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

Conserving a Great Building

At some point, a conservation planner, architect or other practitioner is responsible for conserving a truly great building, whether it be of polite, vernacular or technological architecture. In my experience, preserving something of genius, perhaps by a famous architect, is very different to run-of-the-mill conservation. It doesn’t happen every day, so here are a few thoughts gathered from my own experiences of working with greatness.

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Littleborough Conservation Area

Today was especially enjoyable as I accompanied members of Littleborough Civic Trust around their town centre sharing ideas and knowledge about history and architecture and how best to revitalise the conservation area which was designated in 1977 and extended in 2011.

Historically, Littleborough was part of the Hundersfield township in the parish of Rochdale, Lancashire. It became Littleborough Urban District in late Victorian times and today it is one of the towns of Rochdale Metropolitan Borough in Greater Manchester.

Rochdale was an enormous parish and Hundersfield one of four rural townships, each as large as a parish. In Georgian times Hundersfield’s hilly landscape had farms, water powered spinning mills and weavers cottages but there was no town. It had a reputation for being one of the most picturesque routes over the Pennines. With the coming of steam and the railways, its population condensed into two new towns, Todmorden in the north and Littleborough in the south. Continue reading “Littleborough Conservation Area”

Building the future on a great heritage

The Town & Country Planning Association (TCPA for short) has been going ever since modern planning was invented. It was originally called the Garden City Association and has direct links to the heritage of the Arts & Crafts Movement (writ large) and the three pioneering garden cities of Letchworth (by Barry Parker & Raymond Unwin) and Welwyn Garden City (by Louis de Soissons), both in Hertfordshire, and the larger Wythenshaw (by Barry Parker) in Manchester.

Alkrington Garden Village was designed by Thomas Adams of the Garden City Association and Letchworth Garden City. The semi-detached houses were designed by Arts & Crafts architect Edgar Wood. Photo. David Morris

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Hampstead Garden Suburb

This summer I have been visiting Hampstead Garden Suburb, in north London on a series of day trips. Hampstead was a pioneering garden suburb designed by Raymond Unwin, Barry Parker and Edwin Lutyens with many other Arts & Crafts Movement architects contributing buildings. Mervyn Miller’s book on the suburb has been indispensable!

I love this suburb and enjoy deciphering the nuances of design that Parker and Unwin pioneered and liked to use. Unlike their other estates, Hampstead’s buildings were designed by a wide range of Arts & Crafts architects, so there is a lot for the architectural historian as well as the town planner to see. 
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