It’s been a while on this blog, but time for some more ecclesiastical modernism, this time in the form of Sir Basil Spence’s (yep, THAT Basil Spence) 1959 design in New Parks. Continue reading
The Church of Divine Providence in Kalisz, Poland.
Just around the corner from the Church of Divine Mercy is this concrete monster. Not quite as bonkers as its neighbour, but just as striking. All exposed concrete, and in many places, the reinforcing steel is showing through too.
As with its mate though, the money seems to have been spent on the interior…
As I’ve said before, I’m not religious, I just find this car-crash architecture fascinating. There’s nothing subtle about either of these buildings, but they are photogenic.
Another brutalist treat from my trip south this week. After the unrelenting strangeness of Richard Seifert’s hotel on the Brighton seafront, just a mile away I found Hove’s town hall, after seeing a timely tweet about it (thanks Gemma, Iain and TBH).
The 20th Century Society describe it like this: ‘It is a bold-looking building, with a massive overhanging roof canopy and ribbed natural aggregate panels, somewhat lightened by stepped glass curtain walling. The varied proportions of the glazing panels and their thin transoms and mullions appear to reduce the bulk of the building’ and ‘the bold design, with a massive overhanging roof canopy and ribbed natural aggregate panels, is modulated by the vertical framed glass panels that make up the majority of the facade. Sited well back from the pavement line to create a piazza, this startling and unusual building is tucked away on a leafy residential street in the centre of the town’.
Plans are afoot to replace that giant canopy and the glass of the front elevation and to clad the current, period interior, but not if the Society can prevent it. While we can be consoled that it isn’t being demolished like so many of its contemporaries, it seems a short sighted thing to do to tinker with a design that is so much ‘of its time’. The building is unique and something that the authority and locals should be proud of, especially when compared to many civic buildings. Mr Meads gave an hour’s worth of reasons why such building should be treasured, which, providing you’re not from the BBC or otherwise interested in copyright infringement, you can still see here.
Another notable modernist building from our trip to Poland in August. Rather than the concrete of Berlin’s brutalist masterpieces or the nearby Plac Grunwaldski, Wrocław’s Trzonolinowiec has a construction that is unique in Europe and is known colloquially as Hangman or ‘the house on one leg’.
The building was designed by Jacek Burzynski and built between 1963-1967. The structure is a reinforced concrete stem carrying the vertical compressive load to the base of the building. On that stem are mounted the 11 floors/ceilings in the form of a square platform suspended originally on twelve steel ropes. The ropes are attached to the top of the shaft and anchored on the ground to stiffen the structure. The lowest floor is suspended above the ground.
It was built from the top downwards, with each floor being lifted into position. In 1974, the structure was reinforced with the ropes being encased in concrete and steel supports added to suspend the lower floor. Inside, each floor was dived using curtain walls to create 4 apartments.
There are some great pictures of the building in its early years, including some of it being built, on the Dolny-Slask (lower-Silesia) website here.
The comparison between the new building and the surrounding immaculate streets and its terrible current state are dramatic. The decorative concrete that for a garden around the base are crooked and cracked, filled only with weeds. Every surface is covered with graffiti and stained with the patina of zero maintenance.
As with the buildings in the previous posts, I took a few snaps using the Bronica before processing and scanning the film at home.
I had the good fortune to visit Oxford yesterday. The trip was to visit the various exhibitions of the Oxford Photography Festival which in the event was a little disappointing (mention should be made of the Pentti Sammallahti work which was magnificently printed (although smaller than expected), some of Richard Davies’s Russian churches and Clarita Lulic’s hilarious cruise ship portraits). As we jogged between venues, we stumbled across several of Oxford’s modernist structures that are dotted amongst the dreaming spires.
I had 2 cameras with me, the shoddy Lomography Sprocket Rocket and the ‘proper’ EOS5. I burnt through a couple of films on the concrete but managed to screw up the processing of the EOS’s film as the reel stuck halfway up the tank’s tube and so processed half the film more than the other as it sat out of the developer. So, all I have to show for the trip are the pictures from the SpRocket. They were shot on Kentmere 400 (2 quid a roll kids) and processed in the sink using Ilfotec HC.
Having read up since I got back, I’ve discovered that Oxford is home to lots more fine looking buildings from the late 60’s and early 70’s – a return trip is on the cards…
On our recent trip to Poland, I took my Bronica SQ-A, Zorki 4 and Lomo LC-A and used them to photograph my usual Polish subjects – old Polish cars, socialist architecture and the things that sort of sum the place up and show how different it is to all that is familiar in England.
As usual, I processed my own black and white films (a collection of Kodak Tri-X 400 and Ilford HP5+) using whatever chemicals I have to hand, and as usual, I quite enjoyed the processing. However, scanning negatives is always laborious and usually takes me a couple of rolls to get the settings and workflow that I’m happy with. I need to check the condition of my scanner somehow and print some of the negatives to see how they look without the digital part of the process to see if it is my negatives, the scanner or just my haste to get through them.
Enjoying the convenience of having two backs for the Bronica, I also took a couple of shots on Fuji Velvia that were processed and scanned by Peak Imaging.
These first few pictures were taken at Syców’s bus station. Przedsiębiorstwo Komunikacji Samochodowej, or PKS, can be translated as Motor Transport Company and is a major Polish enterprise dealing with inter-city public transport using coaches. It was created as a state enterprise in 1945 in post-war communist Poland as Państwowa Komunikacja Samochodowa (State Motor Transport). In 1992 it was renamed to its current name. Until recently it had a monopoly on suburban bus transport in Poland. Recently it has been broken up, with many new companies being privatised.
Buses in Poland appear to still be popular and I’ve read that part of the reason for Syców’s development into a town the size that it is is because of its bus connections. At some point during the 1960s, a pretty typical Soviet era bus station was built in a style and from the materials that almost everything else built during that era was; ie. modernist straight lines and concrete.
I’m not sure if it has ever been refurbished or even painted, and it looks a pretty desperate place to spend time waiting for a bus. While taking these, and for the first time in Poland, I was approached and warned against taking pictures, being threatened with ‘Ochrona!’ I didn’t hang around to find out if the guy was serious…