Monday, December 28, 2009

Books to make art, architect, history and culture lovers cry everywhere

Well, not cry, exactly.
More of hair tearing and gnashing of teeth in savage fury directed towards half-baked blinkered imbeciles in power who allowed (and continue to allow) these beautiful creations to be destroyed.

SAVE Britain's Heritage 1975-2005 by Marcus Binney is a treasure trove of beauty, of the transformation of dreams from paper into reality at a time before mankind was trundling about in motor cars, before the era of flight there were blokes higher than others had ever gone before to craft spires/towers/follys to see for miles.
One that made me almost cry was the destruction of 24 historic buildings - including medieval lanes, the last Roman City street, 2 churches with burial grounds and the Mappin & Webb building only to be replaced with this. While it does have some merit in its style that is completely negated when you consider the value that was destroyed to make way for it....somewhat akin to throwing out a roast meal in favour of a hamburger; satisfying for only a short moment, full of crud and made without any imagination or soul.
*That spire is reported to have ended up in a garden in USA.
BUT there are many other triumphs in the book, like the uber-drool-worthy Barlaston Hall in Staffordshire which SAVE bought for £1 and it is now abso-flipping-lutely GORGEOUSLY restored to its proper glory. Exterior shot and further details HERE

*Could not find any photos online of the restored interior, suggest buying/borrowing the book to see how much love and care has been poured into bringing this beauty back to life.

A City Lost and Found; Whelan the Wrecker's Melbourne by Robyn Annear is a look at the other side of the conservation coin from the view of the wreckers who demolished so many grand buildings in and around Melbourne and who not only kept records of the beautiful buildings they felled but who were indirectly responsible for the formation of the National Trust to conserve and save the remaining architectural treasures.
The savagery of the demolitions changed the whole skyline and character of Marvellous Melbourne from post-WW2 onwards until the gracious cast iron verandahs, sandstone edifaces, Art Nouveau curlicues and mansard roofs were but a memory amidst the ever-climbing skywards of steel, glass and concrete stuctures lacking any distinctive stamp of character upon their facade.

The sharpness of change is none more evident than in the books Melbourne; Past and Present by Sheridan Morris and Melbourne ; Then and Now by Heather Chapman.
Both of these books offer comparative photos of a city and her changing personality from that of a serene picturesque lady to a sharp-edged vixen with few gentle traits remaining.
One almost expects to see a vicious vinyl-clad mistress with a whip emerge as the leading lady of the Melbourne stage; something of a 15mins novelty but certainly not what you'd be proud of long-term.

The constant re-invention of the city, culture and style seems to disregard any historical significance in our architectural creations, totally trashing it all through demolition and ignoring any possibility of retaining facades or beauty in the rebuilding or renovation for future generations.
History, culture, art, innovation - these are all entwined in our buildings making them more than mere bricks and mortar.
Go find an old building to fall in love with today... it will probably be gone tomorrow.



  1. The replacement for the Mappin and Webb building is a right shocker. I may get something posted tomorrow about a book I am reading that runs in a similar vein.

  2. I see weakness here. Britain's National Trust is believed by many, like our own Historic Places Trust here, to be the be-all end-all guardian of heritage and its preservation. But, the case of SAVE illustrates to me that this is not so. I see weakness because with a plethora of groups seemingly not in concert, then developers with an eye simply to replace old with new win in the end. NZHPT are just one Heritage Protection Authority in this country -- the real authorities are territorial authorities, councils, with have legislative teeth. So, like Britain, a heap of small groups spring up. Some are historical societies, some aren't. Until the heritage sector internationally gets its act together, the destruction and obliteration will continue.

  3. Another glorious Hogwartian building replaced by a cardboard piece of crap.

  4. Ah, progress is a many splendid thing...for the pockets of the developers.

  5. Oh, I already have a building I'm in love with. One lotto win and that house is mine. Mine I say!!