We live in strange and troubled times, the urban landscapes we have created are often far from convivial.
Deserts possess a particular magic, since they have exhausted their own futures, and are thus free of time. Anything erected there, a city, a pyramid, a motel, stands outside time. It’s no coincidence that religious leaders emerge from the desert. Modern shopping malls have much the same function. A future Rimbaud, Van Gogh or Adolf Hitler will emerge from their timeless wastes.
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.
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.
Glimpsed once or twice from a train, I’d never been up close and personal.
The Humber Bridge was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1981.
It is one of the marvels of modern engineering and was, until 1998, the longest single span suspension bridge in the world but there are now five other longer bridges of this type. However it is still the longest that can be used by pedestrians.
The bridge is 2,220 metres long and the towers, which are farther apart at the top than the bottom to compensate for the curvature of the earth, are 155 metres high. It was built at the narrowest point of the estuary known as the ‘Hessle Whelps’ and when completed it was admired for its design and elegance, but reviled by others as a bridge from nowhere to nowhere, the crossing comprises a dual carriageway with walkways for pedestrians and cyclists on both sides.
Although approval to build the bridge was granted in 1959 work did not begin until 1972 due to difficulties in financing the project. In 1966 Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister of the day, allowed Barbara Castle, the Minister for Transport, to give permission for the bridge to be built, hoping that the announcement would be a vote winner in the forthcoming Hull North by-election.
The consulting engineers for the project were Freeman Fox & Partners . Sir Ralph Freeman had produced the first ideas in 1927 and in the early 1930s the cost of the project was estimated at £1.725 million and that the bridge would be unlikely to recoup the construction or maintenance costs. In 1935 he had an idea for a 4,500-foot suspension bridge for the Humber Tunnel Executive Committee. Sir Gilbert Roberts produced more ideas in 1955 for a bridge with a 4,500-foot central span, costing £15 million, to be paid for by East Riding County Council and Lindsey County Council. Once it was likely that a bridge would be constructed, Bernard Wex produced the design in 1964 that was actually built. The bridge was built to last 120 years.
The architect was R. E. Slater ARIBA. The administration building for the tolls, was designed by Parker & Rosner. The landscaping was designed by Prof Arnold Weddle. Wind tunnel testing took place at the National Maritime Institute at Teddington and the road deck is designed for wind speeds up to 105 miles per hour (170 km/h).
Where once productive and fulfilling lives were lived, buddleia now blooms, whilst thin grass entwines around forlorn fencing and betwixt ever widening cracks in the uneven paving.
Development in South Collyhurst will take the form of residential-led, family-focused neighbourhoods. We’ll be providing a variety of housing types and tenures to encourage diversity, along with a mix of social and community infrastructure that supports a family lifestyle in close proximity to the city centre.
There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it.
William Jennings Bryan 1896
Indeed, You have turned the city into a heap of rubble, a fortified town into ruins; the fortress of strangers is a city no more; it will never be rebuilt.
And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in.
The putative William Mitchell cast concrete block stares stolidly at its surroundings, overseeing a slow and painful decline.
All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.
There’s no business like no business – it’s no better out the back.
This is an unprecedented opportunity to deliver a significant residential-led development connecting the north to the centre of Manchester. Working with our partners we’re re-imagining the essential neighbourhoods of our city.
It has a canted front which is triangular in shape which has a large white cross at its apex.
The interior features full height stained glass windows of the Virgin Mary and St John by John Baker Ltd.
Born in 1916, John aka Jack studied at the Central School in London and worked under James Hogan at the Whitefriars stained-glass studios before joining Samuel Caldwell junior at Canterbury Cathedral in 1948 to help reinstate the medieval glass removed for safekeeping during the Second World War.
He subsequently authored English Stained Glass; the revised edition of this work, English Stained glass of the Medieval Period , which was to become one of the most popular soft back books on English medieval glass ever published.
Apart from his conservation skills, John was also an inspired teacher at Kingston College of Art. He produced windows for a number of churches, including eleven windows for the church of the Holy Name, Bow Common Lane, Mile End; two windows and a brick sculpture for the church of Little St Peter, Cricklewood; eighteen windows for St Anne’s church, East Wittering, Sussex; two large abstract windows for Broomfield Chapel, Abbots Langley; ten large concrete and glass windows for the new parish church, Gleadless Valley, Sheffield; and twenty-two glass windows for the Convent Chapel, St Michaels, Finchley. He also created a huge Jesse window for the church at Farnham Royal. The church was demolished in 2004, but the glass is now in storage, and some of the panes will be installed in the welcome are of the new church.
His favourite works were the windows he produced for Auckland Cathedral, New Zealand – as seen above.
John Baker, born Birmingham, 11 March 1916, died Hastings, 20 December 2007.