Archive for the ‘architecture’ Tag

Adventures in the Writing Trade: Day 2

The tide was wrong in Malahide. Something about the boat was wrong. But the energy and the weather was right. We cast off from a pier in Rush, at the end of the beach I’ve spent years walking on, running round, sometimes meditating on. It was a kick to get the perspective from sea from onboard the Shamrock and then gazes turned to the island, some 20 minutes away across a millpond channel in bright autumn sunshine.

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Lambay

As we approached the harbour on Lambay the whitewashed buildings came clearly into view, almost all designed by or renovated by Lutyens. I could see the one person I knew on Lambay, my connection to the place, on the pier and she gave me a warm welcome. Welcome was important in Lutyens’ designs. We were given an orientation talk on a circular patch of lawn near the buildings – the castle, the white house and the workers’ cottages. The architect considered circular forms welcoming by nature.

I was shown my room in the white house – charming, spacious, resonant of its (art deco) times. The house was built in 1932. It is symmetrical as it was built for two daughters with two large (around six children each) families, one wing each. I am writing this at the end of one wing in the library. I use posting on Simple Pleasures part 4 as a warm-up to get the writing juices flowing in the morning, a practice I devised on my sabbatical from Channel 4 in 2013/14.

There is A General Map of Ireland to accompany the report of the Railway Commissioners shewing the Principle Physical Features and Geological Structure of the Country (constructed in 1836, engraved in 1837/38) on the light red brick wall behind me. There are four glass cases of dead birds also displayed against the brick. An upright piano with Scott Joplin sheet music. A small case of books old and young, some old Penguins among some more vintage volumes. I’m sitting at a very solid wooden table, oak, which contrasts well with this old MacBook Air with a green sticker of the map of Ireland on the other side of it at the heart of other stickers including a Mod target, a Mexican skull in an American Football helmet (San Francisco 49ers colors) and the latest, from a surfing place, which says Shoot Rainbows into Fascists. I bought it in Milton Keynes when out with my brothers (alongside a quite loud summery shirt) because it reminded me of Woody Guthrie’s “This Machine Kills Fascists” written on his tool of choice, his guitar. On my iPad, which I rarely use, is a quotation from the Russian filmmaker Dziga Vertov, famed for his Man with a Movie Camera (1929, within spitting distance of the construction of this house) which I first studied at University on a European Avant-Garde Comparative Literature, Art & Film module, on which I also first encountered Joyce’s Ulysses (1922). The quote is:

“I, a machine, am showing you a world, the likes of which only I can see”

as mentioned recently in my list of My Favourite Documentaries.

Woody_Guthrie singer songwriter guitarist this machine kills fascists

I was told last night after dinner in the drawing room which marks the centre of the house, along with the kitchen, about a set of documentaries made on another island, Fogo Island, off Newfoundland, Canada. They were made (as the writing mentor, Jonathan Gosling, on this retreat detailed) by a group of Toronto film students in 1967. They now reside online with the Film Board of Canada set up by Brit documentarist John Grierson. I knew its head for several years, Tom Perlmutter.

Commercial Break: Coincidence No. 476

When I just went to check when Tom left the NFBC I noticed his birthday:

Born: September 6, 1948 (age 71 years), Hungary

Today is September 6. A 1 in 365 chance I guess.

The series of short docs depicted life on the island. They were sent to politicians in Ottawa who were on the point of giving up on the sparsely populated island and winding down its public services. On seeing the documentaries they changed their minds and the island population also got to see that the remote politicians they despised did actually care about them. Care is a very important thing in life, I have decided, whether you are a teacher, a psychiatrist, a film-maker, or whatever. It becomes even more important in the age of AI and automation, as depicted very well in Netflix’s recently released doc American Factory. Care distinguishes us from the machines. (By the way, the new Terminator film (Dark Fate) is due out soon and it looks like it’s worth the watch, check out the new trailer.)

Once installed in the (other) white house – talking of which check out Netflix’s excellent Knocking Down the House, a documentary following grassroots Democrats taking on incumbent Senators in the recent mid-terms to try to reconnect the House with its people (I saw it the other night on the big screen, at Soho House, a few doors down from the building where my fascination with film was born, but that’s another story…)  – once installed, we soon began writing work reflecting on Beginning Writing.

Lambay Island Whitehouse edwin lutyens

I did my first session out in the late afternoon sunshine in the grassed yard formed by the three sides of the house. The open side looks up to the small chapel on a hill. This morning I walked around the headland, where to my pantheistic delight I saw numerous seals both on land and poking their heads out of the waves, up to the chapel. I took advantage of the Catholic space to meditate to the music of three sounds – the wind, the sea and the rain on the wood-lined roof. I doubt it was an accident that Michael Powell’s Black Narcissus (as mentioned yesterday) ramps up the overwrought erotic tension of the film with an accompaniment of ceaseless moaning wind.

After the first writing session, we had drinks in the central lounge early evening before dinner in the mirror room of this library, the dining room at the other end of the house looking onto the sea near where we landed.

Earlyish night, bit of Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend (which I’ve been reading since 2001(!), have been thoroughly enjoying, but am still miles from the end), frapped le sac. Dreamt of the house. Up early, out for that walk and the seal watching.

After breakfast, straight into this second writing session and now my juices are flowing…

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Adventures in the Writing Trade: Day 1

dawn london N2

view on leaving home

Day is breaking. I’m on the North Circular heading to the airport. From there to Dublin, bus to Malahide, boat to Lambay Island.

