Thursday, 19 March 2009

brutal is beautiful!

one of my esteemed boffin friends, mr hale, has drawn my attention to an interesting article in the always 'on the button' manchester confidential.

in Lumpy Concrete Art jonathon schofield defends three controversial 60's concrete horrors, including our very own hollaway wall, which i drew your attention to at the beginning of the year, the 20th century society's january building of the month. like me he is keen for the city to take stock of its recent heritage and appreciate the grandeur of a period more maligned than appreciated:

Get up close to the wall and its impressive, ten times better than Tadao Ando’s concrete thingy in Piccadilly Gardens. It’s full of solemn power, and bashed about grandeur. But above all it's simply weird, drawing you in with its stop you in the street, ‘you-what?’ magnetism...

his other two featured highlights are also worth a mention and a visit - the first living right in the city centre near the gorgeous cis building, a modest but attractive screen wall fronting miller street creating a processional way of the entrance to new century hall; the other a series of bizarre totems on the salford campus. here's his piece in full with great pictures. have a quick read, feast your eyes and please support the petition to list the holloway wall from current development proposals.

because, as schofield ends in his homage to the beauty of brutal architecture -

All cities need context. As we walk through them we need to feel the layers of the city’s history under our feet. It’s best if a city provides a visual reminder in odd tucked away corners – Holloway’s Wall – or right in your face – Mitchell’s three giants - of what it was before and how it then looked on the world and itself. These concrete features do this, they’re not only a physical reminder of the time in which they were built, but also of the mood of that period in our history.

i couldnt have put it better myself...


Anthroslug said...

I have recently been working on a project that this particular entry is in some ways reminiscent of.

I have been evaluating mining ditches in California's Sierra Nevada to determine whether or not any of them qualify for listing on the Natioal Register of Historic Places. These structures lack the artistic quality of the concrete buildings that you have written about, but they serve a similar purpose in reminding us of our past, and also of the impact that we can have on our environment (these ditches privded water to hydraulic mines, the operation of which destroyed hills and mountains, and the debris of which destroyed watersheds, resulting in some of the world's first environmental laws and legal decisions related to environmental degradation). They aren't much to look at, and most people simply ignore them, yet they are a vital part of U.S. history and an important reminder of who we are as a nation and culture.

Bluestocking said...

this sounds very similar to a case i wrote about last year about the sad case of 2 rare but delapidated1940's cooling towers near Sheffield, demolished despite a popular campaign to save them. my feeling is that there is much to be said for regarding late 20c vernacular and industrial architecture as having iconic status, potent totems in the landscape as much as any gothic cathedral, stone circle or medieval castle. in our rush to regenerate cities and 'cleanse' them of an industrial heritage that we no longer wholeheartedly approve of, we are in danger of eradicating a huge part of our past, and with it our identity and the opportunity to understand a vital and pertinent part of our collective history. if you have the time or inclination then the little piece i penned called revered and reviled, a tale of 2 towers might be of some interest in outliining some of the issues in the uk around heritage and the 20 century -

in my own way this diary is an attempt to try to find a way of documenting an archaeology of today combining my own prehistoric archaeology training and more recent interest in contemporary visual culture.

be great to hear more about the fate and intricacies of the mining ditches and the ways that the usa is responidng to similiar issues and challenges around documenting and recognising the legacy of the 20century....

do keep me posted xxepn

Anthroslug said...

I will read that entry, I am interested in how European nations are dealing with heritage preservation for the recent past.

We here have been dealing with many preservation issues of our recent past as well. A good example is that of Cold War-era buildings and facilities.

I was an archaeologist/cultural resources intern at Vandenberg Air Force Base on California's coast. At the time, Vandenberg had a nmber of Cold War-era missile silos, some of which have been refurbished to launch satellites, but some of which continue to deteriorate. The general feeling amongst the brass is that they should be torn down, but they are significant reminders of the nature and legacy of the Cold War, and at least one was the first armed U.S. silo viewed by a visiting Soviet leader (Nikita Khrushchev when he visited in 1959).