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!]

 

 

Revolution without the beer

My avid reader will be aware of a very recent post on the birthplace of the industrial revolution. You would be forgiven for thinking I got somewhat pub obsessed in my reflections on days gone by in Manchester. So, here is my opportunity to salute the architectural legacy of Manchester (with maybe one potential sighting of a pub!).

Artistic cats will be particularly drawn to the Manchester Art Gallery on Mosley Street, a Grade I listed building in Greek Ionic style built in the 1820’s, it acts to remind us that cultural appreciation is free to all… well, at least those who can be bothered to take their gaze temporarily away from a screen these days.

manchester-art-gallery-mosley-street

Meanwhile, cats who like to read something in a more traditional style may be attracted to the Manchester Central Library on St. Peter’s Square. Loosely based on the Pantheon in Rome, this Grade II listed building, combines a columned portico fronting a rotunda, built in the 1930’s. It succeeds the original and first free lending library of 1852, when Manchester demonstrated a ground-breaking recognition of the benefits of providing education resources for its local population.

central-library-2

For orchestral cats there is the Manchester Free Trade Hall. Built in the 1850’s as a monument to the repeal of the Corn Laws, this building on Peter Street is also built on the site of the Peterloo Massacre of 1819. It became the home of the Halle Orchestra, before more recently succumbing to mammon’s requirement for more hotel space.

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free-trade-hall-2

free-trade-hall-1

Talking of hotel rooms, for decadent cats there is always the magnificent sight of the Manchester Midland Hotel. The Edwardian Baroque Grade II listed building was erected in 1903 facing St. Peter’s Square to serve the northern railway terminal. Interestingly enough, the true frontage faced the square, with the rear of the hotel facing the station! However, even the side street facade was adorned with the same elegant detail, including direct access to the Spa and hairdressers.

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midland-hotel-3

midland-hotel-4

If you’re looking for insurance against the mind-numbing advancement of bland architectural fashions, look no further than the corner of Oxford Road and Whitworth Street. It used to be the iconic Refuge Building in my day, but no less magnificent is now the Principal… a Grade II listed building constructed in the latter part of the 19th century, and housing an early example of the importance of financing public welfare through life insurance and pensions. It has more recently become the home of the Palace Hotel… well a great conglomeration of architectural gems needs beds for the volume of visitors to be accommodated!

principal-building-oxford-road

Did you think I would ignore the needs of the administration cats amongst you? Manchester Town Hall on Albert Square is a Victorian neo-gothic building completed in 1877. And the old Queen even reflected her love for a pre-Brexit German union with the formidable Albert Memorial, whereby the pillar of teutonic heartthrobness faces the great home of Manchester City Council many years after his untimely demise. A Grade I listed building, this centrepiece of Manchester is considered one of the best examples of Gothic revival architecture in the world. In the 1930’s an extension was built and connected by two covered bridges.

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albert-memorial

town-hall-3

But when visiting such architectural beauty don’t be blinded by the overall majesty of the building, look for the detail, as there is a history to be read by looking at the ornate representations just above the natural eye-line…

town-hall-detail

For spiritual cats there is always the Friend’s Meeting House on Mount Street. Built in 1828 this has been the home for the Quaker community, and provides a venue for all forms of action towards social and economic justice, including providing shelter for homeless asylum seekers during cold winter months.

quaker-friends-meeting-house

The aforementioned Whitworth Street is always worth a stroll, if only to experience a canyon of former late 19th century industrial warehouses, now largely converted into apartments. Here names such as India House and China House reference Manchester’s original connection to the wider world of industry and commerce.

whitworth-street-1

Look up when strolling along King Street and you might just take in the motto of ‘upward and onward’ as Doric columns support an image of advancement. Here lies Manchester’s first town hall, a seat of administration from the early 1820’s until the present day structure opened in 1877 at Albert Square, when the demands of a burgeoning bureaucracy required a larger home.

