December 16th, 2012
November 8th, 2010
A flying visit to St Wilfrid’s RC Church in Hulme, Manchester designed by A.W.N. Pugin.
Pevsner writes: By Pugin, 1842, and memorable as a very early case of the archeologically convincing church … The exterior of the church is red brick, with lancet windows. It all had to be done cheaply - Pugin’s bane. But he allowed himself the touch of archeological fun of laying his bricks English bond, not Flemish like the hated Georgians.
The church was subsumed in the redevelopment of the 1970s and lost its relationship with low-rise terraced streets. The New Hulme has reinstated something of the original scale of the surrounding buildings.
The building was deconsecrated in the early ‘nineties and converted for use as workshop and business start-up units. The nave has been filled with a utilitarian free-standing structure - in theory the insertion can be removed and the single axial space would be revealed. The chancel and high-altar house a cafe.
Millions have been spent on the adjacent award-winning park and bridges but the exterior of this pre-existing monument continues to deteriorate and repair is probably beyond the resources of the present occupiers.
English Heritage inspectors continue to visit the Grade ll-listed building and are, in general, pleased that the building is heated and used.
February 5th, 2010
August 3rd, 2009
Preston Bus Station is one of those modernist structures that condemned the pedestrian to the bridge or subway giving the surrounding ground plane or ‘apron’ to vehicles i.e. buses. The people of Preston are characterised by their disdain for motorised traffic and inevitably a number of people have been killed in the past forty years crossing the apron as buses reversed out of one of the eighty (yes eighty!) bus stands. The building has been neglected and unsecured throughout it’s existence and the bus drivers have resorted to improvisation in dealing with various antisocial problems. It is a routine procedure to position a double-decker bus to break the fall of a determined jumper (or attention seeker, see picture below).
Suddenly a revolution. For some unknown reason (perhaps prompted by threats under safety or DDA legislation?) the council have installed substantial, simple and useful temporary crossing points allowing pedestrians an easy route from the bus to the markets. Buses stop at zebra crossings, families amble across in the summer sunshine.
The alterations bode well for the continued survival of the building, due for demolition to make way for the always delayed Tithebarn town centre redevelopment (our Liverpool One). Listing has been refused once by EH but I believe the C20 Society are trying again. The temporary interventions, introducing discipline and civility to the environs of the building provide a simple vision of the ground plane reclaimed and the possibility of a rethinking of the building based on it’s relationship to public space.
May 31st, 2009
4. Block 23 from Block 22: Picturesque brutalism, a city in the sky. Twenty floors up ivy grows and pigeon loft has been built. (Novi Beograd: Architects: Jankovic, Karadzic, Stjepanovic, 1975).
5. Weightlifter: Meaty Doric column on Belgrade Post Office.
6. Key Target: One of many elegant metal doors from Twentieth century Belgrade.
May 18th, 2009
Some sights from a recent trip to Belgrade (Beograd):
1. Bill Clinton and Urban Design: Nikola Dobrovic, Architect, 1963, Ministry of Defence, Belgrade, in two parts, whose stepped forms matched each other across a major street, forming an image of a particular steep valley where Yugoslav partisans scored an important victory in WWII. Bombed, both halves, very accurately 1999. Many in Belgrade want the ruins preserved. A fine building, oddly moving in its present state.
2. Ashes of Nikola Tesla: In a sphere on a column, like Emperor Augustus. Nikola Tesla Museum, Belgrade.
3. New Orthodox: From the Milosevic era, a new concrete Orthodox church, which can be seen from all over Belgrade, in progress. Outside a blue pinnacle and marble dressings are ready to be put in place.
April 30th, 2009
The landscape of urban desolation which New Islington still remains as we plumb the depths of the recession has been recently complemented by the unveiling of Will Alsop’s long awaited CHIPS apartment building. Uncannily similar to the computer simulation produced as part of the marketing campaign, the project constitutes one of the fingers of Alsop’s 2002 masterplan for the Urban Splash development in East Manchester. The brightly-coloured reveals, the super-graphics and the waterside location will perhaps distract the architectural tourist from the brittle quality of the building’s construction. The bus stops are in place to ferry residents, but seven years after inception one would still have to be a very optimistic pioneer to invest your hard-won mortgage in this key example of contemporary urban anomie.
In an attempt to ameliorate an existing, historic and celebrated example of urban anomie (that’s enough anomie, Ed.) Urban Splash are also involved in Park Hill in Sheffield. A documentary about English Heritage’s role in the structure’s conservation will be screened on May 1 at 9.00pm on BBC2. Mayday! Mayday!
March 23rd, 2009
It is St Walburge’s Beer Festival time again. This is your opportunity to sample the ales of Britain alongside one of the country’s great buildings: Joseph Hansom’s St Walburge’s RC Church, Preston. We’ll be there Thursday night, Friday night and Saturday afternoon.
Beer Festival: 26-27-28 March 2009. Details/Location
Eamonn Canniffe of Manchester School of Architecture and Neil Stevenson of Sheffield Hallam School of Architecture, drinking under hammerbeams…
March 23rd, 2009
The provincial insecurities which plague issues of urban design in Manchester surface again with these two proposals for familiar landmarks. The austere sublimity which might be thought to characterise the best of Manchester’s civic and industrial architecture had no need to soften its impact. It was robust, not to say blunt and thought the citizens could respect that self confidence, indeed have a sneeking regard for it and react accordingly.
Perhaps it’s the imminent arrival of attention-deficient media-types at MediaCity which has suggested that the deliberately unsettling air shard on Daniel Libeskind’s Imperial War Museum - North needs a shower of cherry blossom in the foreground, or the stunning and unique Library Walk between Vincent Harris’s Central Library and Town Hall Extension requires a glass canopy? We might assume that the economic downturn will dispose of these naff proposals but perhaps it is time for the Vincent Harris Vigilantes to engage in an ‘historic compromise’ with the Daniel Libeskind Vigilantes?
More on Vincent Harris’s masterpiece
March 10th, 2009
Melanie Miller (of Schiffli fame) forwards the following pictures from Barcelona where the Mobile World Congress was in full swing on Montjuic.
Choice quote from a participant (via Reuters): Richard Windsor, industry specialist at Nomura, estimated after day one that attendance was down as much as 25 percent.
“Taxi, lavatory and sandwich queues are all down substantially on last year meaning that MWC is an accurate reflection of life in the mobile phone industry,” he wrote.
Mies’s rather more refined temporary pavilion was not spared ill-treatment.
February 22nd, 2009
Order revealed during demolition at 2-4 Oxford Road. Compare with Leon Krier’s satirical reinforced concrete order from ‘Houses, Palaces, Cities’*.
*Porphyrios, Demetri, ed. Leon Krier: Houses, Palaces, Cities. London, 1984
**The building in the background is the former Refuge Assurance building (now Palace Hotel) designed by Paul Waterhouse 1891-1912.
February 17th, 2009
CiA are saddened to witness the demolition of 2-4 Oxford Road in Manchester. It provided an atmospheric and convivial, though cramped, studio space in the early hopeful years. We need more spaces like that in the city not less.
Editor’s note: Projects conceived at 2-4 included schemes for Bradford, Davis, Genoa and Llangadfan. 2-4 Oxford Road was the birthplace of Camlin Lonsdale Landscape Architects and the site of Eleri Mills’ Manchester studio.