Swansea Civic Centre

Architects: J Webb as County Architect and CW Quick as the job architect of the West Glamorgan County Architects Department 1982

Canolfan Ddinesig Abertawe formerly known as County Hall.

Confused?

Don’t be, it’s all quite simple really.

Following the implementation of the Local Government Act 1972, which broke up Glamorgan County Council and established West Glamorgan County Council, the new county council initially met at Swansea Guildhall. Finding that this arrangement, which involved sharing facilities with Swansea Council, to be inadequate, county leaders procured a dedicated building, selecting a site formerly occupied by an old railway goods yard associated with the Mumbles Railway.

The design features continuous bands of glazing with deep washed calcined flint panels above and below.

Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, visited on 20 April 1989.

After local government re-organisation in 1996, which abolished West Glamorgan County Council, ownership of the building was transferred to Swansea Council. It was renamed Swansea Civic Centre on 19 March 2008, and Swansea Central Library moved into the complex as part of a redevelopment scheme.

See, simple!

Wikipedia

However.

In 2019 it was reported that Swansea Council leader Rob Stewart said:

As part of our city centre’s multi-million pound transformation, it remains our aim to vacate and demolish the civic centre.

We want to reinvigorate that area and we continue to make progress on a master plan for it.

Powell and Dobson think that this seems like a swell idea

Urban Splash seem to have a slightly vaguer vision.

In March 2021, plans to find a new use for the location continued to still be a commitment of Swansea council, with the announcement of the transfer of the central library and other public services to the former BHS and now What! store on Oxford Street.

Swansea Civic Centre is at risk the Twentieth Century Society says so – they are strongly opposed to demolition of the iconic building and have submitted an application to have the building listed as Grade II.

I do not know what fate awaits it, I only know it must be brave – to paraphrase Dimitri Zinovievich Tiomkin, Ned Washington, Gary Cooper and Frankie Laine – it’s High Noon and counting.

Any road up as of the 11th of May it looked just like this:

Diolch yn fawr once again to Catrin Saran James for acting as my spirit guide.

Kardomah Café – Swansea

Morris Buildings 11 Portland St Swansea SA1 3DH

Welcome, at the Kardomah Cafe we have a long history of excellent service, great food and wonderful coffee. We are an independent, established, family run business of nearly 50 years. Traditional values are important to us and have helped us create a warm and friendly atmosphere, which is seen by many of our customers as an important part of their lives, a place to meet their friends, whilst enjoying quality food and drink.

The company that created the Kardomah brand began in Pudsey Street, Liverpool in 1844 as the Vey Brothers teadealers and grocers. In 1868 the business was acquired by the newly created Liverpool China and India Tea Company, and a series of brand names was created beginning with Mikado. The Kardomah brand of tea was first served at the Liverpool colonial exhibition of 1887, and the brand was later applied to a range of teas, coffees and coffee houses. The parent company was renamed Kardomah Limited in 1938. The brand was acquired by the Forte Group in 1962, sold to Cadbury Schweppes Typhoo in 1971, and became part of Premier Brands some time between 1980 and 1997. The brand still exists, selling items such as instant coffee and coffee whitener.

The Kardomah Cafés in London and Manchester were designed by Sir Misha Black between 1936 and 1950.

Manchester
LondonRibapix

The original Swansea branch was at 232 High St, and known as ‘The Kardomah Exhibition Cafe & Tea Rooms’, moving to the Castle Street in 1908.

Castle Street

The Castle Street cafe was the meeting place of The Kardomah Gang, which included Dylan Thomas, and was built on the site of the former Congregational Chapel where Thomas’s parents were married in 1903. The cafe was bombed during WW2 and was later replaced by the present Kardomah Coffee Shop Restaurant in Portland Street.

Wikipedia

An in-depth history is available here.

I’d never had the pleasure of visiting a Kardomah before, imagine my delight when I was directed there by local artist, activist and archivist Catrin Saran James, during our delightful Swansea Moderne tour!

Following an extensive walk from one end of town to the other, I returned there for a late midday bite to eat and a sit down – it looked a little like this:

Many thanks to the staff and customers for putting up with me wandering around for a while with my camera, whilst they worked and ate.

