Architectural cat

Juxtaposition, symmetry, curvilinear, articulation, truncated, composition… what world do architects live in? Come to think of it, pick a profession, any profession, and you will not have to look far before you get bogged down in the jargon of self-importance.

As a cat who observes local architecture with a critical eye, I feel Cardiff has an ability to identify modern architectural styles that cut through the unfathomable nonsense of obscure language. In many cases, the only true nonsense is the architectural style itself… but you make your own judgement on that observation.

Sharp and groovy…

sharp-grrovy-3

Pointy…

john-lewis-to-the-point

Curvy not groovy…

curvy-not-groovy

Wavy…

car-park-2

Spiky…

spiky-joint

Mind-boggling (c/o the BBC)…

bbc-wales-entrance Just plain baffling…

old-and-new

where-is-that-spider

 

 

Until we speak again, Bella reminds us that the devil is in the detail… if you can be bothered looking for it!

Architectural assault

Where was the first £1 million deal struck in the world? Threadneedle Street in London… think again. Wall Street in New York… nickels and dimes. It was right here in Cardiff, the Coal Exchange to be exact…

Interior [1]

From the fledgling years of the 20th century, when ‘coal was king’ and the Port of Cardiff dominated world trade, the floor of the Coal Exchange buzzed with the chaotic sounds of commerce. Even beyond the age of heavy industry in South Wales this iconic location was set to become the home of Welsh Government at the end of the 1970’s.

Interior [2]

Despite functioning as a home to a few small offices and a brief life as a concert venue, years of neglect and indifference took their toll:

Coal Exchange [1]

Coal Exchange [6]

References to the need to find a new purpose for an icon are difficult to accept as being anything more than a cynical cover for patient neglect to the point where the building could possibly be demolished…

Coal Exchange [2]

It appears that the City Planning Department lacked any vision for the jewel on their doorstep. A 15 storey residential block seemed to be the height of corporate ambition! We don’t need to look far around our city to see that money lies in throwing up blandly mediocre residential and office developments, whilst simultaneously allowing historic buildings oozing character to fall into disrepair. This serves to remind me of the good decision I made to abandon a career in Town Planning 33 years ago while it was still in its infancy!

Coal Exchange board sign

With huge acknowledgements to Nick Broomfield and BBC4 for the striking programme ‘Going, Going, Gone…’ (for the source of internal photographs used here), we know that parts of the building are far from dangerous, but those that are can be restored and put to good use…

Exterior Decay

Interior decay

In fact, large parts of the building appear in excellent condition, just calling out to be seen and used again…

Interior [3]

Interior [8]

With details to be loved as much now as they undoubtedly were by their creators…

Interior [5]

Interior [4]

Interior [7]

Civic pride from public authorities means nothing in these days of corporate greed and power. We have seceded architectural virtue and the values of beauty and historic appreciation, bowing to the whims of the money-tocracy, as the privileged few profit on the backs of the many.

Rumour has it that plans are being discussed to restore the Coal Exchange building on the basis of housing a boutique hotel. This would be a welcome development by the many who appreciate the importance of this building, provided some areas are opened for wider public access. Talk is one thing, but this is an icon that is in desperate need of action… NOW!

Until we speak again lets all hope that talking is matched by walking for this beauty. Then there is the issue of halting the local avalanche of historic building neglect that could then transform the city centre and bay areas of Cardiff into a mix of historic and contemporary pride (pigs are flying as I gaze out of my window across the aforementioned areas).

Arse-end surveillance

I know… I said in my introduction to this blog that I wouldn’t lick my bits while addressing you all, but eventually every cat has to do what a cat has to do!

Lick your own

Feel free to lick your own by the way, it can be a great source of inspiration… why, just the other day, while I was abluting I couldn’t help but reflect on the limitations of modern day architecture. “What on earth are you on about?” you ask. Well, it suddenly came to me that all the inspirational creative design goes into the front end of buildings, and the arse-end rarely presents the most attractive of views. A bit like me really!