Lambay Island from the air county dublin ireland

Lambay and the beach at Rush

I’m stoked. Lambay is a mile-square island just off the coast of County Dublin. I’ve spent years admiring it from Rush beach on the mainland as my in-laws live in An Ros. The next four days I’m going to spend on the island on a writing retreat with nine other writers.

The island has been in the hands of the Baring family since around 1904 (the year of ‘Ulysses’’s action) and now two younger scions of the family run the trust which looks after it. Most interestingly it serves as a small model for sustainable living, a role forced on it by virtue of being an inhabited island but enthusiastically grasped as a purpose for the trust.

There are two particular reasons I am excited. One, the house on the island was designed by Edwin Lutyens, one of my favourite architects. Besides the Cenotaph and the Institute, local to me at the heart of Hampstead Garden Suburb, he designed Castle Drago in the West Country (Devon) which I remember fondly, art deco right down to the bathroom and shower.

Two, one of my favourite films by one of my favourite writers and directors was written on the island. ‘Black Narcissus’ (1947) by Powell & Pressburger was drafted by the former in two days on the island. Here’s a previous post on this movie.

‘Black Narcissus’ (1947) by Powell & Pressburger

As I set off I’m wearing some tan shorts like the ones David Farrar [Mr Dean] wears in the film (a tad longer) in unconscious homage to the peak of writing output from the island.

Black Narcissus 1947 by Powell Pressburger movie film

David Farrar & Jean Simmons & the shorts

 

 

 

Art Deco Sussex

Bexhill-on-Sea to Brighton, east to west 23.vii.18

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex - interior staircase

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex - exterior seaside

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex - exterior staircase

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex - interior staircase

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex - interior staircase

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex - exterior artist painter

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex - exterior staircase landside

Staircase, landside

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex - interior staircase landside

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex - exterior

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex - exterior staircase

58 South Cliff, Bexhill

58 South Cliff, Bexhill

58 South Cliff, Bexhill

58 South Cliff, Bexhill

The Sandcastle, Pevensey, East Sussex art deco house

The Sandcastle, Pevensey, East Sussex

The Sandcastle, Pevensey, East Sussex art deco house

from the beach

The Sandcastle, Pevensey, East Sussex art deco house

The Sandcastle, Pevensey, East Sussex art deco house

The Sandcastle, Pevensey, East Sussex art deco house

The Sandcastle, Pevensey, East Sussex art deco house

The Sandcastle, Pevensey, East Sussex art deco house

Embassy Court Brighton flats apartments

Embassy Court, Brighton

 

Et tu Brutalist?

I had a great London wander today – theme: Brutalist Architecture. First outing for my Brutalist London Map which I got from the Twentieth Century Society via Blue Crow Media (beautifully designed, for a mere 8 quid).

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I had a pre-outing last weekend to Trellick Tower on Golborne Road. The architect Erno Goldfinger shares a birthday with me (and John Martyn) so I have a bit of a soft spot for him. My niece lives there so I got to capture some of the interiors…

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Trellick Tower

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Entrance hall windows (rear)

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I headed East this morning to Blackwall on the Docklands Light Railway. First stop Robin Hood Gardens in E14. Although the 20th Century Society is fighting to get it listed and indeed saved, personally I found it terrible architecture and even worse housing. As I walked around the estate two separate people asked me whether I was there for the consultation – the second was an architect type. He told me there was a big session taking place today regarding the redevelopment of the whole area so it looks like it’s a gonner (no tears).

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Robin Hood Gardens, Poplar, London E14

Fortunately within 5 minutes walk is Balfron Tower, the 1967 precursor by Goldfinger to Trellick Tower (1972).

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Balfron Tower, London E14

Trellick was definitely an improvement, partly because it has a far better site. The nautical touch of Trellick’s tower is evident in a smaller block adjacent to Balfron called Glenkerry House.

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Glenkerry House

I sailed off North West from there across E14 and E3 to E2 where two further Brutalist sites beckoned. Leaving views of Canary Wharf Tower and the Docklands behind me, under blue skies in bright winter sun I walked along canals (Limehouse Cut and the Regent’s Canal at Mile End), through back streets, past Victorian churches and factories, until I got to the estates behind Roman Road. And there waited two beauties by Denys Lasdun, architect of the National Theatre, one of the most well known Brutalist buildings in the city.

First the exquisite Trevelyan House, gleaming white against the azure sky.

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Trevelyan House

It is characterised by the central staircase/lift shaft connecting its two halves. A couple of roads away is a sister block, Sulkin House.

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Sulkin House

So that’s the first flânage from my Brutalist London Map. I bought a pear from the fruit stall behind Sulkin exchanging badinage with the West Ham supporting stall holder and his dad, thanks to my Spurs scarf (from Savile Rogue). Then an Italian coffee from two lovely Italian girls on the Roman Road. Lunch at Pellicci’s on Bethnal Green Road, Est. 1900, served by the grandson of the founder, proper Cockney, all the staff super-welcoming, sat with a chatty second-generation Irish couple from Walthamstow. Final stop – Flashback Records down the street where I picked up a copy of Lola by The Kinks, boys from my manor.

Headed back to my manor after 5 hours walking with a spring in my step as the sun set on a brutally beautiful day.

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The photos are all here.

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