Thursday, January 05, 2006

The best is often over our heads

"Nothing that was worthy in the past departs", said Thomas Carlyle (1795-1891), Scottish historian and essayist. As far as the architecture of our towns and cities goes he was dead wrong! Take a walk down any high street, anywhere in Britain, and if you are interested in architecture or just like the variety of the urban scene, all you can do is weep. Virtually everywhere you see the same shops. All with the same corporate fascias. All designed to maximize selling space. All inserted with no regard for the building of which they are a part. The original structure is just swept aside. The same is true of seaside resorts: most seafront hotels seem to have a single storey "sun lounge", or some such excrescence, tacked on the front with all the sensitivity of bull bars on a Bugatti!

But there is a way to see something of what the original builders and architects intended. Walk along looking upwards. Now I realise that this may involve you in some uncomfortable meetings with bollards. Furthermore, you are likely to engage in close acquaintance with the presents that dogs leave on the pavement. But believe me, it's all worth it! By looking at the first storey and above you are likely to see original work that hasn't been messed about with too much.

The subject of the photograph had escaped my notice for years because, when passing this particular Blackpool hotel, I never followed my own advice. And then, the other day, I did. What a revelation - I saw the best bit of an otherwise uninspiring building. When I pointed the camera at it the zoom lens immediately concentrated my attention on the red of the sandstone and bricks. I could see the elegant iron work throwing shadows, and the blue sky reflected from the windows giving a perfect contrast. Even the whiteness of the plastic window frames added to the effect! It was a simple matter to decide that repetition was the theme to go for, compose the image and press the shutter.

So, next time you're passing Connecticut Braised Dodo, or any national chain, look up. What you see above the fascia might surprise and delight you - even more than what's on offer below!
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen