Thursday, July 29, 2010

Architectural whimsy?

click photo to enlarge
A while ago I gave my views on the development that surrounds the ancient Brayford Pool in Lincoln. This is a wide area of the River Witham that has for centuries been the site of an inland port. In recent years its commercial shipping uses have given way to pleasure craft, and the warehouses have been replaced by hotels and the recently established University of Lincoln, a former college of higher education. The area leaves a lot to be desired architecturally. It is a mish mash of building types and styles, all seemingly thrown down at random, some new, some bad conversions of older buildings, others toy-town parodies of the former warehouses. Many are cheaply built and already, after less than twenty years, look shabby. Others are surrounded by acres of paving, concrete, tarmac, gravel, weeds and car parking. The main waterside footpath on the south side of the pool is badly worn, impassable when wet, and leads people through an underpass and over a bridge that carries a busy road. The opportunity to do something at Brayford Pool that complements and integrates with the older part of the city has been missed.

When I visited Lincoln today I came upon a building that is new to me. True to the form exhibited elsewhere in the vicinity it leaves a lot to be desired. Where to begin? Well let's start with its name - Enterprise@Lincoln. This attempt to sound new, snappy and relevant only succeeds in sounding cliched. The building has been given a name that will inevitably be changed when the world finally decides the "@" is passe. The website of this section of the University of Lincoln oozes opaque and tortured prose, and all too typically describes it as "the University's central department for employer engagement...", whatever that means. As for the building itself, I can't imagine how the architect who designed it would describe it. "Whimsical?" "Referential?" "Playing with form?" I've heard such words and phrases used to describe this type of construction. Clearly the building's external form is capricious: those colourful "legs" don't need to be crossed and probably aren't needed at all. Nor do the wrap-around metal oriel and the other window band need to be those particular shapes - or there in that form at all. It clearly is a building that wants to be noticed, and it succeeds in that regard. I'm sure there are many who would call it a "fun building". However, this passer-by didn't smile but simply sighed, and reflected on another missed opportunity to build a structure of quality and note in an area that badly needs one.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 14mm (28mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/800
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -1.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On