Summer in the city

It’s the height of the summer season when tourists and locals alike seek to take those all important memorable photographic reminders. So, come to Cardiff and add to your collection of photographs of, er… metal!

We have a newfound worship of the stuff at the historic heart of the city as St John’s Church adopts a form of icon hibernation…

And if its culture you are seeking, just try the National Museum of Wales, with its strangely tent-like impersonation…

There just might be a case of contagion, as the museum’s corporation neighbour of City Hall belies its usual finery by angling to get in on the act…

Then there is the world renowned sporting arena of the Millenium Stadium (no product endorsements for financial institutions here!) sporting a partial makeover…

Fear not, surely views down St Mary Street towards the castle will be spared; but Hodge House has other ideas…

Until we speak again, you might be forgiven for thinking Cardiff has become the home of heavy metal!

Dumfries Surprise

Ever found yourself somewhere you never expected to be… only to wonder why it hasn’t appeared on your radar before? No! Well take a picture of Dumfries in the borderlands of Scotland. Better still, take a visit. It will only take a day or so of your time, as it is hardly a metropolis. But it will hold a few surprises.

A day in the life of Dumfries can only start with a wholesome B&B freshly cooked full Scottish breakfast, featuring a haggis cameo and the quintessential lorne sausage

Having partaken of the traditional sustenance it is time to explore red sandstone in all its native forms. The architecture definitely speaks of bygone important days, and was built to withstand anything the Scottish weather could hurl it’s way…

Scratch the surface and you may find that not everything is distinctly local. Having wandered around the tightly packed streets it is unlikely that the ballast of breakfast is wearing off; but let’s say for arguments sake that a dream of globalisation is intruding on your sandstone meandering. Americana Scottish-style awaits you on, of all places, English Street

If a Blueberry Delight pancake stack doesn’t remind your arteries of the concept of mortality nothing will! Suitably fortified the Cavens Arms is the best place locally for liquid refreshment. A good selection of the falling over juice (Orkney IPA and Jarl Blonde Ale were the main culprits) interrupted any photographic evidence.

Ask any self-respecting Scottish local and they will surely remind you of the hunger-inducing powers of imbibing the intoxicating liquids. Crumb will be there on of all places, Irish Street, to satisfy many cravings… Teriyaki Salmon, Beef Chilli or Southern Fried Chicken as particularly favoured samples…

Until we speak again, particularly sated cats recommend more than a day if you want to discover a Dumfries Surprise.

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!