Beauty of Brutalism

Brutalism –  I have always loved this type of architecture for its combination of social progressiveness, abstract form, toned down colours and weighty monumentalism. It’s sad how so many great works have been destroyed. At least Preston still has its bus station!

Eco-pioneers in the 1970s: how aerospace workers tried to save their jobs – and the planet

Eco-pioneers in the 1970s: how aerospace workers tried to save their jobs – and the planet

Hanging Chads and the latest IPCC Report on Global Warming

Photo: © Copyright K A and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence.

I can still vividly remember the ‘hanging chads’ of the 2000 US Presidential election and with them the hopes of tackling Global Warming through the election Al Gore as president. Unfortunately, the chads favoured George Bush, and I felt a great sense of anguish as the opportunity to seriously tackle climate change slipped away. The USA subsequently turned its back on truly meaningful action and maintained support for burning fossil fuels. Carbon fuel companies who were beginning to change direction reset their compasses to business as usual.  Who could have realised then that there could be a US president far worse than George Bush with regard to climate change? 

In 2010, David Cameron was elected UK prime minister, partly on a charade of semi-green policies. Instead, the UK embraced fracking for carbon fuel in the countryside. This crude and dirty way of acquiring energy belongs to the last century. Lancashire has only just rid itself of the scars of that other form, coal, and we now have the ludicrous situation of commercial fracking in Lancashire coming at exactly the same time as the desperate last minute warning from the IPPC that we must cease such activity.

Why is the right wing of politics so in love with the energy sources of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? Such ancient fuels involve digging up the ground and leaving a trail of destruction. Once dug up, the stuff has to be burned to create steam to rotate a turbine. Are we still in the steam age? Why not put this nonsense behind us?

Today, we can put up modern solar power arrays or windmills and simply plug them into the grid – bingo, immediate power with no destruction, health hazards or global warming. Its clean, sophisticated and beautiful. Through tidal power, renewable energy can be scaled up enormously. Instead, the UK government has deliberately slowed down green industry and undermined the creative businesses that develop it. The great progress and vision of the 1990s and early 2000s has stalled.

There have been too many wasted years. We must move on from this damaging anti-modern stuff – and very quickly as the IPPC report makes clear.

V&A Dundee

It’s been a real joy to see Dundee celebrating the opening of its stunning Victoria and  Albert Museum, designed by Kengo Kuma. While the building has raised some questions, it chimes so well with the nautical heritage of the city while also being an engineering tour de force.

Dundee and much of Scotland appear rather excited… and so they should be. There has been little to celebrate culturally in the northern lands in recent years, so this wonderful project really lifts the spirit.

It was nice to see Glasgow band Primal Scream performing at the opening and, with reference to Glasgow, I am especially drawn to the restored Charles Rennie Mackintosh Oak Room from the Ingram Street Tea Rooms in the museum. This is a ‘lost’ Mackintosh work reputed to be the prelude to the destroyed Glasgow School of Art Library. The Oak Room and the recent restoration of the Willow Tea Rooms in Glasgow are counterpoints of hope to the otherwise unmitigated disaster of the Glasgow School of Art.

The V&A is part of the Dundee Waterfront, a visionary 30 year town planning project, now half way through, and bearing  fruit for its city of around 140,000 people.

Time to drive up the M74, M8, M90 and have a look!

Photo by Ronnie Macdonald

In praise of the Note 4

I want to celebrate the Samsung Note 4 which, though now quite old, is still giving me sterling service. In fact, this post is being written on it, my feet up on the sofa, on holiday in a remote Scottish location with no phone or data signal. If I find an internet cafe (yes they still exist here) later this week, I will upload it.

What makes the Note so good is its unique combination of practicality and flexibility. As its name states, it is a portable notebook and a perfect interface between analogue ‘me’ and the digital ‘out there’. Most functions are replicated on other phones but it is the unique handwriting input with the built in ‘pen’ that sets it apart. The Note means I no longer need a laptop. I go directly from scrawl to blog, email or report. It is all extremely fast, intuitive and effective, especially after several years of use. Continue reading “In praise of the Note 4”

Ken’s Gramophone Workshop

It’s been a pleasure meeting Ken Priestley and seeing his Holmfirth Antiques gramophone workshop. He has just repaired the wind up spring on my 1930s Gilbert gramophone. I have learnt such a lot about these great old music machines.

See this Yorkshire Post article on Ken.

His website is currently being rebuilt so if you need to contact him, let me know and I will pass your details on.

Burnley Grammar School – a Landmark project

Some buildings have passion… this is one. You can feel the Gothic Revival spirit of Burnley Grammar School. It was the first design of a former pupil, William Angelo Waddington, who went onto great things in architecture. It is listed grade II but could easily be II*.

I was privileged at the end of last year to spend considerable time studying the school. I was  assisting Burnley industrialist and another former pupil, Mark Crabtree OBE, creator of digital sound engineering company, AMS Neve, and Clitheroe architect, Ivan Wilson on a visionary project to convert it to The Landmark, a high-tech/digital collaborative working hub. As a lover of steampunk, just the idea of a High Gothic building becoming a place of digital networking is pretty beguiling!

Continue reading “Burnley Grammar School – a Landmark project”