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 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!

London Road Fire Station – Manchester

London Road Fire Station is a former fire station in Manchester, England. It was opened in 1906, on a site bounded by London Road, Whitworth Street, Minshull Street South and Fairfield Street. Designed in the Edwardian Baroque style by Woodhouse, Willoughby and Langham in red brick and terracotta, it cost £142,000 to build and was built by J. Gerrard and Sons of Swinton. It has been a Grade II* listed building since 1974.

Wikipedia

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Despite its listing and prominence, opposite the rear corner of Piccadilly Station, this honeyed and red ochre delight has suffered nought but the indignity of abandonment since its closure in 1986, changing hands as quickly and venally as a worn deck of cards

The finest fire station in this round world stands empty.

 

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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.

 

Mottram Street Flats – Stockport

A post-war northern town, facing the problems of bomb damage, poor quality housing, and the pressing need for new homes.

In 1963 there seemed to be space and the will to build, the site at the centre of the image flanked by ageing Victorian terraces and industry.

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Soon to become the Mottram Street Development.

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Back in 1965 these were the highest housing tower blocks in Greater Manchester.

The work of borough architects John Rank and Clifford Fernley.

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1960’s Photographs from the Stockport Image Archive

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1980’s photographs from The Tower Block

Typically they incorporated concrete street furniture, sculptural and decorative detail, in keeping with the age.

Like many other developments of the period they have subsequently been clad, fenced, painted and secured beyond recognition.

There was a raised concrete play area, of which nothing has survived.

A little of their original character however has prevailed – a William Mitchellesque fallen obelisk, along with some panelling and planters.

Curious to see public art behind bars

– would that they were removed.

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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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Newscastle Civic Centre – The Grand Entrance

Opened on 14th November 1968 by King Olav of Norway, opened for me by Debbie Harvey on Friday 5th May 2017, thanks ever so much.

This takes us into architect George Kenyon’s Civic Centre 

Cast Aluminium portals and reveals to Ceremonial Entrance by Geoffrey Clarke.

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Staff on reception were once able to notify officials of the arrival of guests and dignitaries, using this right bang up to the minute electrical intercom.

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To the right is the engraved John Hutton Screen engraved glass panels depicting – the inventive genius of Tyneside’s most famous sons and daughters.

From left to right: George Stephenson the steam locomotive, Sir Charles Parson the turbine engine, Sir Joseph Swan electric light bulb, Lord Armstrong the gun.

Brigantia – Celtic Goddess of the tribe, The Three Mothers – offering fruit for fertility, Mithras – the slaying of the bull , Coventina  the goddess of a well, she reclines on a water-borne leaf and below her are three intertwined figures of nymphs of streams,  for in those days every self-respecting stream had its own tutelary deity. All have been found when Roman temples have been unearthed on the Roman wall.

 

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A twenty three foot high, eleven tiered chandelier of hand cut Bavarian crystal from Westphalia, hangs above your head. This chandelier was commissioned on behalf of Newcastle City for the opening of the building in 1968. It has 119 light bulbs, the crystal on the top is in the shape of a castle on the base of the chandelier are sea horses. The walls are lined with random English oak, the floor down stairs is Portuguese Verde Viana marble.

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Elegant Arne Vodder designed sofas litter the entrance, this truly is a palace of delights a temple of  Municipal Socialism, take your shoes off set a spell.

Y’all come back now!

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