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.

Merseyway – Adlington Walk

Once widely admired, Ian Nairn esteemed architectural writer, thought it an exemplary exposition of modern integrated shopping and parking, sitting perfectly in its particular topography – way back in 1972.

This German magazine dedicated several pages to coverage of Merseyway back in 1971.

Note the long lost decorative panels of Adlington Walk.

Many thanks to Sean Madner for these archive images.

Mainstream Modern has recorded its conception and inception, as part of a wider appreciation of Greater Manchester’s architecture.

The architects were Bernard Engle and Partners in conjunction with officers of Stockport Corporation and the centre opened in 1965. The separation of pedestrians and cars, the service areas, the multi level street, the city block that negotiates difficult topography to its advantage, are all planning moves that are of the new, ordered and systemised, second wave modernism in the UK. The aggregate of the highways engineering, the urban planning and the shifting demands of retailers frequently arrived at a form and order such as this. In this way Merseyway is unremarkable, it’s like many other centres in many other towns – consider the rooftop landscape of Blackburn. It is, however, typical and has been typically added to and adjusted during its life and presents perhaps the face of the last retail metamorphosis before the out-of-town really made the grade.

Each successive remaking and remodelling has seriously compromised the integrity of the development. We are left with dog’s dinner of poorly realised Post Modern and Hi-Tech additions, along with a failure to maintain the best of the original scheme.

Plans are now afoot to revamp the precinct – starting with Adlington Walk.

Proposed facilities include a soft play space, new seating, buggy stores, high grade toilets, parent and child facilities and a multi faith prayer room.

St Saviour’s Church – Bradford

St Saviours 25 Ings Way Bradford BD8 0LU

What a delight – the stunning surprise that awaits you, around one particular suburban corner of Bradford.

I had called ahead, to arrange the visit – the Reverend Dorothy Stewart had gracefully invited me to join members of the community and herself, one wild and windy Wednesday.

Steel frame and shuttered concrete with dark red brick walls in stretcher bond, and slate roofs.

Church of 1966 with attached hall of 1971, both designed by architect George Pace. Characterised by asymmetric arrangement of roofs, exposed structure and juxtaposition of materials, this is a complete and largely unaltered example of Pace’s work. The asphalt roof and windows are in very poor condition. Repair works to the roof were carried out in 2016 with funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s former Grants for Places of Worship scheme.

Listed November 2007

The exterior is stark and angular, the body of the church is a broad rectangle with no division between nave and chancel, with a bell tower to the east, vestries to the north-west and a chapel to the west. At the western end is the church hall, added in 1971. Externally a single asymmetric roof covers the main body of the church, rising at the east end to form a mono-pitch section over the altar area and incorporating the bell tower. There is a porch at the east end of the north side, and a transept with a double pitch roof. To the west is a single storey, flat roof section with an entrance to the north, extending to the transept. West of the main body of the church on the south side is a separate roof, housing a chapel. To the west is the church hall, with a north-south asymmetric roof. All the windows are rectangular, of varying sizes, with plain glass in rectangular leaded lights. Lintels over the doors and the parapet of the flat roofed block are of shuttered concrete, as are the window surrounds.

The body of the church contains Victorian stripped oak bench pews derived from St John’s church in Little Horton, arranged with a central aisle. To the north side is a range of contemporary pews in wood with vertical slatted fronts, in front of the organ, recovered from St. Chrysostom’s Bradford , by Driver and Haigh of Bradford, which is housed in the transept with a matching front of vertical wooden slats.

Let’s take a look.

To the rear is the cylindrical font in white concrete with a wooden lid, set on a raised platform. Suspended above it is a large light fitting in black metal, inscribed around the edges with the words: “This font is erected by relatives and parishioners in memory of/ Beatrice May Parkin, for over forty years a Sunday School teacher and/ worker for St Saviour’s Church, who died 2nd March 1961”.

There is no separate chancel, and the finishes throughout are exposed brick, shuttered concrete and limed oak. The sanctuary area is in the south-east corner and consists of a tall angled purple brick reredos, topped with concrete, and a lower detached, angled purple brick pillar to each side each holding a shelf and incorporating a wooden seat. In front of the central reredos is an integral wooden bench with three backs, and a large black metal cross in the same style as those on the exterior but with more elaboration, fixed to the floor on a raised concrete block. To the fore is the altar table on a low raised platform. The whole is enclosed within an altar rail of iron and wood, open to the centre.

The main roof has exposed wooden trusses supported on concrete pillars and beams, with rafters and purlins also exposed creating a latticework pattern.

The whole interior order is orderly, calm and coherent, a simple consistency of materials and architectural intent.

The solid wood, studded chapel door has the words “I am the Good Shepherd” engraved on it. The chapel has exposed beams and rafters, and an altar to the north with iron and wood altar rail in front. Pews are as in the church. There is a mosaic plaque behind the altar which came from St John’s church in Little Horton.

Beyond to the west is the narthex, with shuttered concrete ceilings pierced by circular skylights, exposed brick walls and doors to the chapel, service rooms and hall. 

Such a pleasure to visit such an enchanting church – it was a precious privilege to be welcomed by the congregation, warden and Reverend Dorothy.

Once again – many sincere thanks.

See also: William Temple Church of St Mark’s and St Mark’s Broomhill