Thursday, February 04, 2010

The "Boathouse", Wisbech

click photo to enlarge
The Cambridgeshire settlement of Wisbech still retains much of its character as a Georgian market town. Many of its historic buildings have escaped the attentions of the improvers and developers, and it has a very high number of listed buildings - about 270 - for such a comparatively small place. However, this relative bounty in terms of eighteenth century architecture seems only partly the result of conscious conservation: the decline of the town from its glory years, with the attendant lack of development, is also an important factor.

However, Fenland District Council and the people of this part of Cambridgeshire are clearly taking steps to revitalise the area, and I came across one such example on my recent visit. The "Boathouse" Business Centre is a landmark office and services building next to the River Nene, the latest development in an area that already includes a marina, and promises more commercial space and riverside flats. The idea of "landmark" buildings as the focus of development seems widespread in Britain today, with museums (Manchester, Bradford), galleries (Salford, Liverpool, Gateshead), aquaria (Hull), and many other iconic, often cultural, structures being pressed into service. It seems to work: the failures - such as Manchester's Urbis (many say it didn't fail) which is to become the National Museum of Football - seem to be few.

This modest example in Wisbech has a shape that seems a little too obvious for its location: the pointed ends that echo a bow and stern, the white paint, the "bridge" balcony and the mast-like vertical wind turbine and street light all seem to proclaim too loudly, "I'm next to a marina - geddit!" That criticism notwithstanding, it is a good addition to the area, an interesting subject for a visiting photographer, and I hope it succeeds in bringing jobs and life back to this part of the town's riverside.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 13mm (26mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/500
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On