Thursday, April 21, 2011

Reviled buildings and illusions

click photo to enlarge
Are multi-storey car parks the most reviled type of building in our towns and cities? I think there's a strong case for saying that they are lower in the public's estimation than, say, public toilets, petrol stations or burger bars - buildings that are often castigated for their charmless functionality. In fact, it's that utilitarian character that makes multi-storey car parks so unappealing. All that unadorned concrete, oil-stained ramps, battered corners and echoing stairwells seem designed to get you out of the building as quickly as possible once the fat fee has been prised from your pocket.

The examples of awful multi-storeys are almost too numerous for me to mention, but I will cite one that I saw recently in Kingston upon Hull, part of a newish hotel by the river. The car park isn't helped by the architecture of the rest of the building, but the unnecessary curves and grotesque metal grilles are truly bad.

It was that car park (and one in Lincoln that has an exterior theme of pointed arches - a cathedral town, geddit?) that came to mind when I saw the example in the photographs that is in King's Lynn, Norfolk. Here, I thought, is what someone with vision can achieve when tackling a multi-storey car park. The overall shape is fine, but the detailing is excellent, and simple. Walls of terra-cotta like squares, punctured by tall, rectangular openings in groups of three are set against white foil-like vanes mounted at different angles that give a blurred, rippled effect, an illusion of movement and airy lightness. On some days they must seem to merge with the sky. What I especially liked was the sharp detail of the walls against the insubstantiality of the vanes when they were seen from an angle. In fact, bringing a light feel to something like a muti-storey is quite an achievement, and one you don't often see.

I took quite a few detail shots of the building, images that are largely semi-abstract in nature, and I regret not taking a couple of the whole structure. Perhaps next time I'm there I will.

photographs and text (c) T. Boughen

Main Photo
Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 191mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/320
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On