Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Another perspective on a sore point

I had once a conversation with one of the original Amber film making collective on the subject of T.Dan Smith. Amber had just finished shooting a film on Smith's career following his release from prison where he was sent after being convicted of corruption in a public office, a charge he admitted.

Smith, so my informant told me, had simply operated within the existing 'culture' to achieve the out comes he though overdue for the city in which he had been born and worked (and where he died). These 'rules' were a fact of the 'ecology' of planning; the back scratching and palm lining of jobbery in local government contracts. No doubt it is a common defence. The rub in Smith's case was that he never benefited himself by these means. He never gained a place on the boards of the companies he 'flattered' with his patronage as so many others had (and still do). Smith had a vision for Newcastle, and he wanted to build it come what may.

Discredited, much of what Smith did summarises what I dislike about 60s planning. In terms of this fine old city, it well nigh killed it. Yet, I must confess, Newcastle and Smith were not unique, and I am not referring to Smith's claim here, that "everyone was doing it". No, I am referring to concrete and tarmacking one's way into the 21st century pursued up and down the land. After my conversation (and a viewing of the film) I appreciated another way in which "everyone was doing it". Cities and towns across the United Kingdom, irrespective of local political allegiance and control, had joined in the post War passion for destroying what little the German Air Force had left standing.

Today comes further confirmation of this fact in an article on the B.B.C.'s web site.

Southampton is at the other end of the country from Newcastle but shared a similar history and now looks back on what went wrong with the often laudable aspiration to do good to the many by the few.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Bridge work

The precarious summer weather has blighted my attempts to date to expand on the architectural merits and de-merits of this fair city. A break in the rain (it is teeming down again today) let me out with my camera anxious to capture before it's too late the elaborate work presently being undertaken on the Main Line Bridge of the Lower Ousburn.

The slideshow is taken from images on this site's flickr collection. I have written there more information on each photograph in the comments section.

The walk took me past the old paint factory and I made a foray to take some shots of what looks ever more a bomb site from my distant childhood; heaps of shattered concrete mixed with dirt and plentiful, grateful one might note, weeds in full flower. More on that soon.

In fact, I was dazzled by the colours of the flowers and berries seen along the way. A special post on this also comes to mind. I saw a lone worker dressed in bright orange overalls and wearing a white hard hat stroll past me along the pathways (still open) and not for the first time wondered when the work is actually done. Whenever I pass big building projects very little seems to be happening.

Yet, evidence of great effort there is aplenty, not least the staggering spectacle of the massive tracery of scafolding required to completely fill the voids between the graceful arches of this Victorian Listed structure. Even with out the passing reference to the work of the famous site specific artists' Christo, with much of the western end of the bridge now wrapped up tight in white plastic sheeting, the whole construction site seems to be a kind of giant artwork. Perhaps one of the triumphs of Modernist pratice has been to help us make such connections.