Tudor House – Wakefield

You wouldn’t ever want a bad case of the cladding, the triumph of the expedient over the purist aesthetic. We all may wish to be warm, dry and free from unwanted ingress, whilst exercising a degree of discernment and restraint, regarding the manner in which we are clad.

In Wakefield and in local authorities throughout this fair land there seems to have been a distinct lack of discernment and restraint, regarding the manner in which modern tower blocks are clad.

Cloaking concrete in coloured surfaces better suited to Toytown than our town.

Four twelve-storey H-plan tower blocks built as public housing as part of the central area development of lower Kirkgate. The blocks rise out of other low-rise development. Each block contains 44 one and two-bedroom flats, providing 176 dwellings in total. The consulting architects for the development were Richard Seifert & Partners. Construction is of concrete frame with brick infill panels. The blocks were approved by committee in 1964.

Tudor House aka Lower Kirkgate Comprehensive Development area as was:

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Photographs Tower Block

Ain’t it funny how time and integrity slips away?

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Photographs Alan White Design

Gone the bold flat roofed, cuboid contrasting concrete and brick towers, whilst confusingly the ground floor retail development remains untouched.

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Salford Shopping City

The construction of the shopping centre and surrounding areas continued and on 21 May 1970 the new Salford Market officially opened. From 1971 onwards new shops inside the precinct itself began to open.

However, due to a lack of funds and a political scandal which saw chairman Albert Jones jailed for eight months construction of Salford Precinct was halted. The site had only 95 shop units compared to the proposed 260, the hotel and two storey car park were never built.

In 1991 the building was refurbished at a cost of £4 million, this included the installation of roofs across various walkways, making large swathes of the centre undercover. The shopping centre which at the time was known as Salford Precinct was renamed Salford Shopping City.

On 9 August 1994 the Manchester Evening News reported that Salford City Council was planning on selling off Salford Shopping City to raise money for local housing repairs, these plans split the ruling Labour Party council, one councillor telling the press that it would be like selling off the family silver.

In 2000 Salford Shopping City was eventually sold to a private company for £10 million in an effort to cut the council’s deficit. It was then later sold in March 2010 to Praxis Holdings for £40 million, the company stated that it wanted to invest in the precinct and link it to the new food superstore.

This is a tale of our times – 60s and 70s redevelopment designed and built in the rampant spirit of free enterprise and uber-buoyant consumerism, falling foul of an economic downturn, subsequent unemployment and shrinking retail spending. Property is ping-ponged between local authority and speculative developers.

Following the riots of 2011 pledges were made regarding the future of the site, plans are still afoot, as yet to be rendered corporeal. Although the area has benefitted from an influx of students and a refurbishment of housing stock, there is pressure on the prosperity of the precinct from thriving retail developments in nearby Manchester and the Trafford Centre.

The architectural core of the site has been retained, including the 23 storey Briar Court residential tower, though diluted by more recent additions, misguided post modern detailing that threatens the integrity of full many a post war development.

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Merseyway – Stockport

Once there was a river there, formed by the thunder of Irish Sea ice gouging a great glacial valley, bowling along boulders and millstone grit through phyllosilicate clays and sedimentary sandstone.

Then there wasn’t.

The Mersey, formed in Stockport as the Tame and Goyt conjoined, inconveniently filled with industrial grime and mire, then conveniently covered over in 1936.

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Creating the thoroughly modern thoroughfare Merseyway.

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The giant concrete culvert and bridge leaving the river cowering cautiously below.

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Of time and a river – little stands still and the town is whisked briskly into the late Twentieth Century with plans for a pedestrianised precinct.

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Completed and opened in 1965 the shopping precinct was concrete poetry in motion, incorporating the surrounding topography and extant architecture with grace and aplomb. Combining retail, restaurants and car parking facilities in a manner that critic Iain Nairn considered to be amongst the finest in the land.