Diolch yn fawr.

MITZI to UMIST

A walk from the Cosmos to a sculptural wall via the sun.

Apart from the establishment of the now defunct AIR index of artists, recently revamped by the ACGB, both of which were ill-tended to help foster and promote private and public commissions, no moves have yet been made towards Percentage for Art legislation or even towards the creation of informal schemes.

Art Quest UK

We are taking a stroll through work commissioned in the main by Schools, Colleges and Universities.

We have of course been here before visiting Mitzi Cunliffe and her work – Cosmos.

American born, living in Didsbury, Cunliffe developed a technique for mass-producing abstract designs in relief in concrete, as architectural decoration, which she described as sculpture by the yard.

This example of modular fibre glass panels named Cosmos, is set in the wall of the student halls of residence in Owens Park – a BDP designed tower block.

Modelled by hand, they were manufactured in a Lancashire plastics factory.

Her Trellis concrete reliefs can be seen adorning WH Smiths in Macclesfield.

And the extension to Parklands Hotel in Collyhurst Manchester

Also this Slough example is visible in the opening title sequence of the BBCs hit TV show The Office.

Over the road to the Manchester High School For Girls where we find Mitzi Cunliffe’s carving in Portland Stone, entitled Threshold – unveiled September 30th 1953

Panel One – Britain’s Past

Panel Two – Companionship

Panel Three – Growth

The work embodied a sense of renewal, following the school’s travails of the 1940s.

Also reinforcing the continuing need for educational establishments to own and display living works of art, a need exemplified by the Pictures for Schools movement.

Returning to Wilmslow road a digression to a Concrete Totem by William Mitchell

Formed in clay then cast in concrete, one of four produced for Manchester Corporation.

Next stop Whitworth Park – a cornucopia of contemporary sculpture.

Hippocratic Tree 2015 – Christine Borland

A reproduction of the man-made steel skeleton of supports that now sustains Hippocrates’ tree on the Island of Kos – the tree beneath which Hippocrates first taught medicine.

Phalanx 1977 – Michael Lyons

The Whitworth Park Obelisk  2011 – Cyprien Galliard

The obelisk is made from the crushed brick and concrete of demolished housing in nearby Moss Side and Hulme.

Tree 2015 – Anya Gallaccio

Gallaccio’s new sculptural commission reinstates a missing tree in stainless steel, appearing as a ghostly negative form.

Bending 2017 – Raqs Media Collective

Bending distorts the form of European imperial sculpture, raises questions about commemoration and colonialism. The quotations on the three plaques are taken from George Orwell’s essay – Shooting the Elephant.

Coronation Park refers to a park on the outskirts of New Delhi that hosted mass rallies organised by the British Raj, celebrating the coronation of British monarchs as rulers of India and where Indian subjects were expected to demonstrate deference to their colonial oppressors. Britain withdrew from India in 1947, yet monuments to British rulers remained. In the 1960s, these were removed from New Delhi and relocated to Coronation Park. Today, they stand in disrepair and decay. Once symbolising an oppressive history, their power has been allowed to deteriorate.

Big Issue Leanne Green

Terminal and Untitled 1964 – Bernard Schottlander

At the Royal Northern College of Music there was once a wall hanging in the main auditorium, removed during the recent refurbishment.

This is the work of Elda Abramson, assisted by many local hands and a year in the making 1977.

I have been unable to ascertain wether it will be reinstated.

Up the road now to the Stopford Building 1972 – topped with an Anthony Holloway trim, formed from repeated cast concrete modular panels.

His work in Manchester is in the main the result of his relationship with architect Harry Fairhurst.

Working as a consultant designer with the architects’ division of the London County Council. He learned how to deal with architects and builders, and became adept at getting as much out of the money available – never enough – for his projects. He remained linked with what became the Greater London Council’s architects department until its closure in 1968.

Over the road the Ellen Wilkinson BuildingBDP 1964 covered with William Mitchell concrete panels.

Hiding behind the building a not so secret secret garden with a mysterious concrete sculpture – no attribution available.

