Mitzi Cunliffe – Owen’s Park Manchester

Mitzi Solomon Cunliffe January 1st 1918  December 30th 2006

American born, resident of Didsbury Manchester, sculptor and designer, responsible for, amongst other things, the BAFTA mask.

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Her first large scale commission was two pieces for the Festival of Britain in 1951. One, known as Root Bodied Forth, shows figures emerging from a tree, and was displayed at the entrance of the Festival. The second, a pair of bronze handles in the form of hands, adorned the Regatta Restaurant. She created a similar piece, in the form of knots, in 1952 which remains at the School of Civic Design at Liverpool University, along with The Quickening in the rear courtyard.

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Cunliffe developed a technique for mass-producing abstract designs in relief in concrete, as architectural decoration, which she described as sculpture by the yard. She used the technique to decorate buildings throughout the UK, but particularly in and around Manchester.

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Particularly this example of four modular panels named Cosmos, set in the wall of the student halls of residence in Owens Park, Fallowfield, Manchester.

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John Lewis Mosaics – Milton Keynes

I was lured here, siren like, by an un-purchased eBay postcard – which precipitated a virtual four colour process printed journey around the shopping precincts of the UK.

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It only seemed appropriate to finally arrive at MK Central in real life, by train from Stockport – walking at last wide-eyed and expectant, along the whole length and width of Midsummer Boulevard to centre:mk

The Milton Keynes Development Corporation began work on the Shopping Building in 1973. It was to be the largest building of Central Milton Keynes. It had a total length of over one kilometre and a maximum width of one hundred and sixteen metres . It was built at the highest point in the New City. The architects were Derek Walker, Stuart Mosscrop, and Christopher Woodward, who had been significant architects at the MK Development Corporation; and the engineers were Felix Samuely and Partners. The shopping area was opened on 25th September 1979 by Margaret Thatcher. The building’s sleek envelope accommodated one hundred and thirty shops and six department stores, arranged along two parallel day-lit arcades, each eight hundred meters long and planted with sub-tropical and temperate trees.

A big bad Miesian box of glass and steel that goes on forever and forever.

At the very far end of forever is the John Lewis store, to the right of the entrance there are a series of tiled panels – these are possibly the work of Lucienne and Robin Day

Way back when, when brown was the new brown, brown still is the new brown.

Fresh and crisp and even.

Bobbing up and down precipitously on low marble walls, from amongst the sub-tropical and temperate trees, I bring you these thirteen tiled panels.

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Working so close up and personal at altitude, photographing such large pieces in confined spaces, it’s not until you arrive home that you discover that together they spell:

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What a delightful surprise!

St George’s Shopping Centre – Preston

Once upon a time the future was shop-shaped and utopian, the Modernist reliefs a welcome relief from post-war doom and gloom, public decorative art was off the ration for good, or so it seemed. Small retail units, housed small local operators, their shiny well-washed fascias, glowing with graphic pride and diversity, slab serif and decorative script the order of the day.

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Architects J Seymour Harris and Partners envisaged a brave new water-coloured open-aired world for the grey austerity-tinted folk of Preston.

And lo it came to pass and underpass – the future was here yesterday.

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Get off the bus on Fishergate and walk right on in.

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The shopping centre opened on 22 March 1966 as St George’s Shopping Centre.

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It was originally an open air centre, and was roofed over during refurbishment in 1981. It was further refurbished in 1999.

In May 2004, when The Mall Company took over the centre, they were greeted with an ageing shopping centre. The shopping centre was rebranded as The Mall, and a massive development scheme was planned. Small stalls, main shops, cafes, restaurants, toilets, and escalators were overhauled.

In March 2010, the shopping centre was acquired by Aviva Investors for £87 million. In September 2010, The Mall was rebranded under its original name St George’s Shopping Centre.

Wikipedia

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So welcome back to today – stripped of distinctive decoration, covered in and given the international sheen of absolutely nowhere at all.

In intemperate template for the future.

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Archival images from the Preston Digital Archive and Peter Reed.

 

Pallot and Collins Murals – Bexhill on Sea

Could there be a more moderne town?

Bexhill on Sea, blessed with the delightful De La Warr Pavillion.

