Sunday, March 09, 2008

Looking up

click photo to enlarge
I've observed elsewhere in this blog that walking along looking up gives you a good picture of how a town or city centre looked in the past. The mania for modernising shop fronts usually means that the original architecture of a building remains only at the level of the first floor and above, the ground floor reflecting one of the fleeting fashions of the past twenty years or so applied with little respect for the rest of the facade.

Looking up can reveal exquisite terracotta ornament, brackets, consoles, cartouches, dated rain-water heads, Moderne windows, columns, capitals and more. It also lets you see the original compositional intention of the architect and the frequent emphasis on good proportion that underpins much eighteenth and some nineteenth century building.

That being the case, you may wonder why I've chosen this boring building with which to make my case, a nineteenth century structure on the High Street at Boston, Lincolnshire. The ground floor is a shop, and probably always was. However, I can't for one moment imagine that the flat fascia, spindly glazing bars, large sheets of glass, and clumsy white rendering were part of the original frontage. This insubstantial composition that looks ready to collapse at any moment under the weight of the bricks above, would have had heavier components, and would have been composed in a way that linked more strongly with the first and second floor windows. Those windows still use the eighteenth century (and Renaissance) idea of large fenestration at the piano nobile level, with smaller windows "closing" the facade above. And that is where the interest lies when looking up at this point on this street: you see a good compositional idea based on the importance of proportion, that was widespread a century earlier, still being used, albeit in a debased way, providing continuity between the building styles of two distinct periods.

I photographed this particular building not only for the reasons noted above, but because it is nicely separated from its neighbours, and for the small, ragged cloud drifting by, an interesting insubstantial counterpoint to the dead weight of brick on brick below.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 11mm (22mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/320
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On