Next to the Schuster Building 1967 – Harry Fairhurst and the recently restored and reinstated The Alchemist’s Elements 1967 by Hans Tisdall.

Formerly sited in the alcoves at the since demolished Faraday Building.

For a number of years stored outside on the UMIST site The Mosaic Restoration Company are to be applauded for their diligence and skill.

Across the way it’s Hans Tisdall again – a work always known to me as the Four Seasons 1964.

Four circular mixed media panels intersected by the café wall – built into the Chemistry Building another Fairhurst work.

This work he undertook for Edinburgh Weavers echoes these forms.

Were you to visit on a weekday you could view the mosaic tucked away inside the Schuster Building.

A Sixties photographer called John D Green was chosen by the architect – however it’s a mystery why he was commissioned.

It would seem John D Green was a man of many talents – he was also a regular racing driver at Brands Hatch, and author of the legendary book Birds of Britain, recently the subject of an exhibition at Snap Galleries in London.

High atop the lecture theatre an abstract sculpture by Michael Piper.

Back to Oxford Road and possibly my favourite local work of public art Manchester Sun 1963 – Lynn Chadwick.

He received Carborundum Company’s Sculpture Major and Minor Awards to produce circular sculpture in fibreglass, Manchester Sun for the University of Manchester’s Williamson Building.

Also available in an edition of two 24″ diameter fibre glass maquettes.

Walking toward town and we encounter the Anamorphic Mirrors 1989 – Andrew Crompton, regionally sited outside MOSI Lowe Byron Street. They were intense to reflect the images of John Dalton, James Joule, Henry Rutherford and Bernard Lovell formed in paving slabs by concrete artists Richard and Jack Doyle.

This context is now lost.

Leaving Oxford Road and heading for the former UMIST site we pass under the Mancunian Way – with its 1968 Concrete Society Award.

Around the corner and the towering Faraday Building 1967 tower, towers over us – HS Fairhust & Son clad in Anthony Holloway cast concrete panels.

Complemented by his concrete banding on the adjacent building.

Inside the lobby of the Renold BuildingVictor Pasmore’s 1968 Metamorphosis.

Of note is Pasmore’s work at Peterlee where he worked alongside architects on the housing scheme also designed his renowned Apollo Pavillion.

Which finds an almost near relative in Antony Holloway’s 1968 Concrete Wall – the only listed element on the whole darned campus site.

Concrete Relief – Swansea

Central Clinic 21 Orchard Street Swansea SA1 5AT

Whisking you back in time!

To 2015 when local artist and archivist Catrin Saran James is undertaking a little reverse vandalism by way of guerrilla restoration or adfer gerila if you will.

Leading to a full scale cleaning of the Harry Everington 1969 concrete mural adorning the Central Clinic.

It was under Harry’s guidance that students from the Swansea College of Art produced the mural which was put on the building’s exterior back in 1969.

It was fantastic to have had an email from the ABMU Health Board earlier this year.
Martin Thomas who leads the ABMU Heritage Team contacted me as he was researching what public art the health board owned.

Martin came across my Guerrilla Restoration work and the previous work I’d done in highlighting cleaning samples of Harry Everington’s 1969 abstract concrete sculptural mural over the last 5 years.

Taken from the ABMU Heritage blog, here’s what Martin said of the project:

When we started this group we carried out a scoping exercise to see what historical artefacts the health board owned and this mural came up.

When I did more research I found out about Catrin’s project and we thought it would be a good idea to help finish what she had started.

We thought this would be a great opportunity for us to clean a very neglected sculpture.

Catrinsaranjames.com

Subsequently her gallant restoration endeavours made headline news in Wales Online.

Fast forward to Wednesday May 11th 2022 – I am aboard the Transport for Wales train, Swansea bound!

Catrin had kindly forwarded me a clear and comprehensive guide to Swansea’s Modernist architecture.

Characteristically, I promptly got lost, fortunately we had arranged to meet at the National Waterfront Museum – which was clearly signposted. Following a chat and a cuppa we swanned off, visiting the Civic Centre and a lovely array of post-war retail outlets.

We parted and I went on my merry way – I can’t thank you enough for your company and erudition Catrin, diolch yn fawr.

Eventually I arrived at the Clinic, I feel that the best time to visit a medical centre is when you are fighting fit, with an overwhelming interest in cast concrete, rather than plaster casts.

Platt Court – William Mitchell

Wilmslow Rd Manchester M14 5LT

Situated outside Platt Court a third of four William Mitchell totems that I have visited – Eastford Square and Newton Heath still extant.

William Mitchell 1960

The Hulme exemplar has gone walkabout.

Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester – Terry Wyke

Tower Block tells us this is one 13 storey block containing 62 dwellings along with one 9 storey block containing 70 dwellings.

Built by Direct Labour commissioned by Manchester County Borough Council

Seen here in 1970.

The flats are now gated, so I peeped tentatively through the fencing.

Then chatting to the site’s maintenance gardener I gained access – here is what I saw.

St Alkmund’s Church – Derby

40 Kedleston Rd Darley Abbey Derby DE22 1GU

The burghers of Derby required room for a ring road – but St Alkmund stood in the way, so he was CPOd and sent elsewhere.

Looking for Mr Wright.

When the Victorian church was demolished, traces of several earlier churches were revealed, stretching back to the 9th century. Artefacts found included the stone sarcophagus of Alkmund of Derby, now in Derby Museum and Art Gallery.

Photos: John Mackay 1967

Derby Telegraph

Given a fairly generous budget the Diocese decided upon a modern design solution, in order to solve the pressing problem of their missing church.

Local architects Naylor Sale and Widdows were commissioned to resolve this omission.

Construction began in 1967 completed in 1972.

The exterior boasts a static space rocket spire – which was lowered into position using not one but two helicopters.

Along with a delightful Festival of Britain style clock.

To the right of the front elevation is an extensive Dalle de Verre wall.

The entrance a light as air glass and aluminium construction.

Paired with a gently curving brick mass.

The main body of the church is deceptively capacious.

The wall of glass suitably illuminating.

The original lighting has been retained, though the former cork floor has been carpeted and the original pews replaced by portable seating.

There is a side chapel incorporating stained glass from the original church.

Thank you so much to Alex and Tony for granting us access to this stunning church.

Park Hill 2022

To begin at the beginning.

Park Hill was previously the site of back to back housing, a mixture of two and three storey tenement buildings, open ground, quarries and steep ginnels connecting the homes.

Picture Sheffield

John Rennie, the city’s Medical Officer of Health, concluded:

The dwelling houses in the area are by reason of disrepair or sanitary defects unfit for human habitation, or are by reason of their bad arrangement, or the narrowness or bad arrangement of the streets, dangerous or injurious to the health of the inhabitants of the area.

Following the war it was decided that a radical scheme needed to be introduced to deal with rehousing the Park Hill community. To that end, architects Jack Lynn and Ivor Smith under the supervision of J L Womersley, Sheffield Council’s City Architect, began work in 1953 designing the Park Hill Flats.

 Park Hill Part One was officially opened by Hugh Gaitskell, MP and Leader of the Opposition, on 16 June 1961.

Following the ethos of Le Corbusier’s Unité d’habitation.

The development integrated playgrounds, schools, shops and pubs into the scheme.

Riba Pix

Picture Sheffield

Government restrictions on how potential tenants were allocated to flats, the limitations of the building’s fabric which decayed when not maintained, poor noise insulation and issues with resident security caused their popularity to wane.  For many years, the council found it difficult to find tenants for the flats.

Despite the problems, the complex remained structurally sound, it was controversially Grade II* listed in 1998 – making it the largest listed building in Europe. A part-privatisation scheme by the developer Urban Splash in partnership with English Heritage to turn the flats into upmarket apartments, business units and social housing is now underway.

Wikipedia

I first visited the then almost uninhabited site some years ago – meeting the handful of remaining residents.

Mark – “Why are all these photographers coming here from Manchester?”

Chatted with Billy the lone cleaner.

The majority of the site was tinned up and secured in an insecure fashion.