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We had travelators, integrated paving, street furniture, and lighting across several levels. A carefully considered whole, combining all that was best in modern design with style, élan and panache – along with Freeman, Hardy and Willis.

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A clock tower, an Alan Boyson concrete car park screen and public art.

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Would that it was still so, a variety of additions and subtractions have left Merseyway in architectural limbo, concrete legs akimbo across the river below, striding towards the future in a more than somewhat bewildered manner.

Yet we still continue cast our eyes upwards towards a clock that isn’t there, ride a non-existent walkway to the sky, try on an imaginary crop-top in C&A’s Clockhouse.

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Photographs Stockport Image Archive

 

 

 

Lansbury Estate – London

The Lansbury Estate, to the north of East India Dock Road, is the most important, largest and best-known council estate in Poplar. It demonstrates the different trends in post-war council house design and layout. The interest of the estate lies as much, if not more, in the story of its planning and construction, as in what was actually built. This is especially true of its first phase, which formed the basis of the Live Architecture Exhibition in the 1951 Festival of Britain.

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Originally outlined in the 1943 plan for London, replacing the bomb damaged homes of displaced dockers, the estate has weathered well enough, though changes in demographics, the ever greater engulfing tide of gentrification and the containerisation of all ports, brings a fresh set of challenges and changes.

Go east – I visited the V&A Micro Museum, which has become a focus for residents’ and visitors’  memories and projections of a certain uncertain past and future. Arriving by the Docklands Light Railway, I was immediately drawn towards my destination, by the prominent Lansbury Tower, its clock patiently ticking away the time to and from 1951. Welcomed by staff and fellow travellers at the Chrisp Street Market site we began our tour at the heart of the Festival area – further details of which can be found here at Municipal Dreams.

A mix of market, shops, Festival pub, warm cream London brick terraces and low rise, later tower blocks, schools, churches and open grassed communal areas. On a cold and getting colder late winter’s day, a smattering of residents went purposefully about their business.

Life goes on.

Next time everything’s going to be different.

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Concord Suite – Droylsden

There is little or no reference to this fine building on the whole world wide web – the wise people of Wikipedia tell us –

The Concord Suite was built in the early 1970’s to house Droylsden Council. The word Concord comes from the town’s motto Concordia, meaning harmony

I’ve passed by for almost all of its life, marvelling at its white modular space age panels. The wide paved piazza frontage affords the lucky viewer a full appreciation of its futuristic whole, a giddy mix of brick, glass and concrete optimism. Civic architecture has never seemed so sunny.

The interior lighting is straight out of 2001, white organic and fully functioning – the upstairs function room is available for functions at the junction of Market Street and Ashton New Road.

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I saw The Fall there for the first time in 1978, suitably shambolic and suitably feisty.

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Renamed the Droylsden Centre on one side, it houses the regulation issue of charity shops and empty units. The main building is home to the Greater Manchester Pension Fund, soon to relocate to a new build across the road. The Concord will then provide a home for the workers leaving the now demolished Tameside Council Offices in Ashton.

The tram stops here.

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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.

https://modernmooch.com/2016/10/10/coventry-the-precinct/

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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Coventry – Precinct

Coventry city centre is a city centre, comprised of several interlocking post- war facets, realised over a thirty year period. This later addition the Bull Yard, the work of Arthur Ling and Terence Gregory, city architects and planning officers.

It incorporates pedestrian walkways, retail, civic and car parking facilities with a crowded unease and grace. Much of the original detail survives, though not unusually, some more recent additions detract from the integrity of the scheme.

The site is graced by two major works by William Mitchell – the concrete facade and interior of the former Three Tuns public house.

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And the sculpted panels on Hertford street.

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So we are left with a series of spaces that now seem slightly adrift, particularly the City Arcade, as both the earlier and more recent developments in the city compete for clients and customers.

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To explore is to discover a work continually in progress, or regression, as the forces of heritage, commercial development, and civic planning pull each other this way and that.

There is an initiative for redevelopment for the area yet to find a satisfactory resolution.

Take a look.

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