Thursday, November 28, 2013

Dereliction. Why is that bad, exactly?

I am being a bit contentious (again). There is just something that I find in the run down and less favoured places that attracts me. Neat, orderly and hygienic has its place: It's called suburbia. One of the attractions of neglect is that there was, after all, something which to neglect.

I wandered about Shieldfield, adjacent to my 'Battlefield' the other day and tried to make some sense of what is happening; the variety of spaces, types of buildings and that remarkable effect, how one kind of new building suddenly, unexpectedly sets one looking again at another, familiar and yet completely transformed by this new association.

Behind Shieldfield next to the, as yet still unredeveloped, old paint factory site, something remarkable is happening. The newly built student 'halls of residence' (as they are not called nowadays) has brought something to the area that threatens to make it one of the most interesting in the city. It vies, it grows and contradicts. What was once derelict and marginalised has been given new life – because to one with a trained and unprejudiced eye, it was always there.

Ernest's Bistro Café thrives; small businesses (vintage furniture, a gym, furniture maker, and a trade supplies outlet) are being jostled by a new music venue. The Biscuit Factory building, old and magnificent is a feature; wonderfully, this is now a place to be and exist. What was simply once a 'threatening' area indeed, is now teetering on becoming 'somewhere'.

A new identity or a resurrected one?

Shieldfield November 2013

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembrance Sunday 2013

Sunday 10th November was sunny. The sky was a cloudless blue, cold and high and the sun shone at an intimidating angle through the trees.

I went for a walk along Ouseburn and up into Heaton Park. People came and went, young and old, some cycling or running. Somethings are still free. We will remember them.

Heaton Park 10.11.13

Monday, November 4, 2013

One for Christmas Reading

I know it is bit early (though the shops are full of Christmas items despite there being still green leaves on the trees) but some exciting news this weekend from The Observer. A new book on architectural critic and contrarian writer Ian Nairn is published and a programme on BBC Television Four in the offing.

Nairn will just not go away.

Ian Nairn 1930-83

A devoted if small number of admirers have never quite let his memory fade after he he died in 1983 just short of  the young age of 53 (from alcoholism); thereafter he turned up infrequently in short tributes or asides in other people's broadcasts.

Nairn's grasp of the importance of the built environment and the curse of modern 'planning' could be wilful but always large and wholehearted. He taught me as a teenager half a century ago reading his pieces (in The Observer), to look, to note and appreciate what was there, existing and real, the accumulation of buildings, artefacts, roofs and pavements that makes a place a place; the then often unappreciated and neglected, carriers of stories we should and must (for his was a moral concern at its core) attend to, letting it inform our lives, and by so doing give significance to the meaning of living.

Please read The Observer's Rowan Moore review of Nairn's life and influence here (off site link).