My thanks to all those happy souls who braved the cold winds, sunshine and threat of snow on Sunday 28th October 2018 as part of the Sheffield Modern Weekend

Sharing ideas, memories and animated conversation, as we circumnavigated the fenced perimeter of Europe’s largest listed structure, in search of a personal photographic response to the site.

Subsequently I have lead tours of the site under construction at the behest of Urban Splash, in conjunction with Falconer Associates and the Modernist Society.

Observing the site’s transformation first hand.

October 2019

Following the hiatus caused by the Covid epidemic, building work has recommenced.

It’s joy to return and view the developments that are taking place – a structure that seemed doomed returning to life, providing new homes within a unique architectural experiment, which continues to evolve.

Each stage designed by a team of architects willing and able to link the wealth of heritage to new possibilities.

Urban Splash appointed architects Hawkins\Brown and urban designers Studio Egret West for the renovation of Phase One.

The first businesses and residents moved in during 2013. This phase includes 260 homes – of which 96 are affordable homes and 28 shared equity homes on the Government Help to Buy scheme.

Stirling Prize winning architects Mikhail Riches were appointed to undertake the new designs for Phase Two. Demand has been high for the one, two and three homes that also include three two bedroom townhouses.

Phase Three is unique student accommodation with the block being configured into four and eight bed townhouses, two and four bed apartments and classic studios for 356 students. The development partner is the Alumno Group and Places for People who have named it Béton House.

It’s May 2022 time to take a post Covid look at work in progress.

Highlight of any tour is the sight of the restored mosaic which adorned The Parkway pub – my heart literally leaped with joy.

The palette of the mosaic forms the colour coding of the development’s colour coding.

The last word goes to Mr Tom Bloxham:

We were the only ones stupid enough to take it on.

So says Tom Bloxham, the founder of Urban Splash.

He is sitting in the vegan cafe that now occupies one of Park Hill’s ground floor commercial units, dressed in a black Prada x Adidas tracksuit, with a matching hat.

When I first looked at the place online, I thought: F*ck*ng h*ll, that looks like a disaster. From the outside, it looked really crap. But as you get inside it, you see there is this object of beauty.

The Guardian

Derby Walk

On leaving the station one is met with a delightful row of brick railway terraces.

The houses were occupied by 1843 and are believed to be the earliest example of purpose-built dwellings for railway workers.

Derby Gov.

Along with a more modern response or two.

Switch to the left and we’re heading for the Post Office delivery office.

Just along the way there are graphic remnants of the analogue photographic age.

Onwards to Ozzy Road.

Osmaston Road Baptist Church.

Back down the road to the Cosmo formerly Gaumont Palace and its attendant buildings.

Architects: William Edward Trent and W Sydney Trent 1934.

When the Rank Organisation closed the nearby Odeon Cinema on St. Peter Street, the Gaumont was renamed Odeon in 1965.

The cinema was called the ABC Trocadero Entertainment Centre opening on 24th August 1983 with Roy Schneider in Blue Thunder. The cinema changed its name one final time when it became the Cannon.

The Cannon was set to struggle on, then one morning shortly before the cinema opened for the early morning kids club, part of the ornate plaster ceiling collapsed, wrecking the auditorium. The final film to play was Sean Penn in Willow on 17th December 1988.

Cinema Treasures.

Curious almost Deco almost Burton’s details.

Around the corner to Prosperity House.

Formerly St Peters House, Gower Street, Derby DE1 1SB, Prosperity House is a large eight-story building located in St. Peter’s Quarter, Derbyshire.

Prosperity House has been constructed in two phases, with work to convert the first 91 apartments being completed in March 2017 and the remaining 65 apartments completed in August 2017.

Rhodes Builders

Across the way the Derby Hippodrome – between 1930 and 1950 it operated as a cinema but reopened in 1951 as a theatre before succumbing to the bingo craze in the early 1960s.

Originally designed by Derby architect Alexander McPherson, it still features a number of large circular windows but hit the headlines in 2008 when, after standing empty for a time, repair work caused part of the Grade II listed building to collapse.

An earlier claim to fame was that Flanagan and Allen wrote Underneath the Arches in one of the theatre’s dressing rooms and the building is now the subject of a restoration plan by the Derby Hippodrome Restoration Trust.