king-street-roof-sculpture

As time passes the old must inevitably give way to the new, but is it always a gracious transition? The Chinese influence will take on greater significance as the 21st century progresses (i.e. not just affecting our palate!)…

chinatown

The new must occupy space alongside the old… well, at least until the new gets condemned or simply falls down, leaving the aesthetic champions to once again dominate the picture. But here a number of new buildings offer some startling contrast to the historic core of the city…

new-on-mosley-strret

old-new

hilton-hotel

Then there is the confusion of the old and the new, as trams re-occupy the street as the best mode of transport. Blackpool may be home to the longest consistently running tram, but Swansea to Mumbles in south Wales was home to the very first tram. In recent decades Manchester was again at the forefront of adopting the form as its primary means of transporting the masses around the centre of the city…

trams

So, Manchester has a historical core to match the best of them, and a willingness to showcase its history in splendid fashion. Did you spot that pub? Until we speak again, take Bella’s lead and become an inquisitive cat.

reading-paper-and-books

God Bless America

It seems like the soothing sounds of philarmonia have seen better days in Cardiff. More recently home to tumbleweed rather than orchestral delights. Once known as Morella’s Palace of Varieties, seating up to 1100 people in a grand old Victorian music hall style, with three sided balconies, the grand old dame has experienced a long and undignified fall.

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philarmonic-1

While the centre of Cardiff has much to be admired, the neglect of several old gems leaves discerning cats with a sense of an unattended litter tray! So, it is with mixed blessings that we might be heard quietly muttering “God Bless America”.

 

The tantalising question is “whether any commercial use that saves an old building is worth having?” Coyote Ugly arrives in this historic area of St Mary Street, at once restoring an old frontage to a modicum of former glory…

philarmonic-3

What Texas has brought to a former Victorian auditorium on the inside is anyone’s guess. Well, you don’t expect me to have used the place do you? Can bawdy Victoriana be replicated by tits in hats (that refers as much to the men, for any feminist critic)?

wine-stocksUntil we speak again, follow Juno’s lead and be a little more discerning regarding your tipple.

Gothic cats

It was late one night… ‘after pub closing’ late at night; which might just help to explain the odd personal reflections on the stagger home! There looming like a gothic image, in the light of the full moon, was St Johns Church in the centre of Cardiff.

night-2

This place has some history when it comes to looming over weary travellers, whether on their way to the pub or on their way home…

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It stands majestic, flanked by foliage with a brilliant crown piercing an inky black sky. A bit like me when the beer has given way to Jameson’s, which in turn gives way to instability of gait, and flight of thought…

night-6

x-ray-eyes

 

 

Talking of inky black and piercing… Until we speak again, I remember that Juno had her way of seeing right through my alcohol driven ramblings!

Clever cats

reading-paper-and-books

newspaper

October arrives, and with it the influx into Cardiff of clever cats from far and wide. Apparently these days it’s all about the academic value for money, as opposed to the Old Git’s days when it was the price of a pint! So, perhaps an apt question to be asking is where are all those £9000 fees going to?

Well, locally it would seem that blue skies will soon fade into the memory, as the University of South Wales have been busy investing in shiny expansion…

extension-11

For students of architecture, the last year has been a visual progression of modernist form and style. Whilst the Lloyds Bank building in the City of London pioneered the placement of internal organs on the outside of the body, we could have been forgiven for thinking the lifts here were an intellectual after thought, so why not tack them on the outside?

usw-extension-9

IKEA may have pioneered the flat pack way of constructing things, but there was an early hint that building costs could be managed if a large order was put in for colourfully packaged prefab slabs. Just peel and reveal seems to be the new construction technique.