Plus the Pallot and Collins murals inset into the wall of their local branch of Sainsbury’s.

The third such public sculpture I have had the pleasure to visit following trips to Newcastle and the now defunct BHS in my hometown of Stockport.

Henry William Collins and Joyce Millicent Pallot have a very special place in my heart, their lives’ work together gracing the Festival of Britain, GPO Tower and Expo 70, along with other retail outlets in Southampton, Gloucester, and Colchester. A distinctive style of bas relief in impressed concrete, ceramic terrazzo and simple modern motifs, drawn from local history and imagery.

Take a look around.

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BHS Murals – Newcastle upon Tyne

We here in Stockport have our own BHS murals, happily so does Newcastle.

The work of acclaimed artists Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins, they worked on a large number of murals and exhibition designs for amongst others, Jamestown Festival, USA; Brussels Exhibition; Expo 70; Japan; Shell Centre; GPO Tower, London; Grosvenor House, London; Ind Coope Ltd; Philips Business Systems; Sainsburys; British Home Stores; Cwmbran Arts Trust; Essex County Council and IBM, London.

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They never worked on the site itself, but used a regular contractor Hutton’s Builders Ltd Colchester, who cast the concrete in panels around four feet square. There are two relief panels, depicting events in the history of Newcastle. Highly stylised, the relief is moulded to a depth of 5cm and features some charming Geordie characters.

The left panel contains the following inscriptions and images Monkchester with Roman head and Newcastle coat of arms. Roman ship and golden coin. Collier Brig 1704-1880 with ship. Oceanus with anchor and seahorse with trident. The right panel contains the following inscriptions and images: Jupiter Fortuna with two figures. Engineering; Davy and Stephenson; coal mining ship building with images of same. G & R Stephenson; Armstrong Whitworth; Rocket 1829 with image of first steam engine. Armstrong 12 Pounder RA with image of gun. 1878 J.Swan Pons Aelius with bridges depicted below. Turbinia and image of ship. Various churches with names carved about including Grainger Dobson 1865; 1838 Green Stokoe; Bewick with a swan; a figure and Brigantia. Final section on far right has Geordie over two figures, then the Keel Row with a loading boat at the bottom. 

Information from – PMSA

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The building was originally developed by C&A and it is thought that funding for the reliefs might have been provided by the store and/or Northern Arts. It became BHS which subsequently closed last year, the building is now occupied by Primark, C&A estates still own the site. 
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The mural illustrated the cover of the 1975 Newcastle Festival.

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Seven Sisters – Return to Rochdale

I’ve passed this way before, they’re hard to miss, seven substantial tower blocks towering over the town on College Bank.

But what goes up, may come down.

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Construction in 1963

Demolition in 2017 is one suggestion – following years of poor maintenance, problems of heating and ingress, plus a whole host of other reasons outlined here.

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The housing trust in consultation with residents, have produced a tentative plan.

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This may or may not include the demolition of one or more blocks. On the day of my visit, the tenants I spoke with understood that the blocks faced an uncertain future, and were rightly concerned by the rumours and conjecture. The majority would prefer to stay put, having lived there for several years, raising families and building  homes.

Whatever the outcome I hope that the wishes of the residents are not overwhelmed by political expedience, or the will of the developer.

Take a look for yourself.

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Coventry – Upper Precinct

Here we are again wandering the pedestrianised precincts of Coventry  – having previously travelled by picture postcard and archival image.

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Back to the future.

Today much of the original footprint and well-built brick, stone, glass and concrete structure prevails, with more recent retro fitted additions.

The Cullen mural has been renovated and re-sited.

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Sadly only one of the neon sculptures, remains illuminated – they may have been listed by Historic England, they have certainly given them a coat of looking at. I myself was approached whilst working away by a crack squad of precinct management, questioning my methods and motives. I reassured them I was a serious student of post-war architecture and they allowed happily to go about my business – assuring me that I was following in the footsteps of HE.

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The elevated café, pierced screenwork, mosaics on the former Locarno, now Library and town clock are still every much in situ, Lady Godiva dutifully appearing on the hour, every hour with an ever attendant Peeping Tom for company.

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The area is well-used bustling busy, with a smattering of empty units which are sadly typical of most provincial town competing for custom and prosperity on the high street.

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