Stopford House – Again and Again

Third time around – on a late lockdown April evening.

I’ve been here before and before, yet I come back again and again.

It’s different every time, deserted at the best of times, during the worst of times it seems even more so – not a soul in sight. The low warm sun affords the bare concrete a pale pink and orange glow.

The mix contained coarse aggregate from the Scottish Granite Company of Creetown, a fine Leemoor sand from the Fordamin Company, together with white cement.

So here we are again, again:

Leeds University – Roger Stevens Building

The Roger Stevens Building 1970 – by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon for Leeds University South Campus is designated at Grade II

The building represents the high point of their Leeds University work.

Architecture: the building is an outstanding and individual design with bold external shapes and carefully designed interiors

Planning: the internal spaces are the result of extensive research on the requirements of the university and introduce innovative and influential features such as individual doors into the lecture theatres, and external links intimately with other buildings on the campus by means of multi-level walkways

Intactness: despite the changing requirements of universities, the building has remained largely unchanged, proving the success of its design

Group Value: the building provides a fitting centrepiece to the group of university buildings on the South Campus at Leeds, also recommended for designation.

Historic England

I was asked by the Leeds Modernists to put together a walk which avoids the the Roger Stevens Building, so I did just that.

That didn’t stop me visiting the site on the day of my visit.

This is what I saw:

Cardiff Central Police Station

The current five storey Cardiff Central police station was designed by Cardiff’s city architect John Dryburgh and built on the southern corner of Cathays Park between 1966 and 1968. It is described as: The most successful post-war building in Cathays Park and the only post-war building in the area: To be both modern and majestic

The detention facilities at the station were inadequate with only four cells. These were replaced by sixty cells at the new Cardiff Bay police station, which opened in 2009.

This year’s Mayday protests in Cardiff took place outside Cardiff Central Police Station to show the opposition to the increasing criminalisation of public protest.

No Borders South Wales activists were in attendance to show solidarity with fellow protesters and register our opposition to repressive police tactics at all forms of public demonstrations.

The protest was good natured and lively, with lots of music and singing. 

The building is celebrated by photographer Joe Fox via Fine Art America

Who are happy to reproduce the image in the form of this delightful phone case, for the princely sum of twenty two pounds.

I myself was taken by its unapologetic system built panelling, all-round convivial confidence and cantilevered porch.

Plus an exciting array of concrete planters – exhibiting an exciting array of seasonal planting schemes.

Well with a wander around should you find y’self down that end of town.

Merseyway – Alan Boyson Screen Wall

Deep in the heart of Stockport at the centre of our very own shopping centre – Merseyway.

A pierced concrete relief screen wall surrounds the former Co-op, currently Primark, car park.

The work of Alan Boyson – today the 16th of March 2020 would have been his ninetieth birthday.

I’ve even gone so far as to analyse its structure:

So I went for a walk this morning, as I have on several previous occasions, to take a look around the site – inside and out.

Tony Holloway Sculptural Wall – Manchester

Sculptural wall and sound buffer – 1968 by Antony Holloway in collaboration with architect Harry M Fairhurst.

Concrete approximately 68 metres long and between 4.5 and 6 metres high – Brutalist style.

Grade II Listed June 10th 2011 – Historic England

The only structure on the former UMIST site, now part of the extensive University of Manchester estate.

Regularly visited on our Manchester Modernist walks, along with his nearby architectural panels.

I have even ventured as far afield as Huyton in search of other exemplars.

This is work of the highest order and importance.

It sits by a busy London Road, behind an intrusive green steel fence, slowly acquiring a green patina – as moss and lichen attach themselves to the well weathered concrete.

Receiving occasional visits from the errant urban tagger.

It deserves much better – a lush grassed apron, discrete public seating, regular tree maintenance – respect.

We do not suffer from a surfeit of significant mid-century public art – its guardians should straighten up and fly right.

Right?

Brunel House – Cardiff

Originally built to house the regional British Rail offices – it seems that Great Western House has always been Brunel House.

Designed by Seymour Harris – who have also been responsible for the recent refurbishment.

The building is now in multiple occupancy, used for a wide range of services and uses, bringing new life to fine mid-century structure.

Sadly its entrance relief is now nowhere to be seen.

Archive photographs Seymour Harris Architects

Sixteen floors standing at 190 feet, two enormous interlocking slabs – it is the largest commercial property in Wales.

Seen from afar your are hit by its impressive rear elevation, with a distinctive grid defined by the slender window frames and a restrained yet earthy palette.

This is then broken up by strong vertical concrete columns.

With bold structural detailing, using a variety of aggregates and finishes.

Side elevations are brut concrete, with limited window space.

Where surfaces and volume conjoin there is further interesting structural detail.

Service areas to the rear.

An exciting encounter with a building of substance and quality – go take a look for y’self.

Bernhard und Hilla Becher – Cardiff

I have admired the work of Bernhard and Hilla Becher ever since seeing their photographs in the one and only Tate at the time, in old London town.

An early example, possibly twelve small black and white prints of pit head winding gear, assembled in a three by four grid.

I became intrigued by the notion of serial art and typology, later in the seventies working as a Systems printmaker.

Very much in the tradition of Max Bill and Richard Paul Lohse.

In more recent years I have worked as a documentary photographer, at time paying homage to Bernhard and Hilla.

By placing several cooling towers side by side something happened, something like tonal music; you don’t see what makes the objects different until you bring them together, so subtle are their differences.

So on hearing of their exhibition at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, I excitedly booked my train ticket from Manchester.

Saturday 29th February 2020 – an auspicious Leap Year – knowingly taking a leap into the known unknown.

Braving the imminent threat of Storm Jorge.

I was given the warmest of welcomes by the gallery staff, spending a good while chatting to James, a fellow enthusiast.

My first surprise was the Bechers’ drawings, painting and notebooks.

A revelation.

Then onwards into two large, light spaces, with the work – actual Becher archive prints, displayed with the reverence that they deserve.

Given space to breath, in a calm contemplative area.

With a quiet attentive audience.

So here that are in situ – worth the wait, worth the train ticket, worth the two way seven hour rail trip. Seeing the prints close up reading the exposure, the thrill of the dodge and burn, a lifetime’s ambition realised.

Thanks to all.