 

extension-5

Back in the day, the two-legged possession of Juno & Bella harboured the usual dreams of being a train driver or some kind of construction engineer. Blame could easily be laid on the gift of meccano for temporarily providing a distraction from the explosive attractions of a chemistry set. Yet, hindsight suggests that budding architects of the age were equally influenced by toys of apparently limited appeal…

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Until we speak again, it appears that the University of South Wales is putting those fees to funding buildings that at least offer some visual interest.  20160911_095847

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The Atrium is spreading it wings. Now, what is the price of a pint?

A night on the Toon

When you’ve seen a bunch of bridges by day, the next question is “what has Newcastle got for visiting cats to fill the evening?” It seems that it has a bunch of bridges by night!

Tyne Bridge at night

Underside of Tyne Bridge at night

Thirsty work, all of this bridge watching, so I’m unreliably told. But, in Newcastle, who needs an umbrella when even the pub comes with its own shelter?

Bridge Tavern and Bridge at night

So, the so-called business trip turns out to be something else altogether! The aptly named Bridge Tavern (formerly Newcastle Arms) provides an excellent watering hole, if you can’t bear to be too far from your precious bridges. With brewing at the back end of the bar, and a great range of regionally sourced beers, this could be a pub crawl without needing to move from your bar stool!

Bridge Tavern [1]

Bridge Tavern [2]

Bridge Tavern [3]

All tastes catered for, so an Allensdale Cardinal pale ale was swiftly followed by a sample of a Cloudwater stout:

Pint of Allendale Cardinal A pint in Bridge Tavern

 

 

 

 

Newcastle isn’t all about beer. If you’re looking for some culture the Theatre Royal is sure to satisfy…

Theatre Royal at night

But, I should have known, if I send my old soak on tour, resistance to a Rolling Stones reference will soon turn things back to beer…

Pleased to Meet You at night [1]

A pint in Pleased to Meet You [2]

And it seems wherever you are in this city reference to the bridges will always be close by…

A pint in Pleased to Meet You [1]

Sleeping cat

 

Until we speak again it’s enough to give a cat a headache.

Newcastle: City of Bridges

Cardiff doesn’t do spectacular bridges, perhaps the most interesting stroll over water is at the Cardiff Bay barrage

Barrage [4]

Rear viewBut, as a cat of broader vision, I was led to believe that if you want to see some interesting footage of river crossings you could do worse than pay a visit to Newcastle.

As a cool cat, I neither have interest in this watery stuff or in travelling for hours in enclosed cans at speed. After all, this bum was designed more for climbing on horses than trains! “Excuse me, what is that camera doing there?”

So I despatched my unqualified civil engineer on an example of one of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s moving things, in order to take a look at examples of his non-moving things. The initial view from the moving thing seems to be of a whole group of non-moving things…

View from train

But, what has a visit to this old industrial city got to offer for the discerning bridge spotter? The train station looks like it is in need of an upgrade! Can’t see what all the fuss was about regarding the success of putting the East Coast Mainline back into public ownership…

Wall mural

However, it doesn’t take much shoe leather before you find a cathedral, parish church and a range of old sandstone buildings to get yourself into architectural historian mode on your personal dial…

St Nicholas Cathedral [2]

Church near station

Sandstone buildings

So, where are these mythical bridges hinted at from the train view? It doesn’t take much detective work around here; just as well, as I didn’t exactly send a full Sherlock on the mission! It seems this is the kind of place where buildings and bridges are competing for space…

Buildings and Bridges [2]

Buildings and Bridges [3]

With a feline sixth sense of telepathy I let my tepid intrepid know that maybe locating the river will provide a guide to where the bridges might be. Somehow against all limits of logic they stumble in the direction of trickling water, and lo and behold, whether you happen to be on foot, on a train, or in self-drive mode, a crossing is available for you.

Millenium Bridge [2]

Bridges on Tyne [4]

Bridges on Tyne [2]

 

Bridges on Tyne [3]

If I’m not mistaken it looks like that Sydney Harbour Bridge has been shrunk and moved across the world. Until we speak again this Bella is going to rest up after all of this tiring travelogue.