Derby Heritage.

By the end of 2023 the Trust aims to have completed a basic restoration of the Hippodrome which would include dismantling some of internal structures where appropriate, rebuilding damaged walls, replacing the roof and re-establishing essential facilities such as toilets, lighting, water and heating. The building will then become a flexible space which can be used by amateur performing arts groups in Derby and become a focal point in the local community.

All that remains of the Pennine Hotel.

No more Pink Coconuts.

Thousands of people will have been to events at the Pennine Hotel, which first opened in 1965, and was for many years professional footballers’ favourite place and also a boxing venue, but it finally closed its doors as the St Peter’s Quarter Hotel in 2015.

Derby Telegraph

Contracts have been signed between the major players who are due to build and operate a new £45.8 million performance venue in Derby by late 2024. This means that work on the site will start soon and construction could start next January.

Derby Telegraph

Off to the former Job Centre

Forester House, once home of the Job Centre, is situated on the corner of Newland and Becket Street within Derby City Centre. The property comprises a detached 5 storey office building extending to approximately 42,565 square feet.

The premises have been recently acquired by Universal Total Care Limited for £1.6m.

Located on the corner of Newland Street and Becket Street, Forester House has been earmarked for transformation into a one hundred and eleven bedroom easyHotel, a restaurant that would seat 160 people and a function room. The ground floor of the 1970s building, which formerly housed JobCentre Plus staff, would become home to the large-scale eaterie and the first floor would have space for weddings and conferences.

JSA Architects have plans for a one hundred and ten bed hotel – what happened to the missing room?

Never mind – let’s take a look at the Telephone Exchange.

Onwards to the Museum and Art Gallery.

The Art Gallery designed by Story opened in 1882 and in 1883 the museum had electricity supplied for new lighting.

In 1936 the museum was given a substantial collection of paintings by Alfred E. Goodey who had been collecting art for 50 years. At his death in 1945 he left £13,000 to build an extension to the museum. The extension, which now houses the museum, was completed in 1964. Refurbishment to parts of both the new and old buildings were undertaken in 2010–11

Wikipedia

Let’s take a look at the nation’s safest car park – Park Safe.

Located in the Cathedral Quarter area of Derby, our 315 space Derby car park has been completely refurbished in 2010. We are proud to be partners with Derby City Council since 1997.

Next to another carpark

Then a shortish long walk to Kedleston Road to visit St Alkmund’s Church

Architects: Naylor Sale and Widdows 67-72

Then tracking back to the Rycote Centre

Princess Margaret, right, hands a turquoise cuddly toy dog gift to her lady-in-waiting at the end of her visit to the Rycote Centre, Kedleston Road, Derby, in June 1973.

She was then taken to the Rycote Centre, off Kedleston Road, where she was greeted by Councillor Bill Pritchard, chairman of Derby Town Council and Social Services, and presented with a rather unusual gift.

It’s a shame that these photos from our archive are in black and white, for the Princess, who was wearing a tomato red coat and bright green hat, was presented with a turquoise cuddly toy dog – quite a clash of colours by the sounds of it!

Derby Telegraph

Down a narrow alley to look at some housing.

Heading back into town to see yet more houses.

Where next?

To the Assembly Rooms!

Architects: Hugh Casson and Neville Conder

The current Assembly Rooms building was completed in 1977 to replace an 18th-century building of the same name that was destroyed by fire. In 2014 a fresh blaze obliterated the plant room of the new structure, which has been largely vacant ever since.

This summer the city council applied to its own planning department for permission to demolish the building to save the cost of maintaining it.

Architects’ Journal

The Twentieth Century Society’s trustee Otto Saumarez Smith also slated the plans, describing the demolition and pop-up market proposal as a grotesque failure of imagination.

Burton’s has gone for a Burton.

The Co-op is no longer a Co-op.

It was built 1938-40 and designed in-house by Derby Co-Operative Society’s own architect – Sid Bailey.

And having been built by the DCS’s own Building Department it is completely Made In Derby.

Has anyone seen Debenhams?