You talking to me?The Blade My A

So I thought I would put my hypothesis to the test to see what we can learn from the local area in Cardiff. Talk about ‘learning’… where better to check out this observation than the neighbouring University of South Wales? From a distance it looks like a jumble of boxes have just fallen out of an overflowing cupboard…

USW front [2]

Yet get up close and personal and it looks like someone put some creative thinking into producing a striking visual facade, rather than the more usual blandly boring box-like structures…

USW front [3]

Gently strolling towards the side of the building and you see the dramatic change in design principles, as we view the areas less well observed by the masses of the architecturally unconcerned…

USW front [1]

USW side view

>>>>

Then, the coup de grace of my thesis, as we all recline in our pedestrian supremacy… and those pesky car drivers get their just desserts. The arse-end of the building offers nothing much of any visual delight. A car park is usually home to those who are more consumed in their own self-importance, and expressers of righteous indignation if they can’t travel their door-to-door journeys uninterrupted in their personal motorised cages. So why should they be regaled with visionary architecture?

USW rear [2]

Until we speak again feel free to undertake your own arse-end surveillance, in whatever guise sparks your creative juices. I will continue to be Inspired Juno on my meanderings around my local city.

And the winner is…

My resident ‘architectural critic‘ interrupted my 23-hours-a-day slumbers with some attempt to contribute thoughts on the current debate about London’s Tower’s Policy, and the perceived reduction in design standards in order to rush through more and more development for the ultimate financial benefit of the developers. As a cat originating in London I was left wondering what experience this self-styled Zaha Hadid or Frank Lloyd Wright had to back-up their bold remonstrations on the built environment of one of the world’s mega-cities. “I lived there for nearly 22 years!” was the reply, offered may I add with deep indignation.

Touche, or 15-love to them… but, being a competitive kind of soul I decided to hit back with my usual languid laid back brand of sarcasm. It seems to me like we live in a world filled with competitions, yet you people of such delicate sensibilities need to have your liberal egos stroked, with everyone experiencing being a winner; or else needing to rush off to see your therapist. Or is that just California? So, in the interests of caustic architectural discourse, I decided to introduce Cardiff’s winners of the Juno Awards for Architectural Re-cycling (the Jar’s), as my meanders around the city suggested I might struggle to find any other category of award that could be liberally sprinkled around so many of the modern buildings.

So, getting down to the serious business of presenting the Jar’s… I had hoped to enlist the services of Cat Stephens but the calls to prayer were too many and too frequent; Atomic Kitten were fortunately too heavily regulated for public use; so I was left dragging myself off to the litter tray for an Eartha Kitt (yes, that is cockney rhyming slang). So once again it is left to me to say:

The Curvy but not Groovy Award goes to… 

Curvy not groovy

While the Use of Excess Leather Cladding Award goes to…

Central Library [1]

The Creative Use of an Over-Sized Spiky Hat Award goes to…

Spiky joint

But the judging panel (i.e. me) had a difficulty with the Use of Excess Bland Concrete Award, so in the interests of equality it was shared by several entries from the other side of the tracks…

Other side of the tracks

The Use of Excess Unintelligible Words in Strange Places Award was an easier category to adjudicate…

Millenium Centre 3

Meanwhile, the Getting to the Point (Retail Category) Award goes to…

John Lewis to the point

And this year there was a special category of ‘Life-Ending Achievement‘, sponsored by Lloyds Bank, entitled the Put It All On The Outside Scary Shit You Must Be Kidding If You Think I Am Going To Use That Lift Award, with the outright winner even adding the delicate touch of replacing internal staircases with external ladders…

Pointy Building

That is it from the red carpet for this year (stained in the blood of my resident ‘ex-Town Planner‘). Out of utter disrespect for the zeitgeisty need of people to feel unemotionally attached to millions of others through technology, all the winners will receive 5000 additional ‘faceache friends‘, and the runners-up get 2000 ‘pecks of the birdie thing‘. For everyone who comments on this post, may you be smothered in ‘likes‘ until you burst with the shear joy of connectivity. Until we speak again, I am Triumphant Juno saying the winner is…