on the site of a Victorian Board School, built in 1886 to accommodate 1200 children and offer a ‘serviceable education at very low fees.’  The old school was bombed in 1944, fortunately after the evacuation of the children.  The London County Council had plans to build temporary schools after the war as sets of Ministry of Works huts, but Goldfinger proposed an alternative scheme using a precast reinforced concrete frame with brick infill.  One of the reasons that the LCC were persuaded to adopt his scheme was that the main hall would be joined to the school via a covered corridor.

The Gordon Cullen mural in the entrance foyer is more evidence of Goldfinger creating an inspiring learning environment.  Goldfinger had worked during the war mounting exhibitions to send to the troops

on subjects such as ‘Food’, ‘Cinema’, ‘the Eastern front’ and ‘Planning Your Home’, so often working with Cullen to do the graphics and illustrations.  He then commissioned Cullen to produce a mural on school subjects:  Invention, History, The Sea, Geography, The Solar System and Nature.  Completed in 1953, Cullen’s mural takes on the character of simplified but nonetheless stimulating detail found in the new generation of factual books of the time, among which the Puffin Picture Books series has become the best known.  After many years hidden, we are delighted that the summer of 2014 we were able to unveil the restored mural. This was due to the commitment and dedication of the Friends of the Greenside Mural. It is a valuable source of inspiration for our students.

My thanks to the website of Greenside School

Preserving as much as possible of the building’s features and the ethic of its time, it was a pleasure to walk the corridors, explore the classrooms and main hall. I was particularly enchanted by the warm, wide sloping curve of the corridor which conjoins the two main volumes.

Emphasis is placed on experiential learning and full use is made of the outside spaces. The curriculum is currently constructed around cinematic themes, scholars participating in film making and an interdisciplinary approach to learning.

Take a look at lovely lively learning areas, and an architectural heritage that remains consistent with its intent,  whilst having a clear and steady eye, on a rich and rewarding future.

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Allied Ironfounders – Audenshaw

As I walked out one morning, in search of an industrial access cover or two or more, I found more, much more, dug deeper, unearthed a can of worms, a murky past cast in cast iron.

This is the cover closest to my home on Didsbury Road Stockport, manufactured by Glynwed of Corporation Road Audenshaw, the closest foundry to my former school.

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Glynwed formerly Allied Ironfounders, the manufacturer of gas appliances, the humble Rayburn and the infamous stuff of sagas the Aga.

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And the Meridian Grate – great! The foundry was also known as the Planet Works, the adjoining rough ground Planet Fields, where on wet winter days we would form a mud spattered procession of ragged schoolboys engaged in the joys of cross country running, over a factory’s spoil tip.

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We never got to see the firm’s Mayfair showrooms, we never got to pass go – I guess it was just too far to run, cross country or otherwise.

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The sleek Modernist lines of the Allied Ironfounders’ showpiece contrasts with the conditions of the work force manufacturing the grates and Agas.

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So some fifty years and several miles separates me from my schooldays and my local gas inspection cover. Guess I’l just gas up the Thames Trader and head for the hills folks.

Yippie-aye-ay, yippie-aye-oh, ghost riders in the sky.

And underground.