Thursday, January 15, 2009

Reflecting on the Brayford Pool

click photo to enlarge
About a year ago I visited Lincoln for the first time in twenty years or so. That's a long time in the life of a small city, and I noticed quite a few changes on my return. Whilst I was there I took a photograph that was subsequently selected for a London exhibition. It shows a bicycle, semi-submerged on a walkway at the Brayford Pool which was experiencing particularly high water. The last time I'd been in that location it was fairly derelict, with disused quays and crumbling buildings in evidence. But since the 1980s there has been "regeneration". A marina for pleasure craft has been created and university buildings, hotels, cafes and the like have sprung up. On my visit a year ago I didn't have time to stop, look and think about what has happened at Brayford. Yesterday I did. My conclusion is that whoever sanctioned the structures and planning of the the development that has taken place, the marina excepted - it's fine, should be ashamed of themselves.

The Brayford Pool today is surrounded by a group of buildings for which the term banal would be high praise. I made two leisurely circuits of the area and struggled to find anything of architectural merit. Quite the worst building is the Holiday Inn, a "warehouse" look-alike clearly imagining that it both recalls the Rank Hovis mill that it replaced, and is appropriate to the waterside setting. In fact, it's toy-town architecture at its worst. Running it a close second is the large university building directly across the water, a grim, uninspiring amalgam of materials and forms with a desert of drab paving set before it. Of marginal interest is a (1960s?) reinforced concrete framed building with a "hyperbolic parabaloid" roof, but a new rectilinear glazed wall that has been inserted seems to exist independently of the original skeleton, only acknowledging it by being centred on its twin column support. Perhaps the best building is the curved Hayes Wharf with its irregularly placed groups of slats, positioned near the flyover: it's a good structure for that site, and offers style and interest. Overall however, as a piece of urban planning, the renovation of Brayford Pool is an opportunity missed. Even the small details are poor: the pedestrian route around the main pool is gravel and mud on the south side, is badly waymarked, weaves through and around buildings in a confusing way, and, unforgivably, involves going up to the busy, noisy flyover to complete the main circuit. And quite why, in the twenty first century, in an area designed to attract people, we are still being asked to scurry, rat-like, through an underpass (see today's photograph) beggars belief!

photograph & text (c) T.Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 11mm (22mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/100
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -2.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On