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.

William Mitchell – CIS Manchester

We have met before, of course we have – here in Newton Heath

Here in Liverpool

Here in Hull

At Manchester University

In Eastford Square

And of course in Salford

Today on my way elsewhere, in search of something or other, I walked into the lobby of the CIS.

I asked permission from the Receptionist to take a few snaps, was referred to the Head of Security, who referred me to the Receptionist, who ‘phoned Paul, who turned out to be Steve, who thought that it would be OK.

So I did – here are those very snaps, my thanks to the cooperative staff of the Cooperative Insurance Society.

Huddersfield Contemporary Art Trail

I was invited by eminent Huddersfield based Psychogeographer Phil Wood to take a tour with him around the Huddersfield Contemporary Art Trail.

An alternate art trip devised by local art trippers Red Fodder.

We set forth from Huddersfield Station on Monday 13th January 2020 at the prearranged time of 14.00 hours. The weather was resolutely overcast and increasingly cold, with an ever present threat of rain.

Never to be knowingly deterred we made good progress around the town – we were hungry for art, the more contemporary the better.

Almost every avenue, alley and byway explored these are the snaps I snapped during our crazy Kirklees caper.

Along the way I added my own small contribution to the town’s contemporary art stock.

A veil was finally drawn over the afternoon’s cultural caprice with fine glasses of foaming ale in The Grove, where I finally came face to face with the Red Fodder folk for the very first time.

A fitting end to a thirsty day’s work.

Sandown Court – Southport

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

Where better to lay your weary head than Southport’s Sandown Court?

Longing for languorous days, gazing out at the distant sea, from the window of your fourteenth floor flat.

What’s Good for the Goose – is worth a gander.

My extensive research shows the flats were a location for the Norman Wisdom film, a saucy serving of seaside slap and tickle.

Conveniently situated twixt shore and traffic island – offering extensive accommodation for the discerning tenant.

Balconies clad with cast concrete abstracted panels, attractive dolphin-based water feature.

What more could you ask for?

Shopping Precincts – UK Again

This time of year, with limited light and an inclement climate, it’s far easier to travel by picture postcard. Researching and searching eBay to bring you the finest four colour repro pictures of our retail realm.

We have of course been here before – via a previous post.

It is however important to keep abreast of current coming and goings, developments are ever so often overwritten by further developments.

Precincts my appear and disappear at will – so let’s take a look.

What the CMYK is going on?

Abingdon

Aylesbury

Blackburn

Bradford

Chandlers Ford

Coventry

Cwmbran

Derby

Eastbourne

Exeter

Gloucester

Grimsby

Hailsham

Irvine

Jarrow

Middlesborough

Portsmouth

Scarborough

Solihull

Southampton

Stockport

Torquay

Wakefield

Eastford Square Collyhurst – Nobody Home

Stasis is the order of the day – the last stand for this forlorn stand of shops.

Once the realm of cobbles, railings, high rise arrivals and urban cowboys – an area overwhelmed by the weight of its past and the insubstantial promise of a sustainable future.

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.

Northern Gateway

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.

Isiah 25:2

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.

Isiah 58:12

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.

Manifesto of the Communist Party

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.

New Face In Hull

And lo it came to pass – I came to Hull.

Again.

Guiding a group of willing Modernists on a walk.

We were there at the behest of Esther and Leigh, gathering to say farewell to Alan Boyson’s Three Ships, as it transpired we were there to celebrate its reprieve, following their campaign for listing.

Over a million tesserae glowed in the low winter sun – so did we.

As Helen Angell read her poem – Christopher Marsden and Esther Johnson recording the performance for posterity.

The Three Ships are attached to a former Cooperative Store – complete with a formerly working Cooperative Store clock – where we meet at four minutes to six – forever.

We had previously encountered Hammonds of Hull/House of Fraser – soon to be a food court, artisan everything outlet.

And this Festival of Britain style functionalist council building.

Onward to the Queens Gardens the almost filled in former Queens Dock – forever fourteen feet below sea level.

We encounter Ton Liu’s Solar Gate – a sundial that uses solar alignment to mark significant times and dates in Hull. The super-light innovative two-shell structure is place-specific, responding to pivotal historic events and to the cultural context of its location in Hull’s Queens Gardens adjacent to the ancient site of Beverley Gate.

Carved stone panels Kenneth Carter 1960 – Ken’s art career began as an inspiring teacher, first at his alma mater, Hull College of Art, and later as principal lecturer at Exeter College of Art.

A number of decorative fountains featured in the ponds; those at the eastern end designed as part of the sculptured panels of 1960, by Robert Adams, described by Herbert Read as belonging to: 

The iconography of despair. Here are images of flight, of ragged claws, scuttling across floors of silent seas, of excoriated flesh, frustrated sex, the geometry of fear.

Top of the shop William Mitchells relief – time to pause and reflect.

Paying homage to Frederick Gibberd author of the College and Queens Gardens scheme.

En passant catching a glimpse of this splendid non-functioning water feature.

Off on the bus to St Anthony and Our Lady of Mercy just off Beverley Road.

More of which here.

A swift walk around the corner for a swift walk around the University of Hull campus, first encountering the Gulbenkian Building.

And a brief encounter with the Brynmor Jones Philip Larkin Library.

Thanks again to Esther for pointing out this delightful owl – the work of Willi Soukop

My life was never planned, it just happened.