Old & New: Barcelona Style

“They don’t make them like they used to!” Of course not… it was a different time, different priorities, with less of the corporately bland requirements to have it done by yesterday. Oh, and health and safety hadn’t yet been invented.

But nobody told Gaudi and the Barcelona authorities that you can’t make them like you used to!

Take a stroll around the atmospheric Gothic Quarter and Barcelona Cathedral presents a dramatic example of what the 13th to 15th centuries had to offer the religiously inclined…

Then, if you’ve not had enough of the reflective devotion imposed by the incredible grandeur of such ecclesiastical trappings, take a further stroll (or few stops by Metro) to check out what the 19th to 21st centuries have to offer, c/o Antoni Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia

Until we meet again, whether it is then or now… WOW!

Cardiff: Old & New

It’s a city felt by many local critics to have neglected so much of its history… bulldoze and re-build anew seems to be the fashion. Maybe the priorities of a few fat cats prevail, but Cardiff is Europe’s youngest capital city, and young needs to look shiny and new… doesn’t it?

Well, the city certainly needs to answer some questionable decisions regarding design and building priorities, and we can start by checking out the very locations where some of those answers may come from. Take the contrast between the domineering sight in the centre of the city located near to the castle, City Hall… Edwardian Baroque architecture opened in 1906, built of Portland Stone…

preferred post [4]

preferred post [3]

Meanwhile, languishing on the banks of the elegantly ignored Bute East Dock lies a compressed pagoda of a structure in the form of the more modern County Hall… opened in 1988 it represents a less imposing style of civic building…

county hall

Until we speak again, Cardiff may be littered with bog-standard corporate design choices, but look a little closer and the gems can still be found amongst the guano!

Hot air

It’s an uncharacteristically prolonged heatwave that blankets the UK in the summer of 2018, but where is it coming from? Meteorologists convey the simple message that high pressure dominates the scene, allowing stable and hot continental and tropical influences from the south to bathe the country in persistent warmth. But, those of us in the know have a different theory about the derivation of so much hot air… in England the source can be found in the Westminster area of London; but in Wales it is to be found in Cardiff Bay going under the pseudonym of the Senedd.

To some aficionados of architectural shenanigans it may simply be a giant beached manta ray, with its route back to the sea seemingly blocked by nothing more than a solitary lamppost!

Senedd 1

Propped up on a cushion of glass, it seemingly projects its message to all before it, through a menacingly oval aperture…

Senedd 2

For this is where Welsh politicians meet and pontificate in the bowels of the beast. The hot air produced is conveyed upwards to an unsuspecting world… through a sinister mushroom cloud, only it’s about as wooden as the occupants, and possesses none of the commensurate devastation usually associated with such a vision.

Senedd [8]

And, to the unsuspecting masses going about their daily business, the impact of the output is a slow burner… like a deadman’s handshake it is never seen but quietly stifles any ambition laid out before it.

Senedd [4]

Until we speak again, enjoy the hot air of the summer, as the politicians will largely be in recess!

 

Hidden in plain sight

Ever wondered “What is in there?” as you glance up at shuttered windows; or you see most lights are on, but one room seems to be bathed in the mystery of darkness.

It would hardly be a thought worth thinking as you gaze over at a city centre Burger King joint, as late night revellers are acoustically invading your alcohol-infused imagination…

Outside at night

But, thanks to a recent ‘Hidden Cardiff‘ TV documentary, by the adventurer/writer Will Millard, the secrets of the 300 year old Green Dragon pub are briefly revealed. The building now largely occupied by a Burger King hides the only remnant of a bygone past… The Mahogany Room.

Inside [1]

Apparently, this ornate delight is obscured from public gaze for health & safety reasons (personally I think that could be more to do with the other current occupier!).

Inside [2]

Here is where the alcohol-infused imaginations of Cardiff’s former great and good discussed the pressing civic matters of the day, and made the decisions that would shape the growth of the would-be capital city of Wales.

Inside [3]

Alas, the premise of the ‘Hidden Cardiff‘ TV programme was that the city, unlike many of its English and Scottish counterparts, has not been very good at valuing its past history and architecture. It prefers to give an outward impression of the new and shiny, either destroying or hiding many of its gems. And The Mahogany Room is a classic example of such a cultural crime…

Inside [4]

Until we speak again, if your gaze is halted by closed shutters or images of darkness surrounded by pools of light, Juno and Bella would have reminded you to summon up your alcohol-infused imaginations!

Aqua Tower

As my loyal follower will be aware, there are some truly beautiful skyscrapers in Chicago. But, my favourite has to be the Aqua Tower, glimpsed here through the modernist Pritzker Pavilion structure in Millennium Park.

Millenium Park Pritzker Pavilion [4]

In our latest phase of righteous indignation at the inequality experienced by women in a so-called man’s world, it is refreshing to hear that this building is the tallest to-date to be designed by a female-led architecture firm, that of Jeanne Gang based in Chicago. It is credited with contours, vertical landscapes and undulating pools, projecting a striking outward appearance…

Aqua Tower [2]

The Aqua Tower is designed with green elements incorporated, such as roof gardens, and balcony patterns and glass tints to maximise solar shading and exposure.

Aqua Tower [3]

 

Within its finer details, the balconies are projections of the tower’s floors, as a means of creating outdoor terraces as communal spaces for residents.

 

Aqua Tower [1]

So, until we speak again, Juno and Bella would both have agreed… that if you want a thing of environmental beauty instead of a macho willy-waving pissing up the wall competition, the go-to person is quite probably a woman!

 

Scuze me while I…

… kiss the sky. One thing you must do when in Chicago is… ‘look up’! Many places may claim to be home to the skyscraper, but few can challenge Chicago for architectural variety and significance when it comes to ¬†construction in the vertical plane. And where better to appreciate the visual feast (and strain your neck), than messing about on the Chicago River?

River view by day

The ‘Jewelers Building’ to the right in the following picture dates back to 1926. The four corner crowns were an elaborate way of disguising water tanks. To protect the valuable commodities, this building originally accommodated basement drive-in elevators that would take vehicles up to the required floor.

River architecture [1]

Immediately opposite are the 1969 and 2009 stages of modernism. To the left is the IBM Building designed with energy consumption at the heart of its architecture. While to the right is an example of personal ego, emblazoned with the name of someone who has fragrantly ignored contemporary concerns for climate change and conservation (viewed from many angles the name can be avoided, but if you get the light and shade correctly aligned it may occasionally read ‘RUMP’).

River architecture inc Trump Tower

Then come the visually twin towers of Marina City aka the corn cobs. A futuristic vision emerging from the early 1960’s.

Riverboat trip [4]

Who says urban high rise living lacks a stunning aesthetic? Unfortunately, to live here might well require a stunning bank balance. This isn’t going to be the revolutionary vision for ‘The Projects”!

Riverboat trip [15]

Gently floating along the river parallel to Wacker Drive, it is quite easy to imagine you are in the midst of an urban re-enactment of a Grand Canyon stylised landscape. No? just me on some far out visionary trip then.

Riverboat trip [16]

Then comes an architectural mystery. How can you build up so high from such a narrow v-shaped base? Economics and advances in technology eventually combine to give rise to 150 North Riverside, limited at its base between a river and an active railroad. To counter the effects of wind on the whole structure, 12 rooftop tanks contain 1000 tons of water to counteract natural movement.

Riverboat trip [29]

Formerly the worlds tallest building, the Wills (nee Sears) Tower uses a bundled tube framework for its design, to enable stability at the increased height. The younger neighbour (with a neon crown) uses contrasting detailing in its shape and design, in order to create its own unique contribution next to the towering icon.

Riverboat trip [28]

Meanwhile, back at the confluence of the y-shaped rivers, one of many navigation-based reflective themes to be seen in the riverside designs presents in a striking fashion. In 1983, the 333 West Wacker Drive building adopted the curve of the river as its over-arching theme. the tinted glass is also a reflection that harmonies with the water below.

Riverboat trip [31]

As dusk sets in the skyline adopts a new magical presentation…

Riverboat trip [42]

Riverboat trip [46]

… and the illuminated Tribune Tower provides a beacon for the return to dry land for the intrepid architectural enthusiasts…

River architecture [3]

Until we speak again, a special thanks goes out to the Chicago Architecture Foundation for providing such a fabulously insightful historical excursion.

Icon revival

As much as I would like this heading to be applied to Juno and Bella, thus reversing two tragic demises of recent years, in reality it is an update for my loyal follower. The Coal Exchange building, deep in the heart of Mount Stuart Square, has been apparently left to rot and collapse through gross negligence by local and national Welsh administrations. How nice it is to refer to an ‘iconic’ status on perimeter hoardings, while the subject of said reference basks in a catastrophic state of neglect behind.

Coal Exchange board sign

Coal Exchange exterior decay [3]

Coal Exchange [6]

Coal Exchange approach

Rumour had it that developers of a boutique hotel would be the saviour of the building where the very first ¬£1 million cheque was handed over. No, that’s a historical fact not an inflated cost of a suite in the proposed new hotel!

Well, in March 2017 there were distinctly positive signs, for those who hold a candle (rather than an incendiary device) to the preservation of Cardiff’s architectural heritage!¬†Coal Exchange Mar 17

Then, just as Spring in May should bring a promise of new beginnings, so the revival of a favourite old building seems truly under way…

Coal Exchange May 17 [2]

Coal Exchange May 17 [3]

Coal exchange May 17 [4]

With extensive work still to be completed across most of the site, the ultimate sign of intent is captured… as bona fide hotel residents arrive to occupy some of the small number of rooms early opened.

Coal Exchange May 17 [6]

It seems that Signature Living have sympathetic plans for the regeneration of the building, that will recapture its historic past as well as provide a sustainable basis for looking forward. And while there will be the inevitable carping about handing a community resource over to a commercial venture, the photographs at the top of this post are evidence enough of the only other real alternative!

Until we speak again, Juno’s View promises to bring documented evidence of the interior in the near future. [However, in the interim period, behold views of Chicago and New Orleans coming here very soon!]