Friday, February 24, 2012

Moribund buildings

click photo to enlarge
During my many years working in education I was involved with a few building extensions. The process of design generally involved educational managers of one kind or another (including me) discussing the brief with the architect. Subsequently proposals would be presented for discussion and amendment, and after these had been batted back and forth a few times, the final form of the building would be agreed. In the fullness of time the extension would be built, but during construction further changes would be agreed or imposed, often for cost reasons. This was a fairly reasonable and rational way of extending an existing educational building. The aim was to provide something that would effectively and efficiently meet the current needs of the users, and, very importantly, be sufficiently flexible to accommodate future requirements.

However, much building in the past, and still sometimes today, didn't and doesn't involve consultations of this sort. Buildings as disparate as schools, town halls, railway stations, factories, houses, churches and art galleries were built based solely on the advice of an architect, the orders of the provider of the funds, or the whim of an influential individual. Such an approach sometimes resulted in a wonderful building that received the approbation of contemporaries and future generations because individual vision or genius was given free rein, and the sometimes stultifying hand of "design by committee" was avoided. But, more often I think, it resulted buildings that met the specific needs of a specific time, that didn't lend themselves to adaptation to meet future needs. Such buildings are commonplace, often neglected, frequently in terminal decline as they are passed from one temporary use to another.

This derelict farm building at Haceby, Lincolnshire, prompted these thoughts. What was its original purpose? It's small but not cheaply built, with stone walls and a good tile roof. It was obviously wanted and valued by whoever commissioned it, perhaps a hundred or more years ago. But today, despite being in a small wood next to a road, it is of no use, except as a slightly melancholic subject for this passing photographer. Saplings, ivy and moss are colonising it. The doors seem to be long gone. It is a dying building, but one that could perhaps be resuscitated. Whether it will or not depends on it finding a contemporary purpose that the builders probably never foresaw.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 30mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/25 sec
ISO: